Kalalau Trail Kauai, Hawaii

If you are headed to Kauai, Hawaii; consider packrafting the Na Pali coast. With the family’s blessing I arrived three days early in the 2nd week of August and paddled the coast and hiked the trail. Hands down this is one of the most spectacular natural wonders I have experienced. That said, I hesitate recommending this as a packrafting destination since one needs the right conditions to go and a permit issued months ahead of time. So I would suggest planning on hiking the Kalalau trail both ways and throw in the packraft as a possibility.

I launched from Ke’e Beach at the standard trailhead, paddled out the left side channel, and into the Pacific. The paddle is actually rather short, just ~6 miles, with both the east wind and currents helping considerably. One kind of wants the winds to assist but if they are too strong you might get pushed into the cliff breakers and smashed to bits or blown out to sea. Bring extra water, it might be a long trip. The landing at Kalalau beach was surprisingly easy, even with 4ft swells. Packrafts seem to do rather well in the surf, at least going in. There is no reef to navigate and the 1/2 mile long white sand beach is hard to miss. It is really only the second landing possible along the entire coast between towering cliffs, sea caves, waterfalls, and jaw dropping hanging valleys. Do check out the sea caves, pretty amazing.

It is difficult for me to describe the Kalalau valley. There is a community of hippies who live there, tourists like myself just passing through, local youth out for a weekend, and a parade of helicopters and boats. There is also a persuasive tranquility that soothes the soul. It is hard to not go a bit feral.

The hike back (11 miles) is everything people describe. For me, it was the highlight of the trip; the views, the smells, the uniqueness of each valley, with greens and blues in every color imaginable. I’d recommend getting a late start and stopping ½ way at Hanakoa for the night. That waterfall is not to be missed. This trail is very much the destination.



Skip the sleeping bag, pad, and tent; bring a hammock and some light cloths.
If it looks hairy getting out the Ke’e channel, leave the boat in the car.
Take something for motion sickness if the swell is up.
June – August
Reserve permits 3-6+ months in advance

Of most importance, ban helli flights over Kauai.