Na Pali Coast State Park, Kaua‘i

The heavenly and harsh Na Pali Coast is where all of nature’s wonder joins together, a world that will both amaze and test those who choose to explore it. Other than the ocean, hiking is the only access to the rugged coastline where sea cliffs, five lush valleys, waterfalls, and camping wait on the 15-mile stretch from Ke‘e to Polihale. The cliffs rise up to 4,000 feet in certain areas, and sea level is found only at the four main beaches along the way. The largest and most magnificent valley here is the Kalalau Valley, where ancient Hawaiians lived and archaeological evidence still remains. Other valleys also hold evidence of inhabited sites, as Hawaiians lived in various locations along the way. Rain falls here in excess, creating an abundance of waterfalls and streams.

View of Kauai's coast from the Kalalau Trail.
Along the Kalalau Trail in Na Pali State Park. Photo © maximkabb/123rf.

The Na Pali Coast State Park comprises 6,175 acres of raw land. The remaining cliffs, coastline, and valleys are either state forests or natural area reserves.

There is a ranger stationed at Kalalau Valley who oversees the park and who will ask campers for permits. There is a trailhead by Ke‘e Beach that you can’t miss, and at Kalalau Valley there’s a sign-in box. Day-use permits are required to go beyond Hanakapi‘ai (where there are composting toilets), about two miles in, and a camping permit is necessary to stay overnight at Hanakapi‘ai, Hanakoa, or Kalalau.

Camping is permitted for up to five nights total, but two consecutive nights are not allowed at Hanakapi‘ai or Hanakoa. More than the basics are needed to camp out here: a waterproof tent, mosquito repellent, first-aid kit, biodegradable soap, food, sleeping bag, and whatever else you think you may need and don’t mind carrying on your back mile after mile. Water bladders as opposed to water bottles are a good idea, because they’re lighter and run a constant line of water to the mouth. Tree cutting is not allowed, and there isn’t much natural firewood, so bring a stove if you want to cook. Drinking out of the streams is not advised; doing so can cause serious stomach illness, so boil the water or bring purification tablets. Don’t litter; take out whatever you carried in.

Reachable only by boat or kayak, the Nu‘alolo Kai can be visited for the day only, and Miloli‘i can be camped at for a maximum of three nights and has very basic campsites. The most accurate idea of what to expect is from hikers who have recently made the journey, because the trail changes with the weather.

Travel map of Kaua‘i, Hawaii.

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