One reason the Na Pali remains one of the most beautiful and pristine coastlines in the world is due to its remote location. It is accessible via a strenuous foot trail that traverses eleven rugged miles from Ke`e Beach to Kalalau Valley. The only other way to access this hidden coastline is by boat.
Hawaiians relied on canoes to access the Na Pali's numerous valleys, nearby Ni`ihau and outlying islands. Today, boat tours still offer the easiest way to explore this amazing coast. The calm surf of the summer months allows for kayaking, while year-round trips are available on sailing catamarans and rigid hull rafts.
For the adventurous hiker, the strenuous eleven-mile "Kalalau Trail" is another incredible way to experience the Na Pali. Beginning at Ke`e Beach and ending at Kalalau Valley, this challenging but rewarding hike, earned the Sierra Club's rating of a "9" out of "10" in degrees of difficulty. The trail can be experienced in pieces and the most popular section of this trail is from Ke`e to Hanakapi'ai, where you will find a lush river valley. You can hike 8 miles (roundtrip) to a waterfall or 4 miles (roundtrip) to Hanakapi`ai Beach (the beach is only there during summer months – be careful as ocean conditions can be dangerous and there are no lifeguards). Hiking beyond Hanakapi`ai Valley requires a state permit, where the trail continues on to Hanakoa Valley, eventually ending at magnificent Kalalau Valley.
Na Pali's remote location makes help and rescue challenging. In this environment, safety is critical. Following some key tips can help make your experience on this coastline safe and fun.
Hanakapi`ai Beach has hazardous ocean conditions and no lifeguard on duty. Due to its remote location, it is not advisable to swim here anytime of year. The Hanakapi`ai River can also be dangerous, particularly during and after heavy rains, where strong currents and flash flooding can occur. Sometimes the Hanakapi`ai River can be impassable and it has been known to strand people on the western side. There is no potable water available on the Kalalau Trail, and all river water should be filtered. Because the trail is strenuous and the sun is strong, hydration is critical. Make sure you drink enough water.
On the trail, proper footwear is crucial. The stretch from Ke`e to Hanakapi`ai is particularly muddy. Shoes that grip and fit well are key. Prepare to get dirty- anything white, will most likely end up with some Kaua`i red clay by the end of your adventure. Sun protection is also a necessity under Hawaii's strong rays. Stay aware of falling rocks from overhead; Na Pali's coastline is crumbling and fragile. When hiking near rivers, be aware of strong currents and potential flash flooding.