Hawaii’s Kauai Island, home to the famous Napali Coast, offers much more than typical tourist destinations.
For those who yearn for adventure and a unique experience, venturing along the Kalalau Trail can be the answer.
This trail is one of the world’s most dangerous hiking trails, yet, it’s the only way to reach the lesser-known but grandly rewarding Hanakoa Falls.
Nestled in the scenic Hanakoa Valley along the Napali Coast, Hanakoa Falls is a grand spectacle, standing taller and proving more picturesque than its more frequented sibling, Hanakapiai Falls.
An excursion to Hanakoa Falls promises an unforgettable journey, a chance to admire Kauai’s mesmerizing beauty in seclusion and a rewarding camping experience.
The Hike to Hanakoa Falls
The journey to Hanakoa Falls begins at Ke’e Beach, the trailhead of the Kalalau Trail.
The hike is roughly seven miles (one way), extending two miles past Hanakapiai Falls, the popular rest spot for most hikers.
The path up to Hanakapiai Beach is relatively easy but be prepared for a challenging trek past the Hanakapiai stream.
The trail becomes slippery and steep, but your efforts will be rewarded with breathtaking views of Kauai’s coveted coastline.
Planing the Hike
Remember that the trek to Hanakoa Falls can easily take between 8-14 hours, depending on your pace and the conditions.
Before you begin your hike, make sure you have a reliable supply of drinking water and necessary supplies, as there are no facilities along the way.
A permit is a primary requirement if you plan to hike to Hanakoa Falls.
This is necessary the moment you cross Hanakapiai Falls, even if you don’t intend on camping.
Permits can be purchased up to 90 days prior to your visit.
Typically, camping permits are hard to get and require a long waiting time, while day-hiking permits can be issued much quicker.
The Hike to the Falls
The final leg of your journey to the falls requires a deviation from the Kalalau Trail, following a dirt track veering off to the left.
Marked by orange ribbons, this trail leads you further into the valley, where the grandeur of Hanakoa Falls finally comes into view.
Though initially hidden by the varying elevation and curvy mountains, the falls, approximately 1000ft tall, finally reveal their full glory as hikers draw nearer.
Arriving at Hanakoa Falls offers a sense of tranquility and accomplishment.
This towering waterfall, free from the buzz of tourist crowds, allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Kauai.
Take time to marvel at the falls, remembering to be mindful of the warning signs against falling rocks.
The return journey from Hanakoa Falls can be just as challenging, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time at the falls.
Make sure to stay hydrated and take breaks as needed.
The biggest mistake one can make is underestimating the time.
It’s a good idea to bring flashlights and plenty of supplies in case you get caught by nighttime.
Camping at Hanakoa Valley
Camping at Hanakoa Valley provides an opportunity to experience the hike at your own pace.
The campsite is located on the crossroads where Hanakoa Falls deviated from the main Kalalau Trail.
It sits on a shaded terrace next to Hanakoa Stream, making it an ideal spot to rest before returning to Ke’e Beach.
However, as mentioned above, camping permits are required for this area.
The Reopening of the Kalalau Trail
After a long closure due to extensive damage from flooding in 2018, the Kalalau Trail has finally reopened, once again allowing hikers to experience the beauty and adventure of Kauai’s Napali Coast.
The reopening brought some changes, particularly concerning parking and shuttle access.
Ensure to purchase your parking pass or shuttle ticket in advance.
For experienced hikers and nature enthusiasts looking for an exciting adventure and breathtaking views, Hanakoa Falls stands as an awe-inspiring destination.
Armed with a sense of adventure, ample supplies, and a valid permit, you’ll be set for a memorable experience along the Kalalau Trail.