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Kilauea, Hawaii, United States

Hanakapi'ai Falls, Na Pali Coast, Kauai

Explore the exotic Na Pali coastline in search of secluded beaches and spectacular waterfalls.

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Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 8.0 miles / 12.9 km
Duration: Full day
 
Overview: When hiking the trails of Kauai you can be forgiven for expecting to meet a T-Rex around the next bend, or to spot Indiana Jones running by with one hand on his hat and the other grasping some ancient artifact. Hollywood is a big fan of the this Hawaiian island's spectacular landscape, which is why it's a popular filming location for movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurasic Park.

The 300 foot tall Hanakapi'ai Falls is definitely a spectacle you'd expect to star on the silver screen, and certainly worthy of a 8 mile out-and-back trek.

Like most trails on Kauai, the route up to the falls is quite rugged and usually quite slippery, which is why we categorize this hike as hard. Also, this route should not be attempted during or immediately after a heavy rainfall.

Elevation gain:
• 600ft (from 50 - 500ft)

Tips:
• Arrive early at the trailhead to guarantee a parking spot.
• Permits are no longer required to hike this trail, contrary to what you may read in older guidebooks.
• Permits are only required to hike the Kalalau Trail beyond the Hanakapi'ai valley which is not part of our hike.
• The hike route is prone to flash flooding, so be aware of the weather forecast and do not attempt the hike under threat of rain.
• As with all Hawaii hikes we recommend footwear with good grip, since the terrain can get muddy and slippery.


Points of Interest

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The Trail Begins Where The Road Ends

Heading in a counter-clockwise direction take Kauai's coastal road as far as it'll go, and you'll find yourself at Ha'ena State Park. This is also a great place to end your hike (or let your non-hiking companions take a long break) where you can enjoy the golden sands and turquoise waters of Ke'e Beach.

Begin the hike at the Kalalau trailhead. Our hike to Hanakapi'ai Falls takes a two mile trek down the famed Kalalau Trail, tracing a line around the contours of the Na Pali cliffs before heading into Hanakapi'ai Valley towards the falls.
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Tough Going

Though the Kalalau Trail is well known for narrow, vertigo-inducing features, you won't find any of these during our route today which follows this trail only as far as the first two miles to Hanakapi'ai Beach. Despite this, the trail is still not plain sailing - you'll be negotiating rugged steps, slippery conditions and exposed tree roots that appear purposely designed to trip you up. Particularly cruel since you'll be constantly distracted by the glorious coastline views.

Take your time on the trail and keep your wits about you and you'll soon be arriving at Hanakapi'ai Beach unscathed.
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[JCT] Hanakapi'ai Beach

The Kalalau Trail descends to a stream crossing before opening up to reveal Hanakapi'ai Beach. This perfectly pristine and remote sandy beach is notoriously deadly, yet you'll likely still find folk frolicking about in the surf despite the many warning signs. This part of Kauai's coastline bears the full force of the Pacific Ocean, which puts bathers (and waders) at risk of being swept away by strong waves and pulled out to sea by rip currents. We recommend cooling off in the stream to avoid becoming a statistic, as tempting as the ocean might appear.

Head inland directly away from the beach and pick up the smaller, narrower trail towards Hanakapi'ai Falls.
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Hanakapi'ai Falls

The two mile trail from the beach to the falls is a pleasant hike, but we recommend taking it steady since the terrain is now even more rugged and slippery than before. The sides of the valley become increasingly steep, which often fools GPS positioning, but you needn't worry since going off course following the stream to the waterfall is very difficult to achieve.

The trail ends at the foot of this spectacular waterfall where you'll find torrents of water crashing down the cliff face into a large pool. And since Kauai is one of the wettest places on earth, chances are the falls will be in full flow.
Pictures in this guide taken by: Trailspotting

Trailspotting content © Stuart Green 2010 including text, images, videos and route detail.

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