Time: 4-6 HOURS
Distance: 8 MILES
Elevation Gain: 1000 FEET
Foot Traffic: HIGH
Challenges: Slippery when wet, river crossings, potential flash flooding
Sights: Napali Coast, Hanakapi'ai Beach, Hanakapi'ai Falls
What to Bring: Water, Snack/Lunch, Sunscreen, Shoes to get wet, Swimsuit
This beautiful out and back hike takes place partially on the Kalalau Trail, better known as the Napali Coast. The views throughtout this portion of the trail are absolutely stunning, with lush green vegetation and cliffs right alongside the magnificent blue coast. After 2 miles on the Kalalau Trail, you will reach Hanakapi'ai Beach, where the hike turns inland towards the falls. After another 2 miles and a few river crossings, you will reach the gorgeous 410 Foot Hanakapi'ai Falls.
My flight from Oahu had touched down at 6am. After grabbing my rental car and snagging a quick breakfast at Passion Bakery Cafe (awesome place, highly recommend it!), I was on my way to Ke'e Beach, where the Kalalau Trail begins. The drive itself had incredible views, so I couldn't imagine what the trail had to offer.
This is the parking lot for the trail. I got here around 7:45 and there were still a handful of spots left. I recommend getting to the trailhead before 8am if you want to avoid adding some extra distance to your hike.
A view of Kee Beach. While it looked pleasant, this isn't why we're here. It's hiking time!
Living on Oahu, I am not used to these hiking information shelters. It was quite refreshing and exciting to be able to read some information about the trail before the hike begins. On Oahu, I'm usually worrying about whether I'm trespassing on someone's property.
And there it was, the Napali Coast sign. I had so much anticipation for this trail, that the sign itself made me feel giddy.
And so begins the climb. A lot of the early parts of the trail were dirt mixed with some rock that kind of looked like a cobblestone road. I could see this being very slippery if it had rained recently.
It didn't take long at all before I started to see some views. Once the views started, they really didn't stop.
But the views never got old either.
You could even turn around and check out the beautiful green mountains for a different, but equally awesome shot. These peaks sort of reminded me of Three Peaks back in Oahu.
There was a very small stream that ran through one part of the trail. I'm sure this would have been more annoying if it had rained more, but the day I hiked it was easy to cross.
Heading back down to sea level.
But not before I snagged the money shot.
Once you get back down to sea level, you will have to cross the Hanakapi'ai Stream which flows straight to the ocean. This stream can be volatile, so use your best judgment in determining whether it's safe to cross.
Two ways to cross, just ford right through the water and get your feet wet, or do a little rock hopping. I chose the latter of the two options.
After successfully crossing the river, I made it to Hanakapi'ai Beach. This beach was incredibly unique as it was tucked back in a cliff and primarily consisted of rock with several rock cairns built all around. This a NOT a good spot for swimming. You will see several signs that tell you to stay out of the water because of the current.
However, it made for a great spot for a little snack and even had some unique "wildlife". Can you find my feline friend in this picture?
It was time to head inland to the falls. There's actually a bathroom at this point in the hike. That's what I call luxury hiking.
A gorgeous view of the mountains at one of the Helicopter Landing Zones.
The plant life throughout this trail was also pretty remarkable. Here we have some crazy large bamboo.
The trail is also very well marked as well. Simply follow the pink ribbons.
Of course you could always just follow the river upstream as well since the falls are the source. This was the first of several stream crossings.
There are a plethora of these Flash Flood signs throughout this hike, and with good reason. Make sure you know what the weather is doing and be prepared to hunker down for a bit if you do happen to get caught in one.
The trail was not dry by any means, but that's to be expected on any waterfall hike.
The falls are in the distance, the end (or really the halfway point) is in sight.
But not before another river crossing or two.
And alas I had made it to Hanakapi'ai Falls! It really was magnificent. A 400 foot waterfall tucked away in a lush green valley. Absolutely spectacular.
Well I walked all this way, I obviously have to swim. The water was a bit chilly, but it felt good after that 4 mile trek. Most people were hesitant about getting in the water. Just do it! How often can you go swimming in a place like this?
But even if you don't swim, I guarantee this is a hike you will remember for a long time.
And now it's time to go back the way we came and an opportunity to see all those incredible views one more time.
Check out my video of the falls and the coast!
Have you hiked the world famous and gorgeous Kalalau Trail? Share your story below!
Also Check Out:
- Kalalau Permit Information to be able to hike the full Napali Coast
- World of Waterfall's post about their experience traveling to Hanakapi'ai Falls
- Jeff Pelletier's awesome video of trail running the Napali Coast