Famous Coastal Trail Leads To Kalalau Valley
A life changing experience! That is how many have described their hike on the rugged trail along the Na Pali Coast to the remote Kalalau Valley where you can camp on a golden sand beach beneath 3,000 foot cliffs and waterfalls.
The Na Pali Coast is one of Earth’s great natural wonders with some of the most dramatic scenery in all of the Hawaiian Islands. Accessible only by boat or by the arduous 11-mile trail, Kalalau Valley is one of the most popular visitor destinations in all of Hawai‘i.
Na Pali Coast Wilderness Park
Na Pali means “The Cliffs,” and the name aptly describes this region of monumental seacliffs and eroded volcanic pinnacles standing sentinel over deep, ancient valleys. Officially known as the Na Pali Coast Wilderness Park, it encompasses 6,500 acres and spans for about 15 miles of rugged coastline on the west side of Kauai from Polihale in the south to Ke‘e Beach on the northern end.
The coastal seacliffs of this region rise up steeply for thousands of feet into pointed spires, castle-like turrets, and razor-sharp ridges lined with streaming waterfalls.
First Part of Hike Leads from Ke‘e Beach to Hanakapiai Valley
From the trailhead at Ke‘e Beach in Haena State Park, the 2-mile hike to the valley of Hanakapiai (Bay sprinkling food) takes about 1½ hours at a leisurely pace including stops to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Do not swim at Hanakapiai Beach in the winter or in the summer. Hanakapiai Beach is one of Kauai’s most dangerous beaches due to the often pounding shorebreak, and there may be dangerous currents even when the water appears calm.You can always cool off in the stream instead of going in the ocean, and it is much safer. (See Kauai Ocean Safety Tips.)
Hanakapiai to Hanakoa Valley
From Hanakapiai Beach you can continue on along the coast toward the valley of Kalalau (The straying), just nine more miles! This will take about four to ten more hours of hiking as the trail winds along the hillsides through several Na Pali valleys and doesn’t dip down to the ocean again until reaching Kalalau.
If you don’t want to make the trip to Kalalau Valley all at once then you can camp along the way at the valley called Hanakoa, which means “Bay of koa trees” or “Bay of warriors.” Hanakoa Valley is located at the 6-mile mark of the 11-mile trail. Permits are required to hike on the trail past Hanakapiai Valley.
Camping at Kalalau Valley
Camping at Kalalau is allowed only in the area near the beach and not up in the valley. At the west end of the beach at Kalalau is Ho‘ole‘a Falls where many campers get their drinking water. All water taken from streams must be treated or boiled before it is consumed.
Large sea caves to the west of Ho‘ole‘a Falls are filled with sand in the summer months but most of this sand is pulled out to sea during the winter. Be cautious near these caves as the cliffs above are very steep and a landslide in 1980 sent debris onto the area.
Kalalau Beach is a wide beach backed by sand dunes. There is no coral reef offshore to provide protection from the open sea, so swimming at Kalalau is not recommended. This beach can be very dangerous even when it appears relatively safe, and the shallow sandbar offshore may drop off quickly in some places.
Staying Safe on the Na Pali Coast
You should not swim at Kalalau Beach in the winter or in the summer. Tidal changes and trade winds often create longshore currents that flow along the coastline and can make it difficult for swimmers to get back to shore. During the winter months high surf creates rip currents along the sandbar as well as dangerous pounding shorebreak. A particularly large rip current runs right out from the center of the beach.
Rescue assistance is very far away and also difficult to contact due to limited cell phone abilities in the area. Stay safe by avoiding unnecessary risks so you can enjoy the great beauty of Kalalau without any problems. Swim in the Na Pali’s streams and stay out of the ocean.
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