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.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
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.
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"
GUIDED HIKING COMPANIES
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
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.
1. BASE OF CLIFFS
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.
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
It is not possible to reach Queens Bath from the lava rock at the base of the
4. SECRET BEACH
Follow directions to Secret Beach. Use caution if the surf is high.
Take Wyllies road
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
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.
SERIOUS HIKE NORTH
1. Hanakapiai Beach / Napali Cliffs
2. Hanakapiai Falls
3. Okolehao Trail above Hanalei Valley.
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
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
SERIOUS HIKES IN WAIMAI CANYON
1. NUALOLO & AWAAWAPUHI TRAIL
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.
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.
3. WAIMEA CANYON WATERFALL TRAIL -- WAIPO'O FALLS
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.
SERIOUS HIKES EAST
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:
EXTREME HIKE KALALAU
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.