The Na Pali Coast is a jewel of not only Kauai, but the entire Pacific. Millions of years of constant erosion from the sea and sky have formed a landscape that is hard to comprehend – even photos (as beautiful as they are) do a poor job of fully encompassing the splendour of this area.
Even amongst the gorgeous sights and sounds along the entire coastline, one area stands out above the rest. The Kalalau Valley sits roughly halfway down the coast. From the beach, the valley extends 2 miles inland, with the high plateau of Koke’e State park looking down upon it.
The only way to access the valley is either by boat or hiking the 11-mile Kalalau trail – there are no roads or airstrips here and only government helicopters are authorized to land. Most of the year the high surf prevents boats from accessing the shore, which means the only way in is to make the trek by foot. Those who make the journey are rewarded by blissful solitude.
Within the valley is a group of people who have discarded the creature comforts of modern society in favor of a lifestyle based on the land. They live in simple camps with no permanent structures, with tarps as their roofs and cooking by the flame of a fire. Despite the fact that many would fail to understand why these people would live this way by choice, they are truly happy in their natural surroundings.
The people come together to share meals and talk story of their day’s adventures. Most prefer life in the valley to the busy day-to-day life on the outside where the simple pleasures of living off the land are nearly impossible. Money is irrelevant, instead people rely on the barter system and gifting one another for their exchanges.
There are even several community gardens throughout the valley, giving the people sustenance without a reliance on the outside world. There are also wild goats, pigs, deer, fish, lobster, and shellfish for people to eat as local as it gets. Indeed, they are living the sustainable life that many in modern society have realized we need to aim for – albeit with no modern amenities such as electricity, plumbing, and mass communication. Nobody seems to mind, though – trading modern creature comforts for a deeper connection to the land around by learning how to coexist with nature instead of profiting off it.
Things to Do
Within the valley itself, there are many things to see and do. Here are a few examples of what you can expect:
Pools- There are two main pool areas for some refreshing swimming. One is the outlaw pools, which is a successive series of small pools that spill into one another. The other is the Big Pool, which isn’t exactly that big, but still provides enough room for swimming around and diving in.
Gardens- As stated earlier, there are several gardens in the valley that are a source of food for those staying there. There is always work to be done in the garden, so if you are going to enjoy some food, lending a hand for an hour or so would be much appreciated and would go a long way for the garden’s long-term vitality.
Guava Forest- An entire grove of trees that provides an abundance of wild guava. Well worth a look (and an unforgettable fruitful smell).
Waterfalls- There are a number of waterfalls in the valley. The most spectacular being over 1,000 feet tall! It is well worth the jungle hike to get there. Other waterfalls will be along the journey, offering a much appreciated cold shower.
Beaches – Kalalau beach is the obvious highlight. This stretch of sand extends well over a mile down the coast, with a number of caves along the way to explore. At the end of the beach is a point where you can swim or kayak around to Honopu – another amazing beach that has been in a number of movies. On the north end of the valley is New beach (or Summer beach) – the sand collects in the summer to make a nice stretch of beach, but in the winter the swell washes it all away.
For all these, just ask a friendly “local” where to go!
We hope you will make the effort to explore Kalalau valley. If your time on Kauai is limited you should definitely see it on one of our tours, whether you visit the valley or not. Many of the unforgettable sights on the Na Pali coast are only viewable from the sea, so it is well worth a look.