I love to hike. But honestly, it’s been a little challenging to go hiking since having kids. On our recent trip to Kauai, we were kidless and therefore excited about being able to do some hiking at our leisure. While we didn’t have kids to slow us down, we did have to contend with a lot of rain during our stay. This meant that what could have been long day hikes turned into short treks, but they were spectacular nonetheless. If you’re looking for short hikes on Kauai, these three might be for you.
And don’t miss my article “30 things to do: Kauai“
You may find these guidebooks for Kauai helpful: (click on the image for details)
Three Fun, Short Hikes: Kauai
Kalalau Trail (the first section):
This 11-mile trail starts at Ke’e Beach and is the only land access to the beautiful Na Pali Coast. If you follow Kuhio Highway past jungly mountains and beachside homes along the north coast of Kauai, this is the “end of the road.” Once you get here, it can be hard to find a place to park, so it’s best to arrive early. The beach is known for excellent snorkeling and is crowded. The trailhead begins just before the beach.
The first section of the Kalalau Trail is a two-mile stretch from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapiai Beach. We had planned to do the entire first section, but it was raining off and on that day, and the hike became a challenge in the rain. Check out the trail: (!)
In fact, this hike has been called one of the ten most dangerous hikes in the U.S., but that designation refers more to the conditions that exist much farther along the trail. We didn’t realize how difficult the trail would be in the rain and weren’t expecting so much uphill climbing, but we had no problems even in the bad weather.
The thing about the weather on Kauai is that it can quickly turn from rainy to sunny. After hiking uphill in the rain, the rain suddenly passed and we were able to view the magical hills of the Na Pali Coast.
We continued on, but after it started raining again, we decided to turn around. The trek down in the rain was a challenge, and I was very glad I had on my trusty Chacos.
After this experience, we learned a few things: that the nature of the trail (up and down, over rocks and through sometimes muddy areas) means that it takes longer than expected, a walking stick is a good idea (there were some for use at the trailhead), extra caution should be taken in the rain, and good shoes are a must–although we saw a few locals hiking in bikinis and bare feet! I also would not recommend taking children on this hike.
Waimea Canyon State Park and Koke’e State Park:
There are several hiking trails in Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Parks, but we chose to do a small section of two of them.
First, you need to know that there are many short walks to take at the lookouts as you drive toward Waimea Canyon. Take you time and explore them because the landscape and views change quickly, and as you climb in elevation toward the canyon, the weather can get worse.
Cliff Trail/Canyon Trail: Once you get to the main lookout for Waimea Canyon, you can continue up the road to another parking lot and find this trail. Cliff Trail is a .2 mile hike to a lookout point, and then it’s a couple more miles along the Canyon Trail for those wanting more. It’s downhill on a pleasant tree-lined trail to a lookout point–and even further to the top of Waipo’o Falls–but we didn’t make it that far. Get detailed info here.
The hike from Pu’u O Kila Lookout
The real highlight of a visit to Waimea Canyon is this last lookout point in Koke’e State Park. All you have to do to find it is continue driving up the road, past the canyon, until the last stop. The view is said to be one of the best in Hawaii, but thanks to the rain and fog, we didn’t get it. See this page for the same view on a sunny day! Ack!
But in a way, it was cool to see it in this way, too. Rain and fog are an integral part of the geography here, and we appreciated seeing clouds hugging the cliffs and rain providing moisture for the green, green plants all around us.
Plus, this is one of the wettest places on earth, as the sign lets you know as you begin.
The one-mile hike down is so fun. The orange lumpy terrain almost feels like walking on another planet. We didn’t go the entire way because of the rain, but I’d recommend walking at least part of it no matter the weather.
And when we got back to the top, the green hills and ocean of the Na Pali Coast tried to peek out of the clouds for a few minutes, but then were hidden again.
Maha’ulepu Coastal Trail:
This was my favorite walk that we did because there was something beautiful to see around every turn. This trail follows an undeveloped stretch of coast on the South Shore. It goes east from Shipwreck Beach for two miles. To find it, take the small road between the Grand Hyatt and the golf course, park at Shipwreck Beach, and look for the trail behind the large rock on the left side of the beach. I think there are actually two or three trails, and they all go the same way; we took the one on the right, closer to the rock:
We did part of this hike after visiting Waimea Canyon (notice the difference in weather, by the way, between the rain and haze near the canyon and the sunny, hot weather we encountered on the south shore!).
One nice feature of this trail is that sometimes there are at least a couple of paths that run parallel to each other, offering an alternative route if you want some variety. Most of the hike is easy, but some of the walking right along the shore involved brief climbing, so be aware of that if you bring kids–the trail that runs parallel just a little bit inland provides a safer option for kids.
The walk gets hot in the sun, so be sure to bring plenty of water. There are no markers, and while getting lost is not a concern, you may need to ask someone where the trail starts if you’re unsure.
I loved Kauai! Much more about our stay there is coming soon, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations. Have you done any hikes on Kauai?
More about Kauai here:
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