I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for anything than I was to see the Na Pali coast in person, and to be able to do the Kalalau Trail hike. When I moved to Hawaii 7 years ago it was one of the first places I heard about, and even though I’d been to Kauai once before, it was such a quick trip that we hadn’t been able to get over there.
So needless to say, the morning that we were finally going to hike there, I was pretty pumped. Not as pumped as I would have been if we hadn’t been out until the wee hours the night before, hitchhiking between bars on the island, but that’s a different story for a different day.
We ended up getting up really early to walk (this seemed like a good idea until about 10 minutes after we left, when we realized we were still miles away from the restaurant, trudging in the blazing sun. Apparently it’s easier to hitchhike at night?) to this really delicious restaurant called the Kountry Kitchen, where we ate lilikoi french toast with coconut syrup.
It was about a 45 minute drive from there to the coast. Parking is kind of a problem, so make sure you get there early, especially if you are going on the weekend, if not you may end up walking a few miles before you even get to the trailhead.
The full hike is 11 miles long and you need to pack food and camping gear (which is still something I’m desperate to do), but there are shorter hikes which is what we did. There is one that is 2 miles in to Hanakapi’ai beach, and then you can go another two miles to Hanakapi’ai waterfall.
Our original plan was to go all the way to the waterfall, but one of our group fell on the rocks at Hanakapi’ai beach (more on that later) which is actually quite treacherous, so we just ended up doing the 2 miles each way.
The hike isn’t too strenuous, there are some definite uphill and downhill parts, and it feels a lot further than 4 miles (my mom’s FitBit actually said it was 6 miles round trip) but the views are pretty spectacular. You start at the trailhead just climbing up and all you can see are trees and mountainside, but after about 5 minutes you come up to the first cliff lookout and the view is absolutely breathtaking. I could honestly just have sat there all day looking at it.
The water is so intensely blue, and the massive, craggy cliffs are incredibly green and they rise out of the sea and it’s so beautiful. It actually reminded me of some of the islands around Palawan.
Hanakapi’ai beach, which is the turn around point for the shortest hike was not really what I was expecting, it was really rocky. Be very careful if you are walking on the rocks, because they are loose, and we saw quite a few people wipe out, a twisted ankle on that trail would not be cool.
You also can’t swim there because the current is really strong and there is a shore break. There is a little cave you can climb into on the cliff though, and it’s a good spot to stop and have a picnic lunch on the rocks.
Right when you come up to the beach, there is a stream you have to cross to get there. A lot of people were taking off their socks and shoes and walking in the water to get across.
I don’t know about you, but putting my shoes back on when my feet are wet and sandy sounds pretty awful, and I’m pretty stubborn so I figured there had to be a better way, and I set off to investigate. It turns out, if you walk down almost to the ocean, there are a string of large boulders you can hop across to the other side without getting wet. You’re welcome.
When I first moved to Hawaii I had a professor who was telling us about Na Pali, and how there are local Hawaiians who live back in the mountains but that if you do the full hike you will sometimes meet them.
He told us that they aren’t keen on non-locals wandering through their lands, but he said to take chocolate with you as a gesture of friendship because their kids really love it, and they don’t get it very often. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it could be, and really, is bringing extra chocolate ever a bad idea?
If you are going to Kauai, you absolutely have to visit the Na Pali coast, it’s mandatory. And if you are doing the full Kalalau trail, can I come with you? I’m sturdy like a little mountain goat, and I can carry a lot and I don’t eat very much and I’m pretty friendly. Call me?