Life-altering, death-defying, surreal, and spectacular: Those are just a few of the words people use to describe their experience, after hiking the Kalalau Trail. World-renowned as one of the most dangerous hikes.

The Kalalau Trail is the only land access to the majestic Na pali Coast State Park, where emerald valleys end abruptly at the turquoise sea. It’s a stunningly scenic trail that draws both novice and experienced backpackers from across the globe.

Hiking The Kalalau Trail: Where do you begin?

Kalalau trail hike begins at the end of the road at Ke’e Beach at Haena State Park. An early start is recommended to beat the heat and the crowds. Many people hike the entire 11 miles in one day, then camp for the night, and head back in the morning. Other hikers choose to start at the trail head and trek the first two mile mark, which leads to Hanakapiai Beach, before returning. Choosing to camp or hike past Hanakapi’ai Valley which is about 500 ft. above sea level means you must get a valid camping permit through the Hawaii State Parks Division. The authorized camping areas does not have drinking water, therefore, you must ensure that you have plenty with you to stay hydrated. Whatever route you choose, the views won’t disappoint. But don’t let its beauty fool you. The entire trail traverses five valleys before the trail drops at Hanakapi’ai beach and Kalalau beach. Hiking 11 miles of the trail (one-way) is no easy feat and never level as it crosses above towering sea cliffs.

Hikers at the crawlers ledge in Kauai.

Travel sites rate this Hawaiian hiking trail as one of the most difficult hiking trails in the U.S., but also one of the most dramatic and beautiful trail in the world. Hiking the narrow trail bed that hugs the coastline is best done in dryer weather. Getting your footing is far more treacherous after the island of Kauai gets an abundant amount of heavy rain, leaving day hikers on edge, trying to maneuver around muddy cliffs that drop off to the ocean below.

Falling rock is also a risk at Hanakapi’ai Falls, Hanakoa Falls, and near the camping areas at Kalalau Valley. Water erodes the volcanic rock, which can loosen boulders from the steep walls.

Important Tips

Take note of these important tips before heading out on Kalalau:

  • With no reef to protect the shore, use extreme caution when swimming.
  • Wear good hiking boots which is key on the trail for rock climbing to ensure the safety of your backpacking trip.
  • Bring a rain jacket and rain gear with you in case it rains but it is important to check the weather forecast before hiking.
  • Stay on the trail and use trekking poles to help keep your balance.
  • Look out for mountain goats crossing above you because they can cause falling rocks.
  • Wait out sudden whitewater, rather than trying to walk through it (even if that means missing your flight).
  • Permits go fast so reserve them as soon as you can — up to one year in advance. Fees are $15-$20 per person, per night, for a maximum of five days.

Once you get to the idyllic and secluded Napali Coast State Park, don’t be surprised if you feel a bit of deja vu. This dramatic backdrop was featured in the opening scene of all three “Jurassic Park” movies.

Bottom line, the views are hard to beat along the Kalalau Trail and there are hiking options, making this suitable for everyone. Bring your camera when you hike Kauai. You can’t take a bad photo along this gorgeous route.

Hiker sitting on the edge of the cliff showing the unique view from Kauai tours.

Let the experienced concierge staff at Koloa Landing Resort, the best Kauai beach resort, help guide you in hiking the Kalalau Trail, by calling 808-240–6609. We’ll let you know the weather and swim forecasts to help you make the best decision for planning your perfect scenic day hike!