Backpacking in Kauai
Days 1 and 2 (six miles). This hike, by far the longest of the Kauai hikes in this article, starts at Hanakapiai Beach and proceeds to Hanakoa Valley (see map).
Day 3 (5 miles). As you walk west out of Hanakoa Valley going uphill, you pass numerous terrace walls on the uphill side, overgrown with coffee. Ti dominates the downhill vegetation. The air continues warm and humid until you round the nose of the ridge that separates Hanakoa Valley from the next section of the Na Pali Coast to the southwest. This is Manono Ridge. The ridge blocks off much of the rainfall that makes the coast to the northeast so lush and humid; the coast is markedly drier from here on southwest.
You descend steep switchbacks past sisals into a dry gully on the west side of Manono Ridge. Emerging from the gully, you begin a precipitous traverse on loose conglomerate about 200 feet above the sea. Previously, there's been some vegetation to conceal the sheer drops, even if it was only a little grass. Here, nothing disguises the fact that you need to be extra careful. The unobstructed view of the ocean is breathtaking, literally, and the soil has an unusual gray-blue hue in some places. You're pretty obvious to the passengers in any tourist boats below; don't be surprised if they honk and wave at you.
From here to Kalalau, you'll see and hear terrain-damaging feral goats. Hunters help control their numbers; hunting is permitted here, so be sure to stick to the established trails.
The repeating pattern from here to Red Hill, a local name (not on the topo) for the steep west-trending slope that precedes Kalalau, is to traverse the nose of a ridge and then make steep descents into and ascents out of gullies. The first two gullies are dry, but later ones have small streams. Look for"onion" boulders on the dry ridges; at one point, you'll be climbing through some of them. One gully is particularly striking: it is filled with the gray-white trunks and branches of kukui trees that leaf out into their light-green crowns only above the gully. It's an eerie sight! Also look for ape plants, giant relatives of the taro plant. Look for the huge, slightly crinkled, heart-shaped leaves of ape down in the gully among the tree trunks.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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