The beautiful island of Kauai is home to some of the grandest coastlines in the world. The famous Na Pali Coast is one of these amazing sights. Though there is no land access except by the Kalalau Trail, this trail is 11 miles long and traverses lush tropical valleys and ends at Kalalau Beach where it runs into the sheer cliffs or “Pali”. The trail was originally constructed in the late 1800′s and was redone in the 1930′s. The trail is still very similar to the foot trails that the ancient Hawaiians used to link early settlements along the coast. This trail is graded but never quite flat. The average hikers will take a full day to hike the entire 11 miles and once you continue past Hanakoa Valley you will need a camping permit to continue. The trail is located in Na Pali Coast State Park and access is controlled for the purpose of conservation.
The Kalalau trail is a strenuous hike and should only be undertaken with proper preparation and safety in mind. During the summer months (May to October) there are steady tradewinds and the temperature rarely drops below 60 degrees and there are occasional showers. The winter months are usually less predictable and the showers are more frequent usually in the morning and the evenings. Though it doesn’t happen very often you will need to exercise caution as some showers are widespread and may cause flash flooding in areas. The water levels can rise rapidly so when the water levels do rise it is always better to wait than take an unnecessary risk to your life.
This trail has been voted one of the “10 most dangerous hikes in the United States” by Backpacker magazine and also one of the “20 most dangerous hikes in the World” by Outdoor magazine. This is primarily due to the remote locations, difficult terrain and other dangers. But do not let this detour you the area is also one of the most beautiful attractions in the world as well.
The following tips and travel tips and gear recommendations should all be taken into consideration before planning this once in a lifetime excursion. Remember to travel light so as not to over exert yourself during some of the more difficult sections. You are going to want to be wearing lightweight hiking shoes/boots with good traction as some of the areas can be steep and sometimes muddy. If you are heading to the end or camping at the designated spots you will need to bring a lightweight sleeping bag or blanket and a mat for sleeping on. Your tent should be equipped with a rainfly due to the possibility of overnight or early morning showers. You will need to bring water and either a filter or water purification tablets in order to safely continue refilling your water supply. You might want to consider a camping stove and fuel. Always remember to bring a first aid kit because you never know what might happen. As with any hike in Hawaii you will need to bring insect repellant, sunscreen and it wouldn’t hurt to bring rain gear just in case. You also may want to bring biodegradable soap for washing up.
Check back with me as I continue to write about each section of the Kalalau trail and what you can expect during each phase. I have placed this amazing trek on my personal bucket list and hope any insights I can impart will help or at least provide information for those that also want to make this trip.
I’d like to start off by saying how thankful I am for the people who currently serve, have served, and died for our country. I have a brother and sister who have both served in the military and couldn’t imagine having lost them. Taking the tour at Pearl Harbor was a humbling experience. Walking through the museums reading about the history of our military and Japan’s military were both interesting and saddening. These museums showed time lines, gave numbers, and had models of warships and planes for both sides.
We watched the mandatory video explaining exactly what happened on the attack of Pearl Harbor. Turns out that because radar was just new in those days, the man in charge of our radar system on the other side of the island thought the planes coming in were our American planes coming in from California, not Japanese fighter planes. So he notified Pearl Harbor not to worry. Basically, we didn’t see it coming. This is why over 2,400 Americans died, 188 aircraft were destroyed, and eighteen ships were sunk including the USS Arizona which accounted for nearly half of our fatalities (1,177). The Japanese only accounted for 64 dead with only 29 aircraft loss.
Taking the ferry over you’re already surrounded by the USS Battleship Missouri, the USS Bowfin Submarine, and the main attraction, the USS Arizona Memorial. The signature small white concave building atop the water and the USS Arizona which still, to this day, leaks oil. Over 70 years! Even after looking at the large plaque of names who lost their lives aboard that ship on December 7, 1941, seeing droplets of oil floating to the top of the surface gives this eerie feeling of dark reality. It’s not just this story on film or that we read in history books anymore. It’s the unfortunate reality of war. God bless our troops that lost their lives that day.
Welcome back enthusiastic hikers! As we continue exploring the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast our next section of the journey takes us from Hanakapi’ai up to the Hanakoa Valley. This part of the trail is about 4 miles long and is moderately strenuous. The more difficult part of the hike begins as you start the climb out of Hanakapi’ai Valley and ascend an estimated 800 feet above sea level. Day hikes to Hanakoa and back to Ha’ena State Park is only recommended for experienced and able bodied, fit hikers. You should be prepared for a very long day if you try to make the 12 mile round trip from Ha’ena to Hanakoa valley as it should easily take over 8 hours to complete.
As you start the climb out of the Hanakapi’ai Valley the trail will cut through a part of the Na Pali Natural Area Reserve. The area you will be moving across is in the small hanging valleys of Ho’olulu and Waihahuakua before you enter the Hanakoa Valley. A hanging valley is a valley that is higher and on the walls of the main valley, and has no shore access. The reserve area is home to a large variety of native lowland forest plants, including flora and fauna.
As you approach the Hanakoa stream crossing you will come upon a rest area that provides a nice place to rest for tired hikers. The trail crosses the stream well back in the valley and provides no shoreline access. The facilities that are located at this rest stop include a composting toilet and a couple of shelters that have roofs. This a good time to grab something to eat and rest a little bit before continuing. The shelters are contained in a complex of older agricultural terraces that ancient Hawaiians once used to plant and harvest taro. The taro was replaced with coffee sometime in the late 1800′s and can still be found growing today.
Also located just before these shelters there is a short ½ mile trail up the left fork that leads to the Hanakoa Falls. The trail is poorly maintained and has eroded hazardous sections. The views of the falls however are just amazing. If you are going to take the chance to go up to the falls, always remember safety first and travel at least in pairs if not in a group. The photograph opportunities that this short hike provides are an awe inspiring once in a lifetime experience that should not be overlooked. After visiting the falls you just have to make your way back the way you came and continue up the Kalalau trail to the shelters. This is as far as you can go without a camping permit, which can be obtained at the State Park District Office in Li’hue.
Don’t forget to check back in as we get into the last section of the Kalalau trail, and the information about the camping permits that will be needed and how to obtain them. I look forward to seeing you out on the trails and welcome your feedback on your trek through this amazing section of the island of Kauai.
Gray Line Hawaii is proud to introduce this new tour that offers a sensational solar experience. It’s the ONLY Sunset Haleakala Tour in existence! You’ll enjoy magnificent views of Haleakala while listening to live narration detailing the history, legends and facts by our professional drivers. After sunset, you’ll marvel at the final act; a celestial kaleidoscope of colors at twilight and witness panoramic views of Maui’s lowlands and neighboring islands in the distance. The finishing touch on this extraordinary tour is a hearty three course, family-style dinner at Cafe O’Lei at the Dunes Golf course in Kahului, one of Maui’s most famous restaurants.
Incredible panoramic views
Maui Lavender Farm
Peaceful fields of fragrant flowers
Haleakala Rangers Station
Stunning views at 7,000 ft. elevation
Haleakala Visitor Center
Crater views at 9,740 ft. elevation
A celestial kaleidoscope of colors
Views Maui’s lowlands
Dinner at Cafe O’Lei at the Dunes
3 course meal, family-style dining
Liliha Bakery Open 24 hours with free parking! Say what?! You can’t go wrong. Not only is this place a Bakery, but a Diner as well. The perfect combo. Get an early start on the day or feed that late night craving. Except on Mondays, in which they’re closed. Sad face, but there are still 6 other days in the week.
In our case, we stormed into the diner for a late Tuesday night craving. My friends had been there before, but this was my first time. If you looked at all of the food we ordered down the bar it would be the equivalent of Breakfast Thanksgiving. Blueberry waffles, pancakes, french toast, steak and eggs, and…..butter rolls. Oh, those butter rolls. Can you say “mind blown”? These little things were invented to make the human race happy and create world peace. All health nuts need not apply. What seems like Texas toast completely saturated in butter they also provide a small cup of jelly to dip/spread. Help create world peace and order the butter rolls on the side. You might tear up a little bit.
Now that we have covered the overview of the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast on the island of Kauai we will now cover each section as we move from Ke’e Beach to the stunning cliffs at the end of the trail at Kalalau Beach. The first leg of this famous trail is the Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach. This is a moderately strenuous trail that is approximately 2 miles long. This part of the trek does not require a camping permit and is a popular day hike. The first half mile of the trail will allow you the opportunity for amazing views of the magnificent coastline, be sure to have your camera and take advantage of these amazing backdrops for your vacation portfolio. You will continue along the trail as it drops back down to sea level at Hanakapi’ai Beach, where you will be greeted with the beautiful sandy beach and the blue Pacific Ocean. Even during the summer months the swimming and wading can be considered dangerous. The currents and tides here can be very strong if you are not aware of the local conditions and areas it is recommended that you do not venture into the water. The winter months make these conditions even more treacherous. There is another popular trek from the Hanakapi’ai Beach into the valley that leads ultimately to a majestic waterfall. This particular hike is also 2 miles long, however it is an unmaintained trail. This excursion should only be attempted in good weather so as to avoid any flash flooding or falling rocks. You will cross the Hanakapi’ai stream about a mile into the valley, at this point the trail becomes more difficult. You will then need to navigate your way over rocks and fallen trees to continue on your way. As usual you will need to use common sense and remember to always stay safe. You should bring enough water and food for a full day hike, and expect the 8 mile round trip from Ke’e Beach to the Hanakapi’ai Falls to take the entire day. You should also bring your mosquito repellent and sun screen. Don’t forget your camera, there are sure to be amazing photo opportunities for you to capture. It is also recommended that you do not hike alone, you should always have a buddy just for safety, and remember to carry a first aid kit as well. Enjoy this day hike and the amazing scenery, and maybe I will see you on the trails. Check back in later as our next blog will cover the section of the trail that leads from Hanakapi’ai to Hanakoa.
Are you serious! You were so delicious…and the freshest! My bud and I were about to hit Wal-Mart, but we were super hungry. While parking we saw this corner restaurant right across the street called Raging Crab and B-lined it over with some possible illegal jaywalking involved.
We walked into people wearing large white bibs grubbing down to crawfish, mussels, snow crab legs, clams, & shrimp atop white table paper….and they had nothing but smiles on their faces. Not only were the customers eating happy, but we were happy because of the immediate friendly service.
Salivating from the amazing aroma filling our current atmosphere we ordered corona’s with the lime & salt of course to quench the taste buds for the moment. Don’t want to get Hangry in public! And they make it easy for you to order by putting steps on the menu. Here’s how our ordering experience went:
Us: We’ll go with “COMBOS” (feeds 1-2)
Server: What meats would you like?
Us: *with utter confidence* Snow crab legs, crawfish, & mussels.
Us: oh yeah, the garlic butter…
Server: Haha….and what spicy level?
Buddy: Wait, how hot is hot?
Server: *calling him out* If you eat hot food, you can definitely handle this.
Buddy: Okay, let’s do the hot. (cheers)
Our food came out in a plastic bag and the rest is a masterpiece, a Picasso if you may. Also, I recommend the crazy garlic bread with “ninja aioli sauce”. Yes, we got ninja’d….and it was amazing.
There is a nice hike in the Saint Louis Heights area on Oahu that is a good work out and also leads up to one of the summits called Mount Olympus that allows you sweeping views of the beautiful island scenery. This scenic hike starts out as the Wa’ahila Ridge trail and is approximately 5 miles round trip, however there is a continuation that leads to the top of Mount Olympus at the end of the ridge trail. The small trail that leads up to the summit goes up and down several times and provides a good workout. If the summit isn’t shrouded in clouds it provides majestic views of the island.
The trail continues at the end of the Kolowalu-Wa’ahila junction and is the end of the maintained trail. From here there are two clearings that will give you a chance to take a break and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The next clearing allows for a very clear view of Mount Olympus and it might take approximately 2 hours from this point to the top. The last clearing takes 45 minutes to reach and is a great place to stop and have some water and a snack break. After this point the trail becomes steep and muddy in places, there are a series of ropes that will help out during this last push to the top. Once you arrive at the top you will absolutely appreciate the effort that you put into making this last climb. The complete 360 degree views are spectacular even when the summit is overcast.
You will want to bring enough water and some trail snacks along. Like most of the hikes on Oahu, you will want to have sunscreen and mosquito repellant as well. The overall length of the hike is an estimated five and a half miles round trip and takes approximately five to six hours. Grab your camera and take the opportunity to snap the outstanding views that you will come across. You should make sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes, this is not a hike you can wear rubber “slippahs” for. As always on any hike use common sense and remember Safety First.
To reach the start of the Wa’ahila Ridge trail you travel to Saint Louis Heights on Peter Street, and at the junction of Peter Street and Ruth Street you will make a left onto Ruth Street. You continue on Ruth Street until you reach Wa’ahila Ridge State Recreation Area. Park your car and make your way over to the start of the trail and always remember to bring a buddy and remain safe.
Once again whale watching season in Hawaii is upon us. Each year as many as 10,000 or more humpback whales call the waters surrounding the islands their winter home. Now that the whales are back around the islands ocean goers are reminded to take preventative measures and maintain a safe distance from these majestic yearly visitors. The whale season in Hawaii generally runs from November through May, but you might be able to see them in limited numbers throughout the year. The first whale has been confirmed just off the coast of Kauai. One of the more famous spots on Oahu to spot and watch whales is near the Makapu’u lighthouse. Visitors flock to this spot in order to catch a glimpse of these large animals.
These endangered whales are protected in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian islands, and federal regulations are designed to keep anyone from coming within 100 yards when on the water and within 1,000 feet in any aircraft. The regulations are applicable to all ocean users including; boaters, swimmers, divers, kayakers, windsurfers, paddleboarders, and vessel operators. All boaters are reminded to post a lookout, an extra pair of eyes that scan the waters ahead and to each side in order to prevent collisions with marine life, other vessels, divers and other obstacles.
While the whales are a welcome sight off of the Hawaiian islands, we must remember these massive animals are potential safety hazards to ocean users. These magnificent creatures can be an estimated 45 tons and when they surface or breach, not to mention slap their tails and fins, they can create a great amount of force. Whale and vessel collisions are also capable of causing injury or death to either the boaters or the whales. We also have to take special care to be aware of the whale calves who are especially vulnerable to being hit by vessels because they are hard to see and rest just beneath the surface and need to surface more often than the adults.
This can be an amazing time here on our piece of paradise, as always just remember to use common sense and exercise caution. If you happen to spot an injured or entangled marine animal contact the NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at 1-888-256-9840 and maintain the required safe distance. Respect the ocean and the land and lets all enjoy our tropical paradise.
On the of the east side of the island, or should I say, the Windward side, there is a beautiful place called the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. Thousands of Buddhist, Shinto, Protestant, and Catholic residents of Hawaii are buried here, but don’t fret. This well manicured memorial is some of the best scenery on Oahu! It features lush rolling hills with a backdrop of towering green mountains all overlooking the sleepy town of Kane’ohe. As soon as you turn into the park from the main road you get this sense of calmness.
Boasting Catholic statues, beautiful crypts, and mausoleums the main attraction to this place is the replica of a 900 year old Japanese Buddhist temple. Surrounded by a moat of Koi fish & black geese stands the Byodo-In Temple. Complete with bridges, 9-ft Buddha on Lotus Leaf, Peace Bell, bamboo trees, and even a small gift shop. Oh, and yes, you get to ring the giant Peace Bell! Seriously, after you ring that bell, you ask yourself, “Am I still in Hawaii or feudal Japan?”.
Check out the video below to hear the bell and see a 360 panoramic view of the Byodo-In Temple: