Backpacking the Na Pali Coast

Two days before we left for Hawaii, I finally got around to looking up the backpacking trip that Josh had planned for us. My summer was crazy busy so, despite Josh mentioning on a few occasions that I should look it up online, I simply put it on the back burner until the very last minute. So as we are starting to plan out our backing list, I looked up the Wikipedia page:

Did you catch that last sentence?! Most dangerous hike in the world? Um, hello? Josh? Why was this not mentioned before?

As you can imagine, I started to freak out. After doing research, I found out that the 22-mile hike (11 in and out) was considered difficult and had steep sections that can be VERY dangerous if it starts to rain, which was a high possibility since we were there during the rainy season.

Now that I have finished the hike, I can confirm, it is really hard. The humidity/heat was the biggest obstacle though, not necessarily the technicality of the trail. We got lucky and didn’t hit any rain while we were hiking (it rained a little bit at night), which made the steep sections much safer. If we were to be hit with some rain, there is no way I would have gone through those sections! But with some good shoes, balanced backpack to keep you centered, and some good hiking poles, the hike itself was a rewarding challenge.

We packed all of our food before we left since we didn’t have any time after we landed before starting the hike.

We got our permit before we left and stayed there for three nights. Due to the timing of our flights and schedule to pick up our friends from the airport on our fourth day, we ended up staying at the 6-mile campsite for the first night, Kalalau beach the second night (11th mile), and then back to the 6-mile campsite again for our third night.

Day 1: Flying in, abandoning our car, and starting the hike…

We left Oakland Airport at 9 am and landed around 11:30 in Kauai. Since we were planning to spend half our time in Hawaii backpacking and the rest exploring the island with some friends, we decided to rent a car for our entire trip. What we didn’t realize, until the day before we left, was that we could not park our car at the Kalalau trailhead overnight so we had to come up with a backup plan.

Since breaking into cars is very common in Hawaii (some websites even suggest leaving your car unlocked so that you don’t have your window broken!) we decided not to leave it off the side of the road leading up to the trailhead since it would have been painstakingly obvious that we weren’t going to be back for a while. Instead, with a little help from Google Earth, we would a neighborhood close by that had a lot of rentals, so that we could park it on the street and hoped people would just assume it was associated with one of the houses. We were shocked to come back to our car, unharmed, 3 days later. Overall, I would not suggest this strategy!!

This was my first time ever visiting Hawaii and I was completely fascinated by the chickens.

After we parked the car, we ended up walking an extra 2.5 miles to the trailhead because Uber was not available and apparently we do not look like someone you would want to pick up for hitchhiking.

It was 4 pm when we got to the trailhead and started our hike. Our goal was to get to the 6-mile campsite by 7 pm to avoid hiking in the dark. About half a mile in, we passed some backpackers heading out who gave us a stern warning, “If you want to get to the first campsite before sundown, you get start booking it!” Apparently, they were just getting back from the Kalalau trail and it took them 9 hours. At this point, I was still freaking out about starting one of the most dangerous hikes in the world and now I need to rush through it so I am not hiking it in the dark?!

“If you want to get to the first campsite before sundown, you better start booking it!”

After talking to them, I went straight into survival mode. No joke, I was not talking to Josh (cause I was a little upset with him for not really planning our first day to be very relaxing..can you blame me?) and I was using my poles to pound my way up the hills. I have never sweat so much in my life, it was like taking a SoulCycle class, but for hours on end. My stress came to a close when we got to the campsite at 7:05 pm, meaning we kept a pace of 2 miles per hour. We ended up keeping this pace for the entire trip.

Josh hates this photo because I look angry. I’ll admit, I was pretty cranky!

Day 2: Kalalau Beach and swimming in the ocean

12 hours of sleep later, Josh and I were ready to take on the second leg of the hike so that we could take our victory swim at the beach. This portion of the hike included the steep sections, so I am happy we were able to tackle this portion of a new day.

Near the steep section of the trail. For safety reasons, we didn’t take any photos in those areas.
My favorite photo from the trip because it is beautiful and you cannot see my sweaty face/body.

In the end, the steep sections of the hike ended up being my favorite because they were the most beautiful. We started hiking around 9 am and got to Kalalau beach around 12 pm and we were in the water by 12:15.

Josh describes jumping into the water as pure bliss and I can’t disagree!

Kalalau Beach at the 11-mile point. There are a lot of boats and helicopters that pass by, but the only way to enjoy the beach is if you actually do the hike! So we typically had the whole place to ourselves.
The beach included a nice waterfall and a couple of caves! Pretty sure Gollum lives in one of them…

Day 3-4: Leaving Kalalau beach and starting our trek back

The 11 miles back actually felt really good. I think it was a combination of the fact that there weren’t any mysteries anymore and that our bodies were getting used to the heat. When we got back to the trailhead, we took another victory dip into the ocean before getting back to the car to pick up our friends from the airport.

One of my biggest regrets is not Googling what fruits are edible on the trail before we went! We did manage to identify the guava, limes, and coconuts on the trail, but I have a feeling we missed out on a lot more.
Me: “Done!! Now, where is my Pina Colada!?!”

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