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Hikes in Kauai

 This information is compiled to assist guests who rent our Condo at the Cliffs Resort.  If you've arrived at this page as a result of a web search on Kauai Hiking, we hope you benefit from the information.  And if you need lodging, thank you for considering us.

- Introduction
- Guided Hiking Companies
- 6 easy walks
- Serious Hikes North
- Serious Hikes Waimai

- Serious Hikes East
- Extreme Hike:  Kalalau
- Other Hikes
- Other Websites

Kauai is a hiker's paradise.  Waterfalls, beaches, lush greenery, and wildflowers provide constant delight.  One only wishes there were more trails that could take you to even more hidden spots.

We've divided hiking into 3 categories for this webpage.
1.  Easy trails close to the North Shore.  These are 1-3 miles in length with  little vertical elevation change.  They are for the casual hiker who ventures out in sneakers and without raingear, backpack, topo map, or water supply.
2.  Serious trails in three locals:  East, NorthWest, and Waimea Canyon.  These are 4 -10 mile treks with moderate elevation change.  They should only be attempted by the serious hiker who is hiking in boots, carrying water, using layered clothing principles to adjust for changing conditions.
3. Extreme hiking -- the trip to Kalalau.

Hiking in Hawaii is different than hiking in most of the rest of the United States.  The heat and humidity can be oppressing.  The trails get extremely muddy and slippery.   And it is impossible to head "cross country"  sometimes due to sheer cliffs and almost always due to the dense jungle thicket.  Caution is advised.  Route finding skills are important.  Always practice good safety measures -- especially letting others know where you are headed and when you will be back.  And do not hike beyond your ability. 

Topographic maps are marginally helpful.  Forget relying on your GPS [only works half the time because of the dense jungle cover].  Forget using a cell phone to call for assistance [they don't work in most remote places].

The NaPali coast draws many hikers.  There are five major valleys: Hanakapiai, Kalalau, Honopu, Awaawapuhi, and Nualolo.  Hanakapiai, and Kalalau can be accessed by walking along the 11 mile trail from Kee Beach.  One can explore up these valleys to waterfalls and pools.  The rim of Kalalau is also accessible by road from Kokee park.  Honopu can only be reached by swimming from Kalalau.  Every summer a few hearty souls venture there.   Awaawapuhi and Nualolo are not accessible from below.  They can only be seen from 3 mile rim trails that depart from Kokee park.

An outstanding book to help with these [and more] hikes is:  "Ultimate Kauai Guidebook"

Princeville Ranch Hike & Kayak  808-826-7669

Kayak Kauai Outbound 808-826-9844  or 800-437-3507

The Edge of Kauai  808-742-8305  or 888-233-8365
Tours include transportation [from Poipu], water, lunch, snacks, daypacks, and rain gear.  Participants should be in good physical shape and capable of hiking over uneven surfaces.  Specialty hikes include:  Waimea Canyon explorer, Sleeping Giant excursion, NaPali Coast Rim, and Hanakapiai Waterfall.

Aloha Kauai Tours  808-245-7224 or 800-452-1113

Roberts Hawaii  808-539-9400 or 800-831-5541

We have not used any of these guided services and therefore can not make any recommendation.

One can explore the lava seacoast at the base of the Cliffs Resort.  Look for a path leaving from the north east corner of the Cliffs Resort [past the barbeque behind building 8.  Descend 150 feet from the bluff to the lava rock on a primitive path.  On the way, you will cross a small stream which cascades onto the lava rock at a secluded waterfall. 

Once on the lava rock, one can head to the right [east] not more than 100 yards.  It is more interesting going to the left [west] where one will encounter a small cove with 5-10 feet of sand and then a sea cave.  To get into the sea cave, one must enter waist to chest deep water. 

Look for turtles along the way, we almost always spot some.  One time we even saw turtles sleeping in the sea cave.  And don't be surprised if along the lava rocks, you encounter a sun-worshiper getting an all over tan.

Do not attempt this walk if the ocean surf is high as a rogue wave could result in an unplanned accident.

The same lava rocks that are at the base of the Cliffs Resort form a wider shoreline about a half mile to the west.   Here, there are several tidal pools where locals and tourists delight in taking a refreshing dip.  The largest are called Queens Bath.   

You can drive the half mile from the Cliffs Resort to Queens Bath parking lot.  But since one is out for a hike, why not walk.   The directions are:
  Leave Cliffs and head left on Edwards Road.
  At Kaui road turn left again.
  At Pepelani Loop, turn right. 
  Walk to the end and turn right on Ka Haku Rd -- the main Princeville Rd.
After 500 yards, take the first right on Punahele Road
  Walk 500 yards until the 2nd intersection with Kapiolani Loop
  Follow the path down the ravine and out on to the lava rock.
The walk to queens bath is about 1/2 mile from the parking lot.  There is a well worn path from the Princeville residential area down to the lava rock.  Once on the rock turn left [west].  Unless you are very early in the morning, there will be plenty of people to guide your way. The total distance on foot is a little more than 1.5 miles each way.

It is not possible to reach Queens Bath from the lava rock at the base of the Cliffs Resort.

From the parking lot at Larson's beach, one can walk west for more than 2 miles along the water's edge.  The hike varies between sand and lava boulders.  The area is remote, and except for Larson's beach [and it's usual nude use] it is unlikely to see anyone.  Compared to the rest of Kauai, this is not an area of stunning beauty.  But the serenity has a certain appeal. 

Follow directions to Larson's Beach.

Most who visit Secret Beach simply walk the quarter mile and 200 vertical feet from the parking lot to the main beach [called beach 1].  A few venture across the rocks to the left, across 0.2 mi of beach to the west [beach 0] and once again on to the lava rocks.  After 0.3 mi, of scrambling across the lava rocks, one comes to a lovely waterfall less than 20 ft from the sea.  Others venture to the right traversing the sand of beach 2, 3, and 4 -- 1 mi each way until the rocks prevent further travel past beach 4. 

Follow directions to Secret Beach.  Use caution if the surf is high.

1.5 miles of nice beach walking exists between Haena Beach and Kee Beach.  The route is level and inside a good reef so there is no need to worry about high surf.  One hikes on a mixture of sand and smooth lava boulders.  Parking is available at the campground at Haena Beach or at the popular Kee Beach.  There is often a strong wind from the East which will be in your face when going from Kee to Haena.  For that reason it may be best to park at Kee so the hike starts into the wind.

Follow directions to Kee Beach.

Wyllies beach is the western most portion of Anini beach so named because it is reached by heading down Wyllies Road [almost to the Westin Hotel].  The walk from the Cliffs at Princeville to Wyllies beach almost 2 miles.  Once at the beach, it is an easy walk for another 2.5 miles to the other end of Anini beach.  Round trip,  the Wyllies + Anini hike is 9 miles.

  Take Wyllies road [2nd left when leaving the Cliffs Resort and heading toward the highway on the main Princeville road] toward the Puamana Condo Complex and Westin Hotel.  Walk  a third of a mile to just within a few hundred feet before the entrance for the Westin.   Look for a casual footpath paralleling the road and for a spot to cross onto the footpath.  [This footpath is actually the historic old road that circum-navigated Kauai]   Leave the pavement and walk along the tree lined footpath.  Soon it will start to descend.  About 500 steps [1/3 mile] will bring you to Wyllies beach.   Head east across the stream and you're on Anini Beach. 

7. WATERFALLS [go to falls page for yellow gate, fantasy island, and secret falls hike]


1. Hanakapiai Beach / Napali Cliffs
Round trip distance is 4 miles.  Elevation gain and loss is 700 feet each way for a total of 1400 feet.  Footing is very slippery and muddy when wet [which is about 80 percent of the time].  Take highway 560 to the end at Kee Beach in Kauai's north west corner.  Along the way you are hiking along a rough trail carved into the NaPali Cliffs through tropical jungle.  The vista's are awesome.  You can relax [but not swim] at Hanakapiai beach.

2. Hanakapiai Falls
Round trip distance is 6.8 miles.  [note, many books say 8 miles, but our GPS measured less].   Elevation gain and loss is 1500 feet each way for a total of 3000 feet.  Begin the trip by hiking to Hanakapiai Beach.  Then it's an additional 1.4 miles inland through a bamboo and tropical forest to the falls.  Be sure to follow the route carefully.   There are some tricky and exposed sections, and several stream crossings.  Once at the 400 foot tall double falls, enjoy them with care.  The water is very cold [you can swim if you like cold water] and there are occassional rocks that tumble from the cliffs.  If you choose to linger, we recommend the banks on the right side away from the cliffs.

3. Okolehao Trail above Hanalei Valley.
Drive 0.6 miles on Ohiki Road immediately on the west side of the main highway one lane bridge where it goes over the Hanalei River.  As you drive Ohiki Road, the Hanalei river will remain on your right.  At about 0.6 miles there is a parking lot on the west side of Ohiki Road.  The trail starts nearby on the right side of the road.

Hike is 1.9 miles to top by GPS.  Elevation gain/loss is 1300 feet by altimeter.   The trail ends just short of a peak called Kaukaopua.

The trail follows a ridge top route that was used to bring locally distilled liquor into Hanalei in the prohibiution era.  The trail goes through some interesting changes in plant life as elevation is gained.

4. Hanakoa Falls along Napali Coast
Round trip distance is 13.5 miles with elevation gain/loss of 4500 feet.    This is the most difficult trip of this section.  Very fast hikers will spend 6+ hours walking.  The rugged route follows the NaPali coast trail half way to Kalalau.  Those who make the hike are rewarded by water dropping 1400 feet in several stages into comfortable temperature pool surrounded by lush green.  And you'll likely have the place all to yourself.

Take highway 560 to the end at Kee Beach in Kauai's north west corner where the hike begins.  Prior to 2012, one needed a permit to go further than 2.5 miles along the NaPali Kalalau trail.  Now, that distance has been extended to 6 miles making a trip to Hanakoa falls possible.

Pictures, when available will be posted on our waterfalls page.


Although a good workout, this trail affords some of the most awesome scenery anywhere on earth.  The hike takes one to two lookout points along the rim of the NaPali coast.  From these lookouts one has unparalleled views of the coast and canyons.  If you are put off by the intrusion of taking a helicopter loaded with tourists into the wilderness, but long to see the views available to the the tourist, then the Awaawapuhi & Nualolo trail [A&N for short] is for you.  Just be sure to pick one of those rare sunny days where Kauai's high ridges and volcano peaks are without clouds.

The A&N trails can be done as individual out and back hikes or as a loop by connecting the two.  Either way requires an early start from the North Shore.  It is a good idea to be on the road at 6AM in order to beat the traffic in Kapaa, Lihue, and up Waimea Canyon.  The journey will take you about 2 hours.  Should you leave Princeville at a more leisurely 8AM, you might find the trip taking 2.5 to 3 hours.  Navigate your way to the Kokee State Park and then the Kokee Visitors Center.  Proceed an additional 1.8 miles.  This is the start of the Awaawapuhi trail.  You have your choice of walking out the Awaawapuhi trail to the rim, then walking south along the Cliff Trail to the Nualolo trail which you take back to the road, and then 2 mile along the road back to your car.  Or you can do the hike in reverse.  If the weather looks like it might deteriorate, we recommend doing in reverse since the views are better at the end of the Nualolo trail.  [You can also park at the Nujalolo trail on a small dirt road, but we had our car vandalized there].

The Awaawapuhi trail is 3.1 miles to the rim and gains / looses 1500 feet of elevation.     At the rim, there are several viewpoints into various side canyons.  But there is no view up and down the coast. 

The connecting trail between N trail and A trail is 2.1 miles and is relatively flat.  Walk with care as there are a few places with vertical exposure.  The maps show a waterfall along the route, but every time we have done this hike, the falls are dry. 

The Nualolo trail is 3.8 miles to the rim and gains/looses 1400 feet of elevation [depending how far out on Lolo Vista you head].      In most places the incline is not as steep as the Awaawapuhi trail so it is less slippery than the Awaawapuhi trail. The views from the end of the Nualolo trail are spectacular both up and down the NaPali coast and of beaches and canyons below.

The entire loop is 11.3 miles including the stretch on the paved road.  There is excellent additional info at these two links.

This 4 mile out and 4 mile back trail takes hikers from Kokee park to a ridge far above Hanalei Bay.   The first mile is on good -- albeit muddy -- trail along a ridge.  Then the next short bit is in dense jungle with slow going on a very slippery and continued muddy trail.  The remaining 2.5 miles are on wooden boardwalk a foot above the floor of Kauai's unique  high altitude swamp.  There are wonderful views into Kalalau Valley at the start and of Hanalei Bay at the end.  In between, enjoy the hike and the bizarre landscape.   You gain/loose less than 500 feet getting from the parking lot to viewpoint.  But one hardly notices the elevation.

It is a good idea to be on the road at 6AM in order to beat the traffic in Kapaa, Lihue, and up Waimea Canyon.  The journey will take you about 2 hours.  Should you leave Princeville at a more leisurely 8AM, you might find the trip taking 2.5 to 3 hours.  Navigate your way to the Kokee State Park, past the Kokee Visitors Center, to the parking lot at the end of the road.   Unless recently re-opened, you will have to walk another mile along an old roadway before getting to the actual trailhead [thus increasing total distance to 5 miles each way].

The trail initially descends a wide muddy ravine.  Then it flattens out along the ridge at the top of Kalalau Valley.  Just after the trail begins to climb again you will encounter a fork with signage pointing you to take the right fork to the swamp trail.  After another mile the hiker comes to another junction with signs pointing you to take the left fork.

There is excellent additional info at this link.

Its just a short 2 miles to Waipo'o falls from the parking area on Highway 550.   The trail brings you to the top of this two tiered 800 foot waterfall.  It is very difficult to take pictures because of the viewing angle and the steep footing.

The best parking is found near the 14 mile marker adjacent to where Halemanu road enters the highway.  Walk down Halemanu Road [it is an old 4WD road].  Then follow signs to the Canyon Trail which will take you to Waipoo Falls. 

There is excellent additional info at this link.



1. SLEEPING GIANT [Nounou Mountain]
Round trip distance is 3.5 miles.  Travel to Kapaa.  Take Haleilio Road at the traffic light just north of Wailua Beach to the end where there is a parking area and trailhead.  At the top of this hike you are rewarded with a picnic table and a spectacular panoramic view of the coast.

We have not been on this trail and recommend consulting:
The 11 miles to Kalalau Beach is a strenuous hike that we recommend only be attempted by strong individual with significant hiking/backpacking experience.   By itself, 11 miles is a good day's workout, but the hiker must climb and descend 3000 vertical feet -- much of it in stifling heat or with extreme caution due to slippery conditions. 

The 22 mile plus/minus 6000 vertical foot roundtrip  can be done in one day using daypacks, light footgear, headlamp, and a water purifying pump.  The last item is important because you will consume 4-6 quarts of water which will be too heavy for quick travel.  There are plenty of streams along the way, and the water must be purified.  A headlamp is important because it is likely the last mile or two -- some of it with tricky footing -- will be covered either pre-dawn or evening twilight.

Those planning to camp at Kalalau Beach must have permits.

There are dozens of other hikes in Kauai on the east plateau, up the rivers of the north shore, and in Waimea canyon.  There is even one hike -- along the powerline -- that runs right down the middle of Kauai.  We have taken many of these treks and found them less awe inspiring and/or more difficult than the favorites noted above.  It is likely however that you may wish to try some new country.  Grab your favorite map or guidebook and head for the back country.



Excellent source describing over 33 Kauai Trails

Blog with comments on Awaawapuhi, Pihea, Alakei Swamp, Kalalau, Nounou and other trails.



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