Hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls

We did an 8-mile hike on Kauai. I’ve done this hike before, and you’d think I learned my lesson the first time around. Maybe the views were so beautiful that I totally forgot how much pain I was in after.

The hike starts at Ke’e beach on the Kalalau Trail. It’s 2 miles to Hanakapi’ai Beach. At the 0.25 mile marker, which is pretty steep for the first mile, you get an amazing view of Ke’e beach.


Ke’e Beach

There’s also a great view of Napali Coast in the first 2 miles.


Hanakapi’ai Beach is really pretty, but the waters are super dangerous that they highly discourage people from even wading in it.


Hanakapi’ai Beach

There’s even a warning sign.


Once you get to the beach, which is downhill the 2nd mile (so according to physics, it’s uphill in 90-degree weather), you can take a break and enjoy the view. Most people do the 2 miles here to the beach and then turn around for a 4-mile hike.

OR if you’re up for a challenge, you can hike 2-mile inland to Hanakapi’ai Falls. Otherwise, you need a permit to go any further on the Kalalau Trail which is 11 miles one-way. We decided to go to the 300-foot falls, and the trail goes over lots of rocks and crossing streams, climbing up the side of mountains to finally getting to a clearing where you can see this majestic view.


(By the way, if you see any locals who look like they know where they’re going, don’t follow them. Stay on the trail. Otherwise you go off-roading for about 15 min. before realizing you have to start swimming upstream.)

Once you get to the falls, you can swim around in the freezing-cold water, take a shower under the falls, eat lunch, sun, and then prepare yourself for the 4-miles back. The last 2 miles were torture. It was equivalent to doing the Tough Mudder. This is the hardest hike I’ve ever done, and it took us about 8 hours round-trip including a 30-min break at the falls. But I’m glad that I can say that I’ve done this. Twice.

Tips for this hike:

  • Wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet. Sturdy hiking shoes that you can cross streams without having to worry about wet socks. There are some parts where it’s easier to just wade across if the rushing waters aren’t too high than finding rocks to hop across.
  • Follow the red ribbons that are tied in the branches. They keep you on the trail.
  • Bring at least 2L of water per person if you do the 8-mile round trip. We each had a 3L camelbak, and we drained them in the 7th mile. Especially if it’s a hot day.
  • We overheard our boat tour guide who advised that you freeze a liter of bottled water and some snacks, put them in a ziploc bag, and stash them at Hanakapi’ai Beach if you decide to do the Falls. That way, you don’t have to carry it, and when you come back out, you’ll have a nice refreshing snack. Just don’t forget about them!
  • Take a break at the beach after you come out from the Falls. The last 2 miles are going to be brutal in the afternoon sun.
  • Bring snacks.
  • Bring mosquito bands / bug spray.
  • Wear sunscreen and REAPPLY.
  • Get to Ke’e beach early so there’s parking. We got there around 8am on a Wednesday, and there were still plenty of spots.
  • If you have bad knees, get a hiking stick or knee brace, the steepness on the way down is unforgiving.

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