Secluded, idyllic and majestic, the Na Pali Coast State Park is best known for serving as the dramatic backdrop for the opening scene of all three "Jurassic Park" movies. But getting here is no easy feat. You can kayak in 17 miles with the current (easy), charter a helicopter (easier) or take on a grueling physical challenge by hiking 11 miles along some of America's most challenging terrain.
Just how tough is this hike? The Kalalau Trail provides the only land access to the state park and traverses through about a mile of elevation gain. The trail is notoriously narrow, with parts measuring mere inches thanks to land giving way. Throughout large swaths of it, you have mountain on one side and sheer drop off to the ocean on the other side. Compound that with the incredibly rocky terrain -- which bring stress to your toes, ankles, knees and thighs -- with stretches of slippery mud, running streams and crumbling cliffs, and it becomes clear this hike isn't for the uninitiated.
The hike begins from Ke'e Beach, located at the end of the Kuhio Highway/Route 56 on the Hawaiian Island Kauai. Be sure to arrive early at this popular beach, since the journey will take you six to 10 hours (possibly more) one way.
If you're hiking the entire way, be sure to get a camping permit. It is assumed that anyone proceeding past the Hanakoa Valley, six miles in from the trailhead, is camping. The fees are $15 per person per night for Hawaii residents and $20 per person per night for everyone else. People can stay a maximum of five days along the Kalalau Trail, though some bend the rules (don't blame us if you get slapped with a hefty fine). Permits go by quick, so reserve them as soon as you can, up to one year in advance. Find out more about permits at the Hawaii State Parks website.
Kayaks can land at Kalalau Beach from May to September.
After you complete the journey along the rugged coastline, you are greeted with the majestic bluffs overlooking the Kalalau Valley.
With no reef to protect the shore, be sure to exercise extreme caution when swimming.
In the summertime, Kalalau Beach can be postcard perfect.
Remnants of a makeshift volleyball net.
A wet cave on Kalalau Beach.
There's a rainbow at the end of the Kalalau Trail.
Rainbow over Kalalau Valley.
Camping on the beach provides a front-row seat to the ocean, stars and ridges.
The view from our tent.
On our trip, a number of visitors to Kalalau Beach performed fire dances on the beach.
Close up of a fire dancer.
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