Those who are looking for an inland adventure with beautiful views of the Hawaiian coastline need look no further than Kauai's challenging Kalalau Trail. This exhilarating and often trying path offers a short, calm hike along the coast before taking a steep and demanding turn, weaving through hanging valleys and alongside high cliffs and muddy slopes. Preparation is key for this often treacherous hike, but the rewards - streaming waterfalls, unparalleled views of the Pacific and a thriving jungle, among them - are well worth the effort. Here are some tips for doing the Kalalau trail the right way.
Know the trail
Hikers should know what they're getting into before embarking on the Kalalau Trail. The 11-mile trek starts out easy enough, and within the first 2 miles, travelers will come across the inviting shore of the Hanakapi'ai beach. These waters are much like the trail, however, in that they easily deceive. Surf and rip currents here are very strong and therefore incredibly dangerous. Drowning is common, and the myriad of makeshift memorials along the beach serve as a reminder to that fact.
From there, the hiking gets strenuous as you travel out of the Hanakapi'ai valley. Steep and narrow trails along fluted cliffs test patience and nerve, but pushing on reveals another valley cut by the Hanakoa Stream, which runs itself off of the cliffs and straight into the crashing waves below. Secluded waterfalls also wait to be discovered in this valley.
After Hanakoa Valley is the more shaded region of Kalalau Valley, defined at first by more steep cliffs that open on a wide sandy beach, more waterfalls and paths overgrown with Java plum and mango trees. Just don't stand underneath the waterfalls, where rocks are known to fall.
Hiking boots are a must for this kind trail, where sure footing keeps you on firm ground. Light gear will also aid you in this regard. As for clothing, Kauai can get quite hot, so be sure to wear appropriately light clothing and sunscreen. If you're going to bring a swimsuit, be wary of swimming conditions, as most of the ocean spots are too dangerous for a dip.
Listen for alerts
Weather conditions will not only affect what you wear, but whether you should embark on the hike in the first place. Tradewinds result in showers at night and in the early morning, and flash floods, while infrequent, are always a possibility. Tsunamis are also improbable but possible, warnings for which are given a few hours before they occur. Precaution is all-important on this trail, as there is no cellphone coverage on the coast and emergency services are not easily accessible.