Taking a hike in the pristine natural environment on the beautiful island of Kauai is one of the top sightseeing activities for many individuals, couples, and groups exploring the Hawaiian Islands for a Kauai vacation. From the stunning views of the Waimea Canyon to the incredible scenery of the Na Pali coastline, there’s a rich diversity of trails to explore.
One of the best areas for hiking is along Kauai’s North Shore’s Na Pali Coast, and an area raved about across the globe for its lush vegetation and unique ridge formation. On the west side, the trails offer gorgeous views of the Kalalau Valley, the thrilling adventure of cliff jumping, and the magnificent beauty of Hanalei Bay.
Whether you’re interested in a full-day hike or shorter day hikes, this blog post aims to provide a detailed guide to the most famous hiking trail on the Nā Pali Coast, the Kalalau Trail. It’s a great hike that showcases some of the most incredible views and experienced hikers and beginners will find something to cherish on this unforgettable trail.
The Kalalau Trail on the Hawaiian island of Kauai
Location and Length of the Trail
Located within the Nā Pali Coast State Park and beginning at the Hāʻena State Park near Kee Beach, the Kalalau Trail is one of Kauai’s most renowned hiking trails. Extending for 11 miles through the stunning landscape, the trail takes you through several offshoots, from the trailhead at Hāʻena State Park, through Hanakapi’ai, Hanakoa Trail, and finally to the breathtaking Kalalau Beach.
Mile marker by mile marker, the trail opens to reveal captivating views. Notable stops include Hanakapi’ai Beach, Hanakoa Valley, and the unforgettable Na’pali Coast.
Different Sections and Customized Experience
The Kalalau Trail is broken into four different sections. Depending on the level of exertion you’re looking for, any specific sites you may want to view, and how long you want to spend, you’ll find a suitable segment for your hike. From a round trip to Hanakapiai Falls to the coastal trail leading to the end where the trail ends, there’s a diverse experience waiting for each hiker.
For many hikers, the journey is not just about the destination; it’s about the incredible scenery and the connection with nature. Proper footwear and drinking water are essential, as the terrain varies from giant boulders to steep drop-offs.
To move beyond Hanakapi’ai, you’ll need a Kalalau Trail permit. The entire hike, especially the east side and beyond, becomes more strenuous and advanced as you approach the Kalalau Valley. With more challenging hikes ahead, like the ridge trail and canyon trail, the Kuilau Ridge Trail, and the Waipo’o Falls Trail, securing proper permits is vital for a safe and legal backpacking trip.
With the proper planning and a sense of adventure, you can discover the trails of Kokeʻe State Park, navigate the Awa’awapuhi Trail, and find the perfect camping spots with the necessary camping permits. A day hike or multi-day expedition is at your fingertips, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, elevation gain, and a personal connection with nature.
Whether you hike your way or follow our guided trip report, the Kalalau Trail offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for every hiker, filled with the echoes of Jurassic Park and the embrace of the beautiful sea-level landscapes of Kauai. Visit the state parks, explore the west side, and let the hike begins with this in-depth exploration of one of the world’s most remarkable trails.
Exploring Kalalau Hiking Trail
Journey to the First Waterfall
Embarking on the Kalalau Trail hike begins with a 2-mile journey through the lush vegetation of the Hanakapiai Valley that leads to a 300-foot tall waterfall. It’s an incredible view that captures the heart of the Na Pali coastline. With its cascading waters and the background of the stunning cliffs of the Na’pali Coast, this waterfall is a treasure of the Hawaiian Islands.
However, the path to this breathtaking sight can be slippery and challenging, especially in bad weather. Hikers must be cautious of flash floods, slippery terrains, and giant boulders. Ensuring proper footwear and being mindful of the weather report can make this leg of the hike both safe and enjoyable.
Continuing to Hanakoa and the Second Waterfall
For those looking to extend the full-day hike, another 4 miles await, leading to Hanakoa. As you traverse the Hono’o Na Pali Natural Area Reserve, the gorgeous views of the Kalalau Valley unfold, and the rich flora of the ridge trail comes alive.
Upon arrival at Hanakoa, the 500-foot Hanakoa Falls reveal themselves in splendor. Many hikers regard this as one of the most stunning views on Kauai hikes. If you’ve made it this far, it may be time to rest and spend the night at the campsite along the Hanakoa Stream. Camping permits are required, and seasoned hikers often recommend taking this chance to recharge and soak in the incredible scenery.
Final Stretch to Kalalau Beach and Campsite
The trail takes you on the remaining 5 miles, passing Pu’ukulua, or the Red Hill, and then onto the Kalalau Stream. With each mile marker, the elevation gain and the views of the Pacific Ocean elevate the experience. The final stretch is a steep downhill hike filled with the sounds and sights of Jurassic Park that ends at the enchanting Kalalau Beach.
Many hikers choose to set up camp here, marking the trail ends at one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Kalalau Beach offers a moment of reflection as you realize the once-in-a-lifetime experience you’ve achieved.
Whether you plan a round trip or end at the beach, you’ll find the hike filled with incredible views and rewarding challenges. From the Na Pali Coast to Ke’e Beach, from the first mile to the Kilohana Lookout, the west side of this beautiful island offers a diverse range of experiences that caters to both day hikers and those on a backpacking trip.
For assistance, parking permits, or advice on good hiking shoes and equipment, don’t hesitate to contact our resort’s on-site concierge. The Kalalau Trail is not just a great hike; it’s a journey through nature, culture, and self-discovery that echoes the true spirit of Kauai. From sea level to the heights of Koke’e State Park, every step is a memory in the making on this unforgettable trail. Make your way and enjoy the true essence of hiking on the Kalalau Trail.
Planning Your Napali Coast Hikes
Knowing the necessary permit requirements is crucial before setting out on one of the most challenging hikes along the Na Pali Coast. You’ll need a special Kalalau Trail permit to move beyond Hanakapi’ai Beach and explore the entire hike. This permit is essential for experienced hikers looking to venture into more advanced sections of the trail, especially if planning a backpacking trip or overnight stay at the campsites.
You can obtain the necessary permits from the Hawaii State Parks website, and it’s advisable to secure them well in advance, especially during peak seasons. The permits allow access to specific sections of the trail, such as the Awa’awapuhi Trail, the Kuilau Ridge Trail, and other hidden gems like the Waipo’opo’o Falls Trail and Canyon Trail. You can visit the Hawaii State Parks website for further permit details, including costs and availability.
Consultation with Koloa Landing Resort Concierge Team
Embarking on a hike in the Waimea Canyon or the ridge formation trails of Kokeʻe State Park requires careful planning; that’s where our concierge service at Koloa Landing Resort comes into play. Whether you’re aiming for a day hike to Hanakapiai Falls or a whole excursion to Kalalau Beach, our concierge is well-versed in the unique attributes of Kauai hikes and can provide tailored information and assistance.
From advice on the right hiking trail for your experience level to assistance with parking permits, consultation on proper footwear, or tips on the best time to see the stunning views from the cliff jumping spots, our concierge can make your hiking adventure on the east side or west side of the island a truly unforgettable one.
Whether you are setting off on the coastal trail or exploring the incredible scenery along the Na Pali coastline, our resort is dedicated to making your journey as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Feel free to reach out anytime to ensure your hike on the beautiful island of Kauai is a once-in-a-lifetime experieyou’llu’ll always cherish!
Ready for your next hike in Kauai?
The Kalalau Trail in Kauai’s Na Pali Coast offers an exhilarating blend of natural wonders and cultural richness. From gentle strolls to challenging hikes, the trail provides a customizable experience for every adventurer, weaving through lush vegetation, stunning ocean views, and secret spots.
At Koloa Landing Resort, the luxurious Kauai beach resort, we recognize the importance of this unique experience and provide expert guidance to ensure a successful hike. Our concierge team is here to assist you with detailed insights and permit requirements. If you’re planning this extraordinary expedition, contact us for personalized assistance.
Visit Koloa Landing Resort, and let us be part of your unforgettable adventure on the beautiful island of Kauai!