Hiking the Napali Coast Trail

hawaiistparksHiking, Kauai0 Comments

napali coast

The Napali Coast Trail (Kalalua Trail) offers some of the most beautiful and challenging hiking in Hawaii. The Napali Coast Trail is part of the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. This 11-mile trail provides the only access to this part of the Napali Coast. Visitors describe it as feeling like you’ve stepped into Jurassic Park. The surrounding cliffs tower as much as 4,000 feet above sea level providing fantastic views of the lush countryside, the azure blue Pacific Ocean, secluded unspoiled beaches, and the Kalalua Valley.

The Napali Coast Trail was originally built in the 1800s from a trail used by the Hawaiians who lived in valleys along the coast. Portions were rebuilt in the 1930s. It winds through five valleys, past streams by steep sea cliffs, and ends at Kalalau Beach. Many rare native plant species grow along the trail and wild animals and birds can be seen along the route.

The trailhead is at the northwest end of Route 56 in Haena State Park, approximately a 1 ½ hour drive from Lihue Airport. The first two miles up to Hanakapiai Valley (two miles from the trailhead) does not require a permit and is a popular day hike, suitable for casual hikers. The remainder of the trail is more narrow, crosses mountain streams, has steep drop offs to the ocean, and is recommended for experienced and fit hikers only. While it may be possible to make the 22-mile round trip in one day, most people hiking the entire trail choose to camp at the halfway point in Hanakoa Valley due to the challenging nature of the hike.

An overnight camping permit is required to go beyond Hanakapiai Valley. Permits can be purchased online or from any State Parks district office. Purchase a permit well in advance, as permits are limited and sell out quickly, especially in the summer months. Note: there is no overnight parking. Hikers must arrange for a shuttle or other transportation to and from the trailhead for overnight hikes.

Summer is the best time for hiking the Napali Coast Trail because the weather is dry, and the sea is calm. Kauai is known for its sudden storms which often come up during the night and early morning, so wear sturdy waterproof shoes and pack rain gear. Temperatures can be warm during the day and cool at night, so dress in layers and bring appropriate sleeping bags for overnight stays.