I had long heard the lore and legends of a land so beautiful that words and pictures would never come close to describing it. Its cliffs dwarfed the mountains of Asgard, its waters were more blue than those of Atlantis, its beauty eclipsed that of Avalon, its valleys were more harmonious than Shangri-La, and its gardens descended from those of Eden. Despite providing its visitors with the most surreal experience, all while redefining the archetypes of mythology, this place is real and is known as the Napali Coast. Enjoy as I share my 5 day journey with you.
The trail leading to this paradise was called the Kalalau trail. It meandered along the coast of the Kalalau mountains for the 11 longest, but also most magnificent, miles of my life.
The beginning of the hike was a bit steep, especially with my 55lbs pack (I packed waaay too much). I was also surprised by the amount of people on the trail, who seemed to be carrying close to nothing on them. It was not until we got a bit further that I realized only relatively few people actually make it all the way to the Kalalau beach. You very quickly gain a great vantage point to take pictures of Ke’e beach, where the trail begins.
As my friends and I came around the first few bends, we could already catch a glimpse of our final destination. The level of stoke was off the charts. The entire coastline exuded a paradisiacal vibe which was only poisoned by the weight of my ridiculously large pack (55lbs is not the way to hike 11 miles).
The shade at the beginning of the trail was definitely a morale booster, that is until it dissipated.
The hot hawaiian midday August sun was a scorcher that we did not anticipate. We wanted to start the hike earlier, but we were meeting friends who were flying in from Molokai, so the earliest we could start the hike with the entire group wasn’t until noon (hottest time).
The trail snaked through the valleys going up and down and back and forth. Often times the switchbacks would take us all over a valley before finally leading us to the next. The heat was brutal and the trail turned to baked dust beneath our feet.
After the hottest and longest 2 miles of our lives we finally made it to the gorgeous Hanakapiai Beach. According to this sign 87 people had died at this beach. There were no lifeguards and the water appeared quite welcoming, but I’m sure that it gets nuts during the winter surf swells.
The stream fed into the most turquoise blue ocean. We kept mentioning how it looked like delicious gatorade, but perhaps it was just the dehydration which began weighing heavily on our minds.
At this point we found an optional trail that would lead us up to a waterfall about 2 miles away (4 additional miles round trip). Given our level of fatigue after the first couple miles though, we thought it prudent to no expend our energy on it since we had another 9 miles remaining.
The trail makes you cross the stream. Some people walk in the water to cool themselves off, but I knew my gortex boots would only hold the water in them for the rest of the hike if I stepped in too deep, so I opted to very carefully skip from rock to rock. There are stories of the stream flash flooding and hikers getting stuck on one side or the other for days, until the storm subsides. Luckily for us, it was super mellow that day.
Despite its difficulty, the trail presented us with many scenic vistas and other very rewarding panoramas.
We were constantly passing waterfalls and crossing through their underlying streams as we progressed along the Napali coast.
The mountains all looked like they were straight out of Jurassic Park (which I guess they could have been since this is the island where the movie was filmed).
We made sure to take brakes and refill our water bottles often. Even though I had a 3L water bladder in my pack along with two additional 1L bottles (over a gallon), I still had to refill my reserves multiple times on the hike in.
Luckily for us, our buddy A-Aron had brought a super good water filter (can’t remember the name of it, but I can ask if anyone is curious), which we used to setup “hydration stations” at every pitstop. It took a little time to pump the water, but it did the trick. I’m proud to say that by using our water filter none of us got sick or contracted the dreaded leptospirosis. Our other good friend, Brad, was ill prepared for this journey. Despite having warned him of the difficulties of this hike, he brought junk shoes that broke, a laundry bag instead of a backpack that broke (he had to carry it in his arms for 8 miles and then the entire trip back out), no tent or hammock (so he slept on the ground), not enough food, and only a protein shaker for water (which likely only held 280z of water). If you do this hike with friends, make sure everyone has enough to bale out a buddy in case he prepared as poorly as good ol’ Brad did lol.
We were finally closing in on the infamous mile 7 (a.k.a. the sketchy part). Everyone spoke of these gnarly cliffs and how impending doom laid in ambush at every corner. Movies like “The Perfect Getaway” also depicted this portion of the trail as a borderline cliffhanger.
I will admit that the potential for death is there, as it is for every hike, and nearly every activity for that matter. But I was honestly relieved (and almost a little disappointed) by how un-sketchy that part of the trail was.
If you were to fall for any reason, there was absolutely nothing to grab onto to halt you tumble. You would likely splat on the bottom with ferocious speed and die in tremendous agony. However, the trail was super sturdy when we used it. There was very little loose gravel.
I kept trying to take a picture at an angle that would make the trail look as sketchy was we had been told it would be, and this was the best I could capture. Honestly I wouldn’t sweat this part on the hike in. Just be really careful and you should be fine
With 3 miles to go, my 55lbs backpack began to take its toll on my legs. I started getting cramps which persisted for the duration of the hike. It was to the point where I had to fall back and let the group go (we really needed to get there before nightfall). I became furious at my pack. I wanted to take it off and just roll down the dang cliffs. With each step I became more and more furious. I even told my girlfriend to leave and go ahead with the others because I just wanted to rage by myself (but she stayed with me b/c she is awesome). I contemplated what food I could toss out to lighten my load… After a few breaks and some good leg stretching, I decided to just keep on trucking with the full load. I kept thinking that I sure would be glad to still have all my snacks once we got to camp (and I was!). But this hike became very difficult for me (and I had been hiking nearly every week for the past 5 years I lived in Hawaii).
I kept trying to focus of the beauty of the landscape, which was ubiquitous, in order to get my mind off of my cramps and my dang 55lbs backpack.
My anger towards my heavy pack really ruined the last leg of the hike. I stopped taking pictures (sorry guys) and really just wanted to be done with the whole thing.
My exasperation was finally lifted when we came up to a sign indicating that we had finally made it to Kalalau. However, this sign was merely a tease…
As we continued we could see that we were still at least a mile away from the beach/campsite. This final descent was so brutal on my sore legs. I was ready to murder my backpack. When the others offered to help lighten my load, I refused and pretended as if it wasn’t that heavy, but my face could not hide the ridiculous amounts of pain I was in.
We had made it before nightfall and the mountain were amazing.
The beach still seemed so far. I know I’m probably coming across as a baby right now, but I was seriously ready to give up and just sleep in the dust of the trail for that night.
But we continued so we could find a campsite. From the trail head to our campsite, we had hiked between 7 and 8 hours. I had wanted to throw myself or my backpack off the cliffs nearly 3000 times. But we had finally made and I was ready for our relaxing vacation to begin… This was day 1 of 5 of our escapade on the Napali Coast. Stay tuned for the rest of the adventures.