As we approached the end of our stay on the Napali Coast, we came up with a brilliant idea. Rather than hiking out the 11 excruciating miles in a single day, we would split the hike into 2 days. We also decided to depart in the evening. Although this strategy may seem a bit daring on such a precarious trail (especially along the cliffs and drop offs), it actually proved to be quite advantageous. Several people in our expedition were deathly afraid of heights. Hiking under the cover of darkness allowed them to only focus on what their headlamp could illuminate, thus not allowing them to even realize when we were passing alongside a dangerous cliff… Leaving late in the evening also meant we would not have to hike during the heat of the day. I realize that hiking along one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world under cover of darkness may seem to be a contentious strategy, but trust me, after you’ve hiked in during the hottest time of the day in the month of August with a 55lbs pack on, you will try just about anything to make the hike out easier.
We thought we would only hike to the halfway point, about 6 miles deep. However, once we got there we found out that the area hosted a rather hardy population of mosquitos, so we pressed on to find a more relaxing site to spend the night. Our group of six began to spread apart over the trail, so much so that we could only see the other three as their headlamps jostled around on the opposite side of each valley. The hike back was so chill and full of good stories amongst us that we really didn’t mind being sort of separated for the night hike (some people just walk faster than others). My girlfriend and I hung back with my buddy Brock, as he was having a particularly difficult time. Both of his backpacks straps had snapped, he had lost his water bottle and one of the soles of his shoes was falling off… (when it rains it pores). Forced to carry his pack in his arms for the entirety of the 11mile hike out, it is understandable that his hiking pace was a bit less efficient then it could have been. We did not take any pictures on the hike out, as we thought it more prudent to stay focused on our footing and not dropping our flashlights of the edge of the mountain.
Hiking at night, none of us ever felt like we were overheating or on the verge of collapse (as we did on the way in to the Napali Beach). Before we knew it, we had trekked 9miles to Hanakapiai beach. Realizing that if we continued another 2 miles, we would be back to the parking lot without anyone to pick us up or anywhere to sleep, we decided to spend the night at one of the coolest beaches in Kauai. The girls insisted they wanted a campfire, so we obliged. I’m not too sure what the rocks were made of out there, but we were all commenting on how one in particular began to glow a bright orange. I did not know rocks could do this, but at some point it straight up exploded and bits of hot rock flew all over our campsite. One hit me in the hand and hurt like a “mofo”. After that very strange phenomenon, we all decided to scoot our hammocks and tents back a bit. We had left the Napali beach around 4pm and arrived at Hanakapiai beach around 12am.
A faint drizzle snuck up on us, so we busted out our tarps for protection.
Did I forget to mention that our buddy Brock did not bring a tent or hammock? For the duration of the hike he had been sleeping in the dirt like a dang peasant (his choice). We felt bad on this particular night as there were so many rocks around that it would have been very uncomfortable to rough it on the floor, so we gave him a hammock. He couldn’t stop talking about how much nicer it was to sleep in an ENOS.
We all had an amazing nights sleep!
Brock was struggling to wake up, we had to double check several times to make sure he was still in the land of the living…
Over breakfast, we all discussed the legends and myths we had heard of Hanakapiai Falls. Unfortunately, to get to the waterfall would add another 4 miles to our hike before the final 2 miles to get to our pick up location. We had too much gear to attempt the hike and our buddy Brock’s knees would never be able to handle the added distance. Luckily, our dope friend Brock took one for the team. He seemed quite enthusiastic about holding down the fort with all of our stuff, if it meant he could continue sleeping in our hammock, thus allowing us to go chasing waterfalls. Brock! If you ever read this, you are a true patriot! We thank you for your service.
I did not have to think twice about it. I was ready to throw my pack off the mountain already, so being offered the opportunity of “free-hiking” with no 50lbs burden sounded pretty alluring.
We embarked on this scenic route through the Hanakapiai valley.
Along the hike were mysterious structures such as this old chimney and beautiful bamboo forests.
We hiked quite briskly without the encumbrance of our ginormous backpacks. Soon enough we could see the colossal waterfall towering over the jungle in the distance. As we had no idea how big the waterfall actually was, it gave us a false impression of proximity…
Along the trail we passed a multitude of other waterfalls, which were all gorgeous. The trail was super muddy and the stream crossing were precarious. The mixture of muddy feet and slippery wet rocks could prove quite dangerous to anybody if they did not exercise prudence.
Our hunt for waterfalls was definitely rewarded at every turn on this trail.
At last we arrived to the tallest waterfall any of us had scene in the Hawaiian archipelago at this point.
The waterfall is approximately 300 feet tall, and is quite difficult to fit in the frame of your camera unless you have a wide angle lens (which we didn’t).
We jumped in, but were ill prepared for how cold the water was. I’m always so surprised at how cold water can be around the Hawaiian Islands. But this did not dissuade us. We pressed on: For the Queen!!!
Our bodies quickly began to convulse with shivers as the icy numbness progressed across our limbs and worked its way to our lungs. I will admit that I’m a total pansy when it comes to cold.
The images really don’t do it justice, but if you ever have a chance to go to Kauai, do not miss this adventure. It was worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears.
Of course, you always have to have the one friend who pretends that it’s not cold and doesn’t want to leave no matter what. Meanwhile the rest of us rubbing our bodies together, like penguins do in the Arctic circle, just to try and generate some sort of warmth for our frigid bodies.
Our ride was supposed to meet us a noon, so we had to rush back to the beach to pick up Brock and all of our gear so we could finish the last 2 miles of our hike. When we arrived back to the parking lot, we still had a few hours to kill. We had heard of a cave called the blue room around this area, so we began hiking through the forest to try and find it. We did uncover a few caves with water in them, but none with the charismatic blue glow that we had heard of.
We eventually found that cave which lead to the blue room. We were all so stoked.
However, when we got to the bottom of the cave, we were only greeted by a couple of nudist hippies and more brown water. They explained to us that the cave was only technically a “blue room” during certain times of day, when the sun shines in the just right. We swam around for a bit, but once again had to get out before hypothermia got the best of us.
The Napali Coast has been and will likely remain one of the most Young and Reckless adventures I have ever gone on. After it was all said and done, we had hiked over 30miles and our bodies felt every inch of it. The wonder and gratification (I believe the ancients called it “stoke”) of the adventure completely surpassed any bodily pain though. We had earned our stripes.
Disclaimer: I would want anyone who goes to the Napali Coast to have as amazing of time as us, therefore I would stress the need to purchase camping permits. I know they don’t always check when you’re in there and that many people do not bother with them. However, the peace of mind, knowing that your campsite will not be raided by park rangers is priceless. Also, many of the caves we explored are not actually accessible all year round. Since this trip I returned to the Napali beach and was unable to reach any of the coastal caves pictured in these posts, as the waves had eroded all the beach away and presented no opportunity for crossing to the other beaches further down the shoreline. Therefore I would recommend this trip during August (or whenever else waves are the absolute smallest on the north shore of Kauai).