Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

The Most Dangerous Trail

I read a blog that listed the Kalalau trail as one of the world’s most dangerous hiking trails. The Kalalau trail starts in northern Kauai (at the end of the road) and heads up the beautiful Na Pali coast for eleven miles. On May 27th, I only hiked two miles of it, then went up a similar trail for another two miles to the massive Hanakapi’ai Falls. The first section had wonderful views of the Na Pali coast, and the second part to the falls was a bit like being in the world of Avatar.

Here’s the view of Ke’e beach where the trail starts, taken just a few minutes into the climb:

Ke'e Beach, at the start of the Kalalau trail

On the way there, I thought, this isn’t so bad. A bit rocky, but nothing too serious.

Then, just as I arrived at the falls, it rained for one hour.

Hanakapi'ai Falls in Kauai

That little bit of rain was all it took. On the way back, every stone was a slippery potential ankle-breaker. Every patch of dirt became the slipperiest mud known to man. And the stream crossings, which I’d been able to rock-hop across before, were like hopping across polished spheres of greased marble.

Fortunately I made it without injury, though I did choose to wade across one of the streams. My Merrell shoes dried pretty fast when hung in front of the A/C unit at the Kauai Sands Hotel. (note: a pretty low-grade 70’s hotel, with a closed-down restaurant, but it was cheap).

Back to Hanakapi’ai falls. As I mentioned, it was raining. Fortunately there was a rock overhang where one could get a good view and stay dry. To give you an idea of the scale, this is a panorama image made up of SEVEN wide-angle shots on the widest zoom setting. This falls is massive.

Panorama of Hanakapi'ai Falls in Kauai

One can swim there as well. It was a bit cold and rainy for everyone there, though. Even too cold for the twenty-somethings in bikinis and sandals (Hi Stephanie!). I suspect if it’s not rainy, the pool at the bottom of the falls is full of carefree bathers.

I’d recommend the hike to anyone with an adventurous spirit and good fitness. Loose sandals = bad, though you might be OK with tight, closed-toe sandals. It’s best to pick a day when it hasn’t just rained, and isn’t forecast to rain. Of course, in Hawaii, that means anything less than a 50% chance of rain… because it seems there is always a chance of showers. At least they’re warm and gentle most of the time, and leave beautiful rainbows behind!

Next, read about ziplining across a lush tropical valley, on my last day on Kauai!

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Posted in Around the World 12 years, 4 months ago at 3:31 pm.


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4 Replies

  1. The waterfall is breathtaking! Looks like the hike is a bit tough fr me as I’m easily scared in slopey and slipery surface. But the waterfall waiting is just sooo gorgeous!!
    .-= Dina´s last blog ..Top 3 Modes of Transportation by Travelers Around the World =-.

  2. If you don’t like slipping and sliding on rocks, this hike might not be the one for you. Though if you do it on a bone-dry day it should be okay! :-)

  3. I am leaving for this hike in just a few days and I have been reading all sorts of mixed reviews on it. I am excited about that hike though, hopefully I will let you know how it went. I am planning on making a short video of the adventure. Thanks for the blog post, all these stories have been helping me prepare.

  4. Hi Brian, are you doing the whole trail to the end, or just the short part to the waterfall? Definitely post back about how it went! Do be careful if it rains – and take real hiking boots (perhaps in addition to sandals), I wouldn’t want to be hiking that trail in rain with sandals. It would be a sprained or broken ankle waiting to happen. Have fun!

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