Kalalau Trail | Kauai Hawaii

The Kalalau Trail is a 11 mile long trail along the Na Pali Coast on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. It starts from Ke’e beach and ends at Kalalau Beach. Backpacker Magazine ranked the Kalalau Trail as one of the 10 most dangerous hikes in the United States. 

Directions are as follows: Drive on Highway 560 through the Hanalei Valley. You will pass by the Limahuli Gardens at the foot of Mount Makena, as well as the Dry and Wet Caves near Ha’ena State Park. The road will end at Ke’e Beach. This is the beginning of the Kalalau Trail.

Before you begin the Kalalau Trail, don’t forget to check out the
Dry and Wet Caves near Ha’ena State Park. The three caves were formed by the erosion forces of surf and sand when ocean levels around Kauai island were much higher. According to Hawaiian legends, the goddess Pele created these caves for her lover. 

Maniniholo Dry Cave

This cave is named after the chief of the menehune fishermen, who dug this cave in search of a supernatural beast that stole his men’s fish. The cave is 100 meters deep and is covered with sand brought in by the 1957 tsunami.      

Waiakanaloa Wet Cave

The wet caves are fed by underground springs that empty into the ocean. We didn’t hike up the hill, but there is another wet cave Waiakapala’e. At the back of the cave, a tiny opening leads you into a smaller cave called the Blue Room. When the sunlight reflects off the freshwater, it turns the surrounding walls blue. But this can be accessed only by swimming. Since freshwater carries a high risk of leptospirosis (a bacterial disease), swimming is strictly forbidden.

Tips for the Kalalau Trail

Now on to the Kalalau Trail itself. While only experienced hikers are advised to do the entire 11 miles, beginners can attempt to hike the first 2 miles to Hanakapai Beach. This is the part of the trail that we hiked and it took us 3 hours round trip. Hikers can also trek a further two miles to the lava rocks located at the foot of the 300 feet tall Hanakapai Falls.

The entire journey is either a steep climb or a steep descent, with areas completely exposed to the sun, covered in wet slime and mud, or cutting across through streams. Good shoes are a must if you want a firm grasp on the stony path, boulders and slippery areas. Carry enough water and snacks on you. 

The trail is obviously known for its jaw dropping beauty and spectacular views. There is so much to soak in and you will find yourself stopping at many points to absorb the mighty Pacific waters, the craggy ridges or the diverse tropical flora.

Note: There are bathrooms, drinking fountains and outside showers available at the start of the trail.

Further Reading

20 things you should know before hiking the Kalalau Trail

Division of State Parks: Kalalau Trail