If you find yourself on Kauai and in search of some awesome, life-changing and downright mind-blowing hikes, look no further. The island is home to an endless multitude of gorgeous hiking trails, ranging from leisurely beach walks to overnight jungle expeditions. The good news is that there is something for every level, whether beginning, intermediate or expert. However for the truly fearless outdoorsmen and women of the world, we present to you the 5 best hikes on Kauai for those not afraid of heights.
1. Kahili Ridge Trail
The Kahili Ridge trailhead can be found just off the main stretch of highway at the Kahili Adventist School sign (just west of the Tree Tunnel). After entering the school property guests are encouraged to park near the office. Continue up past all the cabins toward the edge of the property where you will find a green water tower, then just follow the trail. The hike itself is roughly 2.75 (one way) with an elevation of 1,700 feet. The lower leg of the trail is relatively easy with a steady incline through dense brush and forest. It is highly recommended to go on a warm, dry day to avoid muddy, slippery trails. In fact all hikes are recommended to be enjoyed on sunny days as dry conditions ensure for a safe and fun experience. As hikers continue onward they will witness stunning local flora, fauna and incredible mountain and ocean views. The further up the ridge you go, the narrower the trail becomes, slimming down to a mere 2-feet at times. Kahili is not for the faint of heart but the pay off is completely worth it!
2. Nu’alolo Trail
This Nu’alolo trail begins just past the Koke’e Ranger Station up in Kauai’s dewy Koke’e mountains. Made up of 3.8 miles (each way) this beautiful hike is for the experienced hiker. Starting at an elevation of roughly 3,660 feet, hikers will climb a short uphill series of switchbacks until about a 1/4 of a mile to the top of the ridge. Here the trail will head back down another 1/2 mile until it all begins to level off. At one mile hikers will pass through some grassy areas however at two miles the landscape becomes noticeably drier. As the trail begins to narrow, stunning views of Ni’ihau and the Lehua islet will come into view. The three mile mark comes to a junction with a hunter’s route, so keep going right until you reach the next junction of the official Nualolo Cliff Trail. This will bring you to the Lolo Vista Point (a little more than a 1/4 mile from here). Exercise extreme caution and trust your instincts with this portion of the trail. If it’s too windy, skip it all together. If hikers are looking for an all-day loop hike, incorporate the neighboring Awa’awapuhi Trail. While the Nu’alolo hike features some harrowing drop-offs and extremely elevated lookouts, the final view is unbelievable.
3. Sleeping Giant (Nounou)
This hike begins on the eastern side of the mountain commonly known as “Sleeping Giant,” for its legendary silhouette. Hikers can get here by driving up Halelilio Road off of Kuhio Highway (Hwy 56). Parking for the trailhead is easy to spot. This moderate hike climbs up to around 1,000 feet with a distance of about 2 miles (each way) offering sweeping views of the ocean, Wailua River and Mt. Waialeale. At the top of the trail is a sheltered picnic area so be sure to pack a lunch.
4. Hanakapi’ai Falls
Hanakapi’ai Falls is one of the most sought-after hikes to embark on, located on the north shore of Kauai. This hike begins at the aptly named “End of the Road” (literally, where the road stops and the start of Ke’e Beach begins) near Haena. Technically, this hike is the beginning to both Hanakapiai and Kalalau Trail. If you’re only looking to see the Hanakapiai Falls, the hike consists of 4 miles (each way). The trail winds you along the stunning Na Pali Coastline, past Hanakapiai Beach, through ancient bamboo forests and up into the hidden Falls. It’s an absolute must-see when on Kauai.
5. Kalalau Valley
This strenuous hike spans 11 miles (each way) through winding valleys, over mountain tops and past waterfalls until arriving at the world-famous Kalalau Beach; as seen in Pirates of the Caribbean, Jurassic Park and countless other films and television series. This beach, resting at the foot of the jagged Na Pali Coastline (translating to “The Cliffs” in Hawaiian) is one of the most remote areas on Kauai. The only way to get to Kalalau Beach via land is by hiking. Charters and kayak trips are a fun alternative. The trail is known for being unforgiving so plan accordingly. Otherwise, be ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
Always be sure to plan ahead for trail closures, current news and other helpful information as well as attaining necessary Kauai Hike Permits. If you’re looking for more fun outdoor activities on Kauai be sure to check our Activities page or one of our many helpful blog posts (Rainy Day Activities, Kid-Friendly Activities).
If you’re looking for someone to take you on a guided Kauai hike, we recommend hiking with Tab at https://hikingtourskauai.com/