There’s nothing quite like the reward of a waterfall – the 300ft Hanakapi’ai Falls on the Kalalau Trail on the island of Kauai in Hawaii are definitely a reward of the highest calibre. It’s an 8 mile walk, 4 miles to the Hanakapi’ai Falls, returning via the same route.
The first 2 miles follow the exposed cliffs perched high above the Pacific Ocean of the Na Pali Coast. The trail is a well-formed mud track with exposed rocks and tree roots in places. Lush, green foliage surrounds you on both sides and the various lookout points of the emerald, rugged and wild Na Pali Coast are the real highlights. The undulations of the track are a little challenging due to the wet and humid weather.
You may be surprised, as was I, to spot numerous people attempting the trail in flip flops as they cling to nearby plants and edged down the slippery slopes very slowly.
After 2 miles of spectacular views, the trail reduces in altitude and crosses a stream at Hanakapi’ai Beach, where you can stop for a bite to eat and drink, whilst watching the wild waves crash onto the beach. A word of warning – don’t be tempted to cool off in the sea as the undercurrents are strong and don’t make for safe swimming.
The trail heads inland towards the falls through dense rainforest, muddy and slippery, with a series of stream crossings thrown in for good measure. The water levels are high, just below knee high in some cases. The cool, crisp water feels refreshing and helped to cool us down a little, a brief respite from the humidity. With lower water levels I imagine that you could jump from boulder to boulder to cross, making it slightly quicker.
The trail becomes a little rockier as it edges towards the falls and you’ll be clambering over large rocks in places. You then spott the falls in the distance and weave your way towards them through bush and trees, following the trail with the stream on your right and dense bush to your left.
As you approach the 300ft Hanakapi’ai falls, the noise increases, the spray whistles through the air and the wind batters you. Try and edge closer, skipping from rock to rock, battling the force of the spray for a refreshing blast of cool water, soaking you to the bone in seconds.
The surroundings are simply breath-taking. The moss covered cliffs dominate high above, the foliage looks vivid green, the sky is bright blue and the falls crash with a thundering sound into the rocky pool. I spotted a small frog basking in the spray of the falls – probably the perfect place to live if you’re a frog…
Believe me – you won’t be disappointed by the walk or the falls themselves. You really feel like you’ve earned seeing the Hanakapi’ai Falls upon arriving and it’s hard to leave and head back. A must do if you’re on the island of Kauai.
We walked the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls in April. The walk is 8 miles and took approximately 6 hours – including several breaks for photos and refreshments. However, it could take longer depending on the conditions and your fitness levels but the Kalalau Trail and the Hanakapi’ai Falls are certainly a must do on the island of Kauai.
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Hi, I’m Adam Constanza, freelance travel content creator living, working and supporting tourism in Timor Leste, South East Asia.
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