Division of State Parks
[OʻAHU]: UPDATED 11/17/22: Kaʻena Point State Park – We are now accepting the 2023 Kaʻena Point Vehicle Access Permit applications. Please be patient as applications may take longer than the posted 10 days to process.
[MAUI] UPDATED 11/2/22: Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area will remain CLOSED until access roads through Kula Forest Reserve are cleared from storm damage and safe to traverse. Anticipated re-opening is January to mid-February 2023 (Per DOFAW). For updates, please go to: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/blog/2022/06/27/nr22-090/
[MAUI] UPDATED 11/2/22: ʻIAO VALLEY STATE MONUMENT – As of August 1, 2022 ʻIao Valley State Monument will be closed through February, 2023 for the final phase of the slope stabilization project and parking lot improvements .
Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park
10/20/22 – the Kalalau Trail has REOPENED.
Nāpali Coast is one of the most recognizable and beautiful coastlines in the world. A very special place. The pali, or cliffs, provide a rugged grandeur of deep, narrow valleys ending abruptly at the sea. Waterfalls and swift flowing streams continue to cut these narrow valleys while the sea carves cliffs at their mouths. Extensive stone walled terraces can still be found on the valley bottoms where Hawaiians once lived and cultivated taro.
Opening of Hāʻena State Park & Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park
Hāʻena State Park (SP) and Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park (SWP) are now open! Please read below and visit our Frequent Asked Questions page for more information.
Both Hāʻena State Park and the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park were closed from April 2018 to June 2019 following severe flooding on the north shore of Kauaʻi. Closure of the parks enabled the Division of State Parks to ensure better protection of our resources, mitigate decades of impacts to Hāʻenaʻs rural community, provide better on-site management and ultimately provide a higher-quality visitor experience through implementation of new park management strategies per the Hāʻena Master Plan.
IMPORTANT CHANGES IN PARK MANAGEMENT AND ACCESS
Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park & Kalalau Trail: In-order to access the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park as well as the Kalalau Trail, visitors have to go through Hāʻena SP. Hāʻena SP now requires advanced reservations for entry except for those with valid camping permits for the Nāpali Coast SWP and for Hawaii residents. Those with Nāpali Coast SWP Camping Permits do not need to make a Hāʻena SP Park Entry Reservation. Please present your valid camping permit upon arrival.
- Camping Permits are available 90-days in-advance (Click Here: Camping Permits)
- Limited overnight parking is available at Hāʻena SP for campers with overnight permits for Kalalau Valley (Click Here: GoHaena.com)
- Overnight parking at Haʻena SP is only allowed for those with valid overnight camping permits for Kalalau . Permits for Miloliʻi and any other location other than Kalalau will not be honored.
- Camping permits must be acquired from State Parks prior to purchasing overnight parking .
- Overnight parking spots are available for purchase up to 90-days in advance.
- Users will be charged for the number of days your vehicle occupies the lot (e.g. a one night stay will require paying for 2 days, a 4 night stay will require paying for 5 days, etc.).
Help Hawaii Fight Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD)
ʻŌhiʻa (Metrosideros polymorpha), the most abundant native tree in the state of Hawaiʻi, are dying from a new fungal disease. On Hawaiʻi Island, hundreds of thousands of ʻōhiʻa have already died from this fungus, called Ceratocystis. Healthy trees appear to die within a few days to a few weeks, which is how the disease came to be called “Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death.” This disease has killed trees in all districts of Hawaiʻi Island and has the potential to kill ʻōhiʻa trees statewide. – College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), University of Hawaii at Manoa
4 BEST HIKES ON THE NORTH SHORE OF KAUAI, HAWAII
Kauai is a hiker’s heaven. In fact, I spent a month on Kauai just to hike. I wrote a blog post about my 15 favorite hikes on Kauai. However, Kauai is a bit of a segmented island. If you are staying out west you want to hike in Koke’e State Park rather than drive 2-3 hours to the North and vice versa. Therefore people find themselves looking for hikes in specific regions.
This blog post should give you four suggestions for hikes on the north shore of Kauai. Some are long and some are short, but they are all in the right vicinity to attempt while staying in the northern suburbs like Hanalei or Princeville.
THREE EPIC TOURS I RECOMMEND ON KAUAI
Before we get into the hikes, I wanted to share with you three of my favorite tours on the island of Kauai. I know if you are into hiking, you will love these adventurous tours as well.
What will give you a great understanding of the island and the highlight of my trip to Kauai is booking a helicopter or scenic plane flight like these below. It will blow your mind and I think it’s the most scenic helicopter flight in the world.
Helicopter Flight: The most popular helicopter tour on Kauai is the Kauai Island Highlight Helicopter Tour.
Sightseeing Plane: The Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon Scenic Plane Flight are well under $200, which is more than half the cost of the same trip via helicopter.
Eco-Friendly Kauai Zip Line Tour: Soar over three different valleys against a backdrop of breathtaking mountain views and ocean scenery on Kauai’s award-winning 8-line zipline adventure: Eco-Friendly Kauai Zip Line Tour
BEST HIKES ON THE NORTH SHORE OF KAUAI
Hanakapiai Falls Trail
Hanakapiai Falls Trail is one of the most popular hikes on the North Shore of Kauai. It leads you to the first part of the Kalalau Trail towards Hanakpiai Beach before heading inwards along the Hankapiai Stream towards the booming 300ft+ Hankapiai Waterfall in the depths of the jungle. The Hanakpiai Falls Trail is 4.5 miles in and 4.5 miles out. However, many hikers stop at the beach and turn back, opting to hike only to the beach and not the falls. This makes the journey only 2 miles in and 2 miles out.
The Hanakapiai Falls Trail isn’t one of the easiest hikes on the island but it’s worth it and definitely one of the best waterfall hikes on Kauai.
My favorite part of the stretch from Ke’e Beach to Hankapiai Beach is the red rock path and how it contrasts dramatically with the striking blue of the Pacific Ocean far below. When you add the vivid greens from the jungle and the deep sky blue into this scene you have a vibrant palette painting an incredible scene replicated in a few places around the world.
The 300ft waterfall, which seems to fall out of the sky, pours down into the emerald pool below. The water was freezing but most of us jumped in for a dip.
Read the full blog post: Hanakapiai Falls Trail
Hanakpiai Falls in all of it’s glory!
Josh exploring the Hanakapiai Stream
The Kalalau trail is ultimately the most popular hike on Kauai. People come from all around the world to do the trail. I had planned to do the trail but high surf and bad weather stopped me from getting out there during the time period I had open during my one month in Kauai. I’ll be back to do this one for sure.
Here is what you can expect on this epic coastal trail along the Na Pali Coast:
Firstly you will need a Kalalau Trail Permit, which you can book by clicking here. Make sure you book well in advance as they are often booked out of permits over 4 months ahead of time. Rangers do patrol the area and keeping the numbers set helps to ensure the safety of hikers and the preservation of the region.
The trail is a challenging 11-mile (one-way), coastal trail along the Na Pali Coast. You can hike the first 4.5 miles to Hanakapiai Falls without a permit but any further than that you will need the permit. The trail ends at the secluded Kalalau Beach, which sits below Kalalau Valley. It is one of the most special spots on Kauai. Make sure you stay for one or two nights if you plan on camping here so you can truly enjoy the beach rather than hiking in and be hiking straight back out the next morning as it is a full-day hike.
Several parts of this trail are quite dangerous and many hikers have fallen into trouble over the years. It is a trail for experienced hikers in good physical condition.
Hiking to Hanakapiai Falls
What are my favorite pieces of hiking gear?
There are four pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a hike. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my hiking essentials.
- Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
- Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots: For the best ankle support, waterproofing, and durable exterior I’m a fan of tough but light hiking boots like these Salomons for my adventures.
- Black Diamond Head Torch: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve arrived back from a hike unexpectedly late. I always keep this lightweight but strong headtorch in my bag for the unexpected.
- Darn Tough Socks: These are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever worn and last for years. They also have a lifetime warranty and you just send them in with a hole and they replace it no questions asked.
The Okolehao Trail is on the north shore of Kauai near the town of Hanalei. It’s a 5-mile hike that I’ll never forget. That’s because it isn’t signposted very well and I ended up hiking much, much farther than the end of the trail.
The Okolehao trail is one of the north shore hiking trails on Kauai and is just around the corner from Hanalei. Unless you hike along the Kalalau Trail or to Hanakapiai Falls, this is probably the best hike you can do on the Kauai north shore.
The Okolehao trail is an out and back trail so you hike 2.5 miles in and then return down the same track 2.5 miles back. However, the mile markers seem to end after mile 1.75. This led to some confusion. I ended up hiking all the way up Hihimanu Ridge to Twin Peaks. This is one of the best hikes on Kauai if you are looking for a physical challenge.
Read the full blog post: Okolehao Trail
Okolehao Hiking Trail on the North Shore of Kauai
Hihimanu Ridge Hike
The Hihimanu Ridge Hike begins the same as the Okolehao hike. You continue up past the bench where the Okolehao trail finishes. From here the trail gets steeper, more slippery, and involves a series of rope segments. There were over 40 different segments of the hike that required ropes to help you up the muddy trail. In many sections of the hike, the foliage was incredibly thick, I should have brought a machete!
As the top nears you reach the Twin Peaks, which looks very similar to the Olomana Hike, which is one of the best hikes on Oahu. At the summit after several hours of hiking, there is a small leveled-out platform. Tibetan flags were strung beneath the two trees and you had an epic view into the valleys on either side. I could see the Hanalei river flowing on my left and waterfalls pouring down the ridges on my right. Helicopter tours whizzed below me, not knowing I had the ultimate view!
Where to stay on Kauai
I’m going to recommend five places to stay on Kauai. All five of these spots are in great locations but each one is a little different. Two are a luxury pick, one is a family choice, the other is a value selection. For more accommodation recommendations you can check my favorites in the Kauai Where to Stay Guide.
Kauai Shores Hotel – Luxury (but value also): A luxury feels with the resort-style property, palm trees, and a beautiful pool area. However, it is less than $300 a night. The best part about this hotel is that it is right on the beach. The restaurant literally looks out to the waves, which is an awesome spot to start your day with breakfast.
Koloa Landing Resort – Luxury (high-end): I was lucky enough to spend three nights reviewing Koloa Landing Resort and honestly the place is just phenomenal. It has the LARGEST pool on all of Kauai with beautiful, natural-style landscaping throughout the pool areas.
The Grand Hyatt Resort – Best Family Resort: With the best kids’ club on the island, wildlife talks in the lobby, and a five-acre pool complex that includes an enormous lazy-river pool, a waterslide, and a saltwater lagoon big enough for kayaking, the Grand Hyatt is unbeatable for keeping kids busy and parents happy.
Hilton Garden Inn – Value Pick: The Hilton Garden Inn is your number one choice if you are on a budget but still need comfort. The Hilton has a beautiful pool, has private beach access and hot tubs so you are still getting an awesome value and the resort experience.
HOLD UP! Are you sure you’re ready to start hiking and traveling? GET INSURED FIRST!
If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Don’t wait for an accident to happen, Get insured. I fractured an ankle halfway through a multi-day trek and had THOUSANDS covered by through insurance claim.
I’ve been using World Nomads and SafetyWing for the past 6 years. I’ve made successful claims with both and found them professional, helpful, and reliable but most importantly.. cheap! I trust them both. World Nomads is great for travel up to two months and SafetyWing is perfect for long-term travel.
To find out why I choose World Nomads and SafetyWing, check out my review: Best (Cheap) Travel Insurance or get a quote below.
Kaua’i Hiking Napali Coast
Mezmerizing and ominous are the best words to describe the Nā Pali Coast, the northwestern side of Kaua’i where no roads or homes exist. The only navigable route on the Nā Pali Coast is by foot, on the Kalalau Trail, an 11-mile journey that leads to Kalalau Beach where one can camp overnight. The Kalalau trail is Kauai’s most epic hike on the Nā Pali Coast, starting at the trailhead located at Ke’e Beach, and running all the way to Kalalau Beach. The Kalalau Trail hike traverses through 5 valleys and presents one of the world’s most challenging terrains. This epic Kauai hiking trail boasts 180-degree views of the Windex-blue Pacific Ocean, against the backdrop of towering pinnacles, majestic ridges, verdant valleys, and unspoiled beaches.
Kauai Hiking Napali Coast – Breathtaking Ocean Views
Kalalau Trail views of the Pacific Ocean
Kauai Hiking Napali Coast – First 2-miles (Hanakapi’ai Trail)
The Hanakapi’ai Trail is a 2-mile hike from Ke’e Beach, taking you to Hanakapi’ai Beach. This is also the first portion of the Kalalau Trail. Many hikers will continue hiking an additional 2 miles into Hanakapi’ai Valley to see an amazing waterfall.
Hiking on the Kalalau Trail (the 2-mile portion of Hanakapi’ai Trail)
Kauai Hiking Napali Coast – Hikers on the Kalalau Trail
Hikers rest while hiking the Kalalau Trail
Video: Kauai Hiking Na Pali Coast (Kalalau Trail)
A word of warning: Only attempt Kauai hiking Napali Coast if you are well-educated on the terrain of the trail which is extremely difficult for even the most-experienced hiker!
Important Points for Kauai Hiking Napali Coast – Kalalau Trail and the Hanakāpī’ai Trail
- Plan the Kalalau Trail hike by making an advanced reservation for camping in the “Napali Coast State Wilderness Park.” [Buy Camping Permit]
- To access the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail and the Hanakāpī’ai Trail you must arrange for your parking/transportation in to Ke’e Beach. [Buy Shuttle Pass / Parking Permit]
- Be advised that hazardous conditions prevail on the Kalalau Trail. You must be aware of the dangers presented from falling rocks, flash floods, and hazardous cliffs.
- Should you not be able to make the entire 11-miles to Kalalau, permits allow camping at Hanakoa, which is 6-miles in from the trailhead.
- Open fires are prohibited.
- All water from streams must be treated.
- No trash service whatsoever, so please respect the land and haul out what you haul in.
For more information on how to plan your visit, go to GO Hā’ena
About Kaua’i – The Garden Island
Kauai is fourth in size among the main Hawaiian Islands at 555 square miles of land— it’s 33 miles long and 25 miles wide. Its highest point is near the center of the island at Kawaikini Peak at 5,170 feet. Second highest is Mt. Wai’ale’ale at 5,148 feet. Mt. Wai’ale’ale is the center of a large volcanic mountain from which lava flowed down on all sides, and is the largest shield volcano in the Hawaiian Islands. Mt. Wai’ale’ale is literally the wettest spot on earth, with some portions of the summit recorded as receiving 600 inches of rain per year. All of this water feeds the island’s vegetation on a consistent basis, creating waterfalls, streams, verdant valleys and spectacular green and orange cliffs that have given Kaua’i its nickname of “The Garden Isle.”
Severe erosion as seen on the Na Pali Coast of Kauai.
Kaua’i Island Formation
The Hawaiian Island archipelago consists of 132 islands, atolls, reefs, shallow banks, shoals, and seamounts, and spans a total length of sixteen-hundred miles. The continuous northwestward movement of the Pacific Tectonic Plate across the fixed Hawaiian Magmatic Hot Spot is responsible for the formation of the entire Hawaiian Island chain. Incredibly, islands have been forming from this fixed hot spot for over 80 million years.
Kaua’i is the northernmost island of the eight, main Hawaiian islands, but the entire island chain extends much further: from The Big Island of Hawai’i in the west, to Midway and Kure in the east. Initially, Kaua’i was located where the Big Island of Hawai’i is today. As you move from west to east, the islands become younger. For example, the Big Island of Hawai’i is the youngest island in the Hawaiian Island chain, and is still quite volcanically active. To the southeast of it lies Lo’ihi Seamount, Hawai’i’s newest submarine volcano which is completely underwater at this time. Lo’ihi could become Hawaii’s newest island when it breaks the surface of the ocean some day.
While Kaua’i is the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands, just exactly how old is Kaua’i? Geologists have concluded that the island is at least 5.1 million years old, with chemical testing indicating that Kaua’i contains rocks between 5.6 to 3.8 million years old.
There has been some argument over whether Kaua’i formed from a single, major volcano or more than just one. A 2010 study from the University of Hawai’i revealed that there were actually two major shield volcanoes responsible for the island’s formation, one on Kaua’i and one in the region between Kaua’i and Ni’ihau. Ni’ihau is the island located west of Kaua’i, and is therefore the remnant of the first major volcano.
Once dome-shaped, Kaua’i’s physical appearance has gone through many phases over the past 5 million years. First arising from a submarine volcano (e.g. an undersea volcanic eruption), the island formed when the eruption finally broke the surface of the ocean as a central shield volcano, followed by landslides, shield collapse, erosion, and a series of more volcanic eruptions.
There continues to be a constant state of erosion occurring on Kaua’i, and this will eventually lead to the shrinking of the island back into the ocean. Scientists predict this may happen in 2-3 million years.
Nā Pali Coast of Kaua’i
The Nā Pali Coast of Kaua’i is an example of a shoreline that has been severely eroded by wave action. In the winter months, it is customary for the north and northeast-facing shores to receive surf with heights of up to 40 feet. This wave action is further intensified when combined with consistent Hawaiian trade winds and rains which cut through the porous rocks like knives. Spectacular sea arches and sea caves have formed in the cliffs as a result of the relentless pounding Hawaiian surf. Sometimes, overhanging arches crash to the ocean below, creating sea cliffs with sheer drops.
Spectacular sea arches have formed in the cliffs as a result of the pounding, Hawaiian surf.
The sea cliffs along Nā Pali Coast provide an opportunity to see what happens internally when a volcanic cone erupts. The pressure from hot, liquid magma forms cracks in the existing hardened, lava beds. This hot lava then flows into the cracks, and cools slowly over time. The resulting lava dikes are the “veins of the volcanic rock.” One could map out the dikes’ directions, to determine roughly where the center of the original volcanic cone was once located. Dikes appear as vertical and slightly diagonal strips, and are up to several feet in width. They are easy to spot because they run perpendicular to the layers of basalt rock in the cliff.
Lava dikes appear like veins in the volcanic rock.