Helpful Information to Know Before Hiking Kauai’s Kalalau Trail
The Hanakapiai or Kalalau Trail, beginning in Haena at Ke’e Beach, is a world renowned north shore Kauai hiking trail offering some of the best views of the scenic and dramatic northwest Na Pali Coastline that you can enjoy from land. This trail takes you into Kalalau Valley, ending at a secluded beach 11 miles up the trail. Used by both locals and visitors, this hike won’t leave you disappointed (don’t forget the camera!).
The Na Pali Coast ‘Kalalau’ trail is best understood if broken down into three parts; the three parts of the Kalalau Trail include:
Section 1: Ke’e Beach to Hanakapiai Beach (2 Miles/One Way)
Section 2: Hanakapiai Beach to Hanakoa (4 Miles/One Way)
Section 3: Hanakoa to Kalalau (5 Miles/One Way)
Trail Facts & Information
- Skill Level: Beginner-Advanced
- Length: 11 Miles (One Way)
- Est. Time of Completion: 7-8+ Hours (One Way)
Please Note: Plan on this north shore hiking trail taking a good half day to complete. Section 1 can be completed by beginner hikers, but section 3 is only for novice hikers.
If you plan to go all the way to Kalalau Valley, you will need proper hiking gear and a camping permit (you can be fined without one). Please know that Section 3 of the Kalalau Trail can be dangerous, so use caution and make sure to take the weather into consideration before planning a hike, as the trail gets slippery when it rains.
Permits Required for Hiking & Camping in Na Pali Coast State Park
Because the Kalalau Trail is such a popular north shore Kauai hiking trail there is a high demand for Kauai camping permits, which are limited in supply, especially during the summer months. Planning ahead of time and making sure you have all the required Kauai camping permits will ensure a better overall experience in Kalalau Valley; some important Kauai camping information when staying overnight at Na Pali Coast State Park includes:
A maximum stay of 5 nights is allowed in Na Pali Coast State Park. Within the 5-night maximum, no 2 consecutive nights are allowed at Hanakoa.
Permitees are allowed to reserve no more than one campsite or cabin in any given park at a time.
Rental of cabins or campsites for commercial uses is prohibited except by special use permit.
All permits for camping and staying overnight must be paid for in full at the time of reservation – DSP no longer accepts partial deposits.
Obtain all camping permits from the new online Hawaii State Parks permits portal or any State Parks office. Hawaii State Park offices are open Monday-Friday, 8 am-3:30 pm (Hawaii time). Offices are closed on State Holidays. Additional Kauai camping & hiking permit information:
- Kalalau Kauai Camping Permits & Fees
- Hawaii State Parks Camping Permit Policies & Information (Na Pali Coast State Park)
- Hawaii State Parks Hiking Information (Na Pali Coast State Park)
Note: As of Jan. 1, 2012, day-use hiking permits for the Kalalau Trail have been discontinued. Day hiking is now allowed without a permit up to Hanakoa Valley (6 miles in from trailhead). Anyone proceeding beyond Hanakoa Valley must possess a valid camping permit.
Recommended Time of Year to Hike into Kalalau
While the Kalalau Trail along Kauai’s Napali Coastline is (usually) open to the public year round, there are better times to visit and hike this north shore trail than others. The best time to hike into Kalalau Valley is first thing in the morning during the summer months (May to Oct.) when the trail is dry, in decent condition, and you have more daylight hours.
- Best Time: Mid May – Early October (Summer)
- Most Dangerous Time: December – February (Late Winter)
Kauai is “the wettest spot in the world,” and receives a lot of rain during the winter months, making the hike to Kalalau dangerous during that time due to slippery terrain and challenging conditions. Dec-Feb is probably the most dangerous time to hike to Kalalau Valley due to eroded, slippery trail sections and loose, falling rocks.
Recommended Things to Bring on a Kauai Hiking Trail
We don’t recommend carrying too many items when hiking this trail due to areas that get steep and may be slippery, but there are some hiking essentials you will want to bring when hiking a Kauai trail:
- Good Hiking Shoes w/Traction (not slippers)
- Small Backpack or Hippack
- Plenty of Bottled Water (never drink Kauai river or stream water)
- Healthy Snacks
- Camera (optional)
Kalalau Trail Highlights
- Dramatic, lush views of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast
- Can be completed by all skill levels (depending on section)
- Famous, World Renowned Hawaii Hiking Trail
- Indigenous Hawaii Plants & Animals
- Whale watch from land on this Kauai hiking trail (best month March)
- Hanakapiai Beach & Hanakapiai Falls
- Kalalau Valley & Kalalau Beach
Things to Watch Out For When Hiking to Kalalau Valley
- Camping Permits Needed (if hiking Section 3 – see above)
- Steep, Narrow Terrain
- Falling Rocks
- Flash Floods (trail becomes extremely dangerous when wet)
Directions to the Hanakapiai/Kalalau Trailhead
The start of this scenic Kauai hiking trail is relatively easy to find when you’re vacationing on Kauai’s north shore. The beginning of the Kalalau Trail is located on Kauai’s north shore at the end of Kuhio Hwy. in Haena State Park at Ke’e Beach, locally known as “the end of the road.”
Basically, once on Kauai’s north shore, just follow Kuhio Hwy. North over several one-lane bridges until you can’t drive any further. There is a large parking lot to park your car and the trailhead is found against the mountain and is marked by a sign.