This blog post was updated on September 11, 2014.

Family Travel: Hiking Kalalua with Kids, flickr: elchode

Na'Pali Coast

If you’re headed to Kauai, make sure you plan a few days to discover the Na Pali Coast.  A fifteen mile stretch of coastline on the northwest corner of Hawaii’s westernmost developed island Kauai, “Na Pali” literally means “The Cliffs.”  The cliffs are not accessible by road, and must be explored by boat or hiking trails.  In addition to those two options to get you in the cliffs, you can charter a helicopter through numerous outlets to offer breathtaking views of the impressive coastline, waterfalls and nearby terrain.  Charters typically last close to one hour and offer a good overarching view of the island as a whole.  

Although helicopter tours are sure to invoke a thrill, you truly would be missing the beauty if you didn’t explore some of the coastline by foot.  Here’s a guide to the major hiking trail:

Hiking Kalalua with Kids
Hiking in and through the Na Pali coast offers some of the most spectacular scenery and beauty in all of Kauai.  The Kalalau Trail, originally built in the late 1800s, offers hikers an 11-mile (one way) trail into the coastline and grandeur.  

The first two miles of the trip run from Ha’ena State Park on the northeastern part of the island (about an hour and a half drive from Lihu’e airport) to Hanakapi’ai Beach, and is most suited for families with a wider variety of children and ability levels.  Even this portion of the hike is steeply graded, so small children or those who tire easily should not attempt.  

The first half-mile of the hike provides excellent views of the coastline.  The trail does hug the cliff at this point, so be cautious with small little ones and make sure that they are prepared for this danger.  The hike will eventually empty out into Hanakapi’ai Beach, full of amazing beauty.  Be advised that wading and surfing in this beach are not recommended due to extremely strong rip currents.  The beach does offer a compostable pit toilet, but no fresh water is available.

If you have older kids who are up for it, take the unmaintained two-mile trail to an incredible waterfall!  You won’t regret it.  Note that you do have to cross a stream, climb over tree limbs and rocks, so only attempt this leg if you have plenty of drinking water, snacks and capable hikers.  

From Hanakapi’ai Beach, the trail continues for another nine miles, but is only suitable for very experienced hikers.  The entire 11 miles is only doable as a single day trip, so camping permits are required to hike further than the six-mile marker.

No matter how far you travel on this trail, don’t forget that your return trip is right along the same path you traveled on.  Only go as far as you can attempt; there is no loop.  

Book your flight to Hawaii and take the tykes on a  hike today!

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photo: elchode

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