Goddesses Found Sun-Drying After Refreshing Showers In Kalalau Waterfall
Frequent injuries--5 airlifted out in 1 week (link no longer available)
"...the Kalalau Trail, [is] considered one of America’s most dangerous hikes. This is no leisurely hiking path. It’s up & down and around with more up & down, marked with rocks and roots and boulders. There are streams to cross, cliffs to navigate and narrow ledges where one misstep could send someone tumbling to their death. One person described the Kalalau Trail as, “Amazingly beautiful, but completely terrifying.” [Garden Island Newspaper article 7/10/2014 (link no longer available)]]
I have hiked the Kalalau Trail eleven times now (the last being November 2005) and hope to do it many more. The beauty, the isolation, the physical challenge, and the friends met along the way make this a very special experience that has a lasting effect on most who have done it. It is not a hike to be taken lightly and thorough preparation is required. The reward is a sampling of paradise, always exhilarating, always too short, always with an abundance of fresh oranges, bananas, guava, and Java plums waiting for you.
Rumor has it that if you leave your car overnight at Kee Beach where the road ends and the trail begins, it will be broken into. How frequent is this? I don't know. But most people suggest you arrange for some sort of transportation which does not require you to leave your car at the trailhead. Another approach is to leave nothing in your can and then leave the doors unlocked while you are gone. Just don't park under any of those Java Plum trees or you'll be very sorry when you return.
The hike itself is a wilderness experience and you must take everything with you that you will need with the exception of water and fruit which is available in abundance along the way. However, the water may be contaminated by bacteria and needs to be treated or filtered. A good backpack and shoes are recommended. The 11 miles is mostly up and down the ridges and valleys which is very strenuous. People do it in sneakers or even barefoot but I recommend quality hiking boots to provide ankle support and foot protection. The trail is overgrown with vegetation hiding rocks and boulders which make it easy to twist an ankle or stub a toe. If you carry a bed roll or sleeping pad on the exterior of your pack, orient it vertically rather than horizontally. You'll thank me when you reach a place the boat captains refer to as "Crawler's Ledge". It is here that you will want to hug the vertical wall as closely as possible because of the empty void on the other side of the ledge. For those who like to anticipate, it is located at about mile 7.
Weight is a critical item and I am always working with the opposing forces of light weight and food & creature comforts. All of my backpack items and weights for recent hikes are listed here. A light sleeping bag (my down ghost blanket is a great replacement) and a tent big enough to sit up in during the rainy days of December are very necessary. Such days are miserable when hunkered down in a shelter, chilly, and unable to sit up. After 3 days laying on my back in a bivy I remember thinking I would pay thousands of dollars to be air-lifted out (but on the 4th day when the sun came out I was so glad I was still there). Minimize clothing and make other adjustments to offset the increased weight of these items. Make sure to save room for a bit of chocolate. Its a real treat and much appreciated by anyone you choose to share with.
The days are too short and the nights too long in December. Daybreak is at 6:30 AM and nightfall is at 6:30 PM. Twelve hours of darkness is a lot of sleeping time! The beach gets sunshine around 10 AM and is fully back in the shadows of the cliffs by 5:30 PM. You can get much earlier sunshine in the morning and a bit more in the evening by hiking back to the heiau adjacent to Kalalau stream. This beautiful area is a very quiet and peaceful place to hang out during the day.
This picture narrative is from my hikes in December 1996 through December 1998 (click the link near the top of this page for December 2000 pictures). Click on any thumbnail for a larger picture or click here to load all the larger pictures in a new window while you read this page (it takes 5-10 minutes). However, pictures cannot begin to capture the panoramic beauty seen with the human eye, the solitude of the wilderness, nor the many friendships developed as part of the experience.
(This web page was created when most of us used dial-up-internet which was very S-L-O-W to load pictures so their size had to be tiny). Who remembers the sound of the "fast" version of dial-up "sssssssssssssss-kabong-kabong"?
The trail begins at Kee Beach with a sign reading "Kalalau 11 miles". The first section of the trail is 2 miles. It is traveled extensively by day hikers of all ages and physical conditions going to Hanakapia Beach. Don't be misled by the picture of myself with a small daypack. I had a full backpack for the hike into Kalalau but no pictures of it.
From Hanakapia Beach, there is a two mile side trail to Hanakapia Falls. It is mainly the hardy who make this hike. Swim in the pool under the falls but be prepared for cold water. There is a ledge behind the waterfall but you have to swim under the falls to get there. Rocks and other debris occasionally fall into the pool.
The nine mile hike from Hanakapia Beach to Kalalau is tough, but rewarding. It is the physically fit crowd who makes this hike. Don't fall off the narrow ledges along the way...you will not survive the fall. With no place to stop along the trail, the setting sun is the incentive to push forward.
You have finally arrived at Kalalau when you see the Kalalau Valley Trail/Camping sign after crossing a large stream. Do not follow the arrow into Kalalau Valley. Instead, take the right fork to reach Kalalau Beach and the camping area. Later you can come back and take the day hike up into Kalalau Valley. Don't climb the crumbly pali. It can ruin your day in a big way. The waterfall serves as a drinking water source and as a community outdoor shower (very refreshing). Some drink the water without filtering or boiling, claiming it's fine to drink. Those who have caught leptospirosis would never make that claim.
Take a day hike up into Kalalau Valley. The stream is wonderful but cold. Watch for orange trees...the oranges are delicious but you may need long arms to reach them and a pack to carry them back in. The orange trees are impossible to climb due to huge, needle-sharp thorns. On my 3rd trip I discovered a way to get them regardless of how far up they are. Banana trees are present but difficult to find. If you can't find oranges or bananas, try the guava which is wonderful after a few days of freeze dried meals.
When leaving Kalalau, you cross this stream with the help of ropes. The stream cannot be crossed after heavy rains. Wait until it subsides.
Pedal 'n Paddle (local gear in Hanalei, 808-826-9069--last minute supplies including fuel)
Kauai Bus Schedules (transportation from Lihue Airport to Hanalei--no gear or luggage allowed though)
Questions about your own hike to Kalalau? Email me at Kalalau@KauaiRocks.com