Kalalau Trail Kauai

Lonely Planet named the Kalalau Trail the #1 thing to do in Kauai so I jumped on the bandwagon to see what all the fuss was about. The trail starts at Ke’e Beach past Hanalei Bay on the North Shore of Kauai. Unfortunately, I am staying on the South Shore which meant a drive of 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Start of the Kalalau Trail Kauai

Good thing I’m still on East Coast time. The parking lot was only half full of cars and half full of roosters. I thought they were going to peck my toes since I wouldn’t give them food! (they didn’t).

Kalalau Trail Kauai roosters in the parking lot

Ke’e Beach is the official start of Kalalau Trail but it is closed due to the high surf warning that has been plaguing the North Shore for days now. Apparently the undertow and waves are so strong that most beaches in the North are closed to swimming.

Kalalau Trail Kauai beach closed

I decided to hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls for a total of 8 miles round-trip. Lonely Planet assured me that it is an active hike but definitely doable.  Let this be known, this would be mistake #1 of the day.

Kalalau Trail Kauai mileage sign

I’m in shape, I have hiking boots, I am not a wimp, I can handle this. This was my first clue as this was the easiest part of the entire hike at the .25 mile marker. Straight uphill and super rocky. There were a few crazies who didn’t know what they were getting into in flip flops. I saw one girls abandon her shoes totally because it was getting to dangerous for her sandals.

Kalalau Trail Kauai rocky trail

Actually the first 2 miles of the hike were gorgeous. The sun was shining and the cliffs made for great photography ledges. Yes, my hiking outfit is sexy.

Kalalau Trail Kauai me

Such a great view! At this point I believe it is all worth it! (mistake #2)

Kalalau Trail Kauai most gorgeous hike ever

Ke’e Beach from high above:

Kalalau Trail Kauai beach views

Kalalau Trail Kauai views

To get to the halfway point you must cross a big stream. A tour guide has just taken his group across with half of them falling in. I made my attempt after watching them carefully.

Kalalau Trail Kauai more boulder crossings

It was a big fail. I fell in- at least my left leg did. My left leg will remain wet for the remaining six miles. No where in Lonely Planet did they mention boulder hopping across streams! Luckily, I found a nice couple to hike behind after the stream incident. They were friendly and took pity upon my wet leg. I saw the trail start to get easier and got very, very happy! (mistake #3)

Kalalau Trail Kauai 2nd part of the hike to the waterfalls

There was a cool bamboo forest section- a place for Kalalau Trail graffiti to have a home.

Kalalau Trail Kauai bamboo forest

After the bamboo forest the trail narrowed, got really muddy and more boulder-hopping went down. There were a total of 10 streams to cross on the entire hike. – 5 going to the falls and 5 coming back. I’m just going to put it out there that I fell in 4 times. The first 3 were on the way there and with my left leg only.  Finally I made it to the Hanakapi’ai Falls. It was gorgeous. I then promply fell in the water while holding the hiking partners’ camera. I saved it but not myself.

Kalalau Trail Kauai waterfall

There are quite a few wild cats on the trail at the halfway point and at the falls- basically where people stop and eat. They were pretty cute and very friendly.

Kalalau Trail Kauai wild cats

A few hikers went into the water below the falls to swim. However the guidebook and every sign we hiked past warned us not to be near the water if it started to rain. And guess what it did the minute I arrived at the falls?!

Kalalau Trail Kauai Hanakapi’ai Falls

My tired and dirty legs sat down anyway and ate some baby bananas and a granola bar while I contemplated calling for a rescue helicopter to come and get me. I kid, I kid.

Kalalalu Trail Kauai muddy legs at Hanakapi’ai Falls

Back onto the trail I went. My hiking couple friends and I left at the same time again. They are expert stream boulder-hoppers so I tried to mimic them on the difficult crossing by the falls. #fail. This time it was both legs and part of my arm. My camera bag remained dry though- it was quite the save.

Two miles later at the very last crossing I noticed people just taking off their shoes and walking across- next time Andrea, next time.

Kalalau Trail Kauai boulder crossing

I remember at the beginning of the hike thinking it would be so difficult to get back up the trail to the beginning. Eh, it was fine. Not awesome, but fine.

Kalalau Trail Kauai steep incline

I stopped to look at some flowers and catch my breath.

Kalalau Trail Kauai red flower

There were orchids growing wild on the sides of the trail.

Kalalau Trail Kauai orchid

I finished the hike in 5 hours and was ready to chow down and not wear my wet socks and hiking boots anymore. My destination was Hanalei Bay to see the iconic beach. On my way I passed Sushi Girl. It looked cool on my drive there so I decided to stop. This was the first really smart thing I did today.

Sushi girl Kauai

I ordred an ahi tuna rice bowl. The fish was so fresh it was like butter. The onions and “local greens” added some nice crunch. I added a bit of soy sauce for the rice.

Sushi Girl Kauai ahi bowl

Beach picnic on Hanalei Bay! I am so very happy with my life choices at this moment.

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I was jealous of this lady’s napping abilities though.  It was too cloudy to put on my swimsuit that I packed so I just enjoyed my picnic and spent some time day dreaming.

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The ride home had some scenic overlooks that I stopped at for a photo.

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But my favorite was when a pig caused a traffic jam. He was running in circles in the road!

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And a close up. Run for your life, before you come a pulled pork sandwich!

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The 1 hour and 45 minutes drive became a lot longer when there was road construction and I was ready to eat again. But more importantly, drink a frozen Mai Thai. Hiking for 5 hours requires some logistical thinking afterwards: 1) find Mai Thai, 2) take a shower after Mai Thai.


I ended up at Keoki’s Paradise in Poipu Beach thanks to Yelp. The ahi fish tacos were on point! (I fear I may  turn into an ahi tuna by the end of the trip with all the ahi I have been eating!)

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We have come to the end of of this adventurous and tiring day. Is Kalalau Trail Kauai worth doing- yes, the views during the first 2 miles are amazing! Should you hike all the way to Hanakapi-ai Falls- only if you are extremely adventurous and have great balance Smile I wouldn’t do that part again but you should probably do it once if you can.

Reader question: Have you done an adventure activity of vacation that you regretted? What was it?


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6 Responses

  1. Chaitali says:

    Wow, sounds like quite the adventure! But the photos are beautiful. I hope that and the good story to tell made it worth it 🙂

  2. Oh no!!! I wondered how hard that trail actually was. We’ve talked about doing it when we go back to Kauai. Ummm…………
    I joked that I was coming back with mercury poison the entire time I was in Hawaii. Ahi was a two a day kind of thing for the entire trip.
    I think we at at that restaurant too– we stayed in Poipu too. If it’s the same place I’m thinking, they had an amazing sunset.

  3. Syma K. says:

    Beautiful views!

  4. Mariah says:

    This made me laugh! At least you got a good story out of it…? And I will testify that you are indeed in shape and not a wimp!

  5. Emily says:

    Wow that looks absolutely stunning. I would love to visit Hawaii someday. <333 God's world is incredible! #bestofblogs

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