Hiking the Na Pali Coast in Kauai

Hiking the Na Pali Coast in Kauai

Maybe it was because we thought hikers were really cool and we just weren’t, who knows, but we’ve had friend after friend regale us with stories of how they hiked this or hiked that.  We had never hiked, but always wanted to…

It was a beautiful Hawaiian morning on Kauai and we were headed down the Kuhio Highway to do some snorkeling at the lava tubes and maybe check out the Nā Pali Coast that we had heard so much about.  After searching about 20 minutes for a parking spot we saw a bunch of people headed up the Kalalau Trail.  We talked to a few people at the beginning of the trail who had just got back, they said it was amazing and worth it.  We were sold!

A quick run back to the car to return the snorkel gear and grab two more bottles of water and we were off.

Napali Coast Kauai Hawaii Kalalau Trail

Right off the bat it felt like you are going uphill forever, but all along the walk up there a place to stop and check out the amazing scenery overlooking Ke’e Beach.
Finally it leveled out.   To our amazement there were all ages of people walking from 2 years old to in their 80’s.  It wasn’t even close to crowded, but it was more people than we had expected.

Napali Coast Kauai Hawaii

Finally after about a mile and a half of walking on a cliff with the most breathtaking views you can imagine, ahead of us was the beach that we had sought, Hanakäpï`ai Beach.  It was about when we started down the path to the beach that the heard of people started to thin out.  Apparently, after the hard original climb, people didn’t want to walk down to the beach  just to have to walk back up.  I would say that at least 70% of the people had bailed at this point.  Which worked for us.

Napali Coast Kauai Hawaii

Strangely, the people who did walk down didn’t even bother going to the beach.  They stopped, took pictures and headed back up.

Napali Coast Kauai Hawaii

The ocean was calling us to hop in for a swim.  There was a ton of signage warning people of rip currents and rough waters but that wasn’t stopping us.  We are both experienced swimmers, the water was calm, we stayed away from where you could see the rip current, and most importantly we both had to pee.

I would definitely recommend not going in the water unless you have had experience with rip currents.

After the swim we were completely re-energized. We stopped for a minute and ate some of our rations, basically just Keebler chocolate chip cookies, then walked over to a sign which had an arrow pointing back into the jungle that said Hanakäpï`ai Falls 2 Miles.  It was here that only about 2% of the people who had originally started were continuing on.  Most were continuing along the coast and the rest headed to the waterfall. We looked at each other, and just started walking towards the falls, nothing needed to be said.

Na Pali Coast Kalalau Trail

The trail wasn’t very well-marked and was lot tougher to traverse than the first part of the walk.  The even harder part was that by just going inland a little bit, the humidity in the air got so thick you could slice it.  That wasn’t going to stop us.

Na Pali Coast Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii

On the way we came across a bamboo forest that was a bit eerie and the noises it made while walking through it where downright weird.  You can listen to it in the video below.

The path kept crossing the Hanakäpï`ai stream and several times it was tough finding where the path started again on the other side.   The fact that we had only seen two groups of people and that was at the beginning part of the walk had us worrying we had taken the wrong path somewhere.  That was until the one time we looked up while crossing and just knew we were going the right way.

Napali Coast Hanakäpï`ai Falls Kalalau Trail

Finally!  We had made it to the Hanakäpï`ai Waterfall.

It was vacant.  We decided to jump in and swim up to the falls, after all it felt like it was 100 degrees out and we didn’t walk all that way to look at it.  The water was freezing cold and felt fantastic all at the same time.  It was tough making our way over to the falls, after a four mile walk our legs were like jelly.

We managed to get a picture directly under the falls, but couldn’t stay there for long, the current was too strong.

Napali Coast Hanakäpï`ai Falls Kalalau Trail

A few groups of people showed up as we were swimming and they proceeded to jump right in also.  After a while we worked our way out, sat on the rocks and devoured the rest of our rations, the chocolate chip cookies.  There was only one 20 ounce bottle of water for two of us the rest of the four mile walk back, we would have to conserve.

We started back down the trails following our bread crumb memories in hopes to make the trip a bit faster going back.  Turning back, we stole one final glimpse of the falls and kept moving.

About 3/4’s of the way back our water ran out after walking back up from the beach.   It was going to be tough sledding from here.

Napali Coast Kalalau Trail

That last waterless mile and a half was tough but we had made it.  I was four miles up to the falls and four miles back, we hit the water fountain at the entrance so hard you’d swear we just got back from being stranded in a desert for 3 days.

Napali Coast Kauai Hawaii Kalalau Trail

Later that night while sitting at the bar we were talking to a couple who had just got back from “Hiking” the Nā Pali Coast the day before.  They told us they had hiked the Kalalau Trail 2 miles all the way down to Hanakäpï`ai Beach.  That’s when it hit us that walking is hiking or hiking is walking, whatever, and holy crap we had been hiking everywhere this whole time, we’re part of the cool group!

This is how WE did it:

  1. Got a flight from mainland USA to Kauai
  2. Rented a car & drove to Marriott Courtyard Kaua’i at Coconut Beach on points
  3. Drove down Kuhio Highway to Rt. 560 (same road different name) just kept driving until there was no more road.
  4. Hiked the coast

We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Kaua’i at Coconut Beach because it was not at the tourist section of Kauai.  It was also way fewer points.  There weren’t many people there and it had a pool & hot tub and was right on the beach. We were actually quite surprised how nice it was.