Hiking the Kalalau Trail

The first full day we were in Kauai, I woke up at 3:45 a.m. “Dang it,” I thought, as I stared out onto my balcony surrounded in pitch blackness. “I am going to have one long day.” Technically, it was really 6:45 a.m. for me and my body was ready to go. So I went and sat out in one of the balcony chairs, listening to the waves crash against the shore, and willing my eyes and body to succumb to sleep again.

Didn’t really work.

So at 6:25, I woke Caden up (it was at least getting light outside) and whispered loudly, “Guess what? We’re going to go hike today to wear ourselves out!” (read: wear ME out—Caden’s pretty good on his own…he could sleep for days on end)

I had done a bit of research before going to Kauai to try and make the most of my time there. I kept coming across the fact that Kauai is known for its many hiking trails, one being the Kalalau Trail at the very end of the North Shore. I knew you could hike to a beach and then from that beach, hike inward towards a beautiful cascading waterfall.

I gathered all our gear together–water, snacks, bug spray, sunscreen–and we piled into our little Nissan Versa and headed North out of Kapa’a.

Near the end of the road, I came across one of the many beautiful and charming Hawaiian chapels that dot the landscape. These buildings make your head whip around when you notice them, they are that breathtaking. They just seem to set off their surroundings so perfectly!

Seriously, can you get over how incredible those stained glass windows are?

It took us about 50 minutes to get to the very end of the road going north. And when I mean the very end, I mean as in you can not go any further–or you’d end up in the ocean. A small parking lot is located right on the tip which also serves one of the many awe inspiring beaches on Kauai, Ke’e Beach. A great place to snorkel although the water on the northern shore is slightly cooler than the rest of the island we discovered.

The start of the Kalalau Trail was clearly marked and this was the sign welcoming you to this incredible trail:

Just FYI for those of you wanting to hike in this the future, they weren’t kidding when they said it was muddy, slippery, and quite uneven. Within the first mile, Caden and I were CAKED in Kauai’s famous red mud (it stained my legs so much that the next day, it looked like I had had a bad spray tan job…but thankfully just for one day).

It took about an hour and a half to hike into the Hanakapi’ai Beach which is of course beautiful, but extremely dangerous. NOBODY swims there unless you want to die. Well, at least potentially have a shot at dying. Apparently the current there so strong because of how it hits the beach and pulls back against the mountainous rock wall surrounding it. It’s the one spot in Kauai where the most drownings have occurred. Locals call the water there “confused”.

We took a short breather before heading on up on the trail. There was an outhouse just in case anybody wanted to use it…but over pain of death, limb dismemberment, gouging out of eyes would I ever set foot in that nasty thing. Yuck.

The hike up to the falls was much different than the one leading to the beach. While the beach hike was muddy and a bit slippery, the falls hike was rocky and definitely treacherous in a couple of places. You had to cross streams several times and the water was a little high. Taking a 9 year old up the trail was probably something a lot of people didn’t attempt. In fact, the few kids I did see made it to the beach and stopped.

After about another hour and a half, we arrived at the falls. And then my jaw broke. Because it was just that beautiful and rich in power. We were also the first ones to reach the falls for the day (seeing as how I was pretty much set to go since 4 a.m. in the morning) and Caden relished that fact (he’s slightly competitive…and that’s an understatement).

Due to the water being a little high, conditions weren’t conducive enough to take a little dip under, or rather, near the falls. So we waded around a few feet down and out of the way of its awesome force. Although it took 3 hours to get to that point (and four miles in climbing), it didn’t seem that long and the hike was full of eye-popping scenes.

You can continue on the Kalalau Trail for another 7 miles taking you along the Napali Coastline. But we were good with four up and four down. Not a bad hike for a little boy—definitely helped wipe him and me out later on!

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One comment

  1. april · March 21, 2010

    jeff and i have done that! It was so fun to see your pictures and remember that hike! It is absolutly beautiful!!! We stayed on the North Shore in Princeville and loved every minute! I can’t wait to see more pictures!

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