No list of consummate backpacking trips would be complete without mention of the 11-mile Kalalau Trail, which begins where the paved road ends on Kauaʻi’s North Shore. It alternately challenges and rewards hikers with a mix of cliffside promenades and views of wild sea, silent sky, deep forest and stark cliffs, before delivering them to a white-sand beach the length of several football fields where there is little left to do but reflect on one’s inestimably good fortune.

Hiking the Kalalau Trail – A Stop at Hanakapiʻai

The first two miles of the trail lead to Hanakapiʻai Beach, the end of the road for most hikers. For backpacking vets, however, Hanakapiʻai is the overture to a much more involved symphony. Leaving the beach at Hanakapiʻai, committed backpackers will climb 800 feet out of the valley and cross the streams that bisect a series of valleys before arriving four miles later at Hanakoa Valley. There the trip to Kalalau can be broken up with an overnight stay.

Hiking the Kalalau Trail – Arriving at Kalalau Beach

The final five-mile section of the hike has had many backpackers swearing (and actually believing) that they would never do anything like it again. But that’s before one emerges, most often at sunset, at the final stream crossing and the glowing white sand of Kalalau Beach.

Details About Hiking Kalalau Trail

Since the reopening of Hāʻena State Park—which is where the Kalalau Trail is located—youʻll have to have a reservation to access the park and trail. You can book your entry ahead of time on the Go Hāʻena’s website which includes access to Keʻe Beach and the Kalalau Trail. Three options are available for entry and include a shuttle ticket, parking and entry ticket (which is the most limited) as well as an entry only pass for those parking offsite and walking in.

For more information, visit DLNR’s website or call (808) 587-0300.