Napali Coast Hike: Hanakapia’i Beach and Falls

In North Shore Things To Do, Things To Do: Makana Charters Blog, West Side by Makana Charters

On the northwest corner of Kauai you will find a small signpost indicating a trail.  It sits only a few yards away from Ke’e beach, the end of the Kuhio Highway and the start of the Na Pali Coast.  The signpost advertises the Kalalau trail – a 22-mile round trip journey along one of the most scenic coastlines in the world.  But the Napali Coast hike is also incredibly difficult, and is no small feat to accomplish.

The size of the hike can scare some people away from the journey.  But if you want to explore the sights of the Na Pali coast without the time and energy restrictions, then you definitely should try making the trek to Hanakapiai Beach.  This beach sits two miles down from Ke’e beach, giving you plenty of trail time to marvel at the steep cliffsides, gorgeous plant life, and scenic ocean views every step of the way.

The view from the start of the Kalalau Trail on the way to Hanakapiai Beach.

The view from the start of the Kalalau Trail on the way to Hanakapiai Beach.

Although the beach is picturesque, you must fight the urge to swim in the water.  Hanakapia’i beach is renowned for being extremely dangerous.  There is even a tally board at the entrance to the beach telling how many (known) lives it has claimed.  The currents underneath the water are extremely dangerous.

Hanakapia'i Beach - use extreme caution near the water!

Hanakapia’i Beach – use extreme caution near the water!

If you have a bit more adventure in you, from the beach you can hike 2 miles up the lush valleys to the foot of Hanakapai Falls.  This waterfall shoots over 200 feet above with a beautiful pool below, the picture perfect tropical waterfall setting that many come to Kauai to experience.

The hike itself is not exactly easy.  It is an 8-mile round trip from Ke’e to the falls, and many times the trail is muddy, slippery, or is simply a creek bed that you must navigate.  But still, the 8-mile distance is much shorter than the 22 miles it takes to get to Kalalau beach and back, making the hike to the falls a fantastic day trip from anywhere on the island.

Along the way you can find wild guava, mango, avocado, passion fruit, jackfruit, and much more. Depending on the season you might want to bring an extra bag for all the fruit you will find!  About halfway to the falls is a massive bamboo forest, with bamboo stalks that are wider than your head, and some towering 40 feet above.

Hundreds of visitors have left their mark on the giant bamboo in the jungle.

Hundreds of visitors have left their mark on the giant bamboo in the jungle.

Once you make it to the falls, you can simply relax and marvel at the beauty of your surroundings, or let out your excitement with a refreshing dip in the large pool.  You might be surprised at how cold the water is – the peaks above are up to 4000′ high, and the water you swim in originated as rain droplets only an hour or so earlier.

The entire Napali Coast hike gives you a great taste for the island without the strain of trekking with a heavy multi-day pack.  You should be able to make it from the Ke’e beach parking lot to the falls and back within about 6-8 hours.

hanakapiai falls: The reward at the end

hanakapiai falls: The reward at the end

If you would like to see the rest of the Na Pali Coast from the comforts of a spacious boat, then you should definitely get in touch with us.  We have an amazing crew that is friendly and knowledgable and will tell you stories of the coast that you probably would never have known about.  You will see that hiking to Hanakapia’i is only the beginning, and will want you seeing more of the coast, so we invite you to come along with us and see the Na Pali Coast in style.

This guide is brought to you by Makana Charters, a local Hawaiian family owned tour boat based out of Waimea on Kauai’s West side.   We offer daily trips to the spectacular Na Pali coast, a natural wonder not to be missed.  We are providing this guide to give our guests the best possible experience while visiting our island paradise.