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Kauai, Hawaii

Updated on January 15, 2016 - Kalalau Trail

This trip was mainly for full length of Kalalau Trail, which we only covered for the first two miles in our last trip becasue of limited time. The hike requires permit. Becasue of popularity one might need to book the permit months before. There were two times we encountered rangers during the hike and they both checked our permit.

The hike is about 11 miles one way. We made it a two-night, three-day trip. The first day started at about 9am. We parked the car at trailhead. We heard that there were break-ins in the past. Luckily it did not happen to us. We were also lucky to take the last parking spot in the lot. Good parking spots are limited. So try to get there early. It took us about 6 hours to get to the Kalalau beach including rests, lunch and taking photos. In my opinion, the challenge of this trail is the heat. We sweat a lot. It would be better to start as early as you can. The trail is very well maintained. The famous Crawler's Ledge at 7 miles was actually not hard at all. As long as you move stably you will be fine. If it rains, however, the entire trail can be muddy and dangerous. Allthough I saw people hiked without trekking poles, for me, trekking poles are must-have.

Besides regular hiking gears, a very important item you want to take is swimming suits. At the beach there is a waterfall. You can take shower there. You will also need a bucket to carry waters to your campsite. For sleeping gears, full sleeping bags are definitely overkill. We carried long underwear, sleeping bag liners and a flat down quilt. What I found was with long underwear and liner alone I felt a little cold (65F) at night; the long underwear and a down quilt shared with my wife provided right amount of warmth. We also got a lot of bites by either mosquitoes or flies. So some repellents would be helpful.

In my opinion, the best scenery is at last two miles. With my limited exploration, I think the best spot for sunset and sunrise is on a small hill at GPS location N22° 10.547' W159° 39.044'.

On day 2, we hiked into the valley. The official trail leads you to Big Pool, which is nice for swimming and hangouts. In the valley there are a few trails can lead you to different places. Just hike around, there may be something interesting.

After hiking back to civilization, we rested in a nice hotel. At 5:30am next day, we went to Pool of Mokolea for sunrise. You will need some preparation before heading to Pool of Mokolea. The road to the parking area of Pool of Mokolea might not be on some GPS maps. Study it before you go. You will need to turn at N22° 12.955' W159° 24.278' to an unpaved road. Drive to N22° 12.946' W159° 23.366' and park the car. In our trip, the unpaved road can be easily handled by a regular sedan. If you have high clearance vehicle, you can drive further to the end. Otherwise, park the car and hike 0.75 mile. The GPS track can be downloaded below. I find a 3-stop reverse Grad ND worked well to photograph Pool of Mokolea sunrise.

Feel free to download my GPS tracks:

Kalalau Trail.gpx
Kalalau Valley Big Pool.gpx
Mokolea Pool.gpx

We spent 7 days in Kauai, Hawaii during 2012 Thanksgiving. Kauai is hiker's haven. Here is my trail report.

  1. Nualolo-Awa'awapuhi Loop (11 miles round trip). This is the best trail we hiked in this island. We have not hiked the famous full-length of Kalalau Trail. So I cannot comment that. But if you want to do only one day-hike, I think this is the one.
  2. Honopu Ridge Trail (around 4 miles round trip). Although many places mentioned this was a hunter trail and was not very well maintained, at the time we hiked it, we found it was maintained well. At intersections, you can always find pink ribbons that help you to navigate. We never got lost even once. I recommend you to wear long pants. There are sections with stiff fern branches that can scratch your skin. A pair of good hiking shoes are also recommended. At the end of the trail, you basically walk along the knife edge of the vertical cliffs. Don't be shy to stop when your heart cannot take it because a single mis-step can cause one's life. The view is absolutely stunning, which makes entire adventure total worth it.
  3. Kalepa Ridge Trail (around 2 miles round trip). This is an unoffical trail that are not listed in park's map. The hike will take you along the ridge line into the Kalalau Valley. It offers incredible views that cannot be seen from the lookouts. The trail head is at Kalalou Lookout but it is not marked. If you face to the valley, at left side of the fence, you can find a faint trail, which is the trail head. Late afternoon would be a good time to start the hike.
  4. Pihea Trail to Alaka'i Swamp Trail (around 8 miles round trip). This is an interesting trail. You will appreciate the miles and miles of boardwalk. The end of the trail is Kilohana Lookout. At the time we hiked it, it was extremely foggy at the lookout. Because of this, we was not able to see anything. The boardwalk itself made the trip worth the effort.
  5. Hanalei 'Okolehao Trail (around 4 miles round trip). This trail offers pleasant view of north side of the island. The mountains are green and lovely.
  6. Canyon Trail to the falls (around 4 miles round trip). Most of the part of this trail is in the forest. Only at the end of the trail we can see the valley. The view, however, did not impress me.
  7. Sleeping Giant East Trail (around 4 miles round trip). This trail offers the view of east side of the island but it did not impress me.
  8. First two miles of Kalalau Trail. This is the busiest and most crowded trail. The view, however, was really just so-so. It is nothing more than a few typical shoreline scenes.

Good photo spots for sunrise: Hanalei Bay, Pu'u o Kila Lookout and Shipwreck beach.

Good photo spots for sunset: Pu'u o Kila Lookout, Quene's Bath, Hanalei Valley Lookout. Waimea Canyon Lookout is good at late afternoon.

Sunset at Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunset at Kalalau Trail

The photo was taken on a small hill a little north at the intersection that goes into Kalalau Valley.


Sunrise at Pools of Mokolea, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunrise at Pools of Mokolea


Sunset at Hanalei Valley Overlook, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunset at Hanalei Valley Overlook


On Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

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On Kalalau Trail


Sunset at Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunset at Kalalau Trail

The photo was taken on a small hill a little north at the intersection that goes into Kalalau Valley.


Waimea Canyon Picnic Area Late Afternoon, Kauai, Hawaii

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Waimea Canyon Picnic Area Late Afternoon


Sunrise at Pu'u o Kila Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunrise at Pu'u o Kila Lookout


Sunrise at Pu'u Hinahina Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunrise at Pu'u Hinahina Lookout


Sunrise at Shipwreck Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunrise at Shipwreck Beach


Rainbow at Lolo Vista, Kauai, Hawaii

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Rainbow at Lolo Vista


View from Nu'alolo Cliff Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

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View from Nu'alolo Cliff Trail


Awa'awapuhi Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii

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Awa'awapuhi Lookout


Sunset at Canyon Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunset at Canyon Trail


View from Honopu Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

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View from Honopu Trail


Sunset at Hanalei Valley Overlook, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunset at Hanalei Valley Overlook


Sunrise at Hanalei Bay Pier, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunrise at Hanalei Bay Pier


Sunrise at Hanalei Bay Pier, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunrise at Hanalei Bay Pier


Hanalei Bay Pier, Kauai, Hawaii

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Hanalei Bay Pier


Sunset at Queen's Bath, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunset at Queen's Bath


Sunset at Queen's Bath, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunset at Queen's Bath


Waimea Canyon Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii

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Waimea Canyon Lookout


Sunset at Queen's Bath, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunset at Queen's Bath


Sunrise at Waimea Canyon Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunrise at Waimea Canyon Lookout


Pu'u o Kila Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii

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Pu'u o Kila Lookout

Late afternoon.


Sunset at Secret Lava Pool, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunset at Secret Lava Pool


Waimea Canyon Lookout, Kauai, Hawaii

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Waimea Canyon Lookout


View from Hotel Room in Hanalei Bay Resort, Kauai, Hawaii

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View from Hotel Room in Hanalei Bay Resort


View from Hanalei 'Okolehao Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

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View from Hanalei 'Okolehao Trail


Sunrise at Shipwreck Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

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Sunrise at Shipwreck Beach

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