Above the fallow cane fields on Kauai's East Side Kapa'a area, a massive mountain of lava rock shaped like a reclining giant overlooks one of the most breath-taking vistas on the Garden Island. "Sleeping Giant" (Nounou in Hawaiian) is one of Kauai's most accessible and least difficult hiking trails.
The trail can be accessed from three different locations. The East Trail starts at the end of Halelilo Road in the Kapa'a House Lots (behind Brick Oven Pizza's Kuhio Hwy - Rte 56 location). This is the quickest way to the top, at 1.75 miles of switchbacks both exposed and shaded by ironwood, guava and silk oak -- and the steepest!
The three mile Kuamo'o - Nounou Trail is marked by a trailhead sign on the right side of Kuamo'o Rd. past Opaeka Falls. It might be a bit longer, but the ascent is more gentle.
The West Trail (1.5 miles) originates along Kamalu Road (Route 581) and rises moderately. The rewards at the top of the Giant are well worth whatever trail one has taken to the top. Wear hiking boots and sun screen, bring plenty of water and don't forget the camera!
This hike is a great way to orient one's self to the layout of Kauai: to the south the dragon-backed sculpture of the Ha'upu Range (aka Black Mountain) guards Kipu Kai and Po'ipu; to the north, the Anahola Needle -- so named because it once had a hole in the tip of the peak -- overlooks the gateway to some of the best beaches in the world; and to the island's center, Mt. Wai'ale'ale, the wettest place on earth, and Kawaikini -- Kauai's tallest ancient volcano.
Take a swim at Lydgate Park to cool off after your trek!