Hanakapiai Falls is a magnificent waterfall off the Kalalau Trail on Kauai’s northern Na Pali Coast. Reaching the falls is not exactly easy, but the reward is well worth it.
Getting to the falls requires a two-mile hike on the Kalalau Trail (Hanakapiai Trail) from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapiai Beach, then another two-mile hike on the Hanakapiai Falls Trail from the beach to the falls.
The first two miles from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapiai Beach is generally easy. The path is wide, well-traveled and provides magnificent views of Ke’e Beach and the Na Pali Coast. It can be slippery when it rains, and you’ll want to wear some old shoes, especially if it’s wet as the trail’s red mud is not easy to wash out.
Hanakapiai Beach is beautiful but deadly. Do not go in the water here as powerful currents and waves have washed more than a few people out never to be seen again.
Up from the beach is the start of the Hanakapiai Falls Trail. The first part of the trail is not difficult. The trail is wide and the ground is level. You’ll pass a few bamboo thickets. But as you go deeper on the trail, the ground gets more uneven. You’ll be treading on a number of rocks and you’ll have to cross over Hanakapiai Stream more than a few times.
Crossing the stream requires either getting your feet and legs wet or doing your best balancing act on rocks. If later in the day you’ll pass a few people coming from the falls who will all tell you “you’re almost there.” But you’re not, you keep walking over uneven terrain, making the two miles feel like a lot more.
But then you will catch a glimpse of the falls through the rainforest and your pace quickens. You walk emboldened and finally you’re at the base of the falls and are rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime view.
You can go in the pool at the base of the falls. The water is cold, much colder than the ocean, but it will feel exhilarating after the hard trek. If you go in, just make sure there are other people around to help in case there’s a problem. There are no lifeguards of course. And it’s best not to swim under the waterfall as rocks and other debris sometimes come over the falls along with the water.
If you’re going, plan to leave Ke’e Beach at least before noon. The entire round trip can take 5-6 hours. Save some energy for the trek back to Ke’e Beach as the hike back will feel much longer. You’ll wish that a boat could pick you up at Hanakapiai Beach, but that’s not happening.
For the trip, you’ll want to bring a day pack with at least two bottles of water (16oz x 2) per person and snacks for extra energy. And be sure to bring a camera or smart phone!
This is a hike that most healthy and fit people can accomplish. But the last part of the trail nearest the falls is fairly rigorous, so use caution if you’re unsure about your capabilities. If the trail is muddy, it can become almost impassable except for the most determined hikers.
The start of the trail at Hanakapiai Beach
Bamboo thicket on the first part of the trail (after Hanakapiai Beach).
The first part of the trail is relatively flat and easy, though deep mud can complicate the experience during and after heavy rains.
The Hanakapiai Falls Trail follows Hanakapiai Stream to the falls.
The first of many stream crossings. The trail goes back and forth on both sides of the stream.
Drone shots provide an overview of the area you will be traversing on the trail.
Approximately half way there and still a ways to go.
First glimpse of the falls from the trail.
The top of the falls. (It’s hard to get a pic of the entire falls because it is so tall.)
The water in the plunge pool feels super cold, but it’s refreshing after the long hike.