Kalalau Trail Hike: Kauai’s Best Adventure
Kalalau Trail is considered by many to be Kauai’s best hike and is without question the most famous trail of all the Hawaiian Islands. This eleven-mile hike follows along the Na Pali Coast going over many hills and streams. One word of caution about hiking Kalalau Trail – it’s very strenuous. Unless you’re an experienced, avid hiker this will probably be the toughest hike you’ll ever take.
The Kalalau Trail hike starts near Kee Beach at the end of Kuhio Highway (Hwy 560). After 2 miles of hiking you’ll descend into Hanakapiai Valley where you find beautiful Hanakapiai Beach. This two-mile stretch offers gorgeous views of the coast as the trail takes you in and out of the forest. The second mile can be a bit difficult though. It goes downhill on a very steep incline and is especially difficult on the way back up.
Once you arrive at beautiful Hanakapiai Beach you may be tempted to go for a swim, but don’t. The powerful currents and waves are way too strong for swimming. Hikers have drowned in these turbulent waters.
From Hanakapiai Beach, there’s a 2-mile side trail you may want to take called Hanakapiai Falls Trail. There are several places where this path crosses Hanakapiai River. It can be very wet and rocky, forcing you to cling to trees to keep your footing. It’s a pretty tough trail, but when you make it to the end you’ll be rewarded with the breathtaking Hanakapiai Falls.
To continue on the Kalalau Trail hike from Hanakapiai Beach you must have a camping permit. That’s because going any further will pretty much require you to camp overnight, so the Kuai authorities require you have one past this point.
As you leave Hanakapiai Valley the trail becomes more difficult as you trek through thick vegetation and across steep cliffs. After four miles of hiking, the trail comes to Hanakoa Valley. Here you’ll find an open-air shelter available for public use. You can camp here, continue on the Kalalau Trail or take another side trail – Hanakoa Falls Trail. This trail is only about a third of a mile and leads to another spectacular waterfall.
The final five miles to Kalalau Valley and Beach is the hardest section of the trail, but it’s also the most beautiful. As you hike along this peaceful, isolated tropical cliff side, you’ll witness wisps of cloud and mist mingling with sharp, green mountain peaks that overlook a densely foliated valley. The views are really quite amazing. This is the same valley that can be seen from Kalalau Lookout. You must be very careful through here – in some places, just a foot from the trail, the ledge drops all the way to the churning surf below.
Finally, the trail descends down to gorgeous Kalalau Beach. From here you can set up camp, explore sea caves along the beach or hike into the valley and forage for wild guavas, papaya, coconuts, mangos and rose apples. You can also take a two-mile trail into the valley that leads to Big Pool where you’ll find two large pools, split by a natural water slide.