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.

The Kalalau Trail is the only land access to the majestic Napali 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.

Kalalau begins at the end of the road at Ke’e Beach. 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 trailhead and trek the first two mile mark, which leads to Hanakapiai Beach, before returning. Choosing to camp or hike past Hanakapiai Valley means you must get a permit through the Hawaii State Parks Division. Whatever route you choose, the views won’t disappoint. But don’t let its beauty fool you. Hiking 11 miles of the trail (one-way) is no easy feat.

Travel sites rate this Hawaiian hiking trail as one of the most difficult in the U.S., but also one of the most dramatic and beautiful in the world. Hiking the narrow trail bed that hugs the coastline is best to do 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.

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

  • With no reef to protect the shore, use extreme caution when swimming.
  • Stay on the trail and use trekking poles to help keep your balance.
  • 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. You can’t take a bad photo along this gorgeous route.

Let the experienced Koloa Landing staff help guide your Kalalau Trail backpacking trip, 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!