Solo Hiking the Kalalau Trail; Kauai, HI

Sara hikes the Kalalau // The Nā Pali Coast; Kauai, HI

I had the extreme privilege of getting to travel to Hawaii for work last year. I had never been to the string of islands before and was thrilled to see not just one, but two tropical paradises! With Kauai on the list first, then finishing off with a stay on Oahu, I couldn't wait! In between working hours, I broke out to explore! This was my first tropical adventure and I was keen to make the most of it. We stayed on the North Shore of Kauai in Hanalei! Kauai is a dream land - with one highway wrapping around the majority of the island you see so much between shores. Surfshops, attractions and more can be found closer to the airport in  Lihue, Wailua and Kapaa. The further North you travel on Hwy 56, the more rural the landscape becomes. Hanalei is a special place. Just past Princeville, a swank resort location for honeymooners and celebrity getaways, lays Hwy 560; a stretch of road leading you over the Hanalei Bridge. The Bridge is the reason Hanalei is so magical. No major freight comes over the bridge making everything in the area Hanalei home-grown.  Shops, family grocers, and simple-life leisures hideaway here; no big business can mess with the Hanalei spirit due to the bridges weight limit.  Perfection!

The Where To's:

Where to Grab a Quick Breakfast: Harvest Market Hanalei! In the back of this organic grocery, they have a little ready-to-order window pumping out yummy smoothies for a morning boost. 

Where to See the Best Sunset: Ke'e Beach. Take the trip to highways end and find yourself at this black rock beach. The sunset is golden and the ocean mist glimmering.

Where to Grub after a Long Surf: Chicken in a Barrel BBQ. Nothing like a full plate of fire roasted proteins after that workout!

I wanted to challenge my solo-exploration skills.  I chose to hike a portion of one of Earth's most breathtaking trails. At the dead-end of Hwy 560, past Hanalei, is Ke'e Beach. This beach lines the entrance of the Kalalau Trial. This 22 mile roundtrip, strenuous hike, is known to be one of the top ten "Most Dangerous Hikes in America" and ranked within the top 20 "Most Dangerous" around the world. Do all of your research before hiking the trail and make sure it is a fit for you. Like anything, use caution and know your limits! The trail can be a day adventure for some extremely experienced hikers. For the average hiker with balls, it would be a 2 day trek, enabling you to acquire a camping permit to spend the night in the Kalalau Valley. 

I knew I was not going to do the whole trail. Personally, I ranked my confidence level at a 6/10 when reading up about the steep ledges, flood mishaps, etc. I told myself I was going to go only the distance I felt safest, and then call it a day! In March, you can expect tropical storms. The sun is very choosey during this time of year. Being that I have never been apart of a tropical storm, nor hiked a high-intensity trail in such conditions, I took my time with Kalalau. The sun was at my back, and doom and gloom was straight ahead. The trail winds and curves jetting you out onto cliffs over looking the most crystal blue waters, and veering you back into the greenest, vine woven rainforest. It was a very fickle storm. One minute it was sunny and rich, the next DOWNPOUR. I remember a specific moment of the trail; All alone, stopped under a canopy; the marble sized rain pelting my body. Warm and fresh. It was so surreal. I was in a jungle, listening to storm-sounds above head that only could be created in that moment. Never again. So amazing.

Wiwo’ole  - fearless, brave, bold, courageous, dauntless, intrepid. Hana wiwo’ole, bold or brave deed, adventure. Mea wiwo’ole, intrepid person, adventurer.

I continued on by myself. The ground, moving almost as quickly as I was, became unstable. The mud was thick, but slick. The last 100 yards or so of my journey downhill was assisted by secure vines hanging from the rock ledge above. With a final spill, leaving me on my ass, I decided it was time to head back. I was approximately at the 6 mile mark and I knew that the infamous 7 mile stretch ahead was absolutely not going to be a safe decision for this hiker. With mud up to my ankles, a sore booty and hip, but with so much pride that I had known and tested my limits, I turned back. Very thrilled with myself. 

The rain continued off and on throughout the journey. Families, solo-hikers, elderly folk and more take to the trail each year because of it stunning beauty and appeal; Each understanding the importance of safety and responsibility. The vistas and viewpoints can't be compared. There were several moments throughout my time out there where I stopped and couldn't believe my surroundings. The hike was ABSOLUTELY one of my favorite moments of my life. It comes highly recommended - all with safety in mind, of course!

So tell me, what is your next adventure!?

The NĀ Pali coast from the kalalau trail // kauai, hi


Sara De