The most popular hike on Na Pali is to Hanakapi'ai where you will find a lush river valley. You can hike 8 miles (roundtrip) to a waterfall or 4 miles (roundtrip) to Hanakapi'ai Beach. You can get a permit to camp at designated spots in Hanakapi'ai. The beach in Hanakapi`ai is only there during summer months – use extreme caution as ocean conditions can be dangerous and there are no lifeguards. Crossing the Hanakapi'ai river can also be potentially hazardous, particularly in rainy weather when flash flooding and strong currents occur.
On a sunny and windless November morning, we set out for a hike to Hanakapi'ai. Hanakapi'ai is a lush river valley within Na Pali that begins at a waterfall (2 miles inland), and flows down a cool mountain river to a pristine beach. My family and I were headed to the beach today, so we parked our car at Ke'e beach, lathered on sunscreen, and with lunch in our backpacks, headed up the rocky trail.
Recent rains guaranteed muddy conditions, but we're used to that. Kaua'i, is, after all, "the wettest spot on earth!" The clean air, magnificent views, and warm sunshine quickly put us all in that special mood only nature can provide. After 45 fun and slippery minutes of hiking, we arrived at Hanakapi'ai, 2 miles in on the Kalalau Trail. Don't be fooled though! Experienced hikers can reach the beach quickly at a swift pace, but if you're a leisurely hiker and you like to take breaks to enjoy the views, it can take you up to 2 hours each way.
Large winter surf generally washes Hanakapi'ai beach away, leaving only boulders. But on this day, we were surprised to find a huge sand beach completely free of footprints or people! We enjoyed a dip in the pristine stream waters and were awestruck by the power of 12-foot waves barreling onto the shore. Locals particularly know this beach for it's rapidly changing conditions and extremely strong currents--be very careful around the water.
Inspired by the awesome beauty surrounding us, we contemplated hiking up to the falls. That trip would be two more miles in and out (8 miles total at the end of the day). We decided that since it was so gorgeous at the mouth of the valley, we'd just stay and relax in the sunshine. After a full day of play and snacks on the beach, we set out for the hike home. In no time we found ourselves back at Ke'e Beach, thankful to Na Pali for another unforgettable adventure.
Hiking Na Pali = very strenuous, for something less difficult, try a boat tour.