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Hiking Napali Coast of Kauai – Kalalau Trail

Hiking Napali Coast of Kauai – Kalalau Trail

Hiking Napali Coast – Original photos by Don Nelson and Ron Finney. All rights reserved.

The Napali Coast is a lush, verdant stretch of coastline on the north side of Kaui Island. Rugged cliffs dramatically sculpted by millennia of natural erosion drop thousands of feet into the ocean. Napali literally means “the Cliffs” in Hawaiian. This remote, pristine region is only accessible by boat, kayak or hiking.

Hiking Napali Coast

Hiking Napali Coast

Scenic overlook of taro fields on Route 560, near Hana Lei.

The drive up to the Napali Coast is a wonder in itself. Take Route 56 on the windward, lush side of Kauai, to the very north end through Princeville, where the road becomes Route 560, through magical Hana Lei, to the very end of the road, which terminates at lovely Kee Beach. Plan your trip to allow enough time to enjoy the beach. There are some good places to snorkel here as well.

Napali CoastHere is where Hiking Napali Coast on the Kalalau Trail begins. You soon start a steep rocky ascent, passing numerous towering coconut palms–and some of them are loaded, so just be aware. A stunning view of the Napali Coast spreads out along side you as you climb above the panorama of the Pacific. Along the trail you’ll see some beautiful lush foliage, of what appears to be house plants, but much bigger! You can often find edible fruit such as wild guava, lilikoi (passion fruit) and mountain apples (a tropical fruit not related to apples).

This is one of our favorite hikes in the Islands, but beware: it is a moderately challenging to very challenging and sometimes treacherous hike. After a rain the soil can be slippery and in places you are hiking on very narrow trails on high cliff edges.

Be sure to wear a good pair of sure-footed hiking boots, bring plenty of water and other supplies. The Kalalau Trail along the Napali coast is 11-miles in total length, from Kee Beach (north end of the island), crossing five valleys and ending at secluded Kalalau Beach, toward the northwest side of Kauai.

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Hanakapi’a Beach

Depending on time and your level of adventure, determine the distance you want to hike. A very popular segment to is only four miles round trip to Hanakapi’a Beach, a beautiful, remote beach at the base of Hanakapi’a Valley. As you approach the beach, you cross a pristine, lively stream the Hanakapi’a River. During winter months the beach area is diminished by the pounding surf. Under no circumstances should you attempt to swim on this beach due to dangerous currents and riptides.

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Hanakap’ai Falls, a 2 mile up from the Hanakap’ai Beach.

If you are feeling more adventurous, you may hike an additional two miles from the beach, up and back to Hanakapi’a Falls. It is a beautiful falls, but the trail is steep and challenging.
Hiking Napali Coast can be a four day adventure for folks who choose to hike the full 11 mile stretch of the Kalalau Trail.    These backpackers break it up into a two day experience (each way) by camping overnight at Hanakoa Beach, and completing the hike to Kalalau the next day, and vise-versa on the way back, making it a four day hike roundtrip.

Kalalau Beach is the final destination when Hiking Napali Coast on the Kalalau Trail,. The beach is approximately 1 mile long There is a camp site on the beach, with a waterfall providing fresh water and composting toilets available. Water should be boiled or treated. Camping requires a permit. All trash must be packed out. The beach is beautiful and secluded. Sheer cliffs block the exit, so getting back to civilization is an 11 mile return hike back through the ever enchanting and sometimes treacherous Napali Coast.

Kalalau-Beach awaits at the end of the trail.

Kalalau-Beach awaits at the end of the trail.

For more information on Hiking Napali Coast visit: Hawaii State Parks

While in Kauai, make sure to also visit Waimea Canyon

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  1. 27 Oct 2013
    These are some very beautiful pics. If I ever get a chance to go back to Hawaii again I'm going to have to check out these places. Reply
    • 29 Oct 2013
      Thank you James! Keep following us, and tell your friends! Reply
    • 26 Oct 2014
      jeffl jenkinsi am haeedd to Kauai tomorrow on 7/25/13. the pics are beautiful! Are there any great places to track you would recommend? the first tracking eval we had in Montana was a great experience and you made the trailing experience even better by pointing out so many naturalist points while we were waiting our turn to trail. Thanks for that. hope to have you and Brian down soon to Arkansas to begin track and sign and trailing evals in the next year!sincerelyJeff Jenkins, MDjeff Jenkins, md Reply
  2. 27 Oct 2014
    David MoskowitzJeff: Regarding tracking on Kauai, unlses you want to track feral chickens, the most interesting wildlife is along the water, so hit the beaches early in the morning and see what sort of intertidal life has been out and about. Also a variety of shore birds and (unfortunately) feral cats! I think Montana and Arkansas are better bets for wildlife tracking but Kauai has them both beat hands down for sunsets over the ocean! ;-) Reply

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