7 Tips for Hiking the Kalalau Trail - Gabriella Viola
Lake Louise, Banff National Park

7 Tips for Hiking the Kalalau Trail

By Gabriella Viola | April 10, 2017


Awe-inspiring views, spectacular waterfalls, and unspoiled beaches are just some of the scenic splendor one will experience while hiking along the Kalalau Trail, an 11 mile hike that weaves throughout the cliffs of the famous Na’Pali Coast.

And the best part: you don’t have to hike the whole 11 miles OR be an experienced backpacker to enjoy the stunning beauty of the trail.  Here are 7 tips to help you knock this epic adventure right off your bucket list!


1. Make it a day hike

The first section of the trail is a relatively easy 2 mile (4 miles round trip) hike from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach. It’s a perfect day hike for hikers of all levels and the magnificent scenery starts almost immediately. You’ll reach your first of many draw-dropping views at the .25 mile mark.

If you're feeling a little more adventurous you can continue on 2 more miles up the valley to Hanakapi’ai Falls, a 300 ft waterfall you can swim in.  But beware, this part of the trail is more difficult than the first 2 miles.  Parts of the trail are unmaintained and there are numerous stream crossings and large boulders to climb over.

The trail becomes even more treacherous and remote as you move on past the falls...


2. Get there early

As with most popular trails the earlier the better. Both parking (there are only 30 spots at the trailhead) and the trail itself can become packed by 10am, especially on the weekends.  To avoid the crowds and nab a parking spot I'd recommend getting there by 9am. 


3. Bring hiking boots

Its rains A LOT in Kauai, especially during the winter months (December-March), and the trail can become extremely muddy.  A decent pair of hiking boots will help keep your feet comfortable and prevent you from slipping or getting stuck in the mud.  I noticed a few hikers that made the mistake of wearing sneakers and flip-flops.   Once the rain started they were sliding all over the trail.  I can assure you that they wished they had sturdier footwear.  


4. Obey the signs

Flash floods, riptides, and slippery terrain are just a few of the reasons why the Kalalau Trail has been named one of the most dangerous trails in America.  There are numerous articles written about unsuspecting hikers who have been swept away while attempting to cross a stream during a flash flood or who have drowned at Hanakapi'ai Beach because of strong rip currents.

But don't let this scare you off the trail.  Most of these accidents can be avoided by simply being aware, checking weather conditions, and adhering to the many many posted warning signs along the trail. 


5. Check out the caves

You will pass by two large and mysterious looking caves on the side of the road right before the trailhead.  After you park your car you can walk over and explore the caves before (or after) you hit the trail.  I am not sure where the caves lead or if you can swim in them, but they are beautiful and worth checking out.


6. Bring a waterproof camera

Did I mention it rains a lot in Kauai?  I decided to bring my GoPro Hero 4 and leave my DSLR camera back at the hotel, and I was glad I did.  It ended up raining pretty hard for a good portion of the hike and my expensive camera would've most likely been damaged.  

Plus if you make it to Hanakapi’ai Falls, you 'll probably want to take your GoPro or waterproof camera into the falls to get those drop-dead once-in-a-lifetime shots of yourself swimming underneath a 300ft waterfall.   


7. Look out for Rainbows

One of the upsides to hiking in rainy weather is the chance of catching a beautiful rainbow.  So look up, because you will more then likely see one while hiking along the Kalalau Trail.  We saw several along our hike and I must say; it's quite a sight to see a brilliant rainbow make an already stunning view even more spectacular!  


The Kalalua Trail isn't referred to as one of the most epic hikes in American for nothing.  If your looking for an unforgettable adventure, be sure to add this one to your list...


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