Tips for hiking Kauai’s Kalalau Trail

The end of the road on Kauai’s north shore is the beginning of Napali (The Cliffs), which can only be accessed on land via the Kalalau Trail—an 11-mile squiggley scramble that ends in the Kalalau Valley. On a busy day, nearly 500 souls set foot on the Kalalau, quite a circus, and second only in popularity to the Diamond Head Crater trail on Oahu.

Make sure to pick a dry day, since rain makes this route the bad kind of adventure. It’s also a good idea to show up early, if you want a nature trip rather than a social scene. Stuff your daypack with plenty of food and water. Wear sturdy shoes, and plan on getting them wet and muddy. A hiking pole will be a godsend.

Hanakapiai Beach is two miles in, though this is a rocky, dangerous swimming beach, and requires a stream crossing to reach. Ribbony Hanakapiai Falls is another two miles inland from the beach (so, 8 miles round-trip from the trailhead) and requires several more stream crossings. The fall’s hike will feel like 12 miles, so be ready. BTW: Sure, many adventure hikers can pound 22 miles in a day, but don’t even think about dayhiking to Kalalau Valley.

You can achieve a great view of the Napali Coast my walking in about a half mile on the trail. The easiest way to see the coast is to walk about a hundred yards to the right at Ke’e Beach, which is also at the end of the road.  Only a few, if that, visitors among the daily 500 people take one of the best hikes here, which is to follow a coastal trail around the point and then up to the ancient hula temple, the birthplace of the tradition in Hawaii. Another nearby attraction that is a totally five stars is Limahuli Garden (less than a mile before the end of the road). This place is Eden on earth. Complete directions for all these hikes are in the Kauai Trailblazer guidebook.