- The Kalalau Trail is a challenging 11-mile trek that offers stunning views of the Na Pali Coastline.
- Hikers must obtain a permit from the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park and be prepared to pack in all their supplies.
- With proper planning and preparation, the Kalalau Trail offers a unique and rewarding adventure for experienced hikers.
Hiking the Kalalau Trail is an unforgettable experience that offers breathtaking views of the Na Pali Coastline. Located on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, the Kalalau Trail is a challenging 11-mile trek that takes hikers through lush valleys, towering cliffs, and pristine beaches. The trail is known for its rugged terrain and steep inclines, making it a popular destination for experienced hikers looking for a challenge.
Before embarking on the Kalalau Trail, hikers must obtain a permit from the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. The permit allows hikers to camp at one of two designated campsites along the trail: Hanakoa or Kalalau. Hikers must also be prepared to pack in all their supplies, as there are no facilities or services along the trail. With proper planning and preparation, however, the Kalalau Trail offers a unique and rewarding adventure for those up for the challenge.
Overview of Kalalau Trail
The Kalalau Trail is a world-renowned hiking trail located in Kauai, Hawaii. It stretches for 22 miles along the Nāpali Coast, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the lush greenery of the island. The trail is graded but almost never level as it crosses above towering sea cliffs and through lush tropical valleys.
The trail is divided into two parts: the first 2 miles, from Hāʻena State Park to Hanakapiʻai Beach, make a popular day hike. The second part of the trail, from Hanakapiʻai Beach to Kalalau Beach, is a strenuous and challenging hike requiring a travel permit.
The Kalalau Trail was originally built in the late 1800s to connect some of the island’s remote valleys. Today, it has become one of the most popular trails in Hawaii, attracting thousands of hikers every year.
The trail drops to sea level at the beaches of Hanakapiʻai and Kalalau, and hikers can camp at either of these locations with a valid permit. The trail is known for its challenging terrain, with steep inclines and declines, narrow paths, and sections with no guardrails.
The Kalalau Trail is a wilderness hike through superbly rugged terrain and fitful tropical weather. Hikers should pack backcountry essentials such as snacks, water (and ideally a water filter), emergency layers, sunscreen, and a good map. Sturdy footwear is a must, though lightweight hiking shoes often suffice.
Permit and Reservation Information
To hike the Kalalau Trail, visitors must have either a valid permit or a reservation. The trail is one of the most popular in Hawaii, and permits and reservations are limited to protect the fragile ecosystem and ensure visitor safety.
Hiking permits are required to hike past Hanakāpīʻai Valley, even if visitors do not plan to camp. The permit fee is $35 per person per day. Visitors can obtain permits online through the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources website or in person at the Division of State Parks office in Lihue.
Camping permits are required to camp at Hanakoa or Kalalau, and the same permit is valid for both locations. The camping permit fee is $35 per person per day. Visitors must possess a valid camping permit whether or not they plan to camp.
For visitors who want to hike the first two miles of the trail, a day-use reservation is required. Day-use reservations can be made online through the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources website. The fee for a day-use reservation is $5 per person.
Parking reservations are also required to access the trailhead. Visitors must make a parking reservation online through the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources website. The fee for a parking reservation is $10 per vehicle per day.
It is important to note that only 60 people are permitted on the trail at any given time, and visitors are required to follow Leave No Trace principles to protect the environment. Visitors should plan ahead and obtain permits and reservations well in advance, as they can sell out quickly.
Starting the Hike
The Kalalau Trail starts at the trailhead located at Ke’e Beach. Hikers are advised to start early in the morning to avoid the midday heat and to allow enough time to complete the hike. The trailhead provides land access to the beautiful Napali Coast via land.
Before starting the hike, hikers must park their vehicles in the parking lot located near the trailhead. It is important to note that parking reservations are required to access the Kalalau Trail, so hikers must secure their reservations beforehand.
Once parked, hikers can proceed to the trailhead at Ke’e Beach. The trail begins with a steep climb, and hikers are advised to take their time and rest when necessary. The trail is 11 miles long, and hikers will encounter rugged terrain, steep inclines, and narrow paths along the way.
It is important to note that the Kalalau Trail is recognized as one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, so hikers must come prepared and take necessary precautions to ensure their safety. Hikers must carry enough water and food for the entire hike and wear appropriate hiking gear.
Trail Conditions and Difficulty
The Kalalau Trail is known for its rugged terrain and challenging conditions, making it a difficult hike even for experienced hikers. The trail covers a distance of 22 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of roughly 6250 feet. The hike typically takes 2-3 days to complete, with fast hikers able to complete the round trip in a single day. However, it is recommended to take your time, explore side trails, and soak in the views.
The steep cliffs, slippery conditions, and unpredictable weather make the trail difficult and dangerous. Hikers should exercise extreme caution and be prepared for strenuous hiking. The trail is often muddy and slippery, especially after rainstorms, making it challenging to navigate. Hiking poles and sturdy footwear are essential for maintaining balance and stability on the trail.
Hikers should also be aware of the extreme weather conditions that can occur on the trail. The trail is exposed to sunlight and the elements, and hikers should bring appropriate clothing to protect themselves from the sun and rain. It is also recommended to bring a hat, light layers, and sunscreen to reapply throughout the hike.
Major Points of Interest
The Kalalau Trail is a challenging hike that offers breathtaking views of the NaPali Coastline. Along the way, hikers will encounter several points of interest that are worth exploring. Here are some of the major points of interest that hikers can expect to see on the Kalalau Trail:
The first two miles of the Kalalau Trail will take hikers to Hanakapiai Beach. This stunning beach is surrounded by towering cliffs and crystal-clear waters. Hikers can take a break here and enjoy a swim or simply relax on the beach and take in the beautiful scenery.
Beyond Hanakapiai Beach, hikers can follow a side trail for an additional two miles to reach Hanakapiai Falls. This 300-foot waterfall is a spectacular sight and a popular destination for hikers. The trail to the falls is steep and can be slippery, so hikers should exercise caution.
After Hanakapiai Falls, hikers will encounter Red Hill. This steep climb offers panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and the coastline. Hikers should take their time and be careful on this section of the trail.
Beyond Red Hill, hikers will reach Hanakoa Valley. This lush valley is home to a stream and several waterfalls, including Hanakoa Falls. Hikers can take a break here and enjoy the scenery before continuing on the trail.
The final destination on the Kalalau Trail is Kalalau Beach. This secluded beach is only accessible by hiking the trail and offers stunning views of the NaPali Coastline. Hikers can camp on the beach and enjoy swimming, surfing, and exploring the surrounding area.
Camping on the Trail
Camping is an essential part of the Kalalau Trail experience, and there are several camping areas along the trail. Backpackers planning to camp on the trail must obtain a camping permit in advance. The permits are available 90 days in advance and can be obtained online.
The camping areas along the trail include Hanakoa, Hanakapi’ai, Kalalau Beach, and Milolii. Hanakoa and Hanakapi’ai are located at the 2-mile and 4-mile marks, respectively. Kalalau Beach is located at the end of the trail, which is 11 miles from the trailhead. Milolii is a small camping area located about 9 miles from the trailhead.
There are no roofed shelters along the trail, so backpackers must bring their own tents. The camping areas have composting toilets, which are maintained by the state park. Backpackers must bring their own toilet paper, as it is not provided.
Backpackers must also pack out all their trash and waste, as there are no trash cans or dumpsters along the trail. It is important to follow Leave No Trace principles and pack out everything that is brought in.
Hiking the Kalalau Trail can be a thrilling and rewarding experience, but it’s important to be aware of the potential hazards and take necessary precautions to ensure your safety. The trail can be very dangerous, especially in bad weather, and there are many hazards that you need to be aware of to keep you and your companions safe.
One of the biggest risks associated with the Kalalau Trail is flash flooding. The trail crosses several streams and rivers, and during heavy rains, these can quickly turn into raging torrents that can sweep hikers off their feet. It’s important to keep an eye on the weather forecast and avoid hiking the trail during periods of heavy rain. If you do encounter a stream or river that is too dangerous to cross, it’s best to turn back and wait for the water to recede.
Another hazard to be aware of on the Kalalau Trail is falling. The trail is steep and rocky in places, and a misstep can result in a serious injury or worse. It’s important to wear appropriate footwear with good traction and to take your time when navigating difficult sections of the trail. It’s also a good idea to carry a first aid kit in case of injuries.
High surf and rip currents are also a concern for hikers on the Kalalau Trail. The trail passes several beaches, and it’s important to be aware of the surf conditions before venturing into the water. Even experienced swimmers can be caught off guard by rip currents, which can quickly pull them out to sea. It’s best to avoid swimming in areas with strong surf or rip currents.
Extreme caution should be taken when hiking the Kalalau Trail. It’s important to be prepared for any situation and to carry essential gear such as snacks, water, emergency layers, sunscreen, and a good map. It’s also recommended to use the buddy system and hike with a companion who can help in case of an emergency.
Flora and Fauna
The Kalalau Trail is a hiking trail that offers a unique opportunity to experience the diverse flora and fauna of Kauai. The trail passes through native lowland forest plants, lush valleys, and along the stunning Napali Coast. Hikers can expect to see a variety of plant and animal species along the way.
One of the most notable features of the Kalalau Trail is the native lowland forest plants that can be found throughout the hike. These plants include the ohia lehua, which is a type of tree that is endemic to Hawaii. The tree produces bright red flowers that are often used in traditional Hawaiian lei making. Other native plants that hikers might encounter include the maile vine, which is used in Hawaiian ceremonies, and the hala tree, which produces fruit that is used for weaving.
In addition to the native plants, hikers on the Kalalau Trail can expect to see a variety of animal species. The lush valleys along the trail are home to a number of bird species, including the Hawaiian goose and the red-footed booby. Hikers might also see feral goats, which are common on the island of Kauai. While the goats can be a nuisance for local farmers, they are a common sight for hikers on the Kalalau Trail.
Transportation and Access
Transportation and access to the Kalalau Trail can be challenging due to its remote location on the island of Kauai. Visitors have a few options to reach the trailhead, including driving, taking a shuttle, or hiring a private driver.
Driving to the trailhead is an option for visitors who have rented a car or have access to one. However, parking is limited, and visitors must obtain a reservation or permit to enter Haena State Park, where the trailhead is located. The park has only 70 parking spots available per day for up to 960 visitors, which means that parking can be difficult to secure during peak times. Visitors should plan to arrive early to secure a parking spot.
Taking a shuttle is a popular option for visitors who do not have access to a car or prefer not to drive. The shuttle service operates from the Princeville Airport to the trailhead and back. Visitors should book their shuttle tickets in advance to secure a seat. The shuttle service is run by a local company, and visitors can expect a comfortable ride with knowledgeable drivers who can provide information about the area.
Be careful of other shuttle companies. We have heard of hikers getting on island to only find out they were scammed.
Visitors who prefer a more personalized experience can hire a private driver to transport them to the trailhead. Hiring a private driver is also an excellent option for visitors who are traveling in a group or with a lot of gear. Visitors can pre-arrange a driver to cover all their transportation needs for their trip at one time. Hiring a private driver can be more expensive than other options, but it provides visitors with more flexibility and convenience.
Locals and Hawaiians
It is essential to respect the local community and Hawaiian culture when visiting the Kalalau Trail. Visitors should be mindful of the impact they have on the environment and the local community. Visitors should also be aware of the cultural significance of the trail and the land it traverses. It is recommended that visitors educate themselves on Hawaiian culture and customs before embarking on the trail.
Weather and Best Seasons to Hike
When planning a hike on the Kalalau Trail, it is important to consider the weather and the best seasons to hike. The weather on the trail can be unpredictable and can change rapidly, so hikers should be prepared for all types of weather conditions.
The Kalalau Trail is located on the island of Kauai, which has a tropical climate. The weather is generally warm and humid, with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to mid-80s Fahrenheit throughout the year. However, the trail is located in a mountainous area, so temperatures can be cooler at higher elevations.
The best time to hike the Kalalau Trail is during the dry season, which runs from May to September. During this time, the weather is generally dry and sunny, with less chance of rain. This makes for better hiking conditions and better views of the surrounding landscape.
During the wet season, which runs from October to April, the weather can be more unpredictable, with more rain and higher chances of flash floods. Hikers should be aware of the potential dangers of hiking during this time and should take extra precautions.
Hikers should also be aware of the sea level on the trail. The Kalalau Trail runs along the Napali Coast, which is known for its rugged and steep cliffs. Hikers should be prepared for steep inclines and declines, as well as potentially slippery and uneven terrain.
In summary, the best time to hike the Kalalau Trail is during the dry season from May to September. Hikers should also be prepared for all types of weather conditions and should take extra precautions during the wet season. Additionally, hikers should be aware of the steep and rugged terrain along the Napali Coast.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to hike the Kalalau Trail?
The Kalalau Trail is an 11-mile hike that can take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours to complete depending on your pace, fitness level, and whether you plan to stop and take in the stunning views along the way.
How difficult is the first 2 miles of Kalalau Trail?
The first 2 miles of the Kalalau Trail are considered the most difficult part of the hike due to the steep incline and uneven terrain. Hikers should be prepared for a challenging ascent and descent, and be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes with good traction.
What is the scariest part of the Kalalau Trail?
The Kalalau Trail is known for its narrow paths and steep drop-offs, so some hikers may find certain sections to be more nerve-wracking than others. The most infamous section is the Crawler’s Ledge, a narrow path with a sheer drop-off on one side. However, with proper preparation and caution, most hikers find the trail to be exhilarating rather than scary.
Where can I park for the Kalalau Trail?
Parking for the Kalalau Trail is available at the trailhead, but spaces are limited and can fill up quickly, especially during peak hiking season. It’s recommended that hikers arrive early or consider taking a shuttle to the trailhead to avoid parking issues.
Is there a shuttle to the Kalalau Trail?
Yes, there are shuttle services available that can take hikers to the trailhead. However, it’s important to note that these shuttles can be expensive and may require advance reservations.
What should I know before hiking the Kalalau Trail?
Hikers should be prepared for a challenging hike with steep inclines and uneven terrain. It’s important to wear sturdy hiking shoes, bring plenty of water, and pack enough food and supplies for the entire day. Hikers should also be aware of the weather conditions and plan accordingly, as the trail can become slippery and dangerous during rainy weather. Finally, hikers should be respectful of the natural environment and follow Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the beauty of the trail for future generations.