The Kalalau Trail is often considered one of the most scenic and challenging hikes in all of Hawaii.
Starting at the end of the Kuhio Highway on Kauai’s north shore, the Kalalau Trail goes up and down ridges for 11 miles across the otherwise impassable Na Pali Coast.
The trail immediately goes up and within 1/4 mile, you come across a great viewpoint of Ke’e Beach near the start of the trail.
The trail climbs steadily until you reach about 600 feet in elevation, providing amazing views as you look west to the imposing Na Pali Coast. After reaching the top of this first ridge, the trail descends into the Hanakapi’ai Valley until you cross over a stream and see the wide-open Hanakapi’ai Beach stretching out in front of you, about 2 miles from the trailhead.
Hanakapi’ai Beach is the farthest I could get in the time I had, but the Kalalau Trail continues for 9 more miles up and down Na Pali’s ridges. The trail is part of Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, and starting in 2012 camping permits are required for anyone venturing past Hanakoa Valley, 6 miles in from the trailhead. There’s also a 2+ mile spur trail south from Hanakapi’ai Beach to a 300-foot waterfall.
Directions: From Lihue or Kapa’a, take the Kuhio Highway up to the north coast until it ends at Ke’e Beach. There’s a parking lot nearby that can be crowded. The trail starts north of the turnaround at the end of the road.