The Na Pali Coast on Kauai’s north shore is famous for its picturesque steep cliffs. Many visitors take helicopter tours, catamaran rides or hike in to explore this scenic coastline. Several years ago Josh and I backpacked the Kalalau Trail from Ke`e Beach to the remote Kalalau Beach.
The hazardous 11 mile trail hugs these jagged cliffs with various narrow spots that made it tricky to navigate while carrying a 50lb pack. Many times the trail was so narrow that I could only fit one foot on at a time. To my left was the cliff wall while to my right was a steep drop into the rocks and rough waters churning below.
Shortly after sunset on our first day on the trail we arrived at the Hanakoa campsite. We were exhausted so once our tent was set up, we went straight to sleep. The first set of helicopter tours woke us in the morning and motivated us to get back on the trail.
By the time we got to Kalalau beach we were relieved to discover it was not too crowded. Hawaii State Parks requires campers to have a permit and allows only a certain number of backpackers on the trail. We grabbed a good campsite and let the relaxation begin.
A nearby waterfall created a perfect shower for everyone. A few campers opted to go naked when they probably should have not. Some people really should cover up!
While exploring the caves on our third day, a guy from a zodiac ran on shore and warned every one of a massive storm headed right for the north shore. I thought about the rugged trail on the way in and how difficult it was to hike during perfect weather. Then I tried to picture how it would be during a storm. Not a good idea. So we packed our bags immediately and got back on the trail out. We camped at Hanakoa one more night and made it out just before the storm hit.
In the Hawaiian language “pali” means “cliff” and it is amazing to see just how many sharp edges the north shore of Kauai has. It was a breathtaking backpacking experience that will always be one of my favorites. If you want to make the trek, click here to learn more about how you can register for a permit. I do caution you however; this trail is not for the novice hiker or those afraid of heights.