Trip Report: Kalalau Trail


The view at Kalalau. Our campsite is in the hole in the trees to the left, and the beach is on the right.

The kalalau trail was one of the most magnificent trails I've ever hiked. Every turn offered breath-taking views of magnificent cliffs, huge jagged mountains, and 1000 ft waterfalls. The trail is lined with lush jungle, many varieties of colorful wild-flowers, and even tropical fruit bearing plants you can eat as you hike.

Steep cliffs

The trail us not for the faint at heart. It consists of many steep climbs and descents, many on narrow cliff ledges with the pounding ocean hundreds of feet below. Being a few miles from the rainiest point on earth, tropical downpours can make this trail even more treacherous: turning creeks turning to swift rivers and increasing the potential for dangerous landslides.

All that said: we had heard many horror tails by the time we reached the trail head, not just of these dangers but also of huge spiders, cockroaches, naked hippies, and campsite thieves. In addition to this, it was my little brother's first backpacking trip. We hadn't seen any rain in Hawaii yet, and figured we were overdue.

Starting strong! the sun was blazing hot

With all this in mind, we set out from the trailhead around 2:30 pm with the goal to hike 6 miles to a midway campsite and then finish the home stretch to Kalalau the following day. The immediate steep climb over our first of many ridges, in addition to exposure to hot sun and high humidity, had us drenched with sweat by the time we reached the first beach two miles in. We rested here, where there was a stream, shade, and a pleasant breeze, before continuing onward. We immediately started climbing a steeper, higher path before coming to the top, on a narrow ridge at the edge of a cliff. Seeing for the first time the coastline was breath-taking but also left us wondering how there could possibly be a trail through the terrain in front of us. Surely enough the trail continued, although we often felt like the Billy goats that frequented the cliffs above and below us.  We reached the first campsite just before sunset and took an amazingly refreshing dip in the jungle creek that we were on before cooking dinner. None of us had any trouble falling asleep that night.

we had no idea the hiking would be so hard

In the morning we packed up and headed out. The last 5 miles were more exposed and a couple of us had clumsy steps that could have ended a lot worse. Fortunately the only causality was Matt's water bottle. When we reached site of the beach the pace quickened to a near sprint and when we came to the creek 1/2 a mile from the beach, we stopped to rest and talk to some girls camping at the creek.

We continued to the beach and set up camp at what seemed to be a prime spot, but as we ate our lunch the bugs also ate theirs, and so we decided to pack up and head back to the cool creek.

The beach!

We finished setting up our camp right as the first of the hippies woke up: "drummer boy" never looked quite at home in nature, but announced his presence anywhere he went with his instrument. As soon as the other hippies saw him, they'd start dancing and hollering. The hippies seemed nice enough: offering us ganja and fungus (which we politely refused); however the way some of them eyed our campsite made us a bit uneasy about their trustworthiness. They never did mess with our stuff, but as promised: in the late afternoon the hippy honies came out (topless) and sometime soon after clothes became apparently optional all together. We exited this scene to enjoy a magnificent sunset on the beach and decided to get an early start in the morning for the 11 mile trek out.

Beautiful scenery

In the cool shade of morning we were able to keep a great pace and covered the 11 miles in just over 5 hours. We celebrated by cooking our leftover food: cheesy Zatarain's and garlic Spam (yeah, it sounds a lot better when you've just covered 11 miles and 4000 ft of elevation... But I regretted that decision later). We also took a dip in the beach at the trail head: which with it's coral reef and crystal clear water, was one of my favorite beaches of the whole trip. In the end: it never rained on us. I guess mid May is a great time to hike the Kalalau trail, although maybe we were just smiled upon 🙂

If you decide to visit Kauai, I have a few more tips: avoid the Kauai international hostel at all costs: unless you know and are looking for a grappling partner, in which case go there and ask for Striper. Instead look on expedia.com for a nice hotel room for about the same price.  Check out the food at the Waimea brewery, and if you have some time rent some cruiser bikes in Kapa'a and ride along the beach path.  Franko's guide map is a great source for all the island has to offer, and for 8$ at the airport, will be the best travel resource you'll find.

Another Kalalau pano

Also, be sure to check out my Honolulu report, incase you decide to spend some time there. You could easily spend a week on any of the islands and not run out of stuf to do.

A complete photo album can be seen on Picasa. enjoy!

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