Have you heard of the Kalalau Trail?
It is the only land route to Kauai’s famous Napali Coast. The 11-mile Kalalau Trail is considered one of the most dangerous hiking trails in the world.
Most hikers start on this Napali Coast trail for a day-hike to Hanakapiai Beach and Falls. This is the maximum you can hike along the Kalalau trail without a permit.
Most tourists who stop at Hanakapiai Falls aren’t aware of a larger and more scenic waterfall located just a few miles ahead. Since this waterfall is in the Hanakoa Valley, it is called Hanakoa Falls.
In this blog post, we will learn more about the lesser-known sibling of Hanakapiai Falls and give you a worthy reason to hike further along the Kalalau Trail.
You will also see why Kalalau Trail doesn’t have to be a long, strenuous hike that gives you jitters. Just a camping trip from Ke’e beach to Hanakoa Falls is enough to have an experience of a lifetime.
Journey to Hanakoa Falls
Hanakoa Falls is one of the two main waterfalls along the Napali coast. It is not only bigger but also more scenic compared to Hanakapiai Falls.
Hanakoa Falls is a day hike, roughly 7 miles (one way) from the trailhead at Ke’e beach. You must continue along the Kalalau trail for another two miles after completing the 4 mile trek to Hanakapiai Falls.
If you’ve not already tried the hike to Hanakapiai falls, you could be in for an adventure of a lifetime. It is a strenuous but scenically rewarding hike with a series of elevation changes.
The trail takes you along the Napali coast and reveals panoramic views of Kauai’s coveted coastline. Unlike most hikes, Hanakapiai falls trail, aka the Kalalau Trail, unravels breathtaking views right from the beginning.
The first two miles up to Hanakapiai beach are easy. The difficulty increases past the Hanakapiai stream. This is when the trail becomes slippery and demands an almost vertical climb. 4 miles into the trail, you’ll get the first glimpse of the beautiful Hanakapiai Falls.
This point onwards, it is another two miles to Hanakoa valley. Stay attuned to the gushing sound of the Hanakoa stream as you continue hiking along the marshy wetlands. A small campsite is located here, followed by a larger one beyond the stream. This is where you’d want to set camp to hike to Hanakoa Falls and stay for the night.
To reach the falls, you must take a deviation from the Kalalau Trail. You’ll find a dirt track that veers off to the left while the Kalalau Trail continues towards right. Hanakoa Falls is only a mile further along this side trail. The trail is marked by orange ribbons and is easy to follow
The initial glimpse of the falls might not reveal its magnitude, which is somewhere close to 1000 ft. The varying elevation and curvy mountains hide the actual trajectory of the falls.
Hanakoa Falls is off the beaten track. As most tourist crowds stop at Hanakapiai falls, this one is usually undisturbed. This is where you’d want to be to admire Kauai’s mesmerizing beauty in seclusion.
Camping at Hanakoa Valley is recommended for people willing to explore the hike at their own pace. The hike can easily take 6-10 hours, depending on how you do it.
Apart from Kalalau beach, Hanakoa is the only camping spot along the Kalalau Trail. The campsite is on a shaded terrace next to Hanakoa stream. Our destination is just a mile further from here.
Please note that there are no tables and drinking water facilities at the campsite. You’ll have to come prepared with ample supplies.
A permit is a primary requirement if you are serious about hiking to Hanakoa Falls. You’ll need a permit the moment you cross Hanakapiai Falls, even if you don’t plan on camping. Since the application process takes time, it’s better to plan the hike in advance.
You can purchase permits up to 30 days prior to your visit. For more information, please visit this page.
Interestingly, the traffic along Kalalau Trail goes on decreasing as you progress further. Hikers proceeding towards Kalalau beach will not have the time and energy to take this side excursion. So Hanakoa Falls is an ideal destination that combines an exciting hike with an absolutely exhilarating view towards the end.
Don’t forget to share your Hanakoa Falls experience with us. Aloha!
Other interesting Napali Coast Hikes