If you’re going to do ONE hike while in Kauai the Kalalau Trail should absolutely be it! The trail weaves though one of the world’s most famous natural wonders, the Na Pali coast. You get to hike along many different landscapes such as lush green costal ridges along the Pacific, crossing fresh water streams, unspoiled beaches, bamboo forests, and valleys that end with a 300ft waterfall.
This hike has endless breathtaking views the entire way…. literally… because I wanted to stop and take a photo every 10 seconds, lol.
The Kalalau Trail is a 22-mile round trip hike. We have YET to complete the whole thing! If you have done it, I would love to hear about it!
However, if you want to make a day trip out of it without having to get a permit I can show you exactly what to expect and how truly breathtaking this trail really is!
The perfect day hike starts at Ha’ena State park. The first two miles are along the Na Pali coast that ends at Hanakapi’ai Beach. From there, we hiked two miles into the valley arriving at the 300-foot Hanakapi’ai waterfall making it an eight mile round trip hike that took five hours total! This includes are breaks, lunch and swimming time.
This is the second time I have done this route. The first time was in 2011 which was acutally my first ever hike ALONE, I was so proud of myself! This time around it was with two friends, one of which was pregnant, then Ron and I. We decided to do it the morning after a torrential downpour! The trail was a muddy slip and slide (my fav kind of hikes :P)!
It’s highly reccomened to start early since there is not much shade thoughout the hike. Our morning started off slow. We left our condo in Princeville around 11am, had breakfast in Hanalei at Chito’s food truck. The entire menu looked great!
I had a fried french toast stick (not pictured). My friend got this madness. It was all delicious I don’t think you can get anything bad here.
The boys dropped us off at the end of the road at Ha’ena State park, where the trail head starts. There were already a TON of cars so they parks about a five minute walk down the road. Make sure to use the bathroom before you go, the next one is two miles into the hike at Hanakapi’ai Beach. There were roosters everywhere! This one was cocky, get it ;P! He pecked all the others away.These babies were adorable! This one stuck his head in a coconut to get a drink. There is usually someone near the trail head selling fresh coconuts which is SO refreshing after a hike. Please dispose afterwards if you get one.
Now it begins!
This trail is considered verydifficult and for experts, however, I saw several pregnant women, families carrying babies, and elderly. Anyone can do it, just take your time. I recommend finding a walking stick especially after a rainfall since it is VERY slippery.
The hike starts out steep from the beginning.If you only want to take a look at the coast, hike .5 miles to the first view point. It’s a beautiful site.Did I mention it was muddy? My friend bought $5 water shoes for the hike. I highly DO NOT recommend that. They didn’t have any traction on the bottom. She was slippling and sliding everywhere. It made for some good laughs though. At some points she went barefoot. I wore my Teva’s and was just fine, I was looking to get that muddy pedicure :P!There were quite a few people on the trail, but it came in waves. We crossed a few streams along the way. They are slippery so take your time.This is my favorite view of all. The Na Pali’ coast with the royal blue Pacific ocean beside us is a view you’ll never forget. Can you see people in the distance?This massive U.S Air Force jet flew quite close. It was awesome!There were many little steams crossing over the trail.We were getting close to the beach. This part was very slippery since it was clay mud.Josh was waiting for us. Apparently we’re slow, lol. I enjoyed it, we got to soak up these views even longer!We crossed the biggest stream to get to Hanakapi’ai Beach. This river is known for flash flooding. They sometimes will shut it down so take a look here before you go.
We made it to Hanakapi’ai Beach. We only stopped for a quick pee break. The current is too strong so no swimming aloud. There are porta potties just to the left of here. You will see signs.
The next two miles we hiked into the valley crossing many more little streams zig-zagging our way to the 300ft Hanakapi’ai waterfall.The first time I did this hike was in August 2011. There were TONS of ripe guava trees along the trail. So many fell on the trailhead. Everyone stomped on them passing through. The smell was AMAZING! It truly made for a one of a kind memorable experience. Since we went in February this time around there was nothing in bloom. However, there is a small section of a bamboo forest that is beautiful!
This place felt like a fairy tale with all the moss and bamboo around.
Just before we made it to the waterfall we came across some great swimming holes filled with bright blue crystal clear water. However, since it’s still prone to flash flooding they don’t recommend swimming in them.At last, we made it to Hanakapi’ai 300ft waterfall! It was shaded, misty and windy with no one in the water. Did that stop us from diving in?NOPE!Josh dove right in the freezing cold water! Were from Michigan so it’s nothing new to us. Plus, I feel if you are going to hike four epic miles and end at a 300 foot waterfall that you can swim under you CAN’T NOT go for a swim!
We ate lunch and then I joined Josh for a swim! He and I were buddies this whole trip from jumping in Queens bath, eating deserts at every dinner and swimming every chance we got! It worked out great!
There were about a few dozen people and maybe three other couples went in the water the entire time we were there! You have to give it a go!
Even though Ron wouldn’t go in I still gave him a big ol’ wet smooch for taking photos and just being my favorite adventure partner <3!After about 15 minutes playing in the water I was shivering uncontrollably! We were ready to head back and into the sun!
The way out was much quicker. The sun dried some of the mud, making it a bit easier to hike.
The two peaks in the distance looked like cat ears.Do you know what these were? If so I would love to know! They look like a pineapple.Five hours and eight miles later we made it back!There were outdoor showers to clean off our muddy selves!We stopped to get some refreshing Jo Jo Shave Ice in Hanalei before we headed back to the condo. This was the first time my friend Erica had shave ice, she loved it! I choose four flavors. I got tigers blood, pineapple, guava, pinacolda with creme! We headed back to our condo for a hot shower and got ready for dinner at Tiki Iniki for our 6pm reservation. We tried to go here a few days before and they were booked for the night. I reccomened making a reservation. It is a small place however super adorable decor with tiki bar stools and decor all around. We loved the vibe, menu and staff!
Erica and I got mermaids juice which is off the kids menu and so delicious! I got the shrimp salad! It was really good!
That my friends is what you call a epic, fun filled, adventurous, workout kinda day!
Have you hike the Kalalau Trail before? I would love to hear from you comment below, Pin, share & subscribe to stay up to date on my latest adventures!
HIKING KALALAU TRAIL
DIRECTIONS: Hāʻena State Park
TRAIL: 11 miles one way (must have permit going past Hanakapi’ai Valley, see permits here). 22 miles round trip. Several options for day hikes. We hiked two miles along Na Pali coast to Hanakapi’ai Beach then two miles into the valley ended at Hanakapi’ai 300ft waterfall.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
- One of the most famous hikes and natural wonders of the world. Hiking along the Na Pali coast.
- Considered difficult hike and only for experts however we saw several pregnant, families, kids, and elderly hike to Hanakāpīʻai Falls which is a 8mi round trip day hike. Take your time.
- Start hike early, we started at 11am and parked 5 minutes away because there was no available parking.
- Recommend using the bathroom before you start hike at Haena State Park next to trail head. Next avaiable toilet is two miles into the hike at Hanakapi’ai Beach.
- Hiking along Na Pali coast, valleys, stream crossing, expect mud, slippery, steep in areas, rocky, trail close to cliff edges, bamboo forest, possible flash floods. See here for daily updates on trail information.
- Camping is not permitted at Hanakapiai. Day Hikes to Hanakāpīʻai Beach (4 miles round trip) or up to Hanakāpīʻai Falls (8 miles round trip) are allowed without a permit.
- Pack snacks, lunch and lots of water. Ron carried three liters and we each carried a liter of water.
- Please leave no trace. Take out everything you brought in.
- Not much shaded areas along hike.
- Bring sunblock
- Plan for quick changing weather, it was be clear skys one minute and pouring rain the next. Bring a jacket.
- Wear good hiking shoes. I wore my open toe Teva and were great in the mud. Prevented me from slipping.
OUR HIKE DETAILS: I love using the free, All Trails app. It tracks us even without service. You can see where I forgot to un-pause us from lunch so it did’nt track a mile of our hike. It took us a total of five hours to hike in, have lunch, take photos and hike out.