Today, I am sharing one of the most scenic trails I’ve ever had the pleasure of hiking. This trail happens to be located on the edge of paradise, also known as the Na Pali coast, in Kaua’i. I previously mentioned the remote and rugged Na Pali coast when I shared photos from our vacation in Kauai. In addition to views of the Na Pali coastline, the trail also offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, a trek through Kaua’i’s rain forest, guava trees, valleys, stream crossings and ends at a beach!
Kalalau Trail – Trailhead to Hanakāpī’ai Beach – Na Pali Coast State Park, Kauai, HI
Distance: 4 miles (out and back)
Elevation Gain: Starts and ends at sea level, but there are a lot of steep climbs and descents
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Trail Features: 180-degree Pacific ocean views, beach, rain forest, streams, sea cliffs
The Kalalau Trail is 11-mile trail located within the Na Pali State Wilderness Park. The trail follows the coastline, crossing several valleys of lush rain forest, streams and along sea cliffs with wide-sweeping ocean views of the Pacific. The Kalalau trail is the only land access to this portion of the Na Pali coastline. There are no roads on the Na Pali Coast. The only way to see the coast is by boat or by foot. So, if you are physically able….you should hike a portion of the Kalalau Trail while in Kaua’i.
This hike travels the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail. It is a good distance for beginner/intermediate hikers and for those who are short on time. We only had half of a day and this hike worked out perfectly.
The Kalalau Trail departs from Ha’ena State Park, located at the end of Kuhio Highway, the main highway in Kauai. Parking is very limited and fills quickly, due to the popularity of the trail and public beach access adjacent to the trailhead. My best advice is to get an early start.
Wear shoes with good traction, as the trail is narrow, slippery and rarely level. Boots are strongly recommended, but we managed fine with sneakers and Tevas. The trail begins with a steep, rocky ascent through the forest.
Shortly thereafter, the terrain becomes slick and muddy.
The first portion of the hike is all uphill and quite steep. But, the reward is well worth the effort, once you catch your first glimpse of the long-range views of the Pacific Ocean approximately 1/4 mile into the hike.
Continuing uphill, the terrain becomes rocky again before leveling off to a dirt trail at the ridge line.
The elevation gain affords a nice view of Ke’e Beach, which is located adjacent to the trailhead. Ke’e Beach is open to the public, safe for swimming, and is a great place to relax and cool off, once you finish the hike.
From this point, the trail turns inland and meanders through the lush rain forest.
As you approach the descent into the first valley, the trail winds back to the sea cliffs for a spectacular view of the Napali coastline.
The trail rapidly descends into the valley, complete with switchbacks and gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and vegetation and periodic glimpses of Hanakāpī’ai Beach. As you approach Hanakāpī’ai Beach, the trail drops to sea level.
After 2.0 miles, you will encounter a wide stream leading to the ocean. Once you cross the stream, you have arrived at Hanakāpī’ai Beach.
Although inviting, it is not advisable to swim at Hanakāpī’ai Beach. The currents and riptides are strong and dangerous for swimmers. Additionally, the shoreline is lined with sharp volcanic rock. But the views are gorgeous and relaxing.
After relaxing on Hanakāpī’ai Beach, return to the trailhead along the same route. Fair warning – that first half-mile is all uphill on the return! But, the last half of the return trip is all downhill and Ke’e Beach will be waiting…
Aloha and happy hiking!