III: Kalalau Trail

Our third day in Kauai was again sunny so even though we were sore from the previous day, we charged ahead and decided to do our second hike along the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail. This was also our day to tour the northern part of the island, including a stop in Hanalei and at Kilauea Lighthouse, the northernmost point of the island. The usual map is shown below with the drive and our stops overlaid.



9:00 – 11:30: At the End of the Road (#45)

11:30 – 3:00: Kalalau Trail: Paradise in the Rough (#91)

3:00 – 6:00: Buy Kaua’i-Made Products (#15), Go “Slow Shopping” in Hanalei (#35), early dinner

6:00 – 7:30: See a Vintage Lighthouse (#32), return to Kapa’a

7:30 – 9:30: Walk Kapa’a Town’s History (#34) for the first Saturday Art Walk

End of the Road, Kalalau Trail

If you’ve been reading the previous Kauai blogposts, you’ll know that the Kalalau Trail has been listed as one of the ten most dangerous hikes in America by Backpacker Magazine. Aside from worrying about staying hydrated and carrying a heavy backpack on the 11-mile journey to Kalalau Valley, hikers also have to beware of the crumbling rock and sheer cliffs they hike dangerously close to. (For a bird’s eye view of Kalalau Valley, click here).

The trail starts at the end of Highway 560, on the northern part of the island. We saw cars parked for a mile along the road before it ended at Ke’e Beach and the infamous trail. Most people take three days to complete this trail, although we met a hiker who had been living in Kalalau Valley for two months; he only came out to help some other hikers carry their gear. Like many people just here for the day, we only hiked the first two miles to Hanakapi’ai Beach (some hikers do the first four miles to Hanakapi’ai Falls).

Right from the start, the trail begins a steep climb above Ke’e Beach.
Eleven miles to the valley, only accessible by foot or kayak.

After the first half-mile, you emerge from the forest and look down on Ke’e Beach and some of the bluest water you’ve ever seen.

Looking down on Ke’e Beach, leaving civilization behind.
Turning away from Ke’e Beach, continuing along the Kalalau Trail.

The trail ascends and descends several times in just two miles, climbing in and out of valleys along the Na Pali coast.

Switchbacks leading down into a miniature valley along the way to Hanakapi’ai Beach.
Half-way there!
Half-way there! (In my mind; I honestly don’t remember where this was taken.)
Facing inland, we’re again looking toward Mt. Wai’ale’ale, one of the wettest spots on Earth.

After about a mile and half, we began to catch our first glimpses of Hanakapi’ai Beach, which looked extremely inviting after our past hour of climbing!

Hanakapi’ai Beach

In a short time we had finally reached the beach, but only after crossing a large stream by hopping inconveniently located rocks. Rather than hop and slip, some people preferred to just walk across the stream regardless of how high it was.

Hanakapi’ai Beach, a welcome relief after the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail, but…
No one had any desire to go swimming after these warnings.

The first two miles of the trail were strenuous but beautiful, and as I’ve said before, I hope to return one day to hike the entire thing. If the first two miles were any indication of the rest of the trail, it will certainly be interesting.

When you’re not climbing rocks,
Or stepping through tree roots,
You’re trying not to slip on the deep mud that receives almost no sunlight throughout the day and seemingly never dries.

Our hike back to Ke’e Beach seemed much shorter, as it always does, and after a quick swim at Ke’e, we were on our way to Hanalei for dinner.

Goodbye to the Kalalau Trail, for now!

Slow Stroll Hanalei

By the time we got to Hanalei it was drizzling outside, and we were starving from our hike and skipping lunch. After a quick look around we wen to Bubba Burgers, which I can only assume is like the Five Guys or In-N-Out of Hawaii. The burgers were okay but the fries were tasteless; however they did have dozens of photos on the walls of famous celebrities who had stopped there, such as Ben Affleck, Bill Clinton and Robert Downey Jr.

After that welcomed meal we did a bit of shopping for some Hawaiian shirts and souvenirs.

Visit a Vintage Lighthouse

Kilauea Lighthouse sits on the northernmost tip of Kauai. Built in 1913, it guided ships traveling between Hawaii and the Orient. It also played a crucial role in realigning the pilots attempting the first flight from California to Hawaii in 1927. The lighthouse is now on the National Register of Historic Places and receives hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. We arrived just as the sun was setting.



Walk Kapa’a Town’s History

We arrived back in Kapa’a in the early evening, and not wanting to retire just yet, we decided to walk along the town’s main street where the First Saturday Art Walk was going on, which happens once per month. Stores were open later and hundreds of local vendors were selling their work.

A nice, bustling town, Kapa’a was the best place for us to stay because it placed us halfway between the northern and southern portions of the island.

Bonus Section: Kauai Day 4

We had four complete days in Kauai, and it turned out to be good planning that we did the hiking in the middle. Our last day was mostly rain and we spent it walking through some of the malls in the resort area down south. We also visited Spouting Horn Blowhole down south, but it doesn’t warrant another day to itself (the one in Maui was better, at least that we saw). After that, it was off to Oahu again.

One thought on “III: Kalalau Trail

  • Love the views of Hanakapa’ ai Beach, but I felt differently about the muddy trail! The vertical shot along the coastline is idyllic, too.

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