Kalalau Trail (Partial) & Hanakapi’ai Falls

Location: Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park; Na Pali Coast, Kauai

Distance: 8 miles (Hanakapi’ai Falls) / 22 miles (Kalalau trail)

Type: Day-hike / Overnight; Out and Back

Rating: Very Difficult

Permits & Fees: None required for the Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail. The Kalalau Trail requires a permit to hike past the trailhead of Hanakapi’ai Falls (about two miles in).


Sunscreen is a must. We also brought two 2-liter water bottles and raincoats. I wore leggings, but waterproof hiking pants are a better option (if you own a pair).

The Hike

We started the hike around 8:30 a.m. on the second day of our vacation in Kauai. We had originally planned to hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach and split off from our group to hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls. We changed our plan at the trailhead; instead we were going to hike to Hanakoa Falls, which is located about 5-6 miles into the Kalalau trail, plus an additional mile or so inland.

The first two miles of the hike were fairly moderate with uphill and downhill climbs throughout (the entire Kalalau Trail is uphill and downhill along the ridge of the island). Right before we started the climb down to Hanakapi’ai Beach, it became extremely muddy and slippery, even with hiking shoes. This went on for about half a mile until we reached a river. In order to reach the beach, we had to cross this river. It’s important to note that the level of the water can change rapidly, so it’s best to use your judgement. If the water looks too high, DO NOT cross. Luckily, the water was low enough (right under our knees) to cross the river. We made it to the beach and relaxed for about 20 minutes.

We continued past the Hanakapi’ai Trailhead and hiked for another two miles up Kalalau Trail. This part of the hike took much longer than anticipated, and we began to question whether or not the trail markers were accurate. Along this stretch of the Kalalau Trail, we came across goats, birds, rats and several lizards. It became even more muddy than before and we gave up on trying to avoid the mud.


After hiking on for another 30 minutes or so, we decided to turn back and hike the Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail after all. When we reached the Hanakapi’ai Trailhead, it was about 2:15 in the afternoon, so we did our best to hike faster than usual in order finish before sunset. The hike up Hanakapi’ai Valley is about two miles with several points on the trail that require crossing the river. There were also several steep climbs up rocks, so it’s important to bring the proper shoes.

After about an hour, we finally made it to the falls and went for a swim. It was freezing, but the view was amazing.

The hike back down the valley went by at a much quicker rate, and we made it to the main river crossing (mentioned earlier) around 4:00 p.m. After crossing the river, we began our hike towards the trailhead, only two miles away. We finished well before sunset, but I wouldn’t want to get caught on the trail any time past dusk due to how dark the trail gets.

After finishing the hike, we watched the sunset at Ke’e Beach; a perfect end to a perfect day!