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Hike the Kalalau Trail on Kauai, Hawaii

Updated on November 4, 2010

Kauai, the Garden Isle of Hawaii... there's no better way to explore this lush and flourishing island than to take one of the many hiking trails that wind their ways into the waysides and cliffsides of paradise.

A popular hike among tourists and locals alike is the Kalalau Trail which traverses the Na Pali Coast. Because no roads go through this part of the island, hiking is the only way to see these intensely majestic cliffs by land. In times past, people lived in the valleys along the Na Pali, and the trail itself is said to be ancient. Conservationists keep up the trail in good conditions, but beware in rainy weather: the trail can become very muddy and slippery and is susceptible to erosion.



The trailhead lies at the northwest end of Highway 560. The road literally stops at Ke'e Beach, a well-known beach loved by snorkelers for its expansive coral reef. Parking is usually hard to find down by the beach, but along the road leading up to the trail, there are several spots to park. Be sure to take all of your valuables with you when you leave your car.

Kalalau Trailhead at Ke'e Beach:
Kalalau Trail, Kilauea, HI 96754, USA

get directions

Kalalau Valley:
Kalalau Valley, Kilauea, HI 96754, USA

get directions

The Kalalau Trail is approximately eleven miles long and crosses five valleys on its way to the its final destination: Kalalau Beach. Most hikers choose to hike the first two miles of the trail (to Hanakapiai Beach) before heading back. This two mile stretch makes a great outing for active families and hikers who don't want to be gone all day. No permits are required for the hike to Hanakapiai Beach, however you must check in and receive a permit if you wish to go further. Those who plan on hiking the full distance should plan on being gone at least two days, camping on the trail or at the Kalalau Valley

To Hanakapi'ai Beach

The first half mile of the trail gains a good deal of altitude, providing expansive views of Ke'e Beach and the reef that fringes it. The ocean changes colors with the changing depths, and the horizon curves out for miles. Look up and you will perhaps see the kukui trees which shade the trail. Further on the trail, you may even find some guava trees.

The red dirt trail zigzags in an out of the valleys and cliffs with an occasional stream trickling over the path. The ocean is forever on your right, a tree-covered cliff blocking you from the surging depths. On your left, the tops of the verdant cliffs hang down from the sky, leaving you isolated in one of the most incredible spots on earth.

Two miles down the Kalalau Trail brings you to Hanakapiai Beach. On the descent down the valley, a sign warns you (with tick marks of past drownings) not to swim at the beach. The ocean current here sweeps parallel to the shore, potentially pulling any swimmers out to sea and onto the rocky cliffs.

Although not fit for swimming, the beach provides a great place for relaxing, picinicking, picture-taking and even camping.

Hanakapiai Beach

Cats can be campers too...


"Accommodations" at Hanakapiai

To Hanakapiai Falls

Once you arrive at Hanakapiai Beach, you may, if your wandering heart so chooses, decide to hike into the valley and visit Hanakapiai Falls. The Hanakapiai Valley Trail lies next to the stream that empties out on the beach. For two miles, adventurous hikers follow the stream up into the wilderness, crisscrossing occasionally over sturdy boulders. Just keep in my mind that taking this branch of the trail will give you four miles to hike back home.

Hanakapiai Falls is a breathtaking 120 feet high; pictures just can't do it justice. The water is freezing, but don't dare leave without jumping in! You'll be glad you did as you hike home in the hot afternoon sun.

Tip for thirsty hikers...

Hiking can be exhausting work, especially when you're climbing over boulders and exploring Kauaian wilderness. So think ahead and pack some sodas or water bottles. Pull them out when you get to the falls and stick them in the shallows off of the waterfall. The waters coming off the mountain are icy cold and will chill your drinks in only a short time. (Mountain Dew is the drink of choice.)

Bamboo along the Hanakapiai Valley Trail


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    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      Hi Ben, the cats have always been there since I've been here. I'm not entirely sure where all the feral cats came from, but OneFlewOver is probably right. And yes, I would highly recommend not using that bathroom.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      The cats were displaced from the hurricane years ago

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice review! I just was there. If your somewhat agile and have a good state of balance it shouldn't be too difficult. How long have the cats been there? I saw one kitten too and they seem to be feral house cats to me. Oh and one last suggestion, be restroom sucks. It smells worse than it looks. It's really bad.

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      Hi MosLadder, thanks for reading!

    • MosLadder profile image

      Chris Montgomery 

      8 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Wow, great hub. Love the photos!

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      9 years ago from Michigan

      Peggy W, thanks so much for coming by! Hiking is a favorite of mine as well - there's nothing quite like getting out into the clear air of creation and taking it all in.

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      9 years ago from Michigan

      BkCreative, Kauai really has some of the most beautiful hikes I've ever been on. I'm so glad you found this soothing, and thanks a bunch for the rating! It was a pleasure putting this together.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hiking and seeing nature in all its glory is one of my favorite things to do. Loved reading this hub and viewing your gorgeous photos. Thanks!!!

    • BkCreative profile image


      9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Wow I love to hike so why not hike in this amazing beauty. Love it. And how nice to run across a beautiful kitty on my trek - what a great photo!

      Thanks so much for putting this together. Sometimes just looking at beautiful pictures and using a bit of imagination can be soothing.

      Rated up for sure. Yay!

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      9 years ago from Michigan

      SimoneSmith, thank you so much for stopping by! I know how it goes with group vacations sometimes :/ But that just gives you a reason to come back and hike the Kalalau!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      I adore this hub. When I visited Kauai a couple of years back, we wanted to go on the Kalalau Trail, but never had the chance (we were there as a family, and group-coordination was tough). I hope I might return some day and give it a go! The photos are so beautiful, but as you say, you've got to see this kind of place in person!

    • Rose West profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose West 

      9 years ago from Michigan

      Hi Wanderlust, yes, you are correct! "A Perfect Getaway" is supposedly set on the Kalalau Trail, although I'm not sure how much actual filming was done there.

    • Wanderlust profile image


      9 years ago from New York City

      I've just watched 'A Perfect Getaway' movie, it looks like they were doing this trial. Am I right? In any case the trail looks fantastic, I would love to do it one day. Great hub!


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