Kauai – Kalalau Trail Destroyed, but it’s Still an Outstanding Hiking Destination
We had planned our whole Hawaiian adventure around one outstanding backcountry trail; we wanted to hike the “Kalalau Trail”. The required permits were already requested last autumn, and we carried the right equipment for the trail around the world during the previous five months. As we arrived in Kauai we finally checked the national park page for updates and found the shocking message:
We learned that already mid-April devastating rain, flooding, and landslides had caused the destruction and many people lost their homes and values at this beautiful cost. The impact to the inhabitants was of course much more far-reaching than our missed opportunity to walk one of the 10 best backpacking hikes in the world. So, we had to find alternatives to the 22-miles return trail above towering sea cliffs and through lush valleys. But definitely, we wanted to see the Napali Coastline. More detailed information about the Kalalau Trail and alternatives for spectacular views of the Napali Coast.
On our first day, we visited the Wailea Waterfall close to Lihu’e. The view from the street which ends shortly after the fall was good, but we were looking for more. We found a way to descend the very steep slope down to the water. Luckily, many roots and some ropes saved us at the steepest and muddiest part.
Next, we identified two hikes starting at the Kokee State Park for a view of the magnificent landscape of the Napali Coast. First, we started from the Kalalau lookout the very steep, muddy and slippery Kalepa Ridge Trail. Although it was only 3.5 km return, it took us more than 2 hours. Anyhow the outlook at the edge was second to none.
The second hike started close to the Kokee Park Lodge. The Nu’alolo Trail was much more accessible. After almost 2 hours we reached the viewpoint of the coastline. We stayed here for a picnic and enjoyed the view for more than an hour with the constant change due to clouds and sunshine. The only annoying thing was the helicopters. Frequently they flew over our heads to bring passengers close to the sea cliffs. We felt sorry for the people who just saw all of it in a rush.
Our third attempt to get a better idea of what makes the Kalalau Trail so unique started from the sea. Based on the recommendation of a local guide we booked a catamaran sunset tour. It took us approx. one hour to arrive at the coastline from Port Allen. Here the captain set the sail and we felt the magic of the Napali coastline again. During the sailing tour, an excellent dinner was served, and several of the passengers got drunk by too many delicious cocktails.
Our last hike in the Waimea Canyon State Park took us down the Waimea Canyon. Very similar looking like the Grand Canyon but of course less deep and much smaller in size. Two-thirds of the hike was great, and we stopped on a plateau for lunch. Then the trail approached a forest full of mosquitos. We increased our walking speed, but even as we arrived on the river at the bottom of the canyon, we always had to fight against the insects. We quickly decided not to follow the river but return to the top as soon as possible. On our way up, we met a French/Canadian couple who planned to camp down on the riverbed. We talked for a while and shared our recent hike experience including the need for insect repellent for the forest. Unfortunately, they had to move on to reach their destination before sundown. Otherwise, we had continued our chat for a couple of hours.
During our stay at the northern part of Kauai, we were lucky to combine a short hike with a beautiful place at the ocean. The trailhead to Queens Bath was located in a holiday home resort and only view parking lots were available. Like every trail in Kauai, the path was very muddy and steep. Before we reached Queens Bath, we discovered plenty of sea turtles feeding at the coastline.
Very similar to the islands in the south sea we discovered on Kauai our enemy right away. Every morning one of the many roosters woke us up before 5 am. We asked ourselves why a Hawaiian Island does have so many chickens and roosters? We counted on the Kokee campground more than 30 individuals. The reason was even on display in our motel:
“Kauai chickens have always been part of the island, but not as much since after Hurricane Iniki in 1992. The story goes that the hurricane blew out all of the chicken crops throughout the island leaving the chickens to run wild.”
As they robbed us of our needed sleep, we began to hate them. This actually was the opposite what the Kauai people do. They protect the chickens and even stop their vehicle in the middle of the road to let them pass. So, our last hope was that they had not populated our next destinations equally. But please be assured, we didn't join the hunting team!