Saturday, February 25, 2012

Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast

One of the hikes that Ashley and I had a chance to do while on our honeymoon in Kauai, was the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast. The Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast is an undeveloped, ancient Hawaiian route accessible only by foot. It is one of the most famous trails on the Island of Kauai and hikers journey from all around the world to hike this trail and camp on the very secluded Kalalau Beach on Kauai's Na Pali Coast. This is a must do hike for any hiker who visits the Island of Kauai. For more pictures of this scenic hike make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: From Lihue, drive 37 miles north and west on Highway 56 past Hanalei to the end of the road. At Princeville the mile markers begin again at 1. Park on the right side of the road at mile marker 10 in the Kee Beach parking area. Along the way, the road hugs the coast past ocean bays, caves, streams, waterfalls and crosses numerous one-lane bridges. Observe the local custom of only 5 - 7 cars at a time while crossing the one-lane bridges on the way to this hike. There is no cost to park at the trailhead.

Description of Hike: There are several hiking options available on the Kalalau Trail and we are going to highlight two of them. First the hike from the trailhead at Kee Beach to Hanakapiai Beach and second the hike from the trailhead at Kee Beach for the entire length of the Kalalau Trail to Kalalau Beach.

From Kee Beach to Hanakapiai Beach: The trail is a rugged coastline hike that overlooks a series of primeval, emerald green valleys and steep towering cliffs that drop more than 3,000 feet to the turbulent pacific ocean below.  Hanakapiai Beach is at the mouth of Hanakapiai Valley. This section offers a popular day hike for able-bodied hikers.  The trail is slippery in sections, is uneven, and rugged. The total hike is 4 miles roundtrip with approximately 1,000 feet of elevation gain. To hike farther that Hanakapiai Beach along the Kalalau trail you will need to obtain a permit.


Permits: Permits are required when continuing beyond Hanakapiai Valley (2 miles in the trail) whether you are planning to camp overnight or not. Permits are about $20 per person per day. If you are a resident, you get a $5 discount. Permits can be obtained from the State Parks office in Lihue during normal business hours. The amount of people allowed on the trail at any one time is limited to a small number. Permits often sell out and during busy times can sell out up to a year in advance. Get your permits early to ensure you will be able to visit Kalalau. There is also an online reservation system where you can check for permit availability and purchase camping permits online. For online permits, visit the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resource Online Reservation System by clicking Here.

From Kee Beach to Kalalau Beach: The trail is a rugged coastline hike that overlooks a series of primeval, emerald green valleys and steep towering cliffs that drop more than 3,000 feet to the turbulent pacific ocean below. Portions of the trail in this section are very narrow and the drop-offs on the ocean side are severe. Use extreme caution, especially during wet weather. The trail crosses the Kalalau Stream near the valley mouth before ending at Kalalau Beach and a small waterfall. Camping in Kalalau is allowed only behind this sand beach. During Summer, Kalalau  Beach boasts a wide sand beach, but during winter high surf removes much of the beach. Shaded campsites are available beneath the trees behind the beach. Ocean swimming is not recommended for those unfamiliar with local sea conditions. Do not loiter beneath the waterfall, in the surrounding area, or near cliff faces as there is a constant danger of falling rocks. An easy 2 mile trail into Kalalau Valley ends at a pool in the stream. This trail passes through extensive agricultural terraces where Hawaiians grew taro, the staple crop, until about 1920. The total hike is 22 miles roundtrip with roughly 1,250 feet of elevation gain. It is recommended that you camp at the Kalalau Beach if you are doing this hike. Ashley and I have not done this section but have done the other hike in this review. Click Here for a trail brochure for the entire Kalalau Trail.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I truly enjoyed this hike on the Na Pali Coast. The Na Pali Coast is one of the most scenic places on Earth and hiking here is truly surreal. We saw several people while on our hike going to camp overnight at Kalalau Beach. The trail is truly rugged in places and good sturdy hiking shoes and hiking poles are recommended. Many sections of the hike overlook thousand foot drop-offs into the Pacific Ocean.

The trail levels out after approximately 0.5 miles from Kee Beach, and at 1.5 miles, it begins to descend towards Hanakapiai Beach. Short, steep switchbacks lead down to the stream past "tsunami" warning signs. Cross Hanakapiai Stream at the white sand beach to a signed junction, which is the turn around spot unless you have a permit to continue to Kalalau Beach.

This is truly a must do hike that offers amazing scenery for those that attempt it. You have the chance to see local wildlife while on this hike. From December to April, you also have a great chance at seeing  humpback whales while hiking on this trail. Ashley and I enjoyed this hike and hope to do the full hike when we return to the Island of Kauai at some future date.

Rating: From Kee Beach to Hanakapiai Beach: Elevation Gain: 1,000 ft. (Moderate - Strenuous), Distance: 4 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate - Strenuous). From Kee Beach to Kalalau Beach: Elevation Gain: Less than 1,250 ft. (Moderate - Strenuous), Distance: 22 Miles Roundtrip (Strenuous).

Time to Complete HikeFrom Kee Beach to Hanakapiai Beach: 2 - 2.4 hours. From Kee Beach to Kalalau Beach: 10 - 12 hours. (Recommended overnight hike)

MORE TRAIL WRITE-UPS ON THE ISLAND OF KAUAI



Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast (This Post)




View Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast in a larger map

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Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.