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The Daytrippers: A day hike on Kauai's Napali Coast.



The sun was bearing down on us by midmorning, hardening and cracking trail mud built up over a recent stormy weekend. An hour in, the cliff trail rose and fell sharply, seeming to mirror the rhythm of the rough winter seas. The chirps of cliff-dwelling birds were slowly, steadily replaced by the thunderous boom of waves crashing on rocks hundreds of feet below us.

Godinez kept my mind occupied with tales of his youth in Cuba, a multiple-month kayak adventure from Washington to Alaska with his brother, and how some obviously superhuman people find it faster to swim to Hanakapiai Beach than hike there.

Our first view of the beach—its expanse of white sand largely washed out by winter surf—came about 1.5 miles into our hike as the Kalalau Trail began its descent to sea level. There, we carefully crossed Hanakapiai Stream—swollen by weekend upland rains— to reach the beach.

Kauai_Napali_day_hike
Kayak Kauai co-owner and guide Miguel Godinez relaxes at Hanakapiai Beach.

Swept by high tide and winter seas, Hanakapiai’s only exposed shoreline was rocky and uncomfortable. We each found a smooth boulder to sit on and watch the churning Pacific Ocean, immersed in our own thoughts. With its unpredictable offshore currents, Hanakapiai is not a beach for swimming even when its sandy expanse returns in the summer and its waters appear calm. But a day hike to the beach is a wonderful introduction to the scenic majesty of the Napali Coast and motivation for a multi-day exploration of more natural treasures to come along the Kalalau Trail.

Godinez gestured toward Hanakapiai Stream, teasing that a 90-minute hike mauka (inland) of the beach ended at a spectacular waterfall, albeit along a more slippery and more difficult trek than the coastline hike. I passed on it.

Sitting under Napali’s idyllic blue skies and listening to surf crash against the battered rocks was enough for me.

“It’s still a magical place,” said Godinez, quietly. “I’m a lucky guy.”


Kayak Kauai Napali Coast/Hanakapiai Beach Day-Hike
(800) 437-3507, (808) 826-9844, www.kayakkauai.com


Photos by Catherine E. Toth


(This feature was originally published in the May/June 2013 issue of HAWAII Magazine.)


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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






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