#Kauai: Kalalau Trail

On the northwest side of the island, where the highway ends at Ha’ena State Park, lies Makana (‘the gift’), better known as Bali Hai from the movie South Pacific. The Kalalau Trail, which skirts the mountain, begins here as well. The trail continues for 11 breathtaking miles through the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park to a campground at Kalalau Beach. NOTE: Hiking beyond Hanakapi’ai Beach and/or Hanakapi’ai Falls, a combined eight mile round trip, requires a permit from the Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR) because of the many hazards, especially in the last five miles. Since my daughters and I did not obtain a permit, and the fact that I found the first two miles more than sufficiently challenging, this article only covers the four-mile hike to that first beach and back.

Two things that cannot be overemphasized when hiking the Kalalau are water and timing. There is NO DRINKING WATER on the trail, and you should carry (camelbak, canteen, and/or bottles) at least a liter (more than 32 oz.) of drinking water for every two miles on the trail. Also, arrive early because parking is limited due to the variety of attractions at the end of the road, including Limahuli Garden and Ke’e Beach. Unfortunately, we arrived about 10:30 a.m., and parked nearly a mile from the trailhead, so our hike to the Hanakapi’ai Stream and back was about six miles; that is, just over one mile per hour with a half hour for lunch at the stream. In hindsight, 7:00 a.m. would have been a good time to arrive whether hiking four miles or eight—all the way to Hanakapi’ai Falls and back—or planning to overnight it and do the full 22 mile trek.

Ke'e Beach from .25 Mile Marker
Ke’e Beach from .25 Mile Marker

The elevation gain in the first two miles is either only 575 feet or nearly 2,000 feet, depending on whether or not you count the repeated ascents from ravines. That said, the climb over the next quarter mile takes you up to 600 feet above sea level before going down and up again.

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Climbing from .25 mile marker to the first summit at .5 mile marker

We were delayed by several blinding downpours on our way north, and we still encountered showers for the first mile or so of the hike. The first half mile or so is rocky and as shown above, more than a little wet. Although I didn’t realize it while taking the next photograph, you can actually see Hanakapi’ai Beach, that little speck of white near the center of the photo, from the lookout at the half mile marker.

Na Pali Coast from .5 Mile Marker
Na Pali Coast from .5 Mile Marker

Due to the morning’s heavy rainfall, several intermittent streams overflowed into the graded trail creating all the mud you could eat, and then some.

Notice tree hump rising above the mud
Notice tree hump rising above the mud

In spite of all this mud, there was much beauty to be seen, both on the trail and out to sea. With all the microclimates along the way I encountered considerable seasonal variability.

Some pay big bucks to have this blue indoors
Some would pay mightily to have this Robin’s Egg blue indoors

This lovely tree has a list of common names that stretch across the Pacific, from Malay rose-apple to mountain apple in Hawaii.

Ohi'a ~ Mountain Apple blooming
Ohi’a’ai ~ mountain apple just beginning to blossom

With three small stream crossings, I reached Hanakapi’ai Stream in just under two hours, and sat down among the boulders by the stream for lunch. Then I waded through the stream and rock hopped down to the beach. Fresh water (NOT safe for drinking!) oozed from the cliff wall above the little salt cave, and filled the little inlet at left.

Hanakapi'ai Beach
Hanakapi’ai Beach

The surf was choppy, aided by the wind, and of course it really is not safe to enter the ocean here. An old rusty, out-of-date sign just above the beach warned that at least 83 have died up here, and a local kayaker died just off the Na Pali Coast during High Surf Warnings in the week following my hike.

Looking back across the strand from the cave
Looking back across the strand from the cave

Rock hopping back up from the beach, I made a friend… an Orange Sulphur butterfly.

Lunch with a butterfly
A butterfly I met at the beach

All of the midday mud turned to hard, hot, red clay by late afternoon. Nevertheless, my return trek took nearly two-and-a-half hours, and twice as much water as the temperature appeared to be following the elevation. People I saw on the beach from three quarters of a mile upslope, passed me before I got this far.

Only a half mile more mud to go.
The morning sluice packed dry on the return trip

All things considered, I doubt I will ever attempt the 22 mile version of this hike. Fortunately there is an alternative, driving around the island and up Waimea Canyon Road to the Kalalau Lookout, which offers a view of the Kalalau Valley featured in the movie “The Descendants,” which is breathtaking no matter how you get there!

Kaua’i Shave Ice Review #3: Wishing Well Shave Ice

Always long lines at Wishing Well Shave Ice
Always long lines at Wishing Well Shave Ice

Wishing Well Shave Ice, located in Hanalei on the north shore, may be Kauai’s most well-known shave ice vendor. It at least has had the most famous customers – there used to be a board posted out front where celebrities visiting Kaua’i who stopped by for a shave ice signed their name (including Ben Stiller, Pierce Brosnan, Robert Downey, Jr. and more). There were no famous people in line the day Brett and the girls stopped by, but as you can see from the long line, it’s still a very popular place. Brett and the girls stopped at the little white truck on their way home from their Kalalau Trail hike last week.

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The menu board
The menu board

Wishing Well has a fairly extensive menu, and offers both their own flavor combinations as well as allowing you to mix traditional and homemade flavors (only two though). Their traditional flavor shave ice also is available in three sizes, keiki (kid), small or large. The first time we visited, with friends Todd and Laurie, we were warned that the women who worked in the van liked the orders to be made in a particular way: size first, then ice cream flavor, and finally the shave ice flavors . . . or else. The women were known to get surly if you did it wrong. The girls and Brett said there were no such issues this time with the young people working inside.

The girls' selections
Good advice when you’re on Kaua’i

Wishing Well offers both traditional syrups as well as homemade organic syrups. Shave ice made with traditional syrups are priced according to size: keiki is $4.00, small is $4.50 and large is $6.00. Ice cream (either macadamia nut or vanilla) can be added for $2.00 more, and a snow cap adds another $1.00 to your order. Shave ice made with homemade syrups come in two sizes: keiki ($6.00) and regular ($8.00), and ice cream is still $2.00 extra, but toppings are included. Wishing Well’s combos are each priced differently, from $8.00 to $11.00, but some include a special ice cream flavor and toppings as well. Wishing Well also sells acai bowls and coffee, and they accept debit and credit cards.

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WenYu’s mango & lychee shave ice

WenYu wanted  green tea shave ice again, but they were out of the syrup so she instead ordered a small traditional mango and lychee combo over macadamia ice cream with a snow cap, and said it was delicious. YaYu ordered a lemon-lime combo over vanilla ice cream with a snow cap, but thought the syrups tasted a bit weird and said she wouldn’t order it again. Both agreed the ice was nice and fluffy though. Brett ordered the Caffeine Monkey combo, macadamia nut ice cream with coffee and banana shave ice and topped with fresh banana slices, a refreshing combo after a hot day on the trail.

The Caffeine Monkey
The Caffeine Monkey

In our family’s opinion, Wishing Well Shave Ice is well worth the stop if you’re visiting the north shore (maybe avoid the lemon/lime combo though). It’s a bit expensive as far a shave ice goes, but great for a special treat. And, you never know who you might run into!