KALALAU VALLEY, Hawaii // I still remember researching and reading about this adventure from my desk in New York City. I was bored one day and googled "hiking to secluded beach" or something like that. What I found was this hike on Kauai, the Kalalau Trail. I can still see myself staring at the concrete building next to me out the window on 5th Avenue imaging the Na Pali Coast.
I hiked the whole thing now, there and back. It was pretty amazing, but there were definitely many hiccups along the way.
We started the trail at 8:13 in the morning and the first 6 miles went by quickly as I was just so excited to be hiking. Mile 7 is typically the most difficult and is mostly along a narrow cliffside. The challenge of it really made me appreciate the people doing it, as well as the land and terrain. The sun came out for the last few hours, it got really hot, and most of the remainder of the trail was uphill. We ended up hiking with another couple from Texas and a guy from Ireland the rest of the way, and this boosted our morale and took our minds off the monotonous step after step for awhile.
The final mile was down a mountain into the valley and we arrived at 4:23 pm, a solid 8+ hours of hiking. We were celebrating the 11 mile trek and finally getting to the beach and out of nowhere it started to rain like crazy. We hadn't even set up our tent yet and my whole bag got soaked. Because of the rain, we set up our tent in the forest. An hour later we were miserable, wet, and moving all of our stuff to the beach. This turned out to be a good call in the end because waking up the next morning, all of our stuff was dry and the scene was amazing.
The next day was spent mostly exploring and meeting people. This area reminded me almost like the movie "The Beach" as there were a whole bunch of people living here permanently with elaborate camps and growing fruits and vegetables in the valley. The waterfall here is perfectly placed, and is the only source of freshwater serving as a meeting place for everyone. Here, I got a chance to talk to two of the "permanent residents", a guy named Mario and a girl named Lilikoi, who had both been here for about a month and plan on spending at least another month here too.
It was nice to spend 2 days camping and not have to do the 11 mile hike back to back. The second night we collected wood and made a fire on the beach and made a little sitting space. This was probably my favorite part of the trip. Hours later though a cold front came in and the weather turned extremely cold. The first night I slept in a T-shirt on top of my sleeping bag. The second night I was curled up in a ball with all of the clothes on that I had brought for the entire trek. I probably got 2 to 3 hours of sleep, mostly in 20 to 30 minute naps.
Once the sun came up we thought it would be a nice peaceful trip back. It was great for the first 4 miles but as soon as we got to the halfway point, the trail got all muddy. By the last 4 miles we were soaked head to toe and covered in mud. The last 2 miles we just wanted to be done.
Despite all of the troubles though, I love this kind of stuff, and would do it again in a heartbeat. The challenge, seclusion, and beach camping made this a truly unique hike. I wish I could have explored more of the valley and all of the side trails branching off from the main trek, but maybe that will be for next time, when I can get a full 5 day permit.