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.
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.
The Kalalau Trail begins at the northwest end of Kuhio Highway, about 40 miles (a 1-hour drive) from Lihuʻe Airport. A maximum stay of five nights is allowed within the Na Pali State Park. Permits, issued by the State Parks Division, are $10 per person, per night. Park rangers are strict about valid camping permits. For more information, call the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of State Parks at 274-3444.
Click here for information about Nā Pali Coast State Park regulations for hiking, camping, and boating (including kayaking).