Guide to Hiking the Na Pali Coast
22 magic miles
After my second trip to Kauai and making it 4 miles on this beautiful trail, I thought it was time to update this post! However, I decided to just make a brand new one that's super organized, and full of everything you need to know about this amazing journey.
what is the na pali coast?
The Na Pali Coast is one of the most remote and beautiful places on Earth. This stunning rugged coast line is made up of soaring cliffs, endless waterfalls, unreal hiking trails and more. Kauai is its home and you can see the coast by foot, boat, helicopter, or kayak - there are no roadways or vehicles allowed.
what is the kalalau trail?
This famous trail is a total of 22 miles along the Na Pali Coast. There are tons of viewpoints, an epic beach, and soaring falls along the way. After treaking 11 miles with all your camping & survival gear, you will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful beach campsites in the US. If you plan on hiking all the way, a permit from the State is required, which I'll go over more below.
This is the very first view point! Ke'e Beach is the official start of the trail, so at 0.25 miles in you will find yourself at Ke'e lookout. If you are not an avid hiker, I still suggest coming at lest this far. The views are unbeatable and the first stretch is not to difficult, but hard enough to make it worth it.
At 0.5, you will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful views in Hawaii. Every picture I take here looks like a fake green screen - it is gorgeous. While you may have to conquer a few steep hills to get here, the view makes it worth it. There is space here to rest and take pictures, so make sure you hydrate. My first attempt I only made it 0.5 miles further than this so don't be discouraged if you don't go far! Its the fact your still doing some :)
Tip: This hikes climate may change along the trail It is always a good idea to bring a rain jacket to be prepared no matter what. The trail is also very humid and hot so start early in the day to avoid to much heat. After rainfall this trail is extremely slippery and muddy so if you can avoid hiking at this time please do.
the great shoe debate
While hiking this trail, I saw footwear of every kind. From sassy flip flops, to old Vans, bare-footers, and even some sneakers. This trail is very steep, and semi strenuous so - even though its been proven that almost any (or none) shoe can make it along this trail, the best thing you can wear is a supportive your shoe, like tennis shoes or hiking boots.
While there are lots of lookouts and beautiful sights along this trail, it can be broken down into some major sections and points. The first two viewpoints of Ke'e Beach and The Coast are located at 0.25 and 0.5 miles. Then the second part of the treak will lead you to Hanakapi'ai Beach - which is located two miles in, making it a four mile round trip journey. This is the most common point to make it to. If you want to test your self a bit more - the third stop is Hanakapi'ai Falls. It sits 4 miles into the trail making it an eight mile hike. round trip. [Anything after the Falls requires a permit from the state.] At 6 miles in you will find your self at Hanakoa Valley. This is another campsite where hikers can choose to stay for the night or keep going. Finally, the last major milestone is Kalalau Campground at 11 miles in or 22 miles total round trip.
Hanakapi'ai Beach is a beautiful remote gem. However, there are plenty or warning signs at the beginning of the trail and here that this beach is not one to mess with. While some dedicated locals hike with their surfboards in hand here, this water is not for everyone. Strong currents have swept many out to see proving to be fatal water.
Avoid the water in the winter and always listen to signs and safety personal - it could save your life. If you do choose to get in stay close to the shore break and never get to a point you cannot touch. Watch for curretns before getting in and always be cautious.
To get to the beach: you will have to cross a river. On this particular day we were dealing with some flash flooding so it made crossing the river a bit tricky. Pack up all your stuff in your bag and take off your shoes. Go slow while crossing becuase rocks can be very slippery. If safety personal tells you do not cross, then please do not. This water moves very rapidly and could potentially be dangerous.
what Should i bring?
It is important to have everything you need and no more. This trail is hot, long, and remote so bringing just the right amount of stuff is key.
Just Hiking 8 miles or less:
- at LEST 64 oz of water (2x if full 8 miles)
- Quality hiking shoes + clothes
- Energizing snacks like bars, trail mix, or light sandwiches
- Rain Jacket - conditions are different every stretch
- Camera, trust me.
Camping 5 days:
- Iodine tablets to filter water
- Sustainable food (NO campfires allowed)
- Tent (optional) + sleeping bag
- Toiletries + Toilet Paper
- Clothes + Swimwear
how to get a permit
Permits sell out VERY quickly and over 1 year in advance so plan EARLY
Step 1: Access the permit website here: https://camping.ehawaii.gov/camping/welcome.html
and click 'continue'.
Step 2: On the left hand side using the dropdown menu change the island to 'Kauai'
Step 3: Select 'Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park' and hit continue
Step 4: Once you read through the rule and regulations select 'Make a Reservation' in the bottom right corner. You will be asked to make a free account with the State. Once you have done this and logged on - you can select 'Make a Reservation' again
Step 5: Select your days and fill out all required information. Right now the next permit available are in October! The permit is good for 5 nights at any of the campsite along the trail.
Permits are a bit pricy at $20 per person a day. But the good news is this permit covers your rescue fee! Should you find yourself in trouble, a helicopter can come get you at no cost, but this is ONLY if you have a permit. Also Hawaii residents get a $5 day discount.
Park Rangers do scatter the trail throughout the day to ensure safety. On this day, becuase of the flooding, we weren't not allowed to hike to the falls. But we said that it's ok - each time we come we do a little bit more :) So I know one day I will eventually make it all the way to the camp site. After you finish your hike make sure you see the coast from the sea with Blue Ocean Adventures!
how to get here
The Na Pali Coast Kalalau Trail is the very end of the road here on the North Shore of Kauai. There is a large parking lot at Ke'e beach where the start of the trailhead is also located. There is an overflow parking lot about 0.25 miles down the road if the first lot is full. The trail head is clearly marked and so is the trail.
This hike is in one of the most remote places on Earth, cell service and emergency personal are not easily accessible here. Ensure you are going in good conditions and with the proper supplies. Pack plenty of water, food, towels, sunglasses and other hiking necessities. This hike is very steep and should only be attempted by moderately experienced hikers. After rainfall this trail is extremely slippery and dangerous so try to avoid this time. If safety warnings or rangers prevent you from going to a certain point, please listen and do not take these warnings lightly or it may cost you your life.