Trip Report | Kalalau Trail Kauai PART 2

June 27, 2014  •  1 Comment

Click Here to read PART 1 of this Trip Report


This blog post is for entertainment only (and maybe a bit of information gathering). We are not backpacking experts, and don’t recommend you follow what we did as a good idea at all. So we hold no liability if you hurt or kill yourself or others while reenacting the tale below. In fact, we would encourage, nay, implore you to not repeat what we did, how we did it. There’s probably much better, safer, and saner ways go about this endeavor than we did. But if epic is what you want, then yeah, sure, make the same mistakes we did and get yourself into trouble. Danger is fun. 


Kalalau Trail Kauai PART 2


Miles 10 - 11:

As luck would have it, we couldn’t have timed our arrival to Kalalau Valley any better. The beach was still one mile away, but we made it to the overlook just as the sun was beginning to set and offering the best light possible for photos. The DSLR had pretty much been relegated to the backpack since Hanakapi-ai Beach at mile 2. We definitely got it out now and took some of the most amazing shots from the entire trip!


Kalalau ValleyKalalau ValleyTaking in the sunset

Sunset from Kalalau TrailOne mile from the beach Kalalau ValleyKalalau ValleyPanorama of the valley at sunset Kalalau ValleyKalalau ValleyScott enjoying the sunset and the view of Kalalau Valley after 10 miles of hiking. Kalalau ValleyKalalau ValleyNicole resting after 10 miles. Only 1 to go!


Lingering just as long as we felt comfortable, we began the hike down the red dirt ramps towards the ocean. At this point, my knees were screaming, but I was too happy to care. It was with about a half mile to go when we decided it was a good idea too break out the head lamps. Unfortunately, we did have one last major stream crossing left, and it was certainly a bit sketchy doing it in the dark.

Once we made it to the other side, it was pretty much a straight shot to the campground by the beach. We knew we’d arrived when we saw all of the other tents set up by other backpackers. Not wanting to disturb them, we carried on for a little while, past the toilets in the middle of the campground, to the far side. Once we found a nice, open spot it was a delight to take off our packs for the last time that day, knowing we wouldn’t have to put them back on. Somewhere in the distance, we could have sworn we heard a goat shriek, shouting out a death cry after being shot by a homemade bow and arrow.


Day 1 - Kalalau Beach evening:

We set up the tent without any problems, and I wandered off to find the waterfall at the far end of the beach to fill up our camp reservoir with water to boil for dinner. We inhaled our rehydrated meal and crawled into our tent, fully expecting to fall asleep almost immediately. That did not happen.

Whether it was due to being wired from the trail, not yet being used to sleeping in a tent again, or having a full belly of rehydrated Jamacian jerk chicken and rice, I don’t really know. What I do know is that neither Nicole nor I were sleeping at all. Rather than waste the opportunity, we decided to head down to the beach to look at the stars and maybe take some photos. We were incredibly fortunate that it was cloudless night and a new moon. With the lack of light pollution at this remote location coupled with the weather and moon conditions, the stars were absolutely phenomenal! Neither Nicole nor I know the first thing when it comes to astrophotography, but with stars like the ones we say, even n00bs like us could get away with some pretty nice shots.


Kalalau Valley StarsKalalau Valley StarsISO 1600, 40mm, f/4 25sec Kalalau Valley StarsKalalau StarsISO 1600, 40mm, f/4 25sec


After about 45 minutes or an hour, we decided it best to force ourselves back to the tent to get some sleep. I feel I could have just sat out there and looked at the stars until the sun came up.


Day 2 - Kalalau Beach morning: 

The next morning it was time to dawn our bathing suits and explore the beach! As we unzipped the door of our tent the sight we were greeted with was… penises (penes, actually is the correct plural of penis, but that’s a relatively obscure fact). In the darkness of the previous evening, we didn’t realize that we’d set up our tent right next to the hippy encampment. They were up early, wandering around and letting it all hang out, literally. We grabbed the cameras, our bathing suits and towels, and ran to the waterfall for a morning shower, trying to avoid the unwanted scenery. The beach itself is a marvel! Rather than write about it, I’ll let the photos and captions do the talking.

Our Campsite at Kalalau BeachOur Campsite at Kalalau BeachNight 1

Kalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiKalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiThe waterfall at the far end of the beach, closest freshwater source for the campground and a nice place to shower off the grim of the trail!


Na Pali Coast Kalalau Beach KauaiKalalau BeachWalking to the caves at the west end Na Pali Coast Kalalau Beach KauaiKalalau BeachBetween two cliff faces at the west end Na Pali Coast Kalalau Beach KauaiKalalau BeachLooking back towards the east end (the direction we hiked in from) Na Pali Coast Kalalau Beach KauaiKalalau BeachThe cliffs beyond the sand on the west end are only accessible by boat/kayak

Kalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiKalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiCave at the west end of the beach. Looked like some cool bouldering to be done, if it wasn't so wet... Kalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiKalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiEven in late April, the shore break was pretty rough Kalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiKalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiTime to do some posing for the camera! Kalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiKalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiSuck in that gut! Kalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiKalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiPanorama of the beach shot from the west end Kalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiKalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiTurtle's nest freshly hatched Kalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiKalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiTurtle's nest freshly hatched


Kalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiKalalau Beach, Na Pali Coast, KauaiLookin' cool!

Day 2 - Back to Hanakoa:

Nicole and I aren’t exactly the type of people who can just go to a beach a laze about for a day. We get too restless staying still for too long. But we could have stated at this beach all day and then some. Sadly, come midday we knew it was time to start the hike back so we wouldn’t be rushed getting to Hanakoa. And so we broke down camp, packed up our bags, and shoved off back down the trail we’d come up the previous day. Since we’d hiked this final half mile with headlamps on the previous night, this was the first time we got to see what we’d missed. The trail cut through a giant field of tall wild flowers. It was a wonderful farewell aloha & mahalo gift for us, almost like beckoning us to return some day! It definitely left an impression on me and I hope to indeed return in the future.


Na Pali Coast Kalalau Beach KauaiWildflowers on the hike outDay2



We eventually made it back over the river crossing to the red dirt ramps that climb up out of the valley back into the higher parts of the trail. While it looked miserable from below, we had our backpacking legs under us and hiking up wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it would be.


Kalalau stream crossingThis is what we had to navigate the night before wearing headlamps

Na Pali Coast Kalalau Beach KauaiRed Dirt Ramp leading out of the Kalalau ValleyDay2


The hike back to Hanakoa was quite delightful. The previous evening, we didn’t exactly have the time to relax and enjoy it since we were so hurried to make it to Kalalau before it got too late, and we were exhausted and sore by the time we were this far. On the hike out, our spirits were buoyed by our morning at Kalalau Beach, and our legs were fresh. We ran into Matt and his dog walking back towards the beach, but no goat in hand. 

He told us that he’d given up on his hunt because there was going to be a formal hunt sponsored by the Hawaii State Parks office soon. Hunters with permits and guns were going to be brought in for a goat culling. Since goats have no natural predators on the island (like the wild boars, goats are an introduced species by the Europeans), their population can grow out of control rather easily. The herds can cause serious erosion problems for these trails that need constant maintenance to prevent them from falling into the sea. So, unfortunately, no smoked goat treats for us on the hike out :(


We made it back to Crawler’ Ledge in no time at all, and this time there was no fear or anxiety. We just laughed, hooted and hollered across the ledge. There was a small herd of goats on the switchbacks leading up to the entrance of Hanakoa Valley who gave us funny looks, but then scattered as we approached. Shortly thereafter, we were back at the campground we decided to pass the previous day. This day, however, we set up camp on a terrace next to a very large tree, which I’m embarrassed to say I’ve still been unable to identify the species.


Hanakoa ValleyCamp in Hanakoa Valleynight 2



Having arrived with plenty of daylight, we relaxed at the campsite took stock of our remaining supplies, and cooked dinner. Compared with Kalalau, there’s not much to do or see here, so we just lounged in the tent, enjoyed a brief rain shower, and called in an early night. This time, we were able to fall asleep quite easily.


Day 3 - Hiking out:

The next day we were excited to pack up and head back to Hanakapi’ai Beach to meet back up with Daniel and Prasant. They enjoyed their day hike so much that first day that they wanted to do it again and we all would hike out together. Nicole and I put on a change of clothes, took down camp, and got back on the trail. We made it through Hanakoa Valley, and the other smaller valleys along the way. Though we did take a brief stop to cool down in a waterfall along the trail.



Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast, Kauai, waterfallCooling off in a waterfall along the trail Cooling off in a waterfall along the trail



We exited the natural reserve boundary and tiptoed down the muddy switchbacks towards Hanakapi’ai Beach.



Kalalau Trail Day 3 Kalalau Trail Hanakapiai Beach in the background Kalalau Trail Day 3 Kalalau Trail


Conveniently, we arrived at the beach just as Daniel and Prasant did. They wanted to push onward to see Hanakapi-ai Falls, which was 2 miles up a side trail from the beach. Nicole and I wished them well, but we didn’t particularly feel like hiking an additional 4 miles that day, so we stayed at the beach, swam in the ocean a bit, ate some food, and took naps. Daniel and Prasant came back a bit prematurely due to a sprained ankle along the way, so we actually had a reason to break out the first aid kit. With Prasant’s ankle all taped up, we crossed the final river, and moseyed down the final 2 miles to the trailhead with the promise of showers and beer waiting for us there.


End of the trail! After a much needed shower.Ahola! - Scott + Nicole


There are some places you’re satisfied only visiting once in your life, and other places that you want to go back to. The Na Pali coast is definitely in the later category! We’re both looking forward to a return visit, whenever that might be.




Merry Henig(non-registered)
Enjoyed your Blog, being that Kalalau is one of my favorite places on the planet! I've been to Hanakapa'i many times, but all the way into Kalalau only 5 times, and last summer was the first time I missed it in 5 consecutive years. I'm going again next month. The last time I hiked it I was well into my 50's, no small feat at that age! Just think about your knees in 20 years... I feel I have checked that box off! Crawler's ledge is formidable going down, not so bad coming back up when you're not staring into the face of the ocean far far below the lava-gravel slippery slope, with nothing to stop you from going all the way down. I've seen grown athletic men who RAN the trail turn around at that point, stammering that the trail was 'all eroded and unsafe'. So after I tired of the hike, we decided to Kayak it, which is really scary the first time, the swells looked so small from shore, but not so when you're on the open ocean in a low kayak, and the cliffs are so jagged with waves crashing upon them. Of course we went solo without a guide, after all, I have my own personal lifeguard... Ha! I was still scared shitless, especially with kayak low in the water due to all the gear on top! And my 'lifeguard' kept wanting to try to find the caves we heard about, and those cliffs are solid rock with crashing waves, although we did find them eventually. I have now decided that boating is the only way to go for me. I like to save my legs for hiking up in the valleys, they hold incredible treasures including the remnants of the old Hawaiian civilizations that lived in there, not to mention some amazing pristine and tall waterfalls. One day I spent 8 hours hiking in the Kalalau Valley and didn't even see it all, easy to get lost in there. I also met Matt on one of the hikes in, complete with his bow and arrow, and I've gotten to know some of the 'hippies' who live in there from my many trips. The ones I got to know swim in the ginger pools and don't smell bad. They also mostly had shoes. One guy in there hasn't been out of the valley in 14 years! There are some interesting camps and some interesting people in there. I would love to spend six months in there sometime and just completely drop out, and get to really know the Valley. After I retire, it's on my bucket list. I could change my mind, but think I'll wear my shoes. Really an amazing place, glad you guys did it and enjoyed it, it's not for everyone!
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