One of the Wettest Places on Earth

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Is Kauai one of the wettest places on earth?

To say that Kauai is one of the wettest places on Earth can be misleading because people believe it rains a lot on Kauai, which is true, but it really depends on where you are on the island. Kauai has many climates including deserts, with beautiful cacti growing all over, only ten inches of rain annually and is only a few miles away from Waialeale, which is one of the wettest places on Earth.

Mount Waialeale stands at 5,148 feet and averages more than 452 inches of rain a year with the recorded high of 683 inches in 1982. On a clear day, if you’re in the right place, you may be lucky enough to see this beautiful mountain in its green glory. 

Waialeale means "rippling water" or "overflowing water."  Deep faulting and water erosion have carved canyons in the mountain. Wainiha, Lumahai, and Hanalei valleys dig into Waialeale. To its west is Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, 16 miles long and 1 to 2 miles wide and as much as 3,600 feet deep. Mount Waialeale supplies numerous waterfalls visible from many parts of the North Shore of Kauai. It also feeds the only navigable river on Kauai. The main rivers are the Waimea, Wailua, Makaweli and Hanapepe.

The summit of Waialeale features a rainforest with heavy rainfall throughout most of the year. Its northern position provides exposure to frontal systems that bring rain during the winter, and its relatively round and regular conical shape exposes all sides of its peak to winds and the moisture that they carry. Mount Waialeale’s peak lies just below the so-called trade wind inversion layer of 6,000 feet, above which trade-wind-produced clouds cannot rise. Its steep cliffs cause the moisture-laden air to rise rapidly – over 3,000 feet in less than 0.5 miles  – and drop a large portion of its rain in one spot, as opposed to spreading the rain out over a larger area if the slope were more gradual.

The great rainfall in the area creates the Alakai Wilderness Preserve, a large boggy area that is home to many rare plants. The ground is so wet that although trails exist, access by foot to the Waialeale area is extremely difficult.