The Kalalau Trail on Kaua’i is one of the most epic, most beautiful, most sought-after hikes in Hawaii (and beyond!). It’s a bucket list item that takes some planning. If you’re like me, you want to make the absolute most of experiences like this, so I pulled together our best tips for hiking this remote, gorgeous, exciting hike!
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Set an Alarm to Reserve Your Spot
No really! Reservations to hike any part of the trail sell out within minutes, so you will want to be on the Ha’ena State Park website as soon as tickets come available. It’s not a bad idea to do a “trial run” of the online reservation system a few days in advance, too, just so you know what to expect and to figure out what you need to have on-hand when you make your reservation. Tickets will come available at midnight Hawaii Time, 30 days before you plan to hike. Reservations are limited for safety and preservation purposes. Don’t miss your chance!
Get all the details: Your Ultimate Guide to Kauai’s Kalalau Trail
Know You’ll Be Disconnected
There is no cell service. Not at the entrance, not in the parking lot, not on the trail, not on the beach! Embrace it. But also know that you won’t be able to call for help if something happens, so be a little extra careful.
You also might like: Hawaii’s Best Adventures
Wear Sunscreen AND Bug Repellent
You’ll be in some sunny spots, but also some shady spots–in the jungle! So definitely be sure to apply sunscreen and bug repellent before you go. Depending on how far you plan to hike (four miles round-trip to Hanakapi’ai Beach, eight miles round-trip to Hanakapi’ai Waterfall, or 22 miles round-trip to Kalalau Beach), you will also want to bring it with you to reapply a time or two!
Pro tip: Apply sunscreen first, wait 15 minutes for it to soak in, and then apply bug repellent on top. This is the correct way to apply both, as directed by a travel immunization nurse and my dermatologist!
Read on: The Traveler’s Guide to Sunscreen
Bring More Water
Bring at least 50% more water than you think you’ll need. We actually bought some gallon jugs of water at the grocery store and froze one overnight. We left it in the car during our hike so that when we came back, we’d have some cold water waiting for us. You should steal that idea! However you choose to hydrate, make sure to bring some with you on the hike, and don’t drink untreated water from the streams or waterfall!
More here: 5 Things You Forgot to Pack for Hawaii
Pack Blister Band-aids
There are streams to cross. It rains a lot on the North Shore, where the Kalalau Trail is located. Your feet will get wet. Wet feet are prone to blisters! Even if you don’t have blisters to begin with, it’s a good idea to pack some blister band-aids to take on your trip, even if not on your hike. I know I needed a couple of them by the time we got back from the hike! I was glad I had some with me. We had a lot more hiking to do throughout the week!
More here: The Very Best Hikes on Kaua’i
Be Willing to Turn Back
This is your reality check. I know this is a once-in-a-lifetime hike for most people, and I know you can totally do it! But I also know that a lot of preventable rescues happen on this trail every year because people are unwilling to turn back when the need arises, or they take unnecessary risks. The trail is very well-maintained, but landslides are not uncommon on the North Shore.
Additionally, there is always the danger of flash flooding because it rains so much on the North Shore and surrounding area, and you do have to cross a few streams, especially if you plan to hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls. Just be aware of water levels, and if it feels unsafe, don’t do it!
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