Nestled within the captivating terrain of the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park on the island of Kauai, the Kalalau Trail offers an unforgettable adventure that effortlessly draws in hikers from around the world.
If you’re lucky enough to experience this multi-day adventure, you’re in for a reaaaal treat. But you need to be prepared before you hit the trails!
Having experienced this adventure multiple times, I’ve been able to witness blunders and mishaps from the mistakes my hikemates (and I myself) have made over the years!
You could easily have a miserable time if you don’t bring the right stuff. If you don’t wear the right stuff, you could fall victim to sunburns, ankle sprains, and bug bites galore!
So! If you’re planning your epic backpacking adventure to the Nāpali Coast, you’ll need to pack the right gear and you’ll need to know a thing or two about what to expect.
In this blog post, I will provide you with a comprehensive Kalalau Trail packing list, followed by some essential hiking tips to know before you go. This post will include everything you need to make your hike as safe and enjoyable as possible.
Make sure to read through it carefully before your trip!
If you’re looking for help planning the rest of your time on Kauai, check out the following posts too:
- The Perfect Kauai 7-Day Itinerary For An Unforgettable Hawaiian Vacation
- 36 Exciting Things To Do In Kauai Outside Of The Kalalau Trail (And Travel Itinerary)
- 31 Must Try Restaurants: Where To Eat On Every Island In Hawaii
- 123 Bucket List Things To Do In Oahu, Hawaii
This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful and free content. Thanks a lot!
Table of Contents
Kalalau Trail Hike: What To Expect
Spanning approximately 11 miles one way, this trail is not for the faint of heart — but the allure of its Jurassic Park-like vistas and unspoiled beauty makes it a bucketlist journey that you’d be lucky to get to experience!
The trek begins with a gradual ascent, gradually revealing the stunning coastline and lush valleys below. You’ll encounter a series of switchbacks that can be demanding, but at least you’ll be somewhat distracted from the pain! The picturesque scenery at every turn will make the effort worthwhile.
After a few miles, the trail reaches its pinnacle—the infamous Crawler’s Ledge. True to its name, this narrow and exposed section requires steady nerves and concentration. While some hikers may find it exhilarating, others find it terrifying. Fear not, though; if you have trekking poles, you’ll be a-okay!
Approaching the midway point, the enchanting Hanakoa Falls emerges like a hidden gem amidst the dense foliage. The cascading water invites hikers to cool off and relish the tranquil ambiance of the surrounding rainforest. It’s the perfect spot to rejuvenate before tackling the next leg of the journey!
As you venture deeper into the trail, Kalalau Valley and the isolated Kalalau Beach come into sight. And just like that, the end has come! This pristine paradise is a true reward for hikers who complete the journey.
Camping on the beach is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as it’ll be practically just you (and a small speckle of other hikers here and there) surrounded by nature’s grandeur and nothing else other than water, sand, and starry skies in the night!
If you can swing it, stay overnight for 2+ nights to make the difficult journey worth your while!
You’re in? Great! Here’s a bit more need-to-know information before we get into what to pack for the Kalalau Trail.
Before we get into what to pack for your hike, let’s talk about logistics.
- Total Distance: 11 miles one way | 22 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Change: 800 ft – the hike is highly graded and almost never level as it crosses above towering sea cliffs and through lush tropical valleys.
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Duration: 10 to 14 hours
- When To Go: During the drier summer months between May and October
- Permits: Permits for Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park are required for overnight camping. Permit fees do apply. $25 per person per night (Hawaii residents), $35 per person per night (non-residents). More permit info can be found here.
- Hāʻena State Park now requires advanced reservations for day-use entry. With one exception. If you have a Nāpali Coast SWP Camping Permit, you do NOT need to make a Hāʻena SP park entry reservation.
- Campsite Options: Camping is allowed at Hanakoa (one night stopover only) and Kalalau.
- Trail Amenities: Composting toilets are available at Hanakapi’ai, Hanakoa, and Kalalau; no drinking water, no showers, no firepits, no picnic tables otherwise.
- The trail’s remoteness means there are no amenities or facilities along the way. Waste management is critical, so hikers must adhere to strict leave-no-trace principles to protect the area’s delicate ecosystem.
- Trailhead Address: Ke’e Beach in Hā’ena State Park at the northwest end of Kūhiō Highway (Route 56).
What Skill Level is Required for the Kalalau Trail?
The Kalalau Trail is a challenging and potentially hazardous hike, demanding a certain level of skill and fitness from hikers. Prior hiking experience and reasonable physical conditioning are essential prerequisites for taking on this trail.
Hikers must be equipped with proper gear, including sturdy hiking boots, plenty of water, and nourishing snacks. Chances are you’ll be backpacking and surviving in the wild for a few days. With that said, you’re going to need to bring food and tools to cook that food.
In addition to that, familiarizing yourself with the risks associated with the trail and the tropical weather is crucial, particularly with regard to flash flooding and river-crossing safety. The unpredictable weather of Hawaii calls for layers of clothing to accommodate both sunny spells and occasional rain showers.
If you are a novice hiker, I highly recommend you do some pre-requisite hikes to train your “hiking muscles” and work on your footing before taking on this trail. When you do decide to tackle it, be sure to venture into the wilderness with an experienced companion or someone who has previously conquered the Kalalau Trail.
How Many Days Is Needed For The Kalalau Trail Hike?
If you’ve gotten a permit and are deciding how many days to spend camping and soaking in the majestic beauty of the Napali Coast, I’d recommend allocating a total of 3 to 4 days to hike in, rest/recover, enjoy life out in the wild, and hike back out.
Here’s what I did on my Kalalau Trail backpacking trip:
- Day 1: Hike from the trailhead to Kalalau Beach at the end of the trail; camp overnight at Kalalau Beach
- Day 2: Rest and enjoy the wilderness; camp overnight at Kalalau Beach
- Day 3: Hike out
We only stayed for a total of 3 days, but I certainly would NOT have minded another free day roaming around the Kalalau Valley and enjoying the quiet, isolated beach.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re thinking of hiking the entire Kalalau Trail end-to-end as part of a day hike, think again. There are rules in place and permits you’ll need in order to do that.
For Day Hikers
The first 2 miles of the trail, from Hāʻena State Park to Hanakapi’ai Beach, make a popular day hike.
Anyone proceeding beyond Hanakapi’ai Valley MUST possess a valid overnight camping permit. The trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls and beyond Hanakapi’ai is recommended for experienced hikers only.
For most backpackers in good condition, hiking the 11 miles will take a full day.
Given that it is almost impossible to do the full 22 miles in one day, those without camping permits for Kalalau Valley are prohibited from attempting the entire 22-mile round trip hike in a day.
If you don’t want to deal with getting a permit or simply cannot get one, BUT you want to experience a portion of the Kalalau Trail, you can hike from the Kalalau Trailhead to Hanakapi’ai Beach. Once you reach the beach, turn around and come back the way you came.
For Overnight Backpackers
For those of you who were lucky enough to snag camping permits, you are allowed to explore the entire length of the Kalalau Trail!
Many hikers choose to divide the hike into two (or more) days, with a mid-trail camping break at Hanakoa.
If you’d rather do the full 11 miles in one day, you can do that too. In fact, that’s what I did on my last Kalalau backpacking trip.
Once you get to Kalalau Beach, you can stay for as many additional days as you’d like (with a maximum stay of 5 nights allowed)!
Best Time To Hike The Kalalau Trail
For the best hiking experience on the Kalalau Trail, the drier summer months between May and October are the best time to hike the trail. Summer is the season where you’ll find the most favorable weather.
Particularly in May and June, the weather is relatively dry, and the temperatures are slightly cooler than during the peak summer season. This “best of both worlds” weather makes both your hike and your stay on the beach stay more comfortable.
This is not to say that you’re guaranteed NO rain during your backpacking trip.
They don’t call it the “Garden Isle” for nothing. The ample rainfall that the island sees is what makes this island so lush and garden-like!
No matter when you decide to do this multi-day hike, you should be mentally and physically prepared for rain. Even if rain is not in the forecast! Being overly prepared for all weather conditions is better than not being prepared for it.
Kalalau Trail Packing List: Essentials To Bring On Your Backpacking Trip
Overnight backpacking pack
For those of you doing the multi-day backpacking trip to Kalalau Beach, where you’ll be carrying all of your gear including food, clothing, and shelter, you’re going to want to go with something ranging from 60 to 80 liters.
I am a huge fan of Osprey bags due to their genius design and high quality (they are my personal favorites)! For reference, I did my hike to Kalalau with an Osprey Aura AG 65 Women’s Backpacking Backpack.
One great thing about the Osprey Aura (women) and the Osprey Atmos (basically the men’s version) is that you can remove the top lid for shorter hikes, thereby turning them into smaller, less bulky packs.
But do you want to know what the REAL standout features were? The Anti-Gravity suspension and the ventilation on these packs!
On the Kalalau Trail, where high humidity and a lack of breeze left me sweating profusely, the Osprey Aura AG 65 Women’s Backpacking Backpack proved to be a lifesaver with its innovative suspension system and breathable ventilated back design.
The anti-gravity tech made the backpack seem less heavy while I was hiking, and the ventilated mesh back panel created an air gap between the pack and my sweat-generating back, allowing air to circulate freely and regulate temperature!
If hiking in humidity is tough for you (or you happen to sweat a lot), these packs are going to really help! As you hike through the humid and stagnant air of the Kalalau Trail, this design prevents the uncomfortable sensation of a sweaty and sticky back that can often lead to discomfort (and potentially chafing too).
First and foremost, you will need a good pair of hiking boots. The Kalalau Trail is a strenuous hike with lots of uneven rocky steps and elevation change, and you’ll need footwear that can handle the terrain.
They not only provide better protection for stepping on all of the rocks on the trail, but you’ll find yourself slipping a lot less on waterfall runoff, dirt, and loose gravel. Trust me, it’s easier to hop around and walk on rocks with the extra traction and ankle support provided by mid-height hiking boots as opposed to running shoes with no tread.
A must-have item if you want to save your legs and knees from the ongoing ascents and descents of the trail!
Walking sticks and trekking poles contribute to your stability and will greatly reduce the impact/stress on your lower body (especially helpful for the knees). I like the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles — you can find them on Amazon or REI.
Other great trekking pole options can be found at REI.
Merino wool tops are your best option for long hikes such as the Kalalau Trail. They’re able to keep you warm on those cooler mornings and keep you cool throughout those warmer afternoons. Plus, you can wear them the next day and they won’t be stinky!
I would go with a long-sleeved baselayer (men and women) for the added arm protection — protection from the mosquitos as well as all that sun exposure! There are very good short-sleeved options as well.
When I did the hike, the long-sleeve I brought was not meant for hiking and therefore was too hot to wear along the trail. In the end, I took it off and was hiking in a random sleeveless workout top which did the job, but I did have to use bug spray on my arms to deter the buggies!
Where should I buy all this outdoor gear?
Personally, REI is my go-to place to buy high-quality outdoor gear. You can also buy the same gear from trusted brands at online sites like Moosejaw and Backcountry. I’ve shopped with all three and can vouch for ’em — they’re all great and provide very quick free shipping too!
For the Kalalau trail, I would highly recommend you wear a pair of ACTUAL hiking pants.
I wore leggings during my hike, but sadly, there were tons of mosquitoes that ate me alive through those leggings! Learn from my mistake and get yourself a pair of real hiking pants so that you’re bulletproof from mosquitoes and other hungry bugs.
In terms of hiking pants for men, I hear great things about the Prana Stretch Zion.
Alternatively, if you know the weather is going to be very hot in the afternoon, convertible / zip-off hiking pants work well if you want to enjoy shorts later in the day!
Layers / Packable Rain Jacket
Be sure to pack a variety of layers including a long sleeve top to keep warm (should you feel cold at any point) and/or a lightweight windbreaker rain jacket.
The rain jacket is crucial in case rain is in the forecast, or in case the rain gods decide to show you some love out of nowhere!
Bring whatever works best for you and pack up nicely into your daypack. Some recommendations should you need to buy one:
- For Men: Marmot Men’s PreCip Jacket – lightweight and pretty affordable for a quality rain jacket
- For Women: The North Face Women’s Venture 2 Jacket – waterproof, breathable, and packable
Along with the pair on your feet, I’d bring an extra pair of medium-weight wool socks along with you on your hike–just in case your first pair gets wet. There’s nothing worse than having to hike for hours on hours with cold, wet socks. I cringe just thinking about it…
Hiking socks by Smartwool provide the perfect amount of cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot for hiking and backpacking.
You can also go with lightweight wool socks as well, but note they are thinner with some light cushioning in key places like the heel and ball of the foot.
When you’re all done with hiking, you’re going to want to change OUT of those hiking clothes. Bring clothing items like:
- pajamas / lounging clothes
- running shorts / leggings
- lightweight tanks / tees
- extra undies / bras / socks
- your hiking outfit for the hike out
Lightweight Backpacking Tent
A lightweight tent is crucial to minimize the weight on your back and ensure easier trekking.
Again, REI’s got an amazing selection of backpacking tents, all of which prioritize quality and lightweight-ness above all else.
They might not be the cheapest, but they’re going to be a great investment — especially if you plan on doing other backpacking trips in the future!
Last note here — if you’re hiking during the rainy season OR if there’s rain in the forecast, be sure to bring the rainfly that comes with your tent!
Since you’re going to have to carry your sleeping bag on your back, you’ll ideally want something that is on the lighter side. Check out these lightweight sleeping bags on REI if you don’t already own one.
Hiking in the summertime? Because it’s so warm in Hawaii in the summer, you can get away with any type of sleeping bag in terms of the warmth factor. Nothing fancy is needed!
A summer or 3-season sleeping bag will do just fine. If you’re looking for a few high quality brands, I like:
- Big Agnes
- Mountain Hardwear
Since you’re going to be carrying all your shelter, food, clothing, and all that jazz with you, I’d recommend investing in an ultralight sleeping pad over regular bulky/heavy ones. I personally own the one pictured above — the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite.
So if you already have a sleeping bag, why do you need a sleeping pad??
The purpose of a sleeping pad is to provide cushioning and insulation between your body and the ground while sleeping outdoors. When backpacking and camping overnight along the Kalalau Trail, a sleeping pad becomes your BFF when it comes to good sleep.
Firstly, the trail’s terrain can be uneven and rocky, making it uncomfortable to sleep directly on the ground. A sleeping pad offers a comfortable and supportive surface, ensuring a more restful night’s sleep.
Secondly, the Kalalau Trail’s tropical climate can lead to high humidity and occasional rain. Moisture from the ground can seep into your sleeping bag, reducing its insulating properties and making you feel colder. A sleeping pad acts as a barrier, preventing heat loss and keeping you warmer throughout the night.
A cozy and supportive item to lay your head at night! The Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow is a really great one for travel and camping. The Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow is an even lighter version of that pillow.
If you don’t care that much, an alternative would be to ball your clothes up and turn that into a pillow. This way, you can cut down on packing things that add to your backpack weight.
You’ll want to pack enough water for your 11-mile hike in (or 5-6ish mile hike if you plan on stopping at the Hanakoa campsite).
I recommend holding your water in a 3-liter hydration reservoir that you can slip inside your backpacking pack.
Since you’ll probably want a separate water bottle to drink from when you’re not hiking, you’ll have one extra water bottle in addition to your hydration reservoir. If hiking the full 11 miles in, I would fill this water bottle up just to make sure that you have enough water to make it to the end of the hike.
That way, you won’t have to stop and treat water mid hike.
👉 IMPORTANT: Boil or treat all drinking water (water purification pump, tablets, or iodine). It is possible to contract leptospirosis by drinking untreated water or swimming in streams. This potentially fatal disease
invades the body through cuts and openings.
Water Filtration System
I recommend getting a larger water filter such as the Platypus GravityWorks Group Camping Water Filter System to share with your hikemates. Remember, not everyone needs to pack this, just like not everyone needs to pack a camping stove or Jetboil. You just need one to share within the group!
What we did: one person from our group brought a water filter to share among us all. Each person in our group brought an extra wide-mouth water bottle for easy filtering and drinking when we weren’t hiking the trail.
You’ll be burning so many calories and sweating out so much. Take some electrolyte tablets with your water to replenish your body throughout the day. If you’re bringing a hydration reservoir system, you might want to bring a separate water bottle for this.
Backpacking Food + Real Food
You will need to bring enough food to keep your energy up during the hike AND to survive in the wild for however many days you’re camping for. But not so much that you feel completely weighed down by it.
If you’re a fan of real food, I’d recommend having a dedicated food item for breakfast as well as one for lunch.
You could prepare a breakfast sandwich and a banana for your first meal of the day and pack a large sandwich for lunch. (Personally, we love bringing banh mi‘s on big hike days!)
In addition to this, you’re going to want to bring along some energy bars/snack bars so you can quickly refuel throughout the hike. Don’t forget to pack enough snacks for the hike out too!
For the rest of your meals, bring backpacking meals. Brands we specifically like:
- Backpacker’s Pantry – cheaper option but still so satisfying (the stroganoff and lasagna are so good to me)
- PEAK REFUEL Backpacking Food – slightly more expensive but yummy
You’re going to need a lot of sustenance for the constant uphills and downhills of the Kalalau Trail. Make sure you have enough quick-energy options to feed your body.
If you plan on bringing fruits/vegetables, pick harder options such as apples, pears, and carrots since these do better in heat and backpacks compared to more delicate produce.
Go for energy bars that don’t contain chocolate to avoid the melted chocolate messes. Stinger Waffles are loved by outdoor enthusiasts and are delicious and easy to eat.
Clif Bloks Energy Chews are also a great source of quick energy and super easy to pop in your mouth on those shorter breaks.
Other snacks to consider include dried fruit, nuts, and trail mix.
Cooking Stove / Jetboil
You’ll need a way to cook food once you’ve made camp, or at least heat up water for your backpacking food. You have a few options here.
I would suggest bringing a Jetboil if:
- you plan on just eating backpacking food (where just hot water is needed to rehydrate the food) + snacks
- if you are NOT flying to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines
- (Hawaiian Airlines does not allow stoves of any kind, used or new, to be checked or carried on.)
👉 Can I Carry My Jetboil on a Commercial Airplane? Per the Jetboil site, yes you can, although you’ll have to leave your fuel at home. While the FAA allows you to travel with your camping stove (“Camp stoves can travel as carry-on or checked luggage only if empty of all fuel and cleaned such that vapors and residue are absent.), you will want to make sure you clean it well — as they are frequently confiscated due to the presence of fuel vapors.
If you don’t own a Jetboil and don’t want to invest in one, you could stop by Walmart or Ace Hardware once you get to Kauai to purchase a cheap camping stove. These stores also sell small fuel canisters.
Here’s a short list of things you should pack, all related to cooking and meal time!
- backpacking camp cookset
- Camping Mess Kit with Bowl, Plate and 3-in-1 Spork
- Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash – this camp soap is amazing, it works on people, clothes, pots, pans, dishes, you name it!
- small cloth / napkins
- instant coffee
👉 IMPORTANT: Streams are the only freshwater sources and biodegradable soap should be used for bathing and dishes. Use soap away from the stream to protect the water source.
To take your Kalalau Beach relaxation to the next level, make room for a travel hammock in your backpack! Despite their small and lightweighted-ness, these hammocks offer immeasurable benefits that make them well worth the space they occupy in your pack.
After a long day of traversing the rugged terrain and soaking in the natural wonders of the Kalalau Trail, the mere thought of lounging in a hammock becomes a true reward!
You can set up your hammock between two trees around your campsite, and voila! You have your very own relaxation station (that doesn’t require you to be inside of your tent or sitting atop lumpy rocks).
Seriously, imagine it now! You’re gently swaying in the hammock, absorbing the beauty of the secluded beach and the soothing sound of the waves lapping against the shore.
It’s the perfect spot to take a lazy afternoon nap or read a book from start to finish!
These two are the best on the market today:
- ENO DoubleNest Hammock – fits 1 or 2 people
- Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Hammock – fits 1 or 2 people
Don’t forget to pack a solar charger—the ultimate essential for powering your electronics in this electricity-free paradise.
Embrace the power of sunshine in Kalalau by bringing a solar-powered charger. With its quick-charging and efficient capabilities, this solar charger ensures your devices stay powered throughout your journey.
This versatile gadget comes with a built-in flashlight, strobe, and compass, making it the perfect companion for all your outdoor escapades. Stay connected, powered up, and well-equipped to explore the wonders of Kalalau with this must-have solar charger by your side.
Bug Spray / Bug Repellent
Hot, humid, and tropical weather means the bugs come out to play. And the mosquitoes along the Kalalau Trail are NO JOKE. They are hungry for blood!
Even with bug spray, my best friend and I both ended up with 10 to 15 bites each in total. Her boyfriend, who for some reason decided to hike with NO bug repellent, got 30+ mosquito bites on each leg!
Some DEET-free alternatives are:
Very, very important to have, as you SHOULD be applying sunscreen multiple times a day. Even if it’s overcast or cloudy, the UV index can be very high, so be sure to apply whenever you’re outdoors.
Whenever we head to tropical destinations with ample marine life, we always go with a coral reef-safe brand, as traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that harm our environment as well as the natural balance of marine ecosystems.
In fact, you may even encounter tour companies in Hawaii asking you to only use sunscreen and sunblock that are biodegradable, containing titanium oxide and zinc oxide only.
And honestly, it’s not enough to just buy any old bottle that has a “reef-friendly” label on it. It turns out many sunscreens claiming to be “reef-friendly” or “reef-safe” actually aren’t!
Products containing the following ingredients are technically NOT reef safe: oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene or nanoparticles. Always review the active ingredients on the bottle to be sure you’re really getting something reef-safe.
Here are a few travel-sized biodegradable sunscreens you can easily buy on Amazon:
- Badger Reef Safe Sunscreen – SPF 40 Kids Clear Sport
- Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen
- Babo Botanicals Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
- All Good Sport Face & Body Sunscreen Lotion
And on days when we are just out and about (not getting into the water) – for the face, we are absolutely obsessed with the magical Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen. No white-cast, no greasy film!
Don’t forget to apply on your ears (this was the only place where I almost burned)!
Toiletries to bring for a backpacking trip: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, chapstick, biodegradable soap, sunscreen, contacts/glasses, and toilet paper. Bring along any meds you need too!
You can also make a little bag of the following: ibuprofen, allergy pills, Immodium, ciprofloxacin (or whatever your doctor prescribes for traveler’s diarrhea), bandaids, floss, hand sanitizer, eye drops, lip balm, a sharpie, tape, and extra contact lenses (if applicable).
Sunhat or Cap
You will definitely want to bring some type of sun hat for your Kalalau Trail hike, as you’ll be hiking under the sun for hours on end.
A hiking-friendly wide-brimmed sun hat can double as sun protection to your face and neck. Here are a few stylish yet effective options for men and women. For added protection, I’d recommend a sun hat with a neck cape.
Similar to sunscreen, you should bring a pair of polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun.
For something more water-resistant, going with something like the OOFOS or these OluKai quick-dry flip-flops will allow you to hit the beach, take your waterfall shower, and walk with max comfort as well.
Travel towels are probably one of the best inventions for efficient travelers. They are light, super packable, and quick-drying. Definitely very useful if you plan on washing your face, having beach days, or taking a shower at the nearby waterfall!
This one is a great option if you’re in the market for one.
First Aid Kit
A compact first aid kit is essential for any hiking/backpacking trip. You can pack it with you in your pack and it won’t take up too much space. It’s better to be prepared in case you have any mishaps on your adventures.
This one is as compact as it gets and is super easy to carry.
Compeed Blister Cushions
You never know when a blister might form on your feet! While I did not personally get any during my hike, my friend did – they were so thankful that I had these with me!
In case of blisters, it’s great to have these assorted Compeed blister bandaids on hand.
Flashlight or headlamp
Definitely needed if you plan on hanging out at the campsite after dark. Or going to the bathroom after dark! It’s so much easier to have hands-free lighting than to be carrying around a flashlight, especially for tasks like cooking and doing your business!
Be sure to bring a headlamp with red light capabilities because you will need to walk and function in the dark.
Do not use bright white flashlights, headlamps, or cell phone lights. It typically takes 20-30 minutes for the human eye to fully adjust to very low light conditions. Having bright white lights in your face will prevent your eyes from adjusting to the darkness.
You’ll want to pack a few — 1 for your trash, 1 for your snacks, 1 for your real food, and a couple extra for those “just in case” situations.
Don’t forget to bring your overnight camping permit! Otherwise, you will not be able to hike past Hanakāpīʻai!
This is a no-brainer. When traveling to remote destinations and doing adventurous things in the wild, be sure to get yourself some travel insurance.
The trail can be slippery and dangerous (particularly if it’s rained recently), so accidents can happen. Don’t skimp on your insurance for a hike as big as Kalalau Trail.
True story alert — I actually sustained a massive ankle sprain when I hiked Kalalau back in 2017! I sprained it at mile 3 on the way back out. I didn’t have travel insurance, which meant that I didn’t have emergency medical evacuation coverage. (Medical evacuation insurance is typically included in travel insurance policies.)
Without any of these benefits, I had to limp my way back out on my own because I was too poor at the time to even THINK about paying for evacuation services out of pocket. It was literally 8-9 miles of painful limping. Truly one of the most memorable mishaps of my life!
This is why I get travel insurance for all my big hiking/backpacking trips now!
One of the best budget-friendly travel insurances for adventurers is SafetyWing.
SafetyWing Insurance provides coverage for unexpected illness or injury, including eligible expenses for hospital, doctor or prescription drugs. This means that if you get ill or injured, they will cover the medical expenses.
In addition, it provides emergency travel-related benefits such as emergency medical evacuation (much needed if you like to go hiking / trekking in the wild), travel delay, and lost checked luggage.
Essential Tips For Hiking The Kalalau Trail
- Camping permits for Nāpali Coast SWP often sell out quickly, particularly during the summer months.
- Get an early start to avoid overexertion in the midday heat.
- It’s going to be humid, so be prepared to sweat a LOT. Stay hydrated and take breaks to cool off as needed!
- Hiking boots are highly, highly recommended. Sneakers or tennis shoes won’t cut it. You’re going to be treading a rock-filled trail all day, and the soles of your feet will never forgive you if you don’t protect them from the get-go. You’ll also be walking on hilly terrain for much of the hike, so the grip from hiking boots will also be essential.
- Don’t forget to carry sunscreen and bug spray. Kauai can be quite sunny and quite buggy so you’ll definitely want to carry these essentials with you on your hike.
- The Kalalau Trail has no potable drinking water. That is why it’s so important to bring a water purification system with you. There are some streams and waterfalls along the trail that can be easily treated with a portable water filter, SteriPen or water purification tablets. It’s a good idea for someone in your group to have a backup option in case the first option breaks or fails. Never drink untreated water from streams or waterfalls!
- Bring a small plastic bag for your trash. There is no trash service on the trail so be prepared to pack out anything you pack in (snack wrappers, toilet paper, body wipes, etc.).
- Don’t forget your permit.
- Pack out what you pack in. Please do not leave excess food or equipment behind and assume that others can use it. These items will eventually become trash and contribute to illegal campers overstaying their welcome and degrading fragile resources!
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