Kalalau Trail & Hanakāpī’ai Trail (Nā Pali Coast)


Kauai Hiking | Kalalau Trail & Hanakāpī’ai Trail (Nā Pali Coast)

Kalalau Trail (11 miles)

Hanakāpī’ai Trail (2 miles)

If you are searching for the world’s most challenging and breathtaking Kauai hiking experience, look no further than the Garden Island of Kauai.  Here, the treacherous and ominous 11-mile Kalalau Trail awaits you, where you can experience the Nā Pali Coast scenery face-to-face, a Kauai hiking experience to never forget.

If you find the 11-mile Kalalau Trail to be too strenuous, then a popular Kauai hiking trail is the 2-mile Hanakāpī’ai Trail, which is also the first 2 miles of the Kalalau Trail.  Both trails begin at Kē’ē Beach.  After 2 miles of Kauai hiking, you will end up at the beautiful Hanakāpī’ai Beach, a sandy beach surrounded by a heavenly rainforest-like valley.  Hiking 2 miles further into the valley, one will discover an amazing waterfall which creates a refreshing, bubbling stream, that winds through the valley, cuts through the beach, flows over large boulders, and finally goes out to sea.

Continuing on, the 11-mile Kalalau Trail comes to an official end at Kalalau Beach.  Depending on the season, Kalalau Beach may be a narrow strip of sand, or a long, expansive, sandy beach.  Hikers must obtain a permit to camp overnight here, and it is highly recommended to do so as the treacherous Kalalalu Trail demands recovery with a good night’s sleep before returning to Kē’ē Beach.

Important Points for Kauai Hiking on the Kalalau Trail

  1. Plan the Kalalau Trail hike by making an advanced reservation for camping in the “Napali Coast State Wilderness Park.” Rates are $15 per person per night for Hawaii residents, and $20 per person for non-residents.  [Buy Camping Permit]
  2. To access the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail and the Hanakāpī’ai Trail you must arrange for your parking/transportation in to Ke’e Beach.  [Buy Shuttle Pass / Parking Permit]
  3. Be advised that hazardous conditions prevail on the Kalalau Trail.  You must be aware of the dangers presented from falling rocks, flash floods, and hazardous cliffs.
  4. Should you not be able to make the entire 11 miles to Kalalau, permits allow camping at Hanakoa, which is 6 miles in from the trailhead.
  5. Open fires are prohibited.
  6. All water from streams must be treated.
  7. No trash service whatsoever, so please respect the land and haul out what you haul in.

A word of warning: Only attempt this if you are well-educated on the terrain of the trail which is extremely difficult for even the most-experienced hiker!

Kauai Hiking

The Hanakāpī’ai Stream

Kauai Hiking: The Hanakāpī’ai Stream
The Hanakāpī’ai Stream

Kauai Hiking: Views from the Nā Pali Coast

kauai hiking napali coast
Kauai hiking views on the Nā Pali Coast.

Kauai Hiking: Hanakapi'ai Trail & Kalalau Trail

Kauai hiking on the Nā Pali Coast.
Kauai hiking on the Nā Pali Coast.

Kauai Hiking: Hanakāpī’ai Beach

Kauai Hiking: Hanakāpī’ai Beach
Hanakāpī’ai Beach

Kauai Hiking
As the Kalalau Trail zigzags through five valleys in the Nā Pali Coast State Park, the views continue to impress.  And although the experience is remarkable, this Kauai hike is certainly not for beginners.  Even the most experienced hiker must prepare for the Kalalau Trail well in advance.

The first part of the Kalalau Trail goes into Hanakāpīʻai Valley (2 miles in), and this part of the trail is relatively easy to partake in and does not require much planning for.  However, if you are planning a Kauai hike that will include the entire 11-miles of the Kalalau Trail, you must obtain a permit.  Visit the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources to apply for the “Napali Coast Wilderness Park” permit.  The permit will allow you to stay at either Kalalau or Hanakoa for up to 5 nights (consecutively).  Camping for at least one night in Kalalau is a must, because it is too much to hike the roundtrip 22 miles in one day.

Next, you must be prepared with the proper hiking and camping gear.  The trail is infamous for being slick, slippery, and muddy.  The proper shoes and tools will be most appreciated as the trail involves treacherous switchbacks along the valleys, and daunting portions such as “Crawler’s Ledge”  which you’ll be attempting to master while still lugging your heavy backpack and gear.

Kauai Hiking

Kauai Hiking

All of the effort is rewarded at the end of the trail where Kalalau Beach awaits.  One look and it’s easy to see why the Nā Pali Coast’s Kalalau Beach and Kalalau Valley are one of the most sought after destinations in the world.

Kauai Hiking: Kalalau Beach

It's easy to see why Kalalau Beach and Kalalau Valley are one of the most sought-after destinations in the world.

The spell-binding Kalalau Valley forms the backdrop to the beach, and is famous for the dramatic peaks and pinnacles which shape the interior walls of the valley.

The campsite sits just behind Kalalau Beach.  From here, there are endless areas within Kalalau Valley to explore and find peace, tranquility, and solitude in.  Cool, mountain streams fed by Mt. Waialeale, sea caves, waterfalls, and wild guava trees are just a few treats that await those who can make it to Kalalau.  In the day, the sun will naturally warm the sandy Kalalau Beach and offers a respite for weary travelers.  Once you recover and/or reach the end of your planned stay at Kalalau, you can venture back on the 11 mile trail to Ke’e Beach.

More Ways to See Kalalau | Nā Pali Coast

The majority of visitors will do the quick and easy—which means renting a car and driving to the cliff-edge Kalalau Lookout in Kokee (Highway 550 takes you there).  Here, you may view Kalalau Valley from the top, peering down 4,000-feet to Kalalau Beach below, between mystic, parting clouds.  Seeing this postcard view is easily one of the most popular things to do for visitors.

Kauai Hiking

Another way to see Nā Pali Coast is via a helicopter.  Here, you can get a bird’s-eye view of the entire island of Kauai, as well as getting up close to waterfalls and viewing dramatic cliffs from the sky.

Kauai Hiking

Finally, a wonderful way to see Nā Pali Coast from its front is by kayak, boat, or raft.  In a motorized-craft, you are taken to the remote coastline’s famous sites in leisure, with little effort.  Some visitors do wet their feet to go ashore to better know this archaeologic area. They may explore the old rock walls still in place, see the fishing heiau where ancient Hawaiians once prayed to one of their many gods, and the old rock foundations of ancient home sites.

Nā Pali Riders specializes in Kauai boat tours that offer Zodiac rafting adventures that explore the Nā Pali Coast, snorkel, experience waterfalls, and enter mystic sea caves. Learn about our Kauai boat tours to experience the Na Pali Coast by sea, up close, and personal!

The main idea here is to visit this awe-inspiring site first-hand, because the photos are just a glimpse of what you will see and feel when you are on the Na Pali Coast.  It is a place rich in history and without a doubt, a highly spiritual and sacred place.

Kauai Sea Cave Tour

Kauai Nā Pali Coast + Sea Cave Tours (Summer Season)

Explore the sea caves on the Nā Pali Coast Raft Adventure utilizing a 30-foot Zodiac© rigid-hull, inflatable raft.  Departures from Kikiaola Harbor (West Shore).
per person
4.0 hours