Experience Kauai’s Na Pali Coast: Tips for Hiking the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach

Out of all of our adventures while on Kauai, hiking the Kalalau Trail is at the top of both of our lists of best memories from our week-long stay on the Garden Isle.

Kalalau Trail

The trail head begins at the end of the road; the furthest you can drive from the North end of the island.  There are no roads for motor vehicles on this part of the island, so if a helicopter ride, kayak trip, or swim isn’t in the cards for you and your family, this hike is your chance to see the treasured Na Pali coast.

Though we would have loved to go further (the entire Kalalau Trail is just under 11 miles out), we only had time and baby-patience for the 4-mile round trip hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach.  Despite the low mileage, the terrain is quite treacherous.  It varies in steepness, and elements from dry rocks, to slippery rocks, to puddles, and streams.  We came prepared, and also picked up a few tips along the way.

1.  Arrive Early.  Since the trail is the only land access to the Na Pali coast, the destination can be quite popular, and parking is an issue.  If you’re like me, you’ll also want to avoid a crowded trail.  Getting to the parking lot at least before 8 am will ensure you of both.

Kalalau Trail

2. Bring a few hiking comforts.  If you have hiking poles, it’s smart to bring them along.  Slaed brought his, and I borrowed one on the way back.  Hiking with a toddler on your back can throw off your balance, and the pole helped give me some extra stability.  Other comforts include the obvious: water and a little snack for when you arrive at the beach.

3. Hiking Shoes.  Wear hiking shoes that work for you.  With the slippery and rocky areas of the trail, you want to be comfortable to explore, and not constantly concerned about your feet.  Chaco sandals worked (loved being able to walk across the stream with out worrying about drenched shoes) for me while Slaed wore trail running shoes.  On the way back we saw many a’hiker sporting flip flops.  Maybe they made the trek, but I bet it wasn’t easy or comfortable.

Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi'ai Beach

4. Enjoy the view.  We needed this reminder for some reason! I guess we got so focused on the hike, that we would forget to stop, and take some time to cherish the experience.  Leave it to Bergen to help us out.  On our way back, he would not stop fussing.  I whizzed through the trail thinking we needed to get out of there as soon as possible.  After some full on screaming, we decided to just stop and take a break. We all drank some water, had a few crackers, and just checked out the amazing Na Pali coastline.  Once back in the ergo, Bergen was good to go the rest of the way.

Kalalau Trail

5. Extra clothes for kids.  While we certainly were not swimming at Hanakapi’ai beach (much too dangerous), Bergen still managed to the get pretty wet and sandy playing and romping around.  We were glad to have packed an extra outfit for him to change into for the hike back.

Hanakapi'ai Beach

6. Check Ahead.  Closures for maintenance can occur.  Also beware and respectful of the ocean.  It not advised to swim Hanakapi’ai beach, and especially dangerous from September – April due to treacherous surf conditions.

Hanakapi'ai Beach

What are your tips for hiking with kids? Have you traveled to Kauai? What was at the top of your “best memories” list?

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Kalalau Trail

Need more? Go visit Travel Tips Tuesday on WalkingOn Travels and Suitcases and Sippy Cups.  For tons of great travel tips, check out their sites!

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7 thoughts on “Experience Kauai’s Na Pali Coast: Tips for Hiking the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach

  1. You rock, Kate! Way to go for making that hike with a toddler in tow. We never made it to this part of Kauai. What a beautiful hike though. It’s a lot easier hiking with my kids now but we still do plenty of rest stops and pack lots of snack. Adorable pictures!

    • Thank you, Mary! It was funny, I guess we surprised quite a few people who didn’t see him as we were hiking up to them, but then as they passed, they’d exclaim, “Oh, there’s a little one back there!”

      We only really got to spend one day on the North side of the island, so we can’t wait to go back & explore more.

  2. When looking at your pictures of the Na Pali coastline I realized they remind me of some of the Big Sur coast in California. Surprisingly similar slopes falling into the ocean and the colors, too. Feast for the eyes. We’re a family of 2 avid hikers with 3 kids mostly on the trails in our beautiful
    British Columbia, however, always looking for a new hiking inspiration vacation days from stories and pictures like yours. Thanks.

  3. Pingback: Tips and Tricks for Hiking with Kids - Two Kids and a Map

  4. Pingback: Cle Elum, WA’s Teanaway Valley: The Search for an Iceless Hike | Wild Tales of...

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