Considered Kaui'i's best hike, but it is a difficult one. Views include the Na Pali Coast, surrounding valleys, waterfalls, and ancient ruins. There is a shorter, two-mile version from Ke'e Beach to Hanakapi'ai.
The Kalalau Trail provides the only land access to this part of the coast. The trail begins at Ke'e Beach in Ha'ena State Park, at the northwest end of Kuhio Highway (Route 56). The eleven-mile trail traverses five valleys before ending at Kalalau Beach in Na Pali State Park, where it is blocked by sheer, fluted Pali. The trail is almost never level as it crosses above towering sea cliffs and through lush valleys. The trail drops to sea level at the beaches of Hanakapi'ai and Kalalau. For most backpackers in good condition, hiking the eleven miles will take a full day.
For experienced swimmers, knowledgeable in local sea conditions, nearshore waters offer limited opportunities for swimming and bodysurfing.
Ke'e Beach to Hanakapi'ai: (2 miles) This section offers a popular day hike for able bodied hikers. Walking the first 1.2-mile will reward you with excellent views of the coast. The summer sand beach at Hanakapi'ai is a popular destination. Swimming or wading can be dangerous, however, and is not recommended. The surf and rip currents are variable and often extremely treacherous, but worst in winter when high surf conditions prevail. An unmaintained two-mile spur trail up the Hanakapi'ai Valley leads to a spectacular waterfall. This spur trail becomes difficult and should be hiked only in good weather to avoid dangerous flash floods and falling rocks.
Hanakapi'ai to Hanakoa: (4 miles) More strenuous hiking begins as the steep switchback trail climbs 800 feet out of Hanakapi'ai Valley. The trail traverses Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve in the small hanging valleys of Ho'olulu and Waiahuakua before entering Hanakoa Valley. Near the Hanakoa Stream crossing, a camping area offers an excellent overnight stop for weary backpackers. The campsites are on old agricultural terraces where coffee plants, introduced in the late 1800's are still growing.The unmarked 1/3-mile trail up the east fork of the valley to Hanakoa Falls has hazardous, eroded sections but affords a spectacular view of the falls.
Hanakoa Valley to Kalalau Beach: (5 miles) After leaving Hanakoa Valley, the trail enters drier open land which offers little shade from the midday sun. Tired hikers may be urged on by the panoramic view of the Kalalau Valley's fluted cliffs and the coastline beyond. The trail crosses Kalalau Stream near the valley mouth before ending at Kalalau Beach and a small waterfall. Camping in Kalalau is allowed only by this sand beach. During summer, sea caves just beyond the waterfall provide popular camping shelters, but winter surf removes much of the beach and enters the caves. Shaded camp sites 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 or near cliff faces as there is constant danger of falling rocks. An easy two-mile trail into Kalalau Valley ends at a pool in the stream. This trail passes through extensive agricultural terraces where Hawaiians grew taro until 1920. These terraces are now overgrown with Java plum, guava and occasional large mango trees.
Facilities: The three authorized camping areas along the trail at Hanakapi'ai, Hanakoa and Kalalau do not have tables or drinking water. Pit toilets are available at Hanakapi'ai and Kalalau. All camping areas are located on shaded terraces near streams.
Permits required: Day-use hiking permits for the Kalalau Trail are required when continuing beyond Hanakapi'ai Valley, even if overnight camping is not planned. Camping permits: A maximum stay of five nights is allowed in Na Pali State Park. Within the five-night maximum, no two consecutive nights are allowed at Hanakapi'ai or Hakakoa. No fees are charged for permits.
Obtain all permits from the Kaua'i District State Parks office in Lihu'e. Write or call the Division of State Parks, 3060 Eiwa St., # 306, Lihue, HI 96766. Phone: (808) 241-3444.
Directions: From Princeville, Follow Highway 560 to Haena Beach Park. This is a good alternative to leaving your car at the trailhead as it is much safer. The trailhead is a one mile hike west from Haena Beach Park.
Elevation: Sea Level
Ending Elevation: Sea Level
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Hawaii State Parks, Hawaii
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