Hawaii: Kauai and the Kalalau Trail

Trip length: 8 days (October 2013)

Go: if you love hiking, camping, surfing, beaches and mai tais.

Don’t go: if you are looking for a place with nightlife or shopping, cannot drive your own rental car, and expect to rely on public transportation.

Packing List: Camping gear, water treatment tabs for drinking from waterfalls, solid hiking shoes.

This trip was too long ago to remember a detailed itinerary but I will post a few highlights and tips to give an idea of how to spend your days on this small island.

Kalalau Trail: 

Camping on the beach at the end of the Kalalau trail
  • If you do nothing else, hike the Kalalau trail along the Napali coastline. This hike is not easy by any means but can be done in 2 days by any reasonably fit person. It is 18 km (11 miles) each way and there are many blogs that provide more indepth information on the trail but the best piece of advice I can give you is to hike the whole thing in 2 days unless you want to spend more time at the beach. Do not listen to the blogs that suggest Hanakoa as an option to stop. This stop was disappointing with no view of the water and too many mosquitos and we were grateful we opted to do the trail in two days instead of camping here.  There are some narrow and very scary bits to this trail (the notorious mile 7) but the only real dangers were the mosquitos and drinking water which needed to be treated before consuming from the waterfall at the end.

    One of the many views from the Kalalau trail along the Na Pali coast
  • If you do the Kalalau trail in 2 days, you might be too tired to do the Hanakapai’ai waterfall. This is a tough call as the beginning of the Kalalau trail is the steepest and worst part of the trail and after doing it once, you are unlikely to want to do it again; however to do a side trip to Hanakapai’ai on your way back is also exhausting. This might make the case for prolonging your trip a bit longer but as I mentioned, there isn’t really anywhere great to stay midway on the trail…

    Kalalau Beach

Beaches:

Poipu Beach – where you can lounge in the sand amongst giant sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals. If marine life is your thing, this is a must visit beach! You can also observe the spouting horn here.

Turtle at Poipu beach

Tunnels Beach: This is a calm, relaxing beach where you can spend several hours (or days) basking in its beauty.

Hanalei Bay: Great spot for beginner surfers. Cheap surf boards for rent right at the beach.

Other Activities:

  • Spend a morning wandering in awe at Waimea Canyon

    Waimea Canyon
  • Catch the sunset from the St. Regis hotel in Princeville

    Sunset at St. Regis in Princeville
  • Snorkel off the beach from the St. Regis
  • Take a short hike to see the Queens Bath waterfall

    Queens Bath Waterfall in Princeville
  • Happy hour. We found some great drink specials at some of the local bars in Princeville
  • Go on a boat tour of the Na Pali Coast (especially cool to see after you have hiked it) with a strong likelihood of seeing dolphins

    Dolphins swimming along the Na Pali coast

General Tips:

  • This island is tiny. You do not need to travel around and stay in different spots as I did on the Big Island. Most spots can be accessed by day trips from Lihue or Princeville. We stayed our first night in Lihue which allowed us to visit Waimea Canyon and Poipu beach then spent the rest of our time based in Princeville.
  • You need a rental car to get around. This is not a public transit friendly or walkable island.
  • Get active! There are short hikes and long hikes and many different activities to choose from. There is so much else to do besides the beach!
  • Choose your travel crew wisely. Since Kauai isn’t the type of place you want to go with a large group of people because of the diversity of activities requiring transportation. You’ll want to ensure you travel with solid people if you’re sharing a car and relying on people to be on the same schedule. If you have one person throwing a fit on the beach because she wants to go for lunch while the rest of your group is having fun surfing, it can put a damper on the trip.