Hiking in Kauai: Mud, Chickens and Waterfalls

Active/Outdoors, Hawaii — By NileGuide staff on January 19, 2009 at 9:45 am

As it turns out, Kauai was a popular destination for the NileGuide content team, as two of us ended up there over the holidays. Samya was spot on with her recommendations for dining like a local on the island. I’m a sucker for noodle soups, so Hamura’s saimin really hit the spot.

The problem with so much great food on the island is that, if you over-indulge in huli huli chicken, you might end up looking like the Monk Seals that like to take naps in the sand at Po’ipu Beach. Personally, I like to counteract my gastronomic excursions with a healthy dose of hiking. Here are a couple of my favorite spots in Kauai:

  • Koke’e State Park: Koke’e is where you can get up close and personal with the Waimea Canyon, the gorgeous canyon highlighted by so many of the island’s helicopter tours. There are a number of different hike trails going through the canyon, ranging from .1 to 10+ miles, from very easy to very strenuous. When driving up, be sure to stop at the various vistas to get a bird’s eye view of the canyon and decide what you’ll want to explore, be it the many ridges, waterfalls, rivers, etc. Stop at the museum and information center in the heart of the park and pick up one of the $2 hiking maps; they are very helpful in planning your day. Added bonus: the chickens that run rampant through the island seem to flourish in the park, probably thanks to food from tourists. Don’t be surprised to find them deep into the park even on longer hikes. Something to watch out for: Kauai allows hunting in the park, and as a result there is a possibility to run into lost hunting dogs. Use your judgment and exercise caution if you come across any.
  • Kalalau Trail: The Kalalau trail stretches along a tricky 11 miles of the ruggedly beautiful Na Pali Coast. It is broken up into sections: 2 miles will take you to a secluded beach with very rough surf, going 2 miles inland from the beach leads to a spectacular waterfall with very brisk swimming opportunity, and back from the beach another 9 miles will take you the full route. The full 11 miles is a 2-day trip, and due to much of it being on a narrow ledge on the steep cliffs, it is NOT recommended during the rainy and therefore muddy winter season. Helicopter rescues on this trail are common. The first two miles are more strenuous than people expect, and thus most people stop at the beach and head back. Heading to the waterfall will go down as the longest 2 miles in my life (the last mile is basically bouldering) but definitely worth the challenge. If you go during the winter, as I did, be prepared for high river levels and tons of sticky red mud. Required supplies: at least 2 liters water per person, shorts, and hiking sandals or wet/dry hiking shoes. I attempted to cross the river (you cross water multiple times in each leg of the trail) by hopping from rock to rock but soon realized it is MUCH easier just to walk through the water. It’s refreshing, easier, and a heck of a lot less embarrassing than falling off a rock mid-crossing.

No matter your adventure level, there are plenty of great hiking opportunities on Kauai. Be sure to bring your camera, lots of water, and an open mind about getting dirty!

Tags: hiking, Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Kok'e State Park, Po'ipu Beach, Waimea Canyon

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