THE KALALAU TRAIL KAUAI, HAWAII

 
Kalalau Valley, Kalalau Trail, Kauai.
Ever since I knew that I wanted to travel and experience the most exotic places on the planet, the Kalalau Trail was one of those places that I dreamed about visiting.  It was one of the first places that I found to be that kind of place that just looks like nothing else on this planet that wouldn't break the bank and near the United States mainland, Well kind of near.  Backpacker magazine called it one of the 10 most dangerous hikes on the planet, which I do not necessarily agree with, but the beauty of this trail and the jagged cliff faces of the Napoli coast is something that is quite hard to find anywhere on our planet.


Kalalau Valley, Kalalau Trail, Kauai.
The Kalalau Trail can be found on the north side of the island of Kauai and is a 11 mile hike, one way, to a beautiful beach surrounded by towering cliffs, waterfalls, and interesting rain forest. Now add all that in with the backdrop of the Kalalau Valley and this beach is one of the most exotic places anywhere.  
 
Kalalau Trail, Kauai Hawaii
I set out for the trailhead at around 6AM.  I condensed this trip into a day trip to go to the Kalalau Valley and back with a visit to one of the waterfalls along the way, I wanted to get the more remote one so if I ever return, it might be a bit easier to visit the one closer to the trailhead.
 
Kalalau trail. Kauai Hawaii
The hike itself was long and can be a bit strenuous depending on what you are carrying.   I elected to include a light weight pack for the trip and brought the bare minimum so I could move quick and get back before sunset.

Hanakapi Beach Kalalau Trail, Kauai
If you are camping over night, I suggest pushing for an early start as the sun will be behind the mountains for almost half the day, The total ascent is around 5000feet one way, the switch backs provide shade, water to purify, and the jungle portions will be a bit cooler than being on the spur roundabouts.  There is a desert like section where the trail narrows a bit and has a slighter potential to become risky but if care is taken, it is not bad.
 
Kalalau Trail, Kauai Hawaii
 

For the first two miles I was in complete darkness. It was nice and quiet all the way to Hanakapi Beach.  The waves were tearing through this beach as the dim cloudy sun started to work its way through the nightfall. It was an experience in itself to be the only one on the trail in this section until some weary hikers came up from the Kalalau beach. They must have left around 4 am and hiked most of the trail in total darkness.
 

Kalalau Trail, Kauai Hawaii
The beautiful lush rain forest started to take form as the sun slowly created a gray dawn and I no longer needed my partial flickering incandescent headlamp.

Kalalau Trail, Kauai Hawaii
 
I was impressed with the nature of these plants and how unique they looked to other rain forests that I have visited in the past.


Kalalau Trail Kauai, Hawaii
Continuing on past the beach, the trail turned into a series of switchback directions and weaved itself through patches of forest and I followed a mid cliff ridge switching back a bit to the first and second significant spur.


Hanakoa Valley, Kalalau Trail, Kauai.
 This is where the trail started to get interesting. The whole time you follow the trail, you can hear the ocean waves smashing up onto the cliff walls and you can also see the debris from the wall washing away into the ocean from the torrent of wave action created below. Moving around the corner was a valley that had to be followed back to the wall and back up to the next major spur.

Kalalau Trail Kauai, Hawaii
 
The switch back into the valley offered a lot of terrain variation as it gave the trail a lot of personality from being out on a open cliff overlooking the sea, to being in a dense jungle that turns back out on another cliff overlooking the sea. That was one of the amazing attributes that this trail will offer you. 

Waterfall going into the ocean from one of the spurs on the Kalalau Trail.
 bending around this Spur, you could start to see the outline of the Kalalau Beach which appeared to be decently close but with all the switchbacks and spurs to go around, the trail was set to be a lot longer than it looks.

Hanakoa Valley, Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
 The next valley is Hanakoa valley which was a bit bigger than the last valley and also is home to a beautiful waterfall and a pool at the bottom of the falls that I planned on visiting on my return from the beach. At the back of the valley switchback in the jungle is the 6 mile mark and a place where people can camp.  There appeared to be a lot of places to camp so I wouldn't worry too much about not finding a spot to park your weary legs to camp for the night before heading to the falls or the remaining trail.
 

Hanakoa Valley and Falls Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
 You can see Hanakoa falls from the distance but I highly recommend you check this waterfall out as I have heard that it is the better of the two falls and quite a place to relax and hang out. You will prob have the waterfall to yourself.

Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
Continuing on the trail, the environment got a bit drier and the trail kept the hikers along the cliff coast for the majority of the trip. There will be a few switchbacks but you also come up to the notorious section that has been deemed dangerous. Personally, I did not find this section dangerous, rather I found it to be quite easy to walk along as there were many foot holds and enough room for two lanes of hikers coming through but not much more.


Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
 I can see where some people would find it a bit tricky and if it was raining out than it could be a bit more slippery yet I found that there were a lot of places to step and as long as you were paying attention, you will be fine. but pay attention!


Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii


The trail was beautiful from looking back as the sun casted a beautiful angle of light
Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii

 after passing this the mountians were shining with the suns rays cresting over the ridge.
Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii

The Closer I got to the Kalalau Valley, the more majestic the views became. It was amazing to see the mountains and thankfully the sun was burning through the clouds to get some decent pictures.
Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
 The kalalau Valley was starting to become in sight and the morning was moving on to late morning which I found surprising as I thought it was a couple hours earlier than it really was. I guess time flys when you are on mile 8 on one of the most beautiful trails on the planet.

Adam Haydock, Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
 The final approach was within site and I wanted to get to the top of a mound and have lunch surrounding myself with the green mountains, valley and the Napoli Coast.
 There was a nice sign at the entrance of the valley resembling the entrance and a warm welcome to the Kalalau Valley.

Kalalau Valley Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii

 As I cooked up some lunch on the valley top, I could see some of the campers coming out of the valley and starting their journey back to Kee Beach and the Kalalau trailhead. The beach was another mile and a half but I stopped where I was so I could give myself time to check out a side waterfall.
Kalalau Valley Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
 The sun and the humidity added to the challenge to get some quality photos but at least the sun was out which gave the valley some good shadowing and dynamic.
Kalalau Valley Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
Looking back to the other side of the valley, the sun started to illuminate the lava on the Napoli coast and it was interesting to see the fragile Napoli formation lava flows after knowing how the oldest island in the Hawaiian Islands were formed.    
 
Kalalau Valley Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii

 After lunch I had to start heading back the way I came and as I was walking back,  I could feel the tug to stay in the valley of the Kalalau. I really wanted to stay where I was for hours, maybe even take a nap but time was going to run out fast and I had to start to head back.

Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii

 Next time I have to camp here and as a matter of fact, I want to take a kayak to Kalalau and Honopu beach.

Kalalau Valley Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
 It was a bit warmer and that heat made the switchbacks a bit more sweaty but once I got back into the valleys, it wasn't bad.
 Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
 It was nice to see how the trail looked as I headed back to the trailhead as the sun shined on all of the green mountains and lit up the ocean the emitted an electric blue color.


Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
The trail appeared to go on and on until I got back to Hanakoa valley where the side hike to the waterfall was located.  Good thing it was only a half mile off the main trail so that just added a total of another mile on my total mileage for the day. 
Hanakoa waterfall, Kalalau Trail
 The waterfall was very impressive! It was multi tiered so all I could imagine was rappelling this fall from the top and imagining swimming in this dark blue pool but time did not allow so I took off back to the main trail.
Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
 Along the way, some of the visitors of the Kalalau were building bamboo lean-to's in the wood just beyond the trail.

Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
 As I continued back towards the trailhead, I was partial to think that I am going to start to run into the hoards of the adventure tourists and people taking a day out from the hotel to do something exciting, which is great but can get rather crowded at times.


Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
As I got closer to the beach I started to see people that have gone beyond the 2 mile mark where you need a permit, naughty, naughty!! I knew I was getting close to the trailhead after seeing that which gave my legs some brief relief.                                     
Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii

When I started to run into people in sandals I knew I was getting even closer to the 2 mile mark, than ...BOOM there it was!! The river crossing was packed with people that were laying around the river both up and down stream. surprisingly, nobody got swept away into the ocean.

Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
I headed up the trail and have been striving to make it back to the car in 10 hours from when I left the trailhead at 6 am.
Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
I was passing people left and right as they worked through their challenges of walking up the hills, some might have been a little annoyed that I was passing them by like I was the bad guy.
Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
Finally I reached the top of kee beach and it was just in time as my legs started to scream at me for hiking 10,000ft of elevation, 20 miles, in around 11 hours. It felt like battery acid was pumping through my veins.
Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
There was a large group of people watching the whales jump in the ocean which was actually pretty cool.
 
Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii

I finally made it back to the trailhead after 11 and a half hours, a day trip to the Kalalau has been complete.

Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
It was incredible being on the trail but I wish I camped there and next time around, I will be kayaking to see the sea caves of the Napoli coast and camping on the beach will be most awesome.
Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii

The amazing thing about this trail is the variation of the environment that one can find with the reward of having a remote beach to enjoy.
Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii
Everyone that enjoys the outdoors should visit this place and stay for a few days or a week.  There are other beaches in the area that are even more remote which is something I cant wait to visit this again next year!
Kalalau Trail




Kalalau beach not my photo.


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