Hike to Romantic Hanakapiai Valley and Stand Beneath the Towering Waterfall

By Hawaii.com Team

Hanakapiai Falls, Kauai. Photo: paul bica.

Hanakāpī‘ai is a remote valley located along Kaua‘i’s opulent Nāpali Coast. The pristine basin encompasses a several hundred-foot tall waterfall surrounded by dense jungle and a small silky beach tucked between robust mountains.

Not for the Faint of Heart

Hanakapiai Beach and Valley as seen from the ocean. Photo: WiseTim.

Reaching this secluded terrain, accessible only by foot, is not for the faint of heart. The first 2 miles of the cliff-hugging Kalalau Trail takes you there and, while offering incredible coastal perspectives, requires a hearty dose of athletic stamina.

The trail begins at Kē‘ē Beach at the northern end of Kūhiō Highway. Before setting out, check the weather and ensure that rain and flash flooding aren’t forecasted. This is an unstable trail not only when it’s raining along the coast, as it gets extremely slippery, but also in the mountains which causes any stream-crossing portions of the journey to become dangerous.

If you’re in the clear, set out as early as possible. The parking lot fills up first thing in the morning and leaving your car along the street is illegal.

Get Ready for Gorgeous!

Aerial shot of Hanakapiai Beach, Kauai. Photo: Brian.

Once you’ve got your sturdy and water resistant shoes on, get ready for the first 2 miles of gorgeous trail that contains a 500-foot climb in elevation. Your athleticism is rewarded throughout the way, however, as you’re privy to dreamy ocean vistas that peek out around every corner.

Sun Bathe at Hanakapiai Beach

Hanakapiai Beach as seen from the Kalalau Trail. Photo: Andrew Smith.

Once you reach Hanakāpī‘ai’s revered sandy nook, do not boulder leap across the stream to reach the beach if there’s any indication of rainfall, and don’t plan to swim in the tumultuous sea. These are two activities many people should have avoided in the past because it would have saved their lives. There are many other ways to enjoy the sweet salty air and luscious serenity of this northwestern shoreline.

Hike to Hanakapiai Falls

Hanakapiai Falls. Photo: benji2505.

Once you’ve had your fill of this immaculate beach, you can continue on a 2-mile stream-crossing and boulder-leaping hike that climbs another 700 feet in elevation inland, leading adventurers to the legendary Hanakāpī‘ai Falls. This trail is not as heavily trafficked so be careful of your footing at all times.

Your zealous efforts to reach this tropical haven will be well rewarded. The waterfall — said to be named after a Menehune chiefess whose ancestors were a race of people presumably from the Marquesas Islands — mesmerizingly plummets from a sheer bluff creating an impeccable romantic retreat.

As long as you keep safety in mind and plan accordingly, this trek to Hanakāpī‘ai Valley is one of the most unforgettable adventures to take on the Garden Isle.

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