World → N America → Hawaii → Kalalau Trail
One of the best hikes in the world
AT A GLANCE
- hike any month of the year
- trail sometimes closed due to weather
- maximum elevation gain 800ft
- Keʻe Beach to the Kalalau Valley
- can be done as a long day hike though officially you are only allowed to day hike as far as Hankapiai beach
- 3 days, 2 nights recommended
- most people camp at least one night at either Hanakoa Valley (6 mile mark) or Kalalau Beach.
- in Nā Pali Coast State Park
- limited number of permits issued for camping
- one of our top 10 coastal hikes of the world
Why We Like This Hike
- Kuaui is known as the “Garden Isle”, perhaps the best hiking island in Hawaii
- the Kalalau is inaccessible to vehicles
- remote, beautiful and challenging
- otherworldly, weird and wonderful jungle vistas
- side trip to Hanakoa Falls
- you may see wild goats
- remote sand beaches
- temperatures seldom drop below 60°F nor does it get too hot
- tenting in paradise
- rumours of nude women showering under those falls turned out to be true
- often included on lists of “dangerous” hikes, though risks are often exaggerated. It’s not risky in good weather.
- the main “danger” is falling off cliff edge trails
- Kauai literally means “the cliffs“
- one section is known as “crawler’s ledge”. It can be tricky in rain and mud.
- bring the trekking poles
- falling rocks are a slight risk too
- 3 stream crossings: Hanakapiai, Hanakoa and Kalalau
- flash flooding is possible
- In February 2013 a woman drowned while trying to cross Hanakapiai stream during a flash flood. 54 hikers were stranded overnight.
- In April 2014 The Kauai Fire Department had to rescue 121 hikers over a two-day period when streams became impassable because of heavy rain.
- In December 2014, 62 hikers who ignored the closed trail sign had to be airlifted out by the Kauai Fire Department when streams became impassable because of heavy rain
- February 2014 another woman drowned when she attempted to cross Hanakoa stream during heavy rains and flash flooding.
- in case of emergency, someone must hike out for help or signal a passing helicopter or boat. There is no cellular phone coverage for the Nāpali Coast.
- Tsunamis are an infrequent, but great hazard
- sections can be muddy. Shoes that grip and fit well are key. Be prepared to get dirty.
- ocean conditions can be dangerous
- there are no Rangers, no lifeguards
- rugged location makes help and rescue challenging. We saw one injured hiker rolled out in something that looked half stretcher, half wheelbarrow 😦
- treat the water, just in case
- use the composting toilets at Hanakapai’ai Beach (2mi), Hanakoa (6mi) and at Kalalau (11mi)
- all water sensitive items must be kept in waterproof bags. This is a very rainy part of the world.
- camping on Hankapiai beach not allowed
- Kalalau Valley has a fair number of permanent and semi-permanent “residents” who are illegal squatters. They may approach you to check if you have any unwanted extra food.
- leaving vehicles overnight at the trailhead is not recommended. Vandalism and theft are fairly common problems in Hawaii. Here are some transportation options.
Permits often sell out and can sell out up to a year in advance for the most popular days. Get yours as early as possible. $20/day/person out-of-State and $15/day/person for Hawaii residents (2015).
You don’t need a guide to hike Kalalau. Do it independently.
Anyone can day hike. Simply arrive at the trailhead. Then walk the 2 miles from Keʻe Beach to Hanakapiai stream and beach. And back. It’s always busy with tourists.
You can add the side trip to Hanakoa Falls, if you like, without any permit.
If you want to hike past Hanakapiai:
- obtain a camping permit from the DLNR – (808) 274-3444
- if you are cited for no permit, you’ll be required to show up in court. A conviction will result in a criminal record in addition to penalties.
- permits are limited to 5 consecutive nights maximum though you’ll meet people who have overstayed
- Division of State Parks – KALALAU TRAIL
Best Trekking Guidebooks
No guidebook is needed. But it might be fun to read up on the adventure before getting there.
- Kauai Trailblazer: Where to Hike, Snorkel, Bike, Paddle, Surf (2014)
- Kauai Trails: Walks strolls and treks on the Garden Island by Kathy Morey (2002)
- Hiking Kauai the Garden Isle by Robert Smith (2002)
Best Travel Guidebooks
- The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed (2014)
- Lonely Planet Discover Kauai
- Lonely Planet Hawaii
Best Web Pages
Best Trip Reports
- BACKPACKERS REVIEW (2015)
- Wild Backpacker
- Larry & Mitzi
- Cali Trails – Kalalau Trail to Hanakapiai Falls (day hike without permit)
- Bill & Kori
- David T. Lurk 2006
- photos from besthike editor Rick McCharles
Francis Hehle’s video will give you a good idea of what the trail is like.
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
John Coffey’s video includes the specific landmarks.
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
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