The Kalalau Trail is known as one of the most beautiful hikes in the world. The trail is approximately 11 miles along the north shore starting at Keʻe Beach ending in the Kalalau Valley.
If you want to experience what makes Kauai different from the other Hawaiian Islands, this is the thing to do.
This is our second time hiking part of the trail. We made it to Hanakapi’ai Beach (4 miles total) both times. And, I must admit, it was much better the second time. We were so ill prepared our first time.
Before You Go
The Kalalau Trail starts in the Hāʻena State Park. To enter the park and to hike the trail, you require a permit. And, there are a few options: you can drive and park, take a shuttle or walk in. For parking, you can do so up to 30 days in advance by visiting the park website. Currently, it’s only $5 per car per time-slot and there are 3 options:
- 6:30 am to 12:30 am
- 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm
- 4:30 pm to sunset
If you want to span more than one time-slot, you will need to purchase both time-slots. Or, if you want to be there the whole day, you will need to purchase all 3.
Also, if you are a local, you don’t require a permit. But, if you are going in a car with a local, you will still need to get a permit.
If you are going in the winter months, since it rains so much on Kauai, we recommend getting a permit for 2 separate days. This will at least give you a second chance in case the weather isn’t great on the first day.
Parking is limited to 100 stalls, so if you missed the boat, there is a shuttle option. There are various pick up spots along the North Shore. Click here for more info.
No picture that I have ever seen does it justice. It is breathtakingly beautiful. And, if you have made your way to Kauai, you need to do this. At a minimum get to Hanakapi’ai Beach. If you are a more advanced hiker, go further, but make sure you are prepared.
Our hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach and back took us about 3 hours at a pretty slow pace. The hike itself isn’t extremely difficult for the first 2 miles to Hanakapi’ai Beach, but the slippery muddy conditions can make it a challenge.
Go early! You will avoid the crowds and be able to get it done well before lunch time. Since we started right at sunrise and didn’t encounter too many people on the way out. On the way back it was much more crowded with people just starting.
Be ready for any weather conditions. We encountered every type from sunshine, rain and rainbows but, overall we couldn’t have asked for better. It only rained little bit, it wasn’t too warm and the winds were calm.
Proper footwear is key. Our first time, someone had recommended water shoes. What a mistake that was. We kept sliding and half of the trail is downhill.
When selecting what to wear, keep in mind that you will never be able to get the red mud off of anything it touches. Don’t be foolish and wear new running shoes or white Lululemon pants since you will be walking in mud, crossing some creeks and a kneed deep stream.
We wore our trusty Solomon Speedcross shoes. They are prefect for muddy conditions and keep your feet mostly dry, obviously making them a great shoe for hiking in Hawaii.
What to bring
Be sure to bring water.. it’s important to stay hydrated. We had 1.5 liters each and that seemed to be a good amount. You might want to pack a snack as well. And, sunscreen goes without saying. In addition, you should consider having the following items in the car for after the hike:
- A towel to wipe off the mud
- Dry footwear
- A change of clothing
Lastly, we started hiking right at sunrise. If you are planning on starting earlier, we highly recommend you bring a headlamp.
Also, by going early, you will avoid the crowds. This is what we encountered after crossing the stream on our way back.
Finally, if you are reading this post because you are planning a trip to Kauai, below are a few posts that might interest you.
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