The ultimate Kauai hike, HI

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The ultimate Kauai hike shows you the world-famous Na Pali coast and takes you to the stunning Hanakapiai Falls. Kauai is every hiker’s wet dream, and the island offers countless of incredible hikes. But the most famous one is without a doubt the Kalalau Trail.

The Kalalau Trail includes some of the best parts of the Na Pali coast. And if you add the stretch up to Hanakapiai Falls, you also get to see an amazing waterfall.

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The ultimate Kauai hike guide

Planning the ultimate Kauai hike

The Kalalau Trail takes you from Kee Beach and the Kalalau Trailhead along the Na Pali coast all the way to Kalalau Beach. It totals at roughly 11 miles (17.7 km) one way.

Instead of going the whole way to Kalalau Beach, a great and popular option for day hikers is to hike from Kee Beach to Hanakapiai Beach. That stretch is 2 miles (3.2 km) one way. From there you can continue upstream on Hanakapiai Falls Trail for another 2 miles to reach the impressive Hanakapiai Falls.

If you want to explore even further you can continue along the coast from Hanakapiai Beach towards Kalalau Beach.

But, the first stretch from Kee Beach to Hanakapiai Beach and then onwards to the falls is amazing by itself. Then you get a great taste of the world-famous Na Pali coast and as a bonus you also encounter one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the island.

Hiking from Kee Beach to Hanakapiai Beach

From the trailhead you begin with a climbing path that takes you higher and higher. Your efforts and sweat are heavily rewarded as you reach the highest points of the first stretch. Here, about half a mile (0.8 km) into the hike, you can enjoy some of the most beautiful views of the Na Pali Coast.

Beautiful views on the ultimate Kauai hike
Beautiful view on the Kalalau Trail.

After reaching the highest point of the first leg, there are many more scenic points heading down towards Hanakapiai Beach. Going up is usually tougher than going down, but on a wet day extra caution needs to be had on the way down as the path often is slippery. As the trail gets steeper you’re approaching the Hanakapiai stream and Hanakapiai Beach.

Hanakapiai Beach at Kauai hike
The secluded Hanakapiai Beach on Kauai.

Hiking from Hanakapiai Beach to Hanakapiai Falls

The distance from Hanakapiai Beach to Hanakapiai Falls is technically not part of the Kalalau Trail. Instead, the upstream route is part of the Hanakapiai Falls Trail.

The ultimate Kauai hike continues to Hanakapiai Falls
Hanakapiai Falls Trail takes you to the beautiful waterfall.

Hiking the 2 miles (3.2 km) up to Hanakapiai Falls requires numerous crossings of the stream. Also, the elevation gain up to the falls is more than 700 feet (213 m) which adds a little bit of difficulty.

Nevertheless, the Hanakapiai Falls Trail is very rewarding. As you work your way towards the falls you approach some great Kauai nature, including small bamboo forests.

Bamboo forest on Kauai
A bamboo forest on the way to Hanakapiai Falls.

Keep your head down to make sure that you see where you put your feet. But, also look up and enjoy the sight of Hanakapiai Falls as you approach it. The sight is breathtaking.

Hanakapiai Falls
Hanakapiai Falls from a distance.

When you have reached Hanakapiai Falls, you have earned a break before you head back to Hanakapiai Beach. The booming fall is about 300 feet (91 m) high, and if you’re up for it you can swim in the cool but refreshing pool.

Hanakapiai Falls at the ultimate Kauai hike
Swimming in the pool at Hanakapiai Falls.

Hiking back to Kee Beach or further on the Kalalau Trail

The hike from Kee Beach to Hanikapiai Beach and Hanikapiai Falls is the most popular one to make. Most visitors don’t go past Hanakapiai Beach along the coast.

What’s so great about the first stretch to Kee Beach and then towards Hanikapiai Falls is that it in relatively short time and distance shows you some of the best sights there are to see. You get a great taste of the Na Pali coast and to see one of the most beautiful waterfalls on Kauai.

But, if you want to see more the Kalalau Trail continues for another 9 miles (14,5 km) along the coast from Hanakapiai Beach. That of course lets you see more of the amazing Na Pali coast.

Red dirt on the Kalalau Trail
Red dirt and green jungle on the Kalalau Trail.

Hiking from Hanakapiai Beach to Hanakoa Valley

The hiking out of Hanakapiai Valley starts with a climb. Here you will have the best views behind you, so make sure that you stop and look back every once in a while.

A little more than a mile (1.6 km) after Hanakapiai Valley you approach the so called Space Rock, which with its roughly 700 (213 m) feet elevation is the highest point of the trail.

After about 4 miles (6.4 km) from the trailhead you reach Hoolulu Valley, followed by Waiahuakua Valley soon after. And at mile 6 (9.7 km) you have hiked more than half of the distance to Kalalau Beach, as you reach Hanakoa Valley.

Hike in the jungle on Kauai
Hiking in the jungle.

Hiking from Hanakoa Valley to Kalalau Beach

Soon after Hanakoa Valley you reach what is known as the scariest part of the entire Kalalau hike. After the sheltered hike inside Hanakoa Valley the trail reaches the coastline again as it ascends out of the valley. Here you reach the mythical Crawler’s Ledge.

This part of the trail is right at the coastline, narrow and unprotected. The wind is often strong and the heights could be freightening. When you hike here it’s easy to realize why it’s called Crawler’s Ledge.

When you have passed Crawler’s Ledge the hike becomes easier again as the trail gets less exposed and the wind calms. After 10 miles (16 km) you reach the sign that informs you that you are entering Kalalau Valley. Here it’s time for the final and very steep distance down the Red Hill which offers amazing view over Kalalau Valley and Kalalau Beach.

Kalalau Valley on Kauai
Kalalau Valley on the Na Pali coast.

The ultimate Kauai hike FAQ

What is the difference between the Kalalau Trail and Hanikapiai Falls Trail?

The trail from Kee Beach to Hanakapiai Beach is part of both the Kalalau Trail and Hanakapiai Falls Trail. As the Kalalau Trail continues for 9 more miles (14,5 km) along the coast, Hanakapiai Falls Trail continues for 2 more miles (3,2 km) upstream towards the falls.

Where should you stay near the Kalalau Trail?

There are great Kauai places to stay near the Kalalau Trail. From Princeville it’s just 10 miles (16 km) to its trailhead. If you stay in Hanalei, the distance to the adventure is even shorter.

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