The alluring Island of Kauai, Hawaii offers much more than postcard perfect white sand beaches. Over 97% of the island is undeveloped, leaving miles for exploration. For those who take the time to venture down the trails that hug the rugged coastline or explore the jungle-like interior, the rewards are worth it. The Kalalau Trail is one of Kauai’s most popular trails for experienced hikers, luring in adventurers from around the world to explore its depths.
Hiking the Kalalau Trail
Hiking the Kalalau Trail on your Kauai vacation is a truly unforgettable experience. This beautiful 11-mile trail is located on the north shore of Kauai and offers breathtaking views of the island’s rugged coastline and lush tropical forests. The trail is challenging, with steep inclines, narrow paths, and rocky terrain. Due to its steep cliffs and slippery conditions during wet weather, it has been cited as one of the world’s most dangerous hiking trails. Completing the full trek requires 22 miles (round trip) of technical hiking, overnight camping, and securing a highly competitive permit. However, it is still possible to enjoy part of the trail with less risk and high reward.
Top Kalalau Trail Sights
The trail begins at the end of the road in Haena State Park on Kauai’s North Shore, where you will find a small parking lot and trailhead. From there, the trail winds through dense forests and along cliff edges, providing stunning views of the ocean and the Na Pali Coast.
Along the way, you will pass by several landmarks that are worth stopping to admire, including Hanakapiai Beach and Hanakapiai Falls. Hanakapiai Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand that is perfect for a picnic, though care should be taken near the water here as the current makes it usually unsuitable for swimming. From the beach, hiking two miles further inland along the river will reveal the magnificent Hanakapiai Falls, an impressive sight cascading down a sheer cliff face into a crystal-clear pool below.
If you have the correct permits to continue, you will cross over streams, climb steep switchbacks, make your way across Crawler’s Ledge, and navigate rocky terrain as you trek towards the trail’s final destination, the Kalalau Valley.
Planning Your Excursion
Hiking any part of the Kalalau Trail necessitates thoroughly researching the dangers and permits required via the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources website. The full trail length should only be attempted by experienced backcountry hikers.