The Kalalau Trail on the north shore of Kauai (Hawaii) is a hiker's dream. Backpacking is required to complete the entire 11-mile (one way) hike, but day hikers also have several choices. Our goal was the 4-mile trek to Hanakapiai Falls, a challenging 8-mile roundtrip hike in good conditions. In rainy December, it becomes a treacherous slip and slide of chocolate ooze. Still, the vistas on the first 2-mile leg along the legendary Na Pali Coast are phenomenal.
We started at the end of the road at Ke'e Beach, the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail. The path climbs steeply for a mile, then descends a mile to Hanakapiai Beach. Just before reaching the rocks and sands of the beach, numerous signs warn against swimming in the dangerous rip currents and urge you to notice tidal wave warnings or receding water.
The trail to Hanakapiai Falls then follows the Hanakapiai (what else?) Stream up the valley, crossing the stream numerous times. My boots were soaked because I forded the stream by walking through the water; there were no other possible crossings.
We were rewarded with a gorgeous 300-foot waterfall and swimming hole. The mist of the falls and the mist of the rain made a surreal atmosphere. Or, perhaps in the haze of an oxygen-deprived brain I let my mind wander.
The return trip was made difficult because my muscles didn't like going down. Each step taxed my poor knees. Still, I live for this hike.