If you’ve been following along with my Kauai posts, first of all, thank you for being here, and second, welcome to my favorite part of the trip!
When I began researching Kauai, hiking to Hanakapi’ai Falls immediately went to the top of my to-do list. It’s a 9.1 mile out-and-back trail that takes you along the Napali Coast and into the jungle. It’s located within Ha’ena State Park and because of its popularity there’s a limit on the number of trail passes and parking spots available for non-residents. We made our shuttle and hiking reservations through the Ha’ena State Park website a month in advance. We were on the earliest shuttle leaving Hanalei at 6:30 a.m. where they scanned our QR codes and reminded us many times to not miss the last shuttle back to the parking lot or we would be adding some miles to our hike.
The trail was pretty difficult and it can take well over 5 hours to make it out and back. I’m so glad we brought our hiking boots and poles. It rains a lot on Kauai and the rocks on the trail can get slick.
The first 2 miles of the hike hugs the coast and spits you out at Hanakapi’ai Beach. The day started out pretty clear and we even saw a whale splashing in the distance!
The second half of the hike takes you straight into the jungle. It was much more strenuous and already muddy from the nightly rain. There are quite a few spots where you have to scramble and you cross the river at least 5 times. I haven’t done many hikes like this—where you’re required to jump from rock to rock over rushing water—but I quickly learned to lookout for the trail on the other side of the river so you can tell where to cross because it wasn’t always obvious.
Because we were on the first shuttle, we were one of the first groups of people to reach the falls.
It was UNREAL.
We planned ahead and brought our swimsuits, sandals and dry clothes (the dry clothes would prove to be pretty useless later on). I carefully climbed over the rocks and into the water and it felt like a polar plunge! Possibly the coldest water I’ve ever swam in but still absolutely perfect. People talk about “core memories.” This will be one of mine. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
We dried off, ate some snacks and started the hike back down to the beach. We made it about a half mile before the rain started. And it didn’t stop. A downpour the entire 2.5 hours it took us to get back to the trailhead. We didn’t bring rain gear and I honestly don’t think it would have helped much. We were absolutely soaked and covered in mud, yet somehow our phones and camera survived in our bags.
Unfortunately, when we got back to the shuttle pick up area, pretty much everyone who had taken the shuttle into the park was now trying to leave so we had to wait a while to get on a shuttle back to the parking lot.
Even though we spent half the hike trying not to slip on any rocks and fall to our doom and even though there wasn’t a single dry spot left on my body, it was still one of my favorite hikes ever. Swimming under a GIANT waterfall. Oh and did I mention it was also on my birthday? It was a day and a trip to remember!