Hawaii Guide

Kalalau Trail, Kauai Hiking Kauai

The Kalalau Trail Hiking Kauai


The Kalalau Trail winds its way through the Na Pali Coast State Park on the dramatically beautiful north coast. This is not a hike for the faint hearted the trail is very strenuous and takes most people at least six hours each way. The trail is one of the few ways to experience the remote and inaccessible wilderness on the Na Pali coast. Most of this area is completely impenetrable by road or on foot.

The hike culminates in Kalalau Valley which is completely wild and untouched. Tropical birds, butterflies and other wildlife can be seen in the valley and many of Kauai's rarer and more unusual plants thrive there. The Na Pali coast was originally formed by volcanic activity thrusting huge cliffs upwards out of the ocean. This area is now characterized by narrow, pointed cliffs with deep valleys and incredibly high waterfalls. The Na Pali Coast State Park covers 6,500 acres along 22 miles of this impressive part of the north shore.

The Kalalau Trail is based on an old footpath which has been used by Hawaiians for centuries and has been popular with hikers since the 1970s. There are restrictions on hiking and camping to prevent the trail becoming overused. You must have a permit to hike and/or camp and these are issued at the Kauai State Parks Office, 3060 Eiwa Street, Room 306, Lihue, 96766, tel: 1 808 274 3444. Realistically it is best to spread the hike over at least two days and stay overnight in the park. Camp sites are open during the summer months only and tend to be booked up about a year in advance.

In total this hike covers about 11 miles of hills, rocks and stunning scenery. If it is wet, the path can be very slippery and dangerous. There are stream crossings so don't do the hike if there has been a lot of rain recently. Take plenty of drinking water, a sun hat, sensible shoes, insect repellent and adequate clothing. The start of the trail is at Kee Beach at the end of Highway 560. You don't need a permit to hike the first two miles as far as Hanakapiai Beach. The first part of this trail is a hard uphill slog but gives hikers a taste of the wilderness beyond. It is sometimes possible to see Niihau Island from here. Two miles inland from the beach is Hanakapiai Falls. Allow two hours to get to Hanakapiai Beach and another three hours to get to the waterfall. To continue along the rest of the trail, you need a permit. The path is very narrow in places with a sheer drop to the sea below so take care. Eventually you reach the Kalalau Valley which has a beach, but there are strong currents so swimming is not advised.

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