How about a bird’s-eye view of Kauai’s most popular attraction, the Napali Coast? Besides flying over the island on a helicopter, hiking Honopu ridge trail is the next best thing you can do to access the mountainous coastline.
This 5 mile out and back trail is a strenuous hike but offers some of Kauai’s greatest views.
Honopu Ridge Trail: Napali Coast Hike
Honopu ridge trail branches out from Koke’e road and extends towards the ocean. When you follow the ridge trail all the way till the end, you’ll stand several thousand feet over the vast Napali valleys, staring at the amazing view from above.
The initial portion of the hike doesn’t seem unusual. It is during the last stretch that the trail truly reveals its stellar characteristics.
We consider Honopu Ridge Trail the most difficult compared to the other Napali overlook trails in Koke’e State Park. Following the wrath of back-to-back hurricanes a few decades ago, this trail has not been maintained by Kokee State Park. Unclear path and thick thorny ferns along the way add to the level of difficulty.
Then why should you do this hike? The hard path is a small price to pay for spectacular views at the end. Unlike the Awa’awapuhi and Nualolo trails, Honopu ridge trail gives a complete, unobstructed view of the Napali panorama. It is as good as viewing the Napali coast from a helicopter (but free of cost!)
Honopu Ridge Trail: The Journey
Honopu ridge trail is unofficial as Koke’e State Park no longer maintains the trail. You may not find it in most maps. Moreover, there are no signposts to identify the trailhead. Just keep looking for an opening that leads to a forest on the left side of the road.
The trailhead is located two sharp turns after the Awa’awapuhi trailhead and just before the Kalalau lookout at the end of Koke’e road. This is where you must park your vehicle.
Upon entering the forest, you’ll see several tiny trails branching out from the main trail. It is easy to get lost as the main path is not clear. This is when you have to follow the red ribbons tied to the trees. Even better, carry a GPS with you.
After about a quarter of an hour’s hike, the trail narrows down into a bushy stretch. The sharp shrubs can grow up to 5 ft in height and can easily scrape your arms and legs. It’s recommended that you wear pants and long-sleeved shirts for safety. If not, you’ll regret not wearing them.
A few minutes (and many shrubs) later, you will catch the first glimpse of the ocean. When clouds are not out to spoil the view, you can spot the forbidden island, Niihau, from this point.
But the actual views are yet to reveal themselves.
The trail changes terrain following the fern stretch. The greenery is quickly replaced by a seemingly endless dirt ridge, i.e, Honopu Ridge.
This point onwards, the views keep getting better with every step. The first lookout will have you staring at the colorful Napali ridges emanating from the azure ocean. As you move further down the ridge, the view of the Napali coastline keeps on expanding until you can finally see the entire coastline.
The trail ends at the edge of Honopu Ridge. This is the final viewpoint. The adrenaline filled last few minutes of the trail come to a dramatic conclusion here. Before you, there’ll be an unchallenged view of the seemingly infinite Napali coastline, razor sharp cliffs and the deep Napali valleys. The vantage point will definitely make you scream, “I’m the king of the world!” at the top of your voice.
The views truly make up for the difficulty endured along the trail.
Few Points to Keep in Mind
- Carry Enough Water: Honopu Ridge Trail descends several thousand feet steadily. This means that the return hike is uphill and more difficult. You must carry lots of water to stay hydrated along the hike.
- Don’t hurry: The estimated length of the trail is 2.5 miles. How far you explore is up to you. If you intend on covering the entire stretch, reserve at least 5 hrs for the experience. This will help you on bad days when the clouds obstruct the views. When that happens,all you have to do is wait patiently until they clear out.
- Getting Lost is a Possibility: Several hunter trails branch out from the original trail inside the forest. Because of lack of maintenance, it is hard to always keep track of the main trail. Keep looking for red ribbons tied to the trees as they’ll help you stay on the right path. Even better, carry a GPS with you.
- Better to wear Hiking Pants: The sharp ferns show no mercy on hikers. For your own safety, wear pants and long-sleeved shirts.
- Visit Kokee Visitors Centre: Some preparation always helps. The visitor’s center has access to trail maps that’ll help you understand the trail and plan better. You can also have an interaction with fellow hikers and rangers, as they’ll have some nuggets to share with you.
- Bring a Camera: It is an irony to leave the stellar views along the ridge uncaptured. Keep a camera handy to seize the countless insta-worthy photo opportunities on this trail.
This trail is not for everyone. While this is not the easiest hike in Kokee state park, it certainly is the most scenic.
If you are feeling the itch to explore Honopu Ridge Trail, go for it and share your experiences with us.
For more info on the other Napali hikes, check out the following posts on our blog:
When hiking feels like a stretch, hop on one of our catamarans for an intimate Napali coast boat tour. Together, we’ll explore mesmerising Napali sea caves, snorkel in pristine waters, and enjoy the beautiful Napali sunset sipping on a glass of Mai Tai. You are just one click away from one of the best experiences of your life.