Out of all of our adventures while on Kauai, hiking the Kalalau Trail is at the top of both of our lists of best memories from our week-long stay on the Garden Isle.
The trail head begins at the end of the road; the furthest you can drive from the North end of the island. There are no roads for motor vehicles on this part of the island, so if a helicopter ride, kayak trip, or swim isn’t in the cards for you and your family, this hike is your chance to see the treasured Na Pali coast.
Though we would have loved to go further (the entire Kalalau Trail is just under 11 miles out), we only had time and baby-patience for the 4-mile round trip hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach. Despite the low mileage, the terrain is quite treacherous. It varies in steepness, and elements from dry rocks, to slippery rocks, to puddles, and streams. We came prepared, and also picked up a few tips along the way.
1. Arrive Early. Since the trail is the only land access to the Na Pali coast, the destination can be quite popular, and parking is an issue. If you’re like me, you’ll also want to avoid a crowded trail. Getting to the parking lot at least before 8 am will ensure you of both.
2. Bring a few hiking comforts. If you have hiking poles, it’s smart to bring them along. Slaed brought his, and I borrowed one on the way back. Hiking with a toddler on your back can throw off your balance, and the pole helped give me some extra stability. Other comforts include the obvious: water and a little snack for when you arrive at the beach.
3. Hiking Shoes. Wear hiking shoes that work for you. With the slippery and rocky areas of the trail, you want to be comfortable to explore, and not constantly concerned about your feet. Chaco sandals worked (loved being able to walk across the stream with out worrying about drenched shoes) for me while Slaed wore trail running shoes. On the way back we saw many a’hiker sporting flip flops. Maybe they made the trek, but I bet it wasn’t easy or comfortable.
4. Enjoy the view. We needed this reminder for some reason! I guess we got so focused on the hike, that we would forget to stop, and take some time to cherish the experience. Leave it to Bergen to help us out. On our way back, he would not stop fussing. I whizzed through the trail thinking we needed to get out of there as soon as possible. After some full on screaming, we decided to just stop and take a break. We all drank some water, had a few crackers, and just checked out the amazing Na Pali coastline. Once back in the ergo, Bergen was good to go the rest of the way.
5. Extra clothes for kids. While we certainly were not swimming at Hanakapi’ai beach (much too dangerous), Bergen still managed to the get pretty wet and sandy playing and romping around. We were glad to have packed an extra outfit for him to change into for the hike back.
6. Check Ahead. Closures for maintenance can occur. Also beware and respectful of the ocean. It not advised to swim Hanakapi’ai beach, and especially dangerous from September – April due to treacherous surf conditions.
What are your tips for hiking with kids? Have you traveled to Kauai? What was at the top of your “best memories” list?