We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“Wish I could give a SIX!!”
Review of Kalalau Trail

Kalalau Trail
Ranked #5 of 284 things to do in Kauai
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Kauai's hiking trail along the Na Pali coast.
Reviewed March 3, 2013

Look there is not alot to say about this trip, it speaks for itself. It is truly a bucket list, onnce in a life time type trip. I actually read a guide book that really talked it down, I disagree. Lets face it there are very few hike like this in the world, if you are able it is a must do. Along the way you see a beach with tons of cairns, wild goats, fruit trees, and the views there are no words. The mystique of the squatters at the end of the trail really appeals to me. Yes there is some evidence of them that is visible but I felt it did not take away from the experience at all. Come on many of us have a secret fantasy of escping to a tropical paradise and simple life. There are two side hike s as well that will take you to waterfalls. I had limited time so I was not able to do them but, I recomend taki g the time to do them. Spend a least four days on this trail i'd say, and escape into another world.

1  Thank Foodsthegame
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a Review
Reviews (1,462)
There are newer reviews for Kalalau Trail
See the most recent reviews
Traveler rating
Traveler type
Time of year

1,076 - 1,080 of 1,462 reviews

Reviewed March 2, 2013

I just wanted to "second" the many suggestions here to take a trek pole or two on this steep, rugged trail. My husband and I had done the section from Ke'e Beach up to the second lookout (what I dub "Hurricane Ridge" for its body-pummeling winds of 50 mph or more!) on several occasions. We typically come to Kauai in the winter, so some of the popular trails are just too slippery and muddy to negotiate. However, we lucked out today! We hiked the 2.0 mile section from Ke'e to Hanakapi'ai (4 miles round trip, which, like dog years, will feel like far MORE!). You will climb 600 feet in elevation to the top, then 600 feet down to the Hanakapi'ai River, in those two miles. Not trivial!

We had a very windy but sunny day with no sprinkles on which to do the hike. Also, it hadn't rained much in the past week, so the trail was in IDEAL conditions to hike. The wind actually kept us cool, but in a couple sections of the trail it was c r a z y - windy! I had two trek poles, giving me the 4WD traction that another reviewer mentioned. The first half mile up to the lookout is pretty steep, and almost entirely "paved" with large rocks and tree roots. You'll be huffin' by the time you poke your head out at Hurricane Ridge, which offers a stunning view of Ke'e Beach far below. (There is also a lookout with a similar view not so far up, but try to push yourself to get to the windy spot.)

At the windy lookout point, you will be tempted to crawl on all fours - no kidding! It is that windy. I have had sunglasses whipped off my head right there. However, persevere! You're already one-fourth of the way to the Hanakapi'ai River. Around the corner from that spot you begin to go slowly downhill, and from there to the Hanakapi'ai River, the final 1.5 miles is a mix of trickling waterfalls, some muddy/slippery patches over rocks, more steep uphill, and finally a vertical drop down to the Hanakapi'ai River.

Once down by the river, you can choose to hop over boulders to the other side, or just find a shady rock and enjoy your picnic lunch. The day we hiked, few backpackers were doing the strenuous, 10.6-mile trail all the way to the end in the Kalalau Valley. But most people on the trail at least crossed the river to the other side. Why? I dunno. The beach is VERY rough and windswept, with the roar of the ocean waves. The river wasn't running too high today, but even so, several people have somehow fallen from boulders while crossing and been swept to see. I honestly couldn't see how that was possible, because the river has several pools as well as shallow water that didn't seem to run fast or deep. Most likely because it hadn't rained much in a week! I would *never* push the envelope here.

You will need a fair amount of reserve energy to turn back at the Hanakapi'ai River and repeat the trail back to Ke'e, so keep that in mind! At 57, being reasonably fit, I didn't have much trouble doing the hike wearing Solomon sneakers, but by the last quarter mile, both my husband and I were mentally fatigued from having to gauge each and every footstep as we picked out way over rocks, tree roots, slippery waterfall crossings and steep terrain. That said, I was SO glad to have done the hike, and found the view of the coastline absolutely magical! Even the parts of the trail that wind through dark valleys and almost jungle-like vegetation are exquisite. I fantasized about being in a party of Hawaiian trail-blazers, and imagined how they would've done the same hike with NO trail maintenance in bare feet! It's impressive.

Be sure to take a light daypack with at least 8 oz of water for every hour you think you'll be out there (probably 3-4 hours)! Wear a sunhat, sunglasses, and lightweight, long-sleeved top and crop pants. There are a few mosquitoes in the darker parts of the trail, but if YOU keep moving, they won't be landing. You might also want to bring bug repellant, sunblock, lip balm and a picnic lunch. Finally, note that there is NO cell phone connection for the majority of the trail. Sorry! So be fit and be prepared to take responsibility for yourself.

Begin with a rest stop at Ke'e Beach, because that is the ONLY place along the trail where you can even think about going to the bathroom. There is no place to step discreetly off the trail and answer the calls of nature. Oh, you could step off the trail, but you'd likely take a 500-foot plunge down to the coast. Take your time on the hike, stop often and enjoy the view!

1  Thank 1TahoeQueen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 1, 2013 via mobile

If you're spending time here and in the forums, you'll know what you're getting into. Be aware plenty of people don't, which is why you see comments on flip flops.

Here are the basics/our background/experience:

- My wife and I went in late February, and it was raining before and during the hike
- We are mid 30s, active, and have done decent hiking--which means NOT on paved trails, that does NOT qualify you as being a hiker--that's called being a "walker"
- We did a lot of research in the forums, know our limits, and err on the side of being over prepared
- Of course you'll get muddy, of course a wet trail is slippery. This is still a very well maintained trail--don't you dare expect a gravel or paved trail... Go hike in Iowa
- We arrived early, and were the first group to the crazy Hanakapiai torrent (well past "stream" classification), we took plenty of pictures, took our time in the mud, and made it one way in 1 hour 20 min.
- The stream was clearly not safe to cross. Two burly guys did after about 30 of us were waiting, but the water was past their waists. If you know about stream crossings, anything over your calves/knees is not safe to cross if the water is moving faster than you can walk--this day it was crazy. The following day was when the poor woman was swept away after trying to cross--50 or so people stuck.
- On the way back, around 10 AM or so, I think we passed over 100 people starting the hike--so it not only took us longer, but I'm sure they were slowed as well--ALL sorts of abilities and prepardness levels later in the day.
- We turned back at the river/torrent after holding out an hour

My advice:
- Trekking poles, trekking poles, trekking poles. We saw some "non-traditional" hikers who grabbed the silly bamboo sticks at the trailhead--and used them like canes. Yeesh
- We got to the trailhead by 6:50, and were the third group to hike--parking lot was more than jammed by 11, so if you show up that late, don't complain, lots of people visit Ke'e beach. Those of us early were hikers and backpackers--no flip flops or white canvas Keds (yes, we saw those later)
- We brought three liters of water each, and barely drank a liter each--it was raining and 68 degrees. Hotter and sunny, I'm sure most would drink more.
- We were a little unsure about the rain, but glad we hiked anyway, we took it seriously but it is well maintained, and we never felt nervous, it's just not that bad or strenuous if you're in shape.
- If you do what we did and hike in the rain or nasty conditions, stay away from "group think" and know your limits. If you don't feel comfortable, having a Bear Grylls-type guy cross the stream (or equivalent) should NOT embolden you to think you can do something like that--unless he's reading this., too.. Be smart.
- The views are less epic in fog and rain. Ah well.

2  Thank FamilyAdventuresMN
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 28, 2013

This is a great trail with some spectacular views but it is not without danger. The trail is very uneven and rocky and has some very slippery sections. A girl advised us to use hiking poles and am I ever glad she did. As she said, "it gives you 4 wheel drive traction and control." We hiked it in Merrels with vibram soles but the treads fill with mud and became slippery so I recommend boots with good soles. I saw people in barefeet and flipflops (iwouldn't recommend this). Take some water shoes for the stream crossing,keep your knees facing upstream when crossing( a hiker drowned here). Don't go if it raining or threatening rain(the locals Don't). Allow 3 1/2 to 4 hrs to the beach and back another hour at the beach to enjoy it and the views, take lots of water at least a liter per person,and be respectful of slower hikers. I saw several macho men passing people on narrow parts of the trail(they took the inside of course). Lastly allow time to stop and enjoy the views.

3  Thank Duckconsultant
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 25, 2013

I was a little nervous starting off because a guy cleaning the bathrooms was telling us that it would take us 6-7 hrs to hike the 8 miles to the waterfall and back. We got there by 9 AM and had water and a little food so figured we would make a decision to go on after couple of hours on how far to hike. (Make sure you get there early because the parking is very limited.) Please wear shoes that you won't be upset if they get ruined because they will get muddy from the red clay and it is impossible to get out. It was hard to watch women in brand new white expensive shoes hiking. It was also hard to watch people try to hike in flip flops. Don't do it!
Getting to the "beach" seemed easy and not too muddy considering it had rained the day before. You can walk the first half mile to get a great Napali Coast view. There really wasn't a beach at the end in the winter because of the surf but a great place to rest before continuing on. It had taken us only one hour to hike the one mile to the beach so we continued on to the falls.
This was when the trail became really muddy but if you don't care about a little mud it was fine. You have to cross the stream many times so give up trying to keep your feet dry. You will fall at some point on the slippery rocks so just save the time and go for it. It is much safer. (I wore hiking boots and my husband had on closed toe Tevas.) The trail was usually pretty easy to follow. (We did get off the trail once on the way back when we crossed the stream at the wrong time and only felt bad because someone was following us.) My favorite part was the bamboo jungle. You can swim in the pool at the end if you choose but it is pretty rocky getting in and out. It took us about two hours and 10 min with a rest to get to the falls. The hike back wasn't too bad but I had forgotten how up and down the trail was especially to the beach. My legs weren't as fresh as when we started but we made it to the car in four hours and 15 minutes. (definitely under the 7 hours) We walked pretty quickly without a lot of stops. Almost anyone can do this just take your time and start early in the day. The sun was much warmer on the way home.
The Bubba burgers were delicious after an eight mile hike.

1  Thank Soccerparent
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers who viewed Kalalau Trail also viewed


Been to Kalalau Trail? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing