Hawaii, Kauai, Travel

The Daunting Kalalau Trail

The Kalalau Trail (Kah-lah-low “low rhymes with how” Get it? Kah-lah-low) is the epitome of hiking trails. 11 looooong miles of intense physical and mental challenges mixed with an awe-inspiring coastline, friendly hikers, and the most incredible destination one could strive for: Kalalau Beach.

Kalalau Beach

Photo Credit

There’s only two ways to reach Kalalau Beach my friends: hiking the daunting trail or kayaking from Ke’e Beach. Either way, you’re going to have to go back the way you came.

Now incase you’re wondering, my husband and I are pretty active–we love to hike (if the flat paved trail near our house counts), and we love to be outdoors (mainly, out on our patio enjoying a couple of cocktails while watching the sun set), and we even make exercise a daily habit (yes, I’m totally counting yard-work or walking the dogs as exercise), but to be completely honest, we are mostly active during the fall: active football fans, my friends: games, stats, fantasy football, traveling to see our teams play. Oh, that’s not what you meant by “active”? I digress. 😉

In all seriousness, the Kalalau Trail isn’t for beginners. While the idea of challenging myself to 11-miles of pure hell to experience one of the most magical places on Earth seems awesome and totally bucket-list-worthy, the last thing I want to do is kill myself on vacation by falling off Crawlers Ledge–it’s 500 feet straight down to the ocean. To all of those who have completed this incredible hike, I raise my Mai-Tai (including that cute little umbrella) and Toast to You!

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 9.42.26 PM
Crawlers Ledge
Crawlers Ledge
Crawlers Ledge: I’m not even afraid of heights, but this photo makes me want to cry! YIKES
Both Photos found via Google Images

All kidding aside, while we aren’t in top physical condition, we aren’t completely out of shape either, so my husband and I finally decided it was time to hike part of the Kalalau Trail. We decided that we would conquer the first mile of the trail–like how I said “conquer”? As if one measly mile really puts a dent in the 22-mile roundtrip trail.

Kalalau Trail3-1

Kalalau Trail5-1

It’s one mile. How hard can it be really?

The answer. HARD.

Sweat producing, red-in-the-face, hold-on-I-need-a-break, I CAN’T BREATHE. Hard.

Kalalau Trail1-1


See the thing about the Kalaulau Trail is that there is no slow incline, or anything gradual or “easy” about it. Within the first two miles you go from sea level to 500′ and back down to sea level. The trail is never “level” as it crosses towering cliffs and deep valleys along the rugged and remote NaPali Coast. And those first two miles are probably two of the easiest miles. 

Kalalau Trail7-1 Kalalau Trail6-1

Kalalau Trail9-1 Kalalau Trail8-1

If you want to hike the full 11-mile trail you will need a permit. Plan on spending a night on the trail as you make your way to the magical Kalalau Beach. The trail crosses five valleys, three rivers, lingers dangerously close to several severe drop offs, and will challenge even seasoned hikers with its many mental obstacles or even pure physical exhaustion.

While I enjoyed the challenging hike through the lush, tropical jungle, I found it to be incredibly cruel to look down on this amazing view while I was sweating buckets glistening in the midday sun:

Kalalau Trail-1
That water… what an amazing shade of blue!

When it comes to being active, maybe hiking just isn’t for me. Give me the water sports: Swimming, Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, Wakeboarding, Skiing, that’s my idea of an afternoon of fun. To each, their own.

Kalalau Trail3-1-1

Tell me, have you hiked the Kalalau Trail? How far did you go?

On a final note, my thoughts and prayers are with the amazing people of Hawaii today. May you all stay safe and may these hurricanes pass with as little impact as possible. Aloha!

19 thoughts on “The Daunting Kalalau Trail”

  1. That trail looks crazy and amazing! And I thought some of the trails we just saw in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire were daunting!! There’s always a pay-off along the way though, with those amazing views. (And the beach at the end.) Thank you for sharing the gorgeous photos and giving me such a lovely glimpse into another world!

    1. It was a little crazy at the beginning, but compared to those drop offs, it was no big deal! I don’t know how people don’t injure themselves or fall off of the cliffs! Hope you had an amazing time on your Vermont vacation. 🙂 Have a great day!

  2. Aloha Kakahiaka Krystle, I sure hope that you and your husband are NOT in Hawaii right now, but if you are, stay safe. … and no, I haven’t done the Kalaau trail, but I have done the Stairway To Heaven on Oahu. A hui hou, Auntie Doni

    1. Auntie,
      We are not there right now. Sounds like Hurricane Julio is going to miss the islands, that is great news. 🙂 I haven’t done the Stairway to Heaven, read about it, but have never done it. I guess I’ll have to add it to my “next time” list. 🙂 A Hui Hou!

  3. Hey Krystle, I loved the trail. We started from Ke’e Beach and although we only hiked 2 miles or so (as we had to go back and get married :D), it was one of the most exciting mornings we had on the island. Both Charlie and I are dreaming of coming back to Kaua’i and hiking all the way and do a helicopter flight over the coastline.
    I’ve posted about our trip here: http://littleweekendtrot.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/hawaii-kauai-island-na-pali-coast-kalalau-trail/

    On the other note, I love your ‘active’ times with your hubby, I might follow your example 🙂 and dog walking absolutely counts as exercising! 🙂

    Hope the hurricanes don’t do much damage to the beautiful island 😦

    1. Welcome 🙂 I’m happy you’re here! Those islands are captivating and definitely have a soft spot in my heart. I hope one day that I can call the islands “home” but until then I’ll keep going back as often as I can. Stay safe over these next couple of days. 🙂

  4. I am not sure for what part of the blog post or for that matter your life, should I say.. wish I could do that… Sipping cocktails with your spouse on the patio watching there sunset or whether it’s the fact that you are fit n active enough to take on that hike , or the rewards of those breathtaking views that follow all that effort.. whatever it is.. instead of feeling envious.. I thank myself for following your blog so that at least I can check out some amazing pictures and read about the fun stuff you do.

    1. Hi there soulcurrynrice!
      I am grateful that you are here. You make very valid points, even if we can’t always be in Hawaii we are so incredibly blessed with our health, our home, and our family. Life is good! 🙂 (even when sometimes it doesn’t feel like it). I’m glad you are here to join in the conversation. Aloha!

      1. Absolutely.. health , home n family are the most important aspects of a happy life. I the last hour was spent playing with my 7 month old son and it was better than any of the stress relief techniques that we had to participate at work.. life is beautiful.. people like you enrich it!

  5. I liked this post, it made me smile. I had the pleasure of hiking this trail. We “just” went the first two miles and then back. We did well and it was tough, but the views were outstanding and I still think of it as one of the most beautiful trails I’ve ever been on. I wasn’t too pleased when a Hawaiian surfer dude sped by us in his BARE FEET with a full surf board under his arm, as we carefully navigated the mud, rocks and drop offs in hiking boots. 😀 Aloha!

    1. Glad you liked my post 🙂 Next time we are going to try to make it to the beach, we’ll be a little more prepared and head out early in the day. I agree, I would be a bit jealous about the surfer guy as well! Some people are so coordinated! 😉 There’s some videos on You Tube where people “run” the trail. Seems insane to me!!!!!! But, more power to them.

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