Hiking the Kalalau Trail (and Straying from the Path)
I had heard from several trusted sources that hiking the Kalalau Trail along the Napali Coast was an unforgettable experience. Being an avid hiker, I wanted to see it for myself, so I set out to cross this adventure off my bucket list. The 11-mile trail climbs and dips through lush valleys with stunning views of the pali (cliffs) and the multi-colored sea. Eleven miles seemed a bit too adventurous for a first trek, so my partner and I decided to give the first two miles a try, from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach.
We are not huge fans of planning each day of our vacation down to the last minute, so our two-mile hike was our only goal for the day. How we got there and what happened afterward would be left to adventure. Our hotel was on the eastern shore of Kauai, so we stopped for some coffee at a local café before heading out. I asked the barista for breakfast suggestions in the Hanalei area, and she gave us the name of one of her favorite places (Hanalei Wake Up Café), where we later enjoyed a marvelous breakfast of macadamia nut pancakes with fresh fruit and an absolutely gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains.
After breakfast, we made the final 20-minute drive along the beautiful coastline to Ke’e Beach to begin our hike. As we summited the first steep hill, the famed view of the Napali Coast stretched out majestically as far as we could see. With waves crashing below us, the color of the water changed from a vibrant blue-green to a deep blue. We proceeded to Hanakapi’ai Beach, taking pictures and stopping to close our eyes and breathe in our beautiful surroundings. Our jaws dropped as we saw a few locals running the trail on their bare feet holding surfboards above their heads! We arrived at the beach and found a shady spot to refuel with a snack. At this point in the trail, a permit is required in order to keep going south, and we didn’t have one. So we flipped through our guidebook and found a two-mile trail from the beach inland to Hanakapi’ai Falls.
As we made our way along the worm trail through the lush valley, the scent of the guava fruit engulfed us from every angle. We could see the top of the falls above the trees in the distance. When we finally arrived, we felt as though we had discovered a secret. We took a nice dip in the refreshing water and then sat on the rocks to reflect on the beauty and soak in the serenity.
After a while, some clouds started rolling in. We still had four miles to get back to the trail head, and the rain wasn’t going to wait for us. We reached the end of our journey covered from head to toe in red dirt. We couldn’t get into the car like this, so we decided to retire our shoes and socks and take one last dip in the refreshing waters at Ke’e Beach. The clouds had opened up and it was pouring rain, but it was an amazing experience. We were seeing nature in action and enjoying every moment of it as we cleaned the red dirt from our bodies.
We didn’t know what to expect when we decided to make the hike our adventure for the day. We didn’t plan on being anywhere at any certain time; we just went and made the best of what was given to us. Rain or shine, be adventurous and stray from your itinerary at least once during your vacation. Be relaxed and you’ll discover that a bit less planning can turn into an unexpected and memorable experience.