Nounou East Trail: The Sleeping Giant Hike

  1. Hawaii
  2. Kauai
  3. Nounou East Trail: The Sleeping Giant Hike
Written by SandrineUpdated on 05/03/22
5,8km round trip

The Sleeping Giant is the name given to a ridge area near Kapa'a in Kauai, as its shape is said to be similar to that of a sleeping giant on its back. Let's face it, it takes a lot of imagination to identify the famous giant, but once you find it, you'll notice it almost every time!

Apart from the local legend that the giant fell asleep here, the main interest of the Sleeping Giant, or Nounou Mountain (the other name given to the same place), is the superb 360-degree view that can be seen from its summit, which is almost 378 metres high.

There are 3 trails to reach the top of Nounou Mountain or Sleeping Giant:

  • A 1.8 mile (2.8 km) east side trail: the Nounou East Trail on the Haleilio Road
  • A 3 mile (4.8 km) south side trail: the Kuamo'o Trail in front of Melia Street on Highway 580
  • A 1.5 mile (2.4 km) west side trail: the Nounou West Trail at the end of Lokelani Road

We chose to take the trail on the east side, the Nounou East Trail, because it seemed to offer the most beautiful views during the ascent. We covered the 5.6 km round trip in 2h30, taking our time.

1Access and start of the Nounou East Trail

The start of the hike is at the end of a residential area of Kapa'a following the Haleilio road almost to the end. You will easily find the parking lot to park your vehicle. If it is full, there are still a few spaces on the shoulder of the road.

The small parking lot. In the background you can see the head of the sleeping giant.

From the parking lot we can spot the sleeping giant, the first bump on the left is his nose (the Nose Lookout) and the second on the right is his chin (the Chin Lookout). These two points of view are the objectives of our hike.

The start of the ascent is on the right side of the car park.

The start of the hike.

2Hiking to the top of Sleeping Giant

The hike is divided into three parts. The first one is a progressive ascent in laces over about 1km until reaching the top of the ridge on which the giant fell asleep. The second one climbs gently along the ridge up to the giant's neck. The third is the route at the end of the ridge, a little more technical to reach the two successive viewpoints: the Chin Lookout and the Nose Lookout.

The beginning of the ascent is easy and is mainly in undergrowth, in the cool, on a path slightly muddy in places.

The beginning of the trail in the undergrowth.

Gradually the trees are disappearing and give a glimpse of the beautiful views of the shoreline around Kapa'a.

First view of Kapaa.
Panorama of the southern area of Kapaa.

The path climbs gradually and quietly. The only difficulty encountered on this part of the ascent will be a small rocky wall located halfway up that you will have to climb with the help of your hands (beware, the rocks can be hot because of the heat). An arrow painted on the rock indicates that you must climb there.

The obstacle: the small rocky wall to cross.

Then the ascent continues, this time in full sunshine, on a very dry path, without difficulty.

The trail on the first part of the ascent (before the top of the ridge).

That's it, we've quietly reached the top of the ridge! From here, there are beautiful views, first on the Kapa'a side, then on the other side of the ridge, towards the north of the island.

The first view to the north of Kauai from the top of the ridge.

From now the path continues along the ridge, climbing gently and still offering beautiful views in places.

Nice view of the ridge southwest of Lihue.
Beautiful panorama on the northern ridges.

The vegetation is now a little denser with a more humid atmosphere. As a result, we find again a little shade, which is not to displease us! But the happiness won't last, because as we go along, mud settles on the trail, transforming it into big puddles in places, which could make the hike not very pleasant in this area. Be careful, it is really easy to slip.

The pleasant path at the beginning of the ride on the ridge.
The muddy path around the end of the trail.

Finally, we arrive at the junction of the 3 paths. After a few dozen metres you reach the picnic area where two wooden tables, slightly damaged but covered, are waiting for those who want to have a bite to eat.

The picnic table near the top.

Don't forget to take a look on the Kapa'a side at the small belvedere just behind the picnic tables, the view is very nice.

Viewpoint on Kapaa behind the picnic tables.

From here, the trail continues for about 400 metres. This part starts in undergrowth for a few tens of meters, potentially muddy, to end on a clear part on the ridge. From here we can already see the Chin Lookout of the Sleeping Giant and have an idea of the distance that still separates us from it.

The giant's chin straight ahead!

This last part changes a little from the rest of the climb so far with some rocky areas that will have to be climbed. Even if these are small sections, you will still have to be careful, especially if you are wearing muddy shoes. Finally, the last few meters to Chin Lookout are just a formality, as long as you are not prone to vertigo.

View of the trail at the top of the ridge from the Chin Lookout.
Rocky point of Chin Lookout.

Here we are at the Chin Lookout. The panorama that can be seen all along the coast is superb, just like the one that can be seen in the interior of the island: it's green, it's beautiful! If you come here like us on a busy day, you will have to think about your little friends who also want to enjoy the view by not monopolizing the rock for too long.

Panorama at the end of the Sleeping Giant trail

You will then have the opportunity to continue exploring the ridge up to the Nose Lookout but which offers only a very limited panorama. But this one requiring only a small effort to reach it from the Chin Lookout, you might as well enjoy it!

Path joining the Nose Lookout from the Chin Lookout.

The return journey is by the same route. This one is downhill, so be careful in slippery areas.

3Our advice before you set off on the Sleeping Giant Trail

Beware of the mud

We do not recommend that you do this hike in the rain, or if it rained shortly before. The trail will be very muddy and slippery especially towards the end of the trail. We also found that trails in Hawaii were all wetter in the early morning because of the dew, as the land dries out over the course of the day.

We started around 9:30 am and the beginning of the trail was rather slippery, while when we came back at 12:30 pm, everything was dry.

Possible rush

This hike is very popular and quite easy. So expect to cross a bit of crowd, especially towards the last section after the junction of the 3 trails and on weekends.


There may be a few mosquitoes towards the end of the hike. Even if we have not been too bothered, we prefer to warn you just in case.

Watching the sunrise from the Chin Lookout

As the sun rises on the Kapa'a side of Kapa'a, you can try to ride up at dawn to watch the sunrise at the Chin Lookout. Bring a headlamp and watch out for the mud! It's best to try this adventure if the previous days were not too wet.

Our opinion
We like

Magnificent views at the top but also all along the ascent.

We don't like

Quite a busy trail.

Mud puddles towards the end of the trail (very slippery).

About us

We are Sandrine and Flo, French thirty-somethings. In 2019 we quit everything to live our dream, become nomads and travel around the world. We left with our baby, Lena, who was only 5 months old at the time. After a first trip around the Pacific Ocean by plane and a long 3 months stay in Hawaii, we left to discover Iceland for 3 months on board our 4WD pickup truck and truck camper. Then we continued our adventure in North America.

Today, if we can continue this adventure, it is above all thanks to our blog, Smartrippers! We created it one day in 2016, with the desire to share our good travel tips, without thinking that it would lead us there! We have developed it a lot over the years and have become experts on our 3 favorite destinations: Hawaii, Iceland and the American West. We now guide you to these destinations to help you plan the trip of your dreams!

Follow our adventures!