Ultimate Guide for the Kalalau Trail

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The famous Na’Pali coastline is a highlight of Kauai. The Kalalau Trail is the best way to explore this coastline up close. Recognized as one of the worlds most dangerous hikes, come prepared for a grueling hike. The reward at the end of the hike is worth every ounce of pain and struggle to get here. Along the way, there are several offshoots and trails to explore.

 

The Ultimate Guide for the Kalalau Trail will walk you through everything you need to know for this hike. For more to do in Kauai, check out our guide for camping and permits in Kauai:  Camping and Permits in Kauai.

 

Adventures in Kauai on a Budget, Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

Amazing Coastline Views

 

Permits

Permits are required to hike past mile 6 on the Kalalau Trail, at the junction of the Hanakoa Stream. The trip must be planned ahead as permits can sell out. Permits can be obtains from the State of Hawaii camping reservation system. If tickets are sold out for your  preferred dates,  check every morning at 8:30am-9am (Hawaii time), as they reopen cancelled reservations. The cost is $15 per night for Hawaiian residents, and $20 per night for out of state (per person). Book your permits at:  https://camping.ehawaii.gov/camping/all,details,1692.html

 

Many hike this trail without a permit, including the dozens of people who physically live at Kalalau Beach for free. During our hike, there was an undercover park ranger requesting to see permits for anyone with a pack on. Please support the State of Hawaii and purchase a permit for this hike.

 

 

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

4-5 miles into Kalalau Trail

How to Get There

The trailhead starts in the Ha’ena State Park, at Ka’a Beach. A good option is to stay at the Ha’ena Beach park the night prior to the hike which is located 1.2 miles from the trailhead. For more on booking permits for Ha’ena Beach (county park) read more here.

 

Our Hike Details

Kalalau trail – 12 miles one way, 6 hours

Hanakapi’ai trail – 2 miles one way, 1 hour 45 minutes

Hanakoa trail – 0.5 miles one way, 30 minutes

Kalalau Valley trail – 2 miles one way, 1 hour 30 minutes

Difficulty: Difficult

 

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

Views in the first mile

The Hike

The hike begins at Ka’a Beach at the end of the parking lot.  Start the hike as early as possible. This will ensure you are ahead of day hikers and provides ample time to finish the hike before dark. There is the main Kalalau trail, as well as several offshoots to waterfalls and swimming holes. We recommend making this a 3-day hike.

  • Day 1: Hike the Kalalau trail to Kalalau Beach (12 miles) and include the offshoot at mile 6 to Hanakoa Waterfall (+1 mile).

  • Day 2: Spend the day relaxing at Kalalau Beach and explore the trails up to the swimming holes in the Kalalau Valley (+4 miles).

  • Day 3: Hike out on the Kalalau (12 miles) and include the offshoot at mile 2 to Hanakapi’ai Waterfall (+4 miles).

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

Trailhead to Kalalau

The first mile is mostly uphill before getting to the Hanakapi’ai Valley. At Mile 2, there is a river crossing at the Hanakapi’ai Stream. Please be aware of flash foods, as this is the number one place for deaths along the Kalalau trail. This is the first offshoot hike to the Hanakapi’ai Falls. Continue for the Kalalau trail. After three miles, there are incredible views down the Na’Pali coast.

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

Looking back, roughly 3-4 miles in

The the trail winds into the Hanakoa valley (mile 6) and becomes very lush. Hanakoa is near the mid-way of this hike, and a good place for a break and to replenish water. There is a big ascent out of the gorge at Hanakoa, where the trail reaches the coastline again. The coastline is dry and comes with amazing view and leads to one of the most feared and famous sections of this hike, crawlers ledge.

 

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

Crawlers Ledge

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

View of the Napali Coast

At 10 miles there is a sign for the Kalalau Valley. This is the final push, with a large descent down the Red Hill with epic views into the valley and Kalalau beach. The Red Hill is the steepest part of the hike, but much worse on the return hike out of Kalalau.

 

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

Entering the Kalalau Valley

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

Red Hill, last mile and half

Ultimate Guide for the Kalalau Trail, Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

On the way to Kalalau Beach

The Kalalau stream starts at Mile 11. From here the campsites are another 1/2 mile away. There is a 1/2 mile stretch of beach with campsites to choose from. A waterfall provides drinking water at the end of the beach. It is important to filter water due to a potentially fatal disease, leptospirosis.  To be closest to fresh water, camp near the end of the beach.

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

Tent Site right near Waterfalls

 

Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail – Offshoot at Mile 2

4 miles roundtrip

The trail to Hanakapi’ai Waterfall starts at mile 2 immediately following the stream.  This trail can very busy with day hikers and can get very muddy. Along this trail there is a small bamboo forest. There are several times this trail requires you to cross the stream, so please be aware of flash floods.

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

Bamboo on the Hanakapa’ai Falls Trail

 

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

Hanakapa’ai Falls

Hanakoa Falls Trail – Offshoot at Mile 6

1 mile roundtrip

The Hanakoa Falls trail starts at mile 6, clearly marked after you cross the stream. This is only a 1/2 mile hike to the falls. Because of the distance from the Kalalau trailhead, day hikers likely won’t make it this far. We were the only ones on this trail and enjoyed this stunning waterfall entirely to ourselves.

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

Hanakoa Falls

Kalalau Valley Trail – Mile 11

4 miles roundtrip

The Kalalau Valley begins at mile 11, just before arriving to Kalalau Beach. This is a great day hike while staying at the beach. There are several swimming holes to enjoy, including one with a rope swing. This is also an excellent place to replenish on drinking water before returning to Kalalau Beach.

Kalalau Trail in Napali Coast, Kauaii

Kalalau Valley Pools

 

What to Bring on the Hike

  • Tent

  • Sleeping bag

  • Sleeping pad

  • Water filter

  • Sunblock

  • Bug spray

  • Cooking stove & fuel

  • Cookware

  • Bathing suit

  • Small utility rope to hang clothes

  • Hiking shoes

  • Headlamps

  • Light waterproof jacket

  • Pack rain cover

  • Lighter

 

 

 

Check out other content on Hawaii:

Adventures in Kauai on a Budget


Published on 01/19/2016 by Beard and Curly. Visited in January 2016.

 

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