Before leaving my Hawai’i Paradise, I also managed to get to Kaua’i. It’s advisable to rent a car although I only needed it to get to the hostel and for the drive to ‘Waimea Canyon’…but that wasn’t the original plan in the beginning. I stayed at ‘Kaua’i Beach House Hostel’ in Kapaa. When you get to the end of Kapaa it’s located on the right next to ‘Scotty’s Shack’. You can park your car right at the ocean front so take a turn right and drive all the way through. A tip when renting a car: always make a reservation for one of the lower economy classes! Due to availability, they will most likely always upgrade you to a higher class with no surcharge.
The famous Kalalau Trail
I knew Kaua’i was popular for the famous KALALAU TRAIL and the ‘Na Pali Coast’ (Jurassic Park). I was going to do everything in my power to find a way to do the trail. All in all, I had 4 days on the island, travel days included, so I ultimately had 2 full days to do the trail. They say you need a minimum of 2 days since the trails is 22 miles in total so you will need a day for your outbound trip and another day on your way back. If you have the luxury of more time you can stay as long as you want. So there I was on my arrival day: it was around 3ish pm when I got to the hostel and nothing was organized. I knew if I wanted to do this I absolutely had to leave early the next morning, I had no tent, no bag, so much luggage I needed to store somewhere and most importantly no partner to go with (the trail is one of the most incredible but at the same time most dangerous trails in this world). I started asking around but there was no one who planned on going the next day. It didn’t look promising and time was running out. When asking the hostel guy one last time at the end of the day if he had heard something he was surprisingly like ‘You know what Lisa? I’ve got my day off tomorrow I’ll go with you!’. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was! He told me he had done the trail several times which made him the perfect guide. It was crazy: he had a hammock for me, he gave me a smaller bag-pack I could use, we arranged for my other luggage to be stored at the hostel and after heading to the supermarket to get energy food I was all set…and still couldn’t believe that this had just happened!
People often advise you not to park your car at the trailhead as cars might be damaged or even stolen overnight. So I left the car at the hostel and we took the bus up to Hanalei (again, it’s freezing so bring some extra clothes or the 40 min. ride will be really unpleasant). From Hanalei, we were hitchhiking and caught a ride with this nice Canadian couple up to the trailhead at Ha’ena. Ah, you normally need a permit to do the trail. Well, of course, due to organizing everything last minute I didn’t have one so just go without one. Rangers only check occasionally and apparently they had just done their route. It was time to get the adventure started: 22 Miles of Magic were ahead of us (11 miles one way)!
We left around 10.30 am and it took us almost 7 hours to get to ‘Kalalau Beach’ which is your final destination. It is also possible to move slower and take your time. Either way, the ‘Na Pali Coast’ will take your breath away. The first 2 miles are pretty crowded since a lot of tourists do this segment to ‘Hanakapi’ai Beach’. Waves come crashing in here and people have actually died at this beach as the waves can suck people out to sea at rapid speed. The power of the ocean will leave you in awe. It is a tourist attraction but be cautious while admiring it. On our way back a sad situation occurred as one lady was desperately searching her father-in-law. He had Alzheimer’s disease and went missing. The trails around this area can get very steep and sketchy so I still keep hoping they found him in time and he is safe.
From this mile marker, the next 4 miles will be very steep and you will be exposed to the hot sun in times but can rest in the shade in between. When you get to a big river you know that you have reached the half way marker. On your way here there will be a sign leading you to a waterfall: if you have got enough time make sure to check it out, we didn’t so we walked past it and kept going straight on. By the way, it makes sense to bring two water bottles with you, as you might want to refill your bottle with fresh spring water at times. I always added a tablet to my water to kill any kind of bacteria, that’s where the second bottle comes in handy, as the tablet will only be effective after 2 hrs.
From mile 6 to 8 the trail will get even steeper and you will be exposed to the sun the whole time with no shade so make sure to really watch your steps. I actually told my partner I was going to let him know as soon as I felt the slightest dizziness, one wrong step or any kind of imbalance could be fatal. The last lap from mile 8 to 11 will still be hot and steep. This is where the sketchy and slippery part starts. Lean your weight towards the stone walls and watch your step. If it has just been raining the past couple days, don’t do the trail, it will be too slippery and too dangerous. When you’ve mastered this part you will finally reach the official sign congratulating you that you have mastered the ‘Kalalau Trail’. The last part after this leads you down a red sand desert towards ‘Kalalau Beach’.
Besides all the visitors, some free spirits live here and spend several months at the beach. People keep themselves busy by doing some ‘farming’ in the tropical gardens in the valley. Besides that, you will also find another waterfall around this area. The beach is plain beautiful and we arrived right in time for sunset. After we had found a place to set up our hammocks we cooked dinner and sat at the beach. Beware, don’t sleep on the beach as waves will come crashing in once the tide is in. You can actually also reach ‘Kalalau Beach’ with a boat. First, people sometimes get stranded out here since big waves might prevent the boat from picking them back up…and second, where is the fun in that? If you’re a healthy human being make those legs work and earn it! The ‘Na Pali Coast’ on Kauai is beyond everything that exists on this planet. In the night I saw the most beautiful starry sky; It didn’t even seem real. I wanted to capture this image forever but no picture would have done this magical nature justice. It is indeed a very personal memory. The coastline is like a never ending trail and the funny thing is you somehow don’t even ever want it to end since you’re simply stunned by the surreal perfection.
We went back to the hostel the traditional way…hitchhiking. And so I was sitting at the back of a pick-up truck next to bags of taro crop and a dog while I felt the refreshing warm Hawaiian breeze on my skin. And I was just happy…happy that I had really found a way to do the Kalalau trail, happy about all the beautiful images that would be stored in my mind forever, happy that the world could be such a peaceful place and I got to experience it. I guess those are the moments that give you a certain kind of balance. And never had I been happier about a shower than after these two days.
Before departing in the afternoon the next day I took the car for a ride to explore the OTHER SIDE of the island and drove up to ‘Wailua Falls’. It’s a short drive and easy to access. I drove even further to ‘Waimea Canyon’ which truly is the little brother of the Grand Canyon except with an ocean view. I took the Hwy 552 up and went down Hwy 550. It was a fun ride and doable in the short amount of time. I just loved cruising with the windows down…I will never forget the feeling of the Hawaiian breeze in my hair…only in Hawai’i. I still hadn’t done my cliff dive on Kaua’i but my plan to do it at ‘shipwreck Beach’ couldn’t be put into action since the waves were too big that day. Well well, what I had experienced on this island truly made up for that! When I left the island I still couldn’t believe I had really conquered the Kalalau Trail. I wanted to share this experience with so many people in my life, especially my dad. Well, I might just have to fly him out there one day.
~ What’s it like coming home from this big round the world adventure ~