Full-day (two days if you camp at the 5 mile mark)
What to Pack
- Good Terrain Shoes
- SteriPEN – we recommend this one
- Bug spray
- Mattress pads
- Sleeping bags
- Inflatable pillows – we have these ones
- Mini speakers
- Water shoes (optional)
- Tent (optional)
- Stove & propane
- Backpacking meals
- Justin’s vanilla peanut butter packs (they are amazing)
- Headlamps – black diamond ones are always reliable
- Flippers and snorkels if you choose to swim to Honopu Beach
The Kalalau Trail
The Kalalau trail is a stunning 11+ mile trail that hugs the preserved Na Pali Coast of the Hawaiian Island, Kauai. During the summer months the waves recede and leave a pristine beach at the end of the trail with some great campsites. We took a long weekend, flew out Thursday from San Francisco and hit the trail Friday morning.
Packing for this trip is a blast— but don’t over complicate it. Check out our packing list at the end of the post. The actual Kalalau beach and campsites are miles away from the trailhead and town of Hanalei. So any reports of scattered rain in those places will most likely not affect you. The first few miles are wet and muddy, but around mile 6 you climb out of the rainy area and into a different, noticeably arid microclimate. In short, it almost never rains in Kalalau valley and it’s not cold at night. No sweats, tarps or sweatshirts needed. If we could do it again we probably wouldn’t even bring a tent and just sleep in hammocks or on the beach.
Water is readily available on the trail so a steriPEN and a few nalgenes is all you need. Camelback is always nice to have for your camp.
While the trail is remote, the island of Kauai has all the amenities of the US. Don’t overpack or worry about flying with all your food and fire equipment. A quick trip to Walmart or ACE Hardware on the Island will take care of food, booze, propane, etc.
Hike poles recommended.
Trailhead to Hanakapiai
It’s showtime. Wake Up early and drive out to the Kalalau Trailhead at the very end of the Kuhio Highway. It’s literally at the very end of the only road. Even Nellie couldn’t miss it. Here we are starting the journey!
At two miles you reach the first stream and public beach. This is a great place to to take a quick break and refill water. People will stop at the beach to sunbathe or hike 2 miles further into the valley to the waterfall. Very popular day trip.
Swim at your own risk!
Hanakapia to Hanakoa (Mile 2- Mile 5)
After you pass Hanakapia the trail becomes backpackers or permit only and much less crowded. Now the adventure starts. The next 3-4 miles you continue to wind your way through dense muddy jungle trail and hug the coast for expansive views of the pacific.
There is no trail like it in the world.
It starts very wet and very slippery. Even the most skilled hikers on our staff have slid and injured their legs. Hiking poles recommended.
At mile 5 you reach another stream and potential campsite at Hanakoa. Keep going! You are almost through the wetness. Although it may be tempting to spend a night there, we recommend doing the whole trip in one day.
Fill up your waters here.
Mile 7 Crawlers Ledge
Finally it begins to dry out and the trail becomes more hard packed. From here the actual hiking is much easier.
Mile 7 the trail narrows to a foot or two as you hug the cliffs above the ocean.
It’s not that bad!
Once you’re past it’s a great place to take your lunch! The hardest parts are behind you.
Ledge to Kalalau Valley (Mile 7- Mile 9)
From 7 to 9 you hug the cliffs—for easy hiking with great views. Enjoy! Some hikers may experience dehydration and bouts of grouchiness.
Kalalau Valley to Kalalau Beach (Mile 10- Mile 11)
This is the home stretch. Now you get to hike down into the valley and see wild goats, expansive coastline and natural fruit trees where Hawaiians have lived for hundreds of years.
This hike keeps getting better and better.
Vamos a la playa!
As you get down to the lowlands before the beach you will begin to see many campsites carved into the forest area. Keep walking until you get to the beach. The best spots are the ones on the beach.
Beach campsites—some of the best in the world!
A tasty meal to reward a long hike.
Waterfall at the end of the beach— best shower in the world!
Huge beach—with caves to explore at the end. Sunset all to yourself!
Also see posts on what we did Day 2: