Backpack the Na Pali Coast via the Kalalau Trail

Kalalau Trail

Named by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful trails in the world, this 11 mile out-and-back trail wraps its way around the jagged outer edges of the island's North side, at times coming within reaches of the Pacific Ocean. It feels as though you're on the set of a Jurassic Park movie, hiking through lush forests with gaping views of towering waterfalls and the majestic Na Pali cliffs. Also named as one of the most dangerous hikes in the world by Outside Magazine due to storm conditions that can often create dangerous conditions on the more exposed sections, this hike is not for the faint of heart.Permits can be obtained here.

This hike begins at the parking lot of Ke'e Beach at the Northern most point you can drive to on the island. This is where the Kalalau Trail begins. From there, you immediately start hiking upward, with great views of the beach down below. The first two miles of the trail are the busiest, as no permits are required to hike this section, and often many families like to hike this stretch to get a taste of the Na Pali coast, and see Hanakapi’ai Beach and waterfall. Hikers should not wander out in the ocean at this beach though, as the currents are very strong and warning signs are posted to prevent anyone from doing so. At this point, you can either hike two miles to Hanakapi’ai Falls, or continue on if you possess a permit. This will be the first stream crossing, and often the most dangerous. During severe rain storms this stream rises very quickly, and one false slip can sweep you out into the Pacific Ocean.

Continuing on, you'll often be hiking on a very narrow, and muddy trail full of ups and downs. At mile six around the halfway point, you'll be rewarded with amazing views of Hanakoa Valley and the towering Hanakoa Falls. The falls is only 0.5 miles off trail, so may be your best bet if you have the desire to do some waterfall exploring. Campsites are also available at Hanakoa Valley, and make for a great first night stop. Also note, this is great place to stop and refill a water bladder.

If you continue on to mile seven, you'll reach the notorious Crawler's Ledge, which sounds slightly more daunting than it actually is, but should be taken with a little precaution, especially in adverse weather conditions. This section is fairly exposed, and can become dangerous in the rain. Around miles nine through ten, precaution should also be taken as these sections are even more exposed and really only contain a narrow path along the red dirt that can often become very slippery when wet.

If your heart hasn't sank into your chest yet, then you'll be rewarded once you hit mile ten, with gaping views of the Na Pali cliffs and your destination shortly ahead - Kalalau Beach. This was my favorite section of the trail, as you hike down mounds of red dirt hills, surrounded by endless views of Kalalau Valley and the rugged coast that you only see in pictures.

One more mile through the forested Kalalau Valley and along the sandy trail that leads to the beach, and you have reached paradise, otherwise known as Kalalau Beach. I personally preferred the campsite further down towards the waterfall, or even directly on the beach. Once you set up camp, take a stroll out on the beach and enjoy some of the best scenery this world has to offer. Also note, there is a perfect waterfall at the end for rinsing off in and obtaining water from. Spend as much time as possible at the beach and exploring nearby areas. You'll wish you had when it comes time to pack up and hike the 11 miles back.

Pack List

  • Kalalau Beach Permit
  • Backpack/dry sack
  • Water & water filter/tablets
  • Backpacking stove
  • Tent w/ rainfly
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Hammock
  • Backpacking food/snacks
  • Beach sandals
  • Lightweight shoes/sandals that you don't mind getting dirty
  • Raincoat/rain gear
  • Swimsuit
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Lot of bug spray
  • Fresh guava along the trail
Show More
RT Distance 22 Miles
Elevation Gain 900 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer, Autumn, Winter
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Beach
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Life Changing Experience

This was my first backpacking trip and I did it solo. What a life changing experience, full of emotions, gorgeous views, waterfalls, stream crossings, sounds of waves, birds, boats, and helicopters. I started at 5 am each day with the sweet sound of song birds, and arrived by 12:30 pm. I was glad to have lightweight hiking poles, and I didn't need a sleeping bag or pad. I showered and filtered water from the waterfall near the beach, and pitched my tent in the sand. I enjoyed the boat tour on the third day for a new perspective of the beautiful Na Pali Coast.

Hawaiian Paradise.

I solo hiked this back in October. In short, it was one of the most rewarding experiences in recent memory. I often daydream about returning; hopefully in 2018. The hike wasn't at all as dangerous or challenging as the blogs and guide books made it out to be. I would recommend hiking poles to help getting around slick rocks and muddy sections. The campsites on Kalalau beach are beautiful. Take the side hike up to Big Pool and allow yourself to get lost in the valley (always easy to follow the river back down to the beach). Keep your eyes out for a community garden in the valley full of fresh papaya, avocado, banana, taro, sugarcane, lilikoi, and guava. Bring some chocolate, tobacco or coconut oil for trading with the locals living in the hills. It's worth the trip.

Dreamy

This is such a beautiful hike! Bring proper shoes!! :)


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