The Kalalau Trail

Kauai Travel Blog

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The Kalalau Trail is a must-do when you come to Kauai. It is a difficult hike, but worth every mile. The whole trail is 11 miles one way, but you have to have special permits to camp overnight in several places along the trail if you wish to hike the whole thing. However, there is a wonderful day hike that takes you to Hanakapiai Beach, which is 2 miles away from the trailhead. We set off to tackle this stretch of the trail after a long drive to the North Shore. We passed stunning views of the Na Pali coastline along the way, and hiked through beautiful jungle. Hiking this first 2 mile stretch of the trail to the beach was actually quite a bit easier than we had originally anticipated, and we made great time getting to Hanakapiai Beach. Because of this, and also because of inspiration from an Australian man who showed us photos he had taken, we decided to hike another 2 miles inland when we got there, on the Hanakapiai Valley Trail (which is a side trail that breaks off from the Kalalau Trail) to Hanakapiai Falls. This part of the trail was quite a bit more difficult, but well worth the effort. There were multiple stream crossings, in which you had to hop across rocks, switchbacks in which the trail would climb a steep area, and then descend quite a bit. Norwood ripped his pants at one of the stream crossings during a particularly daring leap across rocks, which I laughed quite a bit about.
We joked that the trail was the ultimate stairmaster, and I'm sure my butt muscles will be quite a bit stronger after that hike. They are certainly sore this morning. After a while my feet started to feel like dead weights, and we questioned our decision to complete this part of the hike. We almost turned back when we got lost and took the wrong fork in the trail to a part of the stream that was especially difficult to pass. We came to a place that was impossible to continue, so we turned back to backtrack quite a bit, to another fork in the trail that then climbed quite a steep and dangerous (sloping inward, with slippery wetness and nothing to grab onto) area of the trail. We climbed and climbed, and crossed the stream many more times. Our feet were killing us, but we trudged on until we finally reached the waterfall. WOW. That's all I can say. It was incredible! It was beautiful and misted us with its cool, crisp waters. Some people were swimming in the pool at the bottom of the falls. Norwood and I weren't wearing swimsuits and still had another 4 miles left to hike out of there, so we decided to just put our feet in. It felt really good to soak our feet in some nice, cold water after the long hike. It was just the rest we needed to tackle the trail back, so we set off to go back to the car.
We were doing pretty well until we reached the first stream crossing, at which a group of people that obviously had no idea what they were doing were trying to figure out how to cross the stream. Norwood and I had become quite good at the stream crossings by this point, and we hopped across the rocks with little effort. At this, one of the ladies in the group (the annoying one) decided that we were the gods of hiking and followed us along the path we had taken to get across. She started blabbing nonstop about how we were so good at hiking and how she was so scared and didn't know what she was doing, so she would just follow us. I don't mind helping out a fellow hiker, but I really wish she would have stopped talking and just followed us. She was obviously nervous and thought that talking constantly would be a nice way to fill the air, which was a shame because in my mind, half the reason for going on a hike like that is to have a little solitude. So, Norwood and I kept hiking at a quick pace and eventually were successful in ditching her. We agreed that the voice following us was a good motivation to keep going, haha!
The rest of the hike was beautiful, but we found ourselves becoming increasingly exhausted. When we finally made it back to Hanakapiai Beach, it felt as though we had made it back (of course, we had another 2 miles left to hike at this point). We took a dip in a nice pool of salt water on the beach in our clothes. We didn't care about being wet at this point, and it felt really, really good to relax in some water for a while. This gave us a little bit of energy to continue, so we set off to finish the last 2 miles of the trail.
On this stretch, we found out why it had seemed so easy to get to the beach the first time: It had been mostly downhill after the initial steep climb. Of course, on the way back that means that is is mostly UPhill. Hooray! We were so tired by this point, and took frequent breaks. I found my legs were getting wobbly and I was prone to tripping. Not a good thing on a trail that seems to be made specifically for ankle twisting, or possibly falling horribly to your death off a cliffside. Also by this point we were very low on water and were feeling quite thirsty. When we finally made it back to the parking lot at the trailhead, I yelped for joy. Norwood fell from exhaustion, but he didn't hurt himself.
We trudged back to the car and took off to buy copious amounts of water at the first grocery store we came across.
After our water stop, in which I think we both gulped down about half a gallon each, we set off to find some dinner.
Norwood was obsessed with the Brick Oven Pizza restaurant in Kapaa, so that's where we went. Along the way, he kept underestimating how far the pizza place was, so every turn we came around he would say "Brick Oven?", and then be disappointed. When we finally reached the pizza place, he was very excited (I was too, but not as much as he was). We ordered 2 individual sized pizzas. Norwood had chicken and pineapple, and I had pineapple, olives, and fresh tomatoes. It was quite delicious. We also had some booze to go with our meals. Beer for Norwood, and pinot grigio for me. We felt a little muscle relaxing booze was just what the doctor ordered, and it was. When the bill came, it was $60!!! yikes! Still, it was worth it and we haven't been eating out that much, so whatever. Norwood maintains that it was worth $60 because it "saved his life". I guess I can't argue too much with that.
After dinner, he headed home, soaked in hot baths, and passed out watching Harry Potter on TV.
A good day. Today we are tired and have decided that whatever we end up doing, it will be something very mellow.
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photo by: hauteboy