One of the world’s most famous coastlines, the North Shore of Kaua‘i and Na Pali Coast are as beautiful as they are remote. Here razor-sharp ridges edged in reds and yellows form balustrades for towering sea cliffs draped in green. Deep valleys, lushly forested, beckon the explorer to adventure into the island’s mysterious interior. Crystal clear waters tumble down from the peaks above, creating babbling streams and cataclysmic waterfalls that shape these valleys before feeding into the inviting turquoise waters of the Pacific. Enticing, seductive, and alluring, the only way to experience this Lost World is on foot by hiking the serpentine route of the Kalalau Trail, be it for 2 miles or 20, or by embarking on a tour via helicopter or boat excursion.
A World-Famous Trail on NaPali Coast Kauai
Stretching for 11 miles from Ke`e Beach in the east to Kalalau Beach at the western end, the Kalalau Trail is on every serious hiker’s bucket list. Because of the rugged terrain, steep drop-offs, and remote location, the full length of this trail should only be attempted by fit and experienced hikers with the appropriate gear and permits.
Rising and falling over the ruggedly beautiful ridges and pristine terrain, the trail fords two streams and crosses through five valleys. The path is graded but seldom flat, and rarely does it return to sea level. Setting out from the trail head, the first two miles are easy enough, a series of rises and falls leading to the first stream crossing. Because this trail crosses multiple streams and flash flooding is a valid concern on Kauai, hikers should only cross these streams when water levels are low and heavy rain is not expected.
Here at Hanakapi`ai Beach you can relax, catch your breath, and even frolic in the stream (swimming in the ocean is not advised due to high waves and strong currents). Those on a day hike can turn back or head inland on a 2-mile side trail to the majestic waterfall at the head of the stream.
At 8 miles round trip, this is a great day hike for those who want to experience the Kalalau in all its glory but only some if its intensity. Proceeding from Hanakapi`ai requires an overnight camping permit (whether you camp or not), and the switchbacks and elevation gains get considerably more difficult.
The trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls turns inland at Hanakapi’ai Beach, meandering for two miles through tropical and bamboo forests and over often muddy terrain. While the trail is fairly easy to follow, boulders, tree roots, mud, and additional stream crossings add an extra element of challenge. The weather inland can be unpredictable, often raining even when it began as a sunny day, so be sure to bring the appropriate gear. Hanakapi’ai Falls cascades down the emerald mountainside from over 300 feet, and you will be treated with spectacular views once you reach the falls. The trail ends at the bottom of the falls, where an ice-cold pool awaits as your reward! Once you’ve rested and rejuvenated at the falls, you will retrace your steps back to Hanakapi’ai Beach and either head back to the parking area at Ke’e Beach, or venture further down the Kalalau Trail (with permit only).
Crawler’s Ledge and Kalalau Beach
If you bypass the side trail to Hanakapiai Falls or plan to continue further on the Kalalau Trail after you’ve visited the falls, a greater challenge awaits. Hiking up a steep 800’ ridge out of the valley brings you to the wildlife reserve, home to native lowland forest plants. At the Hanakoa Stream crossing is the first camping shelter, built near the site of terraced coffee plant farms from the 19th century. Wild coffee trees still grow here today, just off the trail. After crossing the stream there is an eroded trail which leads to spectacular falls up the valley, though it can be impassable at times.
The main trail continues on for 5 miles to Kalalau Beach. The most harrowing section comes at mile 7. Nicknamed “Crawler’s Ledge,” this narrow portion of the trail offers jaw-dropping views of the ocean, but with precipitous drops and treacherous conditions. Once through, you drop down the switchbacks into the verdant valley below, the site of ancient Hawaiian fishing villages and taro fields. The valley is rife with waterfalls and scenic hikes, with sea caves at the water’s edge.
The Kalalau Trail is not for the faint of heart, but this day-long expedition is a once in a lifetime journey through Na Pali Coast Kauai, into some of the most spectacular back country on Earth.
Explore the Na Pali Coast by Sea or Air
If exploring the Na Pali Coast by foot doesn’t sound like your idea of a relaxing vacation, or you simply don’t have the time to fit it into your Hawaii itinerary, seeing some of its stunning sights is also possible via helicopter or boat tour. Kauai is home to a handful of helicopter companies, many of which run tours that include the Na Pali Coast, as well as some of the other untouched areas of the island that are only visible by air. Boat tours are a great way to get a close-up glimpse of the Na Pali sea cliffs and engage in other activities such as snorkeling and whale watching at the same time! There are so many ways to explore Kauai’s stunning Na Pali Coast.
Looking for Kauai Vacation Rentals? Click here!
At Ahh! Aloha, we offer vacation rentals along Kauai’s stunning North Shore, putting you in perfect proximity for enjoying the untouched Na Pali coast. Browse our many listings in North Shore resort towns such as Hanalei and Princeville to enjoy easy access to some of the island’s most beautiful beaches and untouched terrain! Contact us at 866-922-5642 with any questions you may have about vacationing on Kauai’s North Shore or make your online booking now!