Hiking in Paradise


The Kalalau Trail ends at the beach of the same name, where there are also places to pitch up camp.

If you’re fortunate enough to be travelling to Kauai, Hawaii – or, indeed, if you’re fortunate enough to be sitting there as you read this – you might want to consider walking the Kalalau Trail.

The reason that you might want to consider walking the Kalalau Trail it is because it will ravish your eyeballs with arguably the most magnificent scenery on the planet.

One of the best natural attractions in Hawaii, it runs for 11 miles along the Na Pali Coast, an area of almost ethereal beauty, starting at Ke’e Beach in Ha’ena State Park and ending at Kalalau Beach in Na Pali State Park. The first two miles are popular with day hikers, presenting dramatic views of the coast and finishing at the sandy – and normally secluded – Hanakapiai Beach. Tempting as they may seem, the waters here are extremely treacherous and have claimed many lives, so resist the urge to cool off.

While most will turn back at this point, the more adventurous press on, into the emerald curves of the Hanakapiai Valley. For the next four miles the walking becomes rather strenuous, with the Trail clambering 800 feet out of the valley and passing through a nature reserve. From here, the route runs through Hanakoa Valley, where many choose to camp for the night.

Napali CoastNapali CoastNapali CoastNapali CoastNapali Coast, Honopu ArchNapali Coast, Honopu ArchOlokele Canyon, KauaiOlokele Canyon, Kauai

The last five miles of the Trail are slightly easier going, though the path gets very narrow in places with sheer drops to the ocean, so tread carefully. It is on this section that you’ll begin to get views of Kalalau Valley and its iconic fluted cliffs that plunge into the cobalt Pacific, so this should help spur you on if you’re beginning to feel the strain.

The Kalalau Trail ends at the beach of the same name, where there are also places to pitch up camp for the night.

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To walk beyond Hanakapiai Beach you will need a Hiking Permit (free; hawaiistateparks.org) and if camping out you will need a Camping Permit ($15-20; hawaiistateparks.org). If attempting the whole trail (22 mile-roundtrip) you will have to camp for at least one night, as it will be completely unfeasible to complete in a single day. This is a tough hike; there are very steep inclines and declines for much of the way, so don’t attempt unless you are in reasonably good shape. There are no supplies en-route, so you will need to bring everything, including food, water and shelter. Though the weather is usually glorious, bring a light raincoat just in case.