Peak(s):  Kalalau Trail - 3200
Date Posted:  07/29/2014
Modified:  09/25/2017
Date Climbed:   05/01/2014
Author:  Kitten
Additional Members:   Mountain Mike
 Hiking the Kalalau Trail in Kauai  


Kalalau Trail, Kauai



Length of trip (one way): 11 miles (+1 mile from car)
Total elevation (one way): 3,200 feet
Hours (one way): 8 h
Cost for permit: $20 per night per person


Did I ever say one of my passions is backpacking? Well, now we had the opportunity to combine it with my favorite beach weather and also do one of the most famous trails in the world: the Kalalau Trail.

We got enough miles to fly for free to Kauai (the northern of the Hawaiian islands) and one of our goals was to hike the Kalalau Trail which runs through the Na Pali Coast. End of April or beginning of May is one of the recommended times to visit the island, when the rain subsides (or at least it is supposed to do so...). But what we did not know is that reservations must be made in advanced, something like a year in advance! So, here I go on the webpage two weeks before our trip and I was only able to find 2 spots for one night. This means we would have to go the entirety of the trail in one day, camp, and then back again. I think the longest hike we've done with a heavy pack was something like 10 miles, so we were not sure if we would achieve it or not. No big issue. There is a camp spot halfway, so at least that was the goal we had in mind when we started.

The night before we camped at the Haena State Park, just a mile away from the start of the Trail. It rained all night (pretty common in Kauai). We got up, unpack the tent, pack everything and started walking to the beginning of the trail. There is parking right at the trailhead, but many cars are broken during the night and the ranger recommended us to leave the car at the State Park, which we did, and this is why this added one more mile to the long trip. We started around 8.15am in the morning.

Map of the Kalalau Trail
Image


Introduction is over. This is the most spectacular trail I have ever hiked. For me the most difficult part has been to select pictures that could somehow describe the beauty of this place, which is not easy. And since pictures are worth a thousand (or in this case more than a few thousands) I will leave you with the views, just describing each pic along the way.

Beginning of the Trail
Image


The first part of the Trail is jungle like, no wonder things are green here!
Image


Along the coast, the trail is easy to follow...
Image


Having rained the night before this was the status of the trail. Boots are a must!
Image


After 2 miles there is a river crossing (we took our boots out and put our sandals on to cross). Sometimes and depending on how much rain there is, it is not possible to cross this creek without being swept away and rangers close it.
Image


Rain gear is a must!
Image


Highest point of the Trail (830 feet)
Image


Along the moody Trail
Image


Looking back. Weather was really nasty and bad during the first part of the hike
Image


More wet trail... my boots did pretty good and my feet never got wet
Image


One of the waterfalls, they are spectacular
Image



This was at Hanakoa Valley (half way or 6 miles in). This was our first goal, we could camp here and just go back the next day. But, wait, how are we going to put up the tent in this mess? We better keep going, it is just 5 more miles to the end.
Image


Is the sun coming out?
Image


Some of the locals
Image


Trail gets tricky here...
Image


One of the downhills, you can see how the Trail winds from here
Image


Pretty steep...
Image


The wind picked up here and made it a little airy...
Image


This is what you see when you look down
Image


Another view of the Trail looking back, you can see two hikers
Image


The end of the trail is somewhere there...
Image


Contrast of red, green and blue
Image


Check out the wave undertoe
Image


The Trail (on left is visible) is washed out in many places here, you really have to pay attention
Image


Another view looking back
Image


Arches in the ocean
Image


View looking back to the trail
Image


Finally, the sign for Kalalau!
Image


There's the sandy beach!
Image


Green mountains
Image


Kalalau Beach
Image


Happy to be wearing sandals. The ocean was to rough to jump in
Image


Pretty sunset
Image


Next morning at the beach. It gets daylight before 5am
Image


Antoher morning view
Image


Starting the trip back to Kee Beach
Image


Looking back to Kalalau
Image


Another local.
Image


Through the narrow section. You can see a kayak on the right side of the ocean. Next time!
Image


Makena Mountain
Image


On the way back, we took a detour onto the Hanakoa waterfall, which is 500-foot high
Image


Hanakoa Waterfall, impossible to get it all inside the picture
Image


The Trail still drops out on the ocean. I am glad to have overcome the fear of heights during the CO adventures
Image


Waterfalls on the right side, you can never get tired of this place...
Image


A close up to the waterfalls
Image


Almost back
Image


A look again to the total distance and time. Note that Kalalau beach is listed at 6-10 hours. Even though the distance may not look that far it does take a fair amount of time to hike the entirety of this Trail. We did it in 8 hours, which would be about average, counting stopping times and a heavy-moderate load on your back.
Image


Curiosities of the trail:

- Even though you need a camping permit to do this hike we discovered there is a whole Community living at the end of the Trail. They don't wear clothes (other than swimsuits), no shoes, sleep in hammocks or bivys, eat any type of nuts (macadamias mostly) or fruits they can gather from the trees...also any type of food they beg from hikers coming in... interesting life. We found out from a hiker that had done the trail the day before that a squad team (consisting of several helicopters and army groups) had repelled their way down into the valley to try to gather and catch these people. Probably unsuccessfully because they are lots of places to hide in, that place is like a jungle! Apparently they do this twice a year. Before we left we gave our tarp to one of the locals, we learned that whenever there is a piece of gear you don't want to use anymore, there is always somebody who might need it, never put it in the trash, pass it on...

- An important issue regarding water safety. We always carry our Katadyn filter with us and thought we would be ok. Later on we found out that there is a bacteria call Leptospirosis that resides in waters from creeks and waterfalls in tropical climates. Common filters do not eliminate this bacteria! It is not clear if iodine does either, I have seen conflicting reports on this. The best way would be to filter the water and then add chlorine. We did not get sick (it's been already over several months). We chose to filter from very small streams and always made sure there was no usage (people) upstream. The thing is that you can get this bacteria by just swimming in the pools from the waterfalls or via direct contact with eyes, mucus, ears...

- The constant buzzing of helicopter sounds (mainly from tourism operations) is quite annoying to say the least. My ears were buzzing all night the first day, after hearing the constant sound for more than 10 hours. If you have seen Apocalypse Now you know what I mean. I think they should restrict the air traffic in this beautiful part of Kauai.

- There was a rescue the same day we were hiking in. Apparently somebody had fallen on their backs on the steeper section of the trail (probably due to panic) and a helicopter had to land and take them to safety. There is no cell phone reception, so if you need help you have to flag one of the tourist helis and then wait for the rescue ones to come. Every year there are rescues and even deaths on this Trail, people underestimate the difficulty of this hike and are not prepared for adverse conditions (mud, rain, river crossing, physical strength...).

- If I were to do this Trail again (which probably would be by boat or kayak) I would lighten my pack. You really don't need much, other that rain gear and some food.

- We calculated that the total elevation was around 3200 feet each way. The Trail goes up and down, it is demanding and you can not underestimate the length + elevation combination.

- An extra night would have been nice, but we were not able to get the permit for 2 nights in a row. That would allow to rest after a long hike and explore the side canyons at the end of the Trail.

By the way, the total cost for our trip was below $500 for both of us:

Plane tickets: $80 for tax
Car rental: $250
5 nights of camping: 6x5 = $30
Permits for Kalalau trail: $40

What else can you ask for?



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48


 Comments or Questions
djkest

Neat
08/04/2014 15:06
This looks like a great hike! A stark contrast from the typical stuff we see in Colorado. How buggy was it?


colokeith

woot
08/05/2014 23:06
We did this a while back and it was a really great time. Very different.

(djkest) we did not encounter bad bugs. Have experienced worse in the marshy areas here.



   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here


Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. 14ers.com and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless 14ers.com and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the 14ers.com Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.




© 2021 14ers.com®, 14ers Inc.