The Daytrippers: A day hike on Kauai's Napali Coast.by: Catherine E. Toth
posted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 10:30 AM
I jumped into Godinez’s huge white truck with a couple from Seattle, catching a ride to the Kalalau Trailhead. Like many hikers who take the trail, they were planning to trek all day to Kalalau Valley, camp near its pristine mile-long beach for a couple of nights and explore the valley’s many trails.
Godinez dispensed advice to them in bullet points. Be smart about crossing rivers. Don’t go into the ocean when you shouldn’t. Stay on the trail.
“If you listen to me, you shouldn’t have any problems,” he explained, negotiating two-lane Kuhio Highway to the trailhead at Kee Beach. One of the natural jewels of 230-acre Haena State Park, the beach’s crystalline lagoon is one of the most popular Kauai spots for snorkeling during the summer. In winter months, however, high surf often generates a powerful rip current in one of the lagoon’s narrow channels, making it unsafe for swimmers and snorkelers. On this day, with a high-surf advisory for north-facing Kauai shorelines in place, Kee Beach was, in effect, closed. But the Kalalau Trail was open for business.
Crossing Hanakapiai Stream
For hearty hikers, it takes about 90 minutes to arrive at Hanakapiai Beach from the trailhead, traversing rocky, sometimes muddy, terrain. Sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and the towering cliffs of the Napali Coast begin to appear just minutes into the hike.
The Kalalau Trail requires a serious kick of adrenaline at its start, immediately climbing more than 600 feet through fern groves and long-leaved pandanus trees. There were multiple vantage points of Kee Beach as we climbed, with each stop giving a more elevated view of its translucent lagoon.
A half-hour into the hike, we stopped at a lookout to watch long rows of surf moving slowly from the horizon toward the shoreline. I was immediately calmed, lost in the natural beauty that surrounded me. I even found the mud on the trail photogenic.
As we continued along the trail, Godinez pointed out flora and fauna he could identify: ulili (wandering tattlers), various thrushes, invasive African tulip flowers, avocado trees, ohia lehua trees and a type of grass that bore the whiff of molasses when wet.
Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
Napali's Attic: A hike to the Kauai coast's Kilohana Lookout
Kauai’s Napali Coast trail and Kalalau Valley closing for two months, Sept. 7
Top 5 favorite scenic spots on Kauai: HAWAII Magazine facebook poll results