Kauai may rank fourth among the Hawaiian Islands in size and annual number of visitors, but to many, it’s a hands-down #1 in terms of beauty. Its most spectacular attraction, Na Pali Coast State Park, consists of 6,000 acres on the remote northwest coast. An 11-mile trail within the park features some of the most breathtaking sights in the state.
The rugged, challenging Kalalau Trail winds through five major valleys cut out of pali (or cliffs) that reach heights of 4,000 feet above the sea. The views along the way include not only staggering Pacific Ocean panoramas, but waterfalls, streams, wild goats, and rare native plants. Remnants of taro terraces can also be seen on some of the valley floors.
Many day hikers opt for a two-mile (each way) trek to Hanakapiai Valley. From the secluded beach at this point, another two-mile hike inland leads to the 300-foot-tall Hanakapiai Falls. Camping permits are necessary beyond this area.
About six miles from the trailhead, the Hanakoa Valley offers the first camping opportunity. For most campers, though, the ultimate goal is Kalalau Valley at the end of the trail. Complete with a waterfall and vegetation like guava, lilikoi (passionfruit), and mango trees, the valley is bordered by an isolated beach that stretches southwest for about a mile.
The third camp site in the park, Milolii, lies beyond Kalalau and can only be accessed by boat, and only between May 15 and September 7, when calmer seas make the approach safer. During the same time period, a few companies (Captain Andy’s, Kauai Sea Tours, and Na Pali Explorer) have permits to take passengers on motorized raft day trips to the area, and a few (Kayak Kauai, Na Pali Kayak, Outfitters Kauai) have permits to lead guided kayak tours.
The only other way to reach this magical destination? A helicopter tour through a company like Blue Hawaiian or Safari Helicopters. Whether it’s seen by land, by sea, or from the air, this vast, remarkable region is sure to inspire awe in any visitor.