Roaming and eating our way through Columbus and beyond.

Hiking the Kalalau Trail on Kauai

{by alexis} We’ve been back for about two weeks now, and I’ve been having almost as much fun combing through our photos as I did when we were actually in Hawaii. Okay, that’s a lie.Being in Hawaii was much, much better, but the photos are fun, too! Today, I’m going to share one of my favorite parts of our trip, the day we spent hiking the Kalalau Trail on the northern coast of Kauai. We had all kinds of adventures in Hawaii (check out our Honolulu surf lesson!), but this may be the highlight.

We stayed about as far North as it gets at Hanalei Colony Resort (more details on that to come), so we didn’t have far to drive. We stopped at a few beaches along the way to enjoy the wet and dry caves. Besides, I’ll never tire of the uniquely Hawaiian sand and the sound of the waves.

beach on northern kauaicave on northern Kauai

You’ll start at a small parking lot near a beach. There were a good deal of people there ahead of us (go early!) so we had to park about a mile down, right on the shoulder of the road. We found out later that most cars that park where we did receive tickets, but we got lucky. If you don’t, just think about how you’re supporting the infrastructure of such a wondrous place!

The whole trail is 11 miles long, and starts at Ke’e Beach. The first leg gets you to the most refreshing river on the planet and Hanakapi’ai Beach. If you go another two miles, you’ll find yourself at Hanakapi’ai Falls. Let me be very clear: Believe the guidebooks and web sites when they tell you to budget two hours each way on the hike to the first beach. We assured ourselves that we were young, active, and could likely make quick work of that first two miles, and squeeze in the extra trip to the falls. We were surprised to learn we clocked in at just under two hours to the beach, and so we scrapped the extra part.

Hanakapi’ai Beach is not the main attraction here; it’s the trail itself. You are literally climbing all the way up, down, up, and back down the Napali Coast, and the views are enough to stop you in your tracks. And you should stop to gawk, because really. Look at this.

Imagine! Your heart is pounding, you’re out of breath, and you turn a corner to that! But you better keep your wits about you because you are literally on the SIDE OF A CLIFF. If you tap dance your way off the trail, you’re going to meet the fishes down below.

Pay attention to the trail, too. It is lovely in its own winding, arduous way.

alexis on the kalalau trail

Although the trail is well maintained, it sees considerable wear and tear due to the almost daily rain showers. This means that your path is often muddy, pockmarked, and in some sections, totally underwater. Some parts are extremely steep. But again — worth it! At one point on the trail, you can see Hanakapi’ai Beach ahead of you, and Ke’e Beach behind you. If you weren’t convinced before, you’ll believe you’re in paradise standing there.

alexis on the kalalau trail  ke'e beach from the kalalau trail

After two long miles, we reached a small stream that came down from the mountains and emptied into the ocean. I actually preferred this experience to the beach just a few steps away. The flowing stream was peaceful, and the water was  refreshing after the long trip. Make sure you bring water shoes because listen, you are fording this stream. Come prepared so you can walk right through. I saw so many poor souls trying to balance on their fancy designer sneakers with a giant DSLR hung precariously from their necks.

hanakapi'ai beach

Eventually, we made it all the way to Hanakapi’ai Beach. The signs warned us not to get too near the water because of the strong currents, so we hung back and had lunch on the rocks.

hanakapi'ai beach hanakapi'ai beach

After eating and enjoying the stream on our way back out, we headed back toward Ke’e Beach. I thought it was easier going back; Joe thought it was harder. Either way, we were wiped out after our four hour journey but it was well worth it. If you find yourself on Kauai, the Kalalau Trail an absolute must.

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