Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach and Falls

January 30th, 2010: Kauai, N. America

On our second day in Kauai, all present and future Daums were convinced to go on a hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach along the Kalalau Trail. The beach is the first destination on this scenic trail that wraps around eleven miles of the rugged Na Pali Coast.

We started the hike at the Ke’e Beach trailhead before noon. The trail was in shadow for most of the way there, making for cool temperatures and a dark jungly atmosphere. The amount of tropical greenery was astounding: lush succulents, dangling vines, banyan and other odd tropical trees with hanging roots, wild flowers and small purple orchids, ferns, palms, moss, rustling grasses. Wildlife was scarce aside from wild chickens and an assortment of lizards, frogs, and spiders.

Luckily, the trail wasn’t that wet. There were a few steep, slippery, and rutted areas and a couple stretches of mud. The hike was slow going on the way there as my parents aren’t used to the combination of elevation changes and tropical scenery.

About a mile in, we were able to see the overlapping cliffs of the Napali Coast.

Our 8 mile hike.

Father at the start of the hike.

The top of the first hill.

Climbing over roots.

Looking at the flora.

Textured tropical trunks.

Seed pods.

Banyan roots.

Freshly pruned jungle.

Wild orchids.

Blue waves below.

The first glimpse of the Napali Coast.

Sleeping giant.


Shaded trail with a view.

More roots.

Spiked spiders everywhere.



Mud puddles.

Moss and ferns.

Another view as the trail got sunny.

Walking towards the sun.


Me and my pint-sized pectorals.

Crossing a little creek.


Mossy trunk.

J.’s ascension.

Muddy stairs.

Ants on a trunk.

The shafts of light.

Warning sign.

Another warning sign.



Crossing the Hanakapi’ai.

Hanakapi’ai Beach.

By the time we reached Hanakapi’ai Beach, the sun was overhead. We forded the rocky Hanakapi’ai Stream and sat under a tree for a lunch of boiled eggs, cheese and crackers, trail mix, bananas, and water. The waves pounded on the the rocky beach in front of us. It was relaxing.

My sister, J. and I decided to hike another two miles up the stream to see a waterfall. My parents would head back on their own and wait for us at the starting beach.

The hike to the falls was scenic too. It followed the stream, crossing a few times. The crossings involved skillful jumps or accidental soakings. The trail passed through ferns, bamboo forest, and under wild guava trees. Some guava had fallen, but it was very tart. Hanakapi’ai Valley was at one time populated with native Hawaiians that thrived off the bounty of the sea and by farming taro, bananas, and sweet potatoes. Around 1900, coffee was also planted and farmed in the valley by non-natives. However, by 1920 the valley was abandoned as native Hawaiians opted for less isolated locations to live.

The jungle had retaken all the scantiest evidence of habitation.

Life preserver.

Hanakapi’ai stream looking into the valley.

A nasty bathroom.


Little grasshoppers on the fern.


Sister and bamboo.

More bamboo.

And more.

Tart wild guava.


The stream.

Plants clinging to the underside of a dripping hillside.

Hanakapi’ai Falls.

Hanakapi’ai Falls!

Ferns at its misty base.

Wet flowers.

Hanakapi’ai Falls drops 120 feet into a large pool. There are a few smaller cascades just downstream from the pool. Beautiful. Signs warning of falling boulders were there to discourage people from getting too close, but we hiked up to the pool. Surrounded on three sides by towering cliffs, we listened to the roar of the water and were cooled by the misty breeze. A large slope of ferns and flowers was thriving.

Green peaks.


Tree and water.

The blue water of Ke’e Beach.

Kauai’s water is so beautiful.

We began our hike back. It was hot and long, though not as muddy. We were more tired than we expected. Four miles later, and eight miles total, we were back at Ke’e Beach. The chickens ran up to us like our children. They were either expecting hugs or grain. We gave them neither.

The Daums (and J.) got into their Escape with smiles of physical satisfaction. We drove to weird melodies of Brian Wilson. The rest of the afternoon was spent sunbathing at the beach of Hanalei Bay. Beautiful mountains loomed behind us.

9 Responses

Craig said:

Those spiders are seriously wacky!

daniel said:

i kept expecting a smoke monster, or a polar bear. even without either it looks like a phenomenal time.

robert said:

hey what camera did you use for those pics…….they look awesome

Nik replies:

Hi Robert,

Thanks for commenting on my blog.

I used a cheap Nikon D40 SLR for those pics. Not the greatest camera, but small and cheap for the quality. I don’t think they make it anymore, the successor is the D3000 or something.

You going to Kauai?

Kristi said:

Hi, my boyfriend and I are talking about going on this same hike. I was wondering how long did it take you to do the whole hike, and did you see any areas you could possibly camp at?

Nik replies:

Hi Kristi,

Thanks for reading my blog.

I was hiking with my parents, so we only went three miles in to the beach. Then my sister, girlfriend and I walked another three miles up to the waterfall. That was as far as we could go without permits technically.

I’m not sure if there is camping until you get to the sites at the very end of the trail, 11 miles in. You need a permit to camp there, which you can get once you get to the island I think.

The total six miles we hiked took most of the day, but we were stopping a lot. I imagine hiking the 11 miles to the campsite would take most of the day too, so starting early would be best. Plus, there will be fewer people on the first leg of the trail.

Sorry I can’t offer more advice. Someday I want to go on the full hike.


Harold said:

My daughter and I are planning on making that hike next week. We were wondering if it was necessary to carry a separate pair of wet shoes for crossing streams? Can you cross all the streams without getting your feet wet? Also, if we go swimming at the falls, is there any place for privacy to change clothes. I don’t think I would enjoy the 4 mile hike back in wet clothes. We were figuring on 8 hours for the 8 mile hike.

Marg said:

Nice to see the warning signs are really posted at the falls. The rocks really do fall! My daughter was hit during a rockfall at this site. She was very lucky to have survived with only a large gash to the side of her head and her shoulder blade split in two pieces. Had the rock hit a bit more to the left, she would have been killed instantly. Rocks let loose twice in the span of about an hour raining large and small boulders from the top of the falls. This does not happen every day, but enough to be cautious. ER folks in Lihue were surprised that she was not injured more severely or killed. There were no warning signs when we visited. We requested these for future visitors,. The rock/boulder debris around the pool is a result of the rockfall – these really shoot out that far! Pretty scary when it occurs. Also – one needs to hike out for help – no phone service or radio on this side of the island, so it is a good wait for help to come – helicopters do not land at the falls – only down at the beach. Guide books need to stop telling folks to swim in the pool at the falls, there are pools below without the danger.

Nik replies:

Wow, well I’m glad she’s okay. The signs didn’t seem to be keeping everyone out of the water though, which is unfortunate. They did keep me out. I’m afraid of death from above, beautiful waterfall or not.

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