Updated: Jan 19
Kalalau was our absolute favorite hike we did while on Kauai. The views are truly surreal and it feels as though you are hiking within a postcard. Never have we witnessed such lush green and vibrant blue colors in nature. With that being said, this hike is not for everyone and comes with a bit of prep work. Below are a few requirements to hike this trail, modifications you can add, and reasons you may chose to skip it all together.
Hiking to Hanakapi'ai Beach and back is a 4.1 mile, out & back hike. There is 1,286 feet in elevation gain and it is rated as difficult. For a longer, more strenuous hike you may consider Hanakapi'ai Falls Trail, which roughly doubles your hike by adding an additional 2-miles (one way) upstream towards Hanakapi'ai Falls after reaching Hanakapi'ai Beach.
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[as of Dec 2021]
You must book reservations a maximum of 30 days prior to your arrival on the Haena State Park Website. Due to the popularity of this hike, you may consider booking exactly 30 days prior to your arrival when reservations open at 12am Kauai time.
When booking, you will have the option to book a shuttle that will take you to and from the park entrance or a time slot for parking. Parking is very limited and the most difficult to reserve ahead of time, however, this is the most desirable option as it gives you flexibility throughout your day at Haena State Park. Check the park's Information Page for up-to-date info on pricing and reservations.
Since we did this hike as a day trip from Poipu, we chose the shorter hike to Hanakapi'ai Beach. This portion of the hike allowed us to see breathtaking views of the coastline and reward ourselves by relaxing on Hanakapi'ai Beach.
Should you be interested in a longer version of this hike, you may consider Hanakapi'ai Falls Trail, which roughly doubles your hike by adding an additional 2-miles (one way) upstream towards Hanakapi'ai Falls after reaching Hanakapi'ai Beach. This stretch of the hike is even more difficult than the first 2 miles to Hanakapi'ai Beach as it involves several river crossings and more rock scrambling. Heading inland to Hanakapi'ai Falls is the only way to extend this hike without requiring additional permits. Should you prefer to continue along the Na Pali Coast past Hanakapi'ai Beach, a backpacking permit is required.
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We would consider all portions of the Kalalau Trail to be difficult. It rains very frequently in Kauai (this is why the terrain is so lush!). With rain comes lots of mud and wet terrain. Although we were extremely fortunate to have beautiful weather during our hike, much of this trail is shaded from the sun and we experienced lots of scrambling over wet, slippery, and muddy rocks.
We would not advise doing this hike if your reservation lands on a rainy day. Not only would it significantly increase the difficulty, but an overcast day would diminish your visibility of the coastline at viewpoints. A significant amount of effort added for a much lower reward. We highly recommend cutting your losses and choosing from our list of other EPIC hikes in Kauai on your next sunny day.
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