Epic NaPali Coast Hike

Step-by-Step Backpacker's Guide

So, you decided you want to visit Kauai and hike the famous Kalalau Trail. That’s great! This guide will help you plan for your adventure.

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Permits for Kalalau Trail

Step #1

Before making any other plans, secure permits for camping while on the Kalalau Trail. You are not allowed to hike to Kalalau Beach or camp on the trail without a permit, so this is essential. Permits cost $20 per person per night (as of October 2017) for non-residents and can be reserved online at the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources website. There are a limited number of permits issued for each day and they often sell out, so secure permits several months in advance.

Consider getting a permit for multiple nights if your itinerary allows for it. Having an extra night (or two or three) will allow you to still make it to the beach in the event of an unexpected delay or trail closure on the first day of your trek. Plus, you will want to spend as much time as possible relaxing after you have hiked all the way Kalalau Beach!

Kalalau Trailhead Sign

Step #2 

Secure your accommodations and arrange your transportation to Kauai and the trailhead. You will want to get an early start on the day of your hike to beat the crowds and heat, so consider staying on the Northern or Northeastern parts of the island the night before you start your hike. Being close to the trailhead (Ke’e Beach) lets you avoid a long drive before you start hiking.

To get to the trailhead on the morning of your hike, you will either want a rental car or you can take a taxi. The benefit of a rental car is flexibility and knowing your car will be there when you finish the trek. The disadvantage is that there have been break-ins at the parking lots near the trailhead, so you should not leave any valuables in your car. If you take a taxi, plan how you will get a ride home after finishing the trek. There is no cell service at the trailhead, so you will not be able to easily call for a ride. Either arrange for a pickup at a specific time in advance, or plan to hike down the road towards Haena Beach Park until you reach cell service.

Hike Packs for Kalalau Trail

Step #3

Determine what supplies you want for the trek and figure out where you will get them. Mosquito repellent, sunscreen, and food are essential supplies that you can either buy upon arrival or check in your luggage on a flight. If you plan to cook with a backpacking stove, you will need to buy fuel upon arrival since you cannot fly with stove fuel. Kayak Kauai in Kapa’a and Pedal N’ Paddle in Hanalei both sell fuel and other backpacking supplies. These stores also rent backpacking and camping gear, so you can choose to rent rather than travel with trekking poles, tents, backpacks, etc. Be sure to pay attention to store hours though. If you want to start hiking early in the morning, you may need to pick up your supplies the day before you start hiking.

The water along the Kalalau Trail must be treated before drinking, so remember to either bring chemical tablets or a filter system for water purification. It is also wise to bring some extra food in case there is bad weather on the day you are hiking back to the trailhead. During and shortly after heavy rain, the streams on the trail can become impassable and you should wait for the water to recede rather than risk crossing a dangerous stream.

Kee Beach view from Kalalau Trail

Step #4 

Save your knees and keep your backpack as light as possible! The Kalalau Trail is a tough 22-mile hike (11 miles each way) with lots of elevation change. Temperatures are generally warm, so you can leave your heavy cold weather sleeping bag at home (a sleeping pad and light blanket may be enough for warm sleepers). There is also little need to bring all your warm layers, though a rain jacket is nice in case you get caught in a storm. Leaving cold weather clothes and supplies at home can save a lot of weight.

Hanakapiai Falls Spur Trail along Kalalau Trail

Step #5 

In the days before you are set to hike, check weather forecasts to see if any storms are coming. If heavy rain is predicted, you should keep an eye out for trail closures. When the trail is closed, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources website typically has a notice at the top of its webpage. If the trail is closed, do not attempt to hike! The trail may open later that day or the next morning and you can start your hike then.

Woods along Kalalau Trail on Kauai

Step #6

Enjoy your time on the Kalalau Trail!

For pictures of the sights along the Kalalau Trail, maps of the trail, and other logistical information check out this excellent trip report by Backpackers Review.




Backpackers Review
About the Author

Backpackers Review

Backpackers Review offers comprehensive trip reviews and adventure gear guides to get you on your way. Check out their stunning pictures on Instagram

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