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HANAKAPIAI FALLS TRAIL ON KAUAI, HAWAII

HANAKAPIAI FALLS TRAIL ON KAUAI, HAWAII

Hanakapiai Falls Trail is one of the most popular hikes on Kauai. It leads you to the first part of the Kalalau towards Hanakpiai Beach before heading inwards along the Hankapiai Stream towards the booming 300ft+ Hankapiai Waterfall in the depths of the jungle.

The Hanakpiai Falls Trail is 5 miles in and 5 miles out. However, many hikers stop at the beach and turn back, opting to hike only to the beach and not the falls. This makes the journey only 2 miles in and 2 miles out.

I hiked all over Kauai for over a month and documented all of my adventures. In my opinion, these are the 15 best hikes on Kauai!

Hanakapiai Falls Hike Details

  • Distance: 10 miles out and back
  • Duration: 4-5 hours
  • Incline: 800m
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We made it!

Hanakapiai Falls Trail map

The Hankapiai Falls Trailhead is the same as the Kalalau Trailhead, which is one of the top hikes on the North Shore of Kauai. At the ‘end of the road’, which is as far as you can possibly drive north on Kauai is Ke’e Beach. This is the starting point for the trail. There are toilets, drinking fountains, changing rooms, and parking lots. It can be hard to find a park so be prepared to walk a distance from your park to the trailhead.

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Ke’e Beach at the end of the road. This is where the trail begins.

The trailhead is heavily signposted and begins right next to the lifeguard tower. Following the trail is simple and there are no hidden turns or opportunities to get lost. Once you reach Hanakapiai Beach after 2 miles you are halfway into the hike. You then simply follow the path inland on the right-hand side of the Hanakapiai Stream. This path is less defined but still very easy to follow. You will need to cross the stream a few times before you reach the amphitheater, where you will find Hanakapiai Waterfall crashing into the pool below.

 

Hanakapiai Falls Trail Important Info

I visited back in early 2018 but as of late 2018, there is a fee required to hike this trail. There are a few options offered.

  • The fee for entrance is $5 (not including parking) but must be booked well in advance. Unfortunately, sometimes the permits are sold out a month in advance.
  • The shuttle entry permit is another type of permit that allows you to park away from the entrance and take a shuttle into the park entrance. This is much more expensive at $35 (as of 2021) and you must adhere to a specific timing schedule.
  • The final option is to buy a permit including parking but you will need to purchase multiple time slots in order to complete the hike in enough time to Hanakapiai Falls.

Having tourists take the shuttle is the preferred option of the locals and the park management but is also an expensive hike. You will need to visit their FAQ Page for more info to decide how you will approach this hike and also what price you are willing to pay to visit the waterfall.

Hanakapiai Falls Trail

The trail begins with an incline and it never really lets you relax from that point onwards. Slippery mud, boulders and tree roots are just a few of the obstacles you will encounter on the winding path that switches back and forth as it leads you along the Na Pali coast. The Hanakapiai Falls Trail isn’t a stroll in the park.

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Roots, boulders and mud are obstacles you will encounter on the trail
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Josh hanging out during the early stages of the Hanakapiai Falls Trail

What are my favorite pieces of hiking gear?

There are four pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a hike. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my hiking essentials.

  • Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
  • Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots: For the best ankle support, waterproofing, and durable exterior I’m a fan of tough but light hiking boots like these Salomons for my adventures.
  • Black Diamond Head Torch: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve arrived back from a hike unexpectedly late. I always keep this lightweight but strong headtorch in my bag for the unexpected.
  • Darn Tough Socks: These are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever worn and last for years. They also have a lifetime warranty and you just send them in with a hole and they replace it no questions asked.

My favorite part of the stretch from Ke’e Beach to Hankapiai Beach is the red rock path and how it contrasts dramatically with the striking blue of the Pacific Ocean far below. When you add the vivid greens from the jungle and the deep sky blue into this scene you have a vibrant palette painting an incredible scene replicated in a few places around the world. If you get a chance, a helicopter flight over this coastline has to be on your bucket list, it’s truly incredible.

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Red sand, green jungle and blue ocean.

Once we reached Hanakpiai Beach, we took a seat on a boulder and watched the crazy mess out in the ocean. Signs are plastered all over this beach about not swimming. It seriously looks like a disaster waiting to happen so I’d definitely cool off your feet in the shallows or the stream but this isn’t a beach you want to go swim in if the waves are coming in.

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Be very careful at the dangerous Hanakapiai Beach
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Hanakapiai Beach from inside the small caves

Refreshing break over, we began the next 2-mile segment of the Hanakpiai Falls Trail along the Hankapiai Stream. This section of the trail gets significantly muddier and leads you through amazing bamboo forests and back and forth across the stream. It also got a lot colder as we ventured further and further inland. You may want to bring a waterproof jacket. I used the waterproof cover on my backpack to protect my gear from the light rain and mist that hit as we neared the waterfall.

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The bamboo forest on the way to Hanakpiai Falls
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Hanakapiai Falls

We had been making slow progress. Our group was taking a lot of photographs and long breaks but we reached the Hanakapiai Waterfall after three hours. You could probably reach the falls in under two hours quite easily if you went straight through without stopping.

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A much-deserved ice bath
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Josh exploring the Hanakapiai Stream

Finally, we had arrived at the waterfall. It is a 300ft booming shower that seems to fall out of the sky into the emerald pool below. The water was freezing but most of us jumped in for a dip. I explored a small ledge to the left of the ledge, where I was able to snap some photos with an awesome perspective of the amphitheater. This is a truly magical spot and one of the best waterfalls on Kauai.

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Hanakpiai Falls in all of its glory!
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We made it!

The hike back was a bit of a mission especially as we climbed back up the steep red rock in the latter parts of the trail. We arrived back to Ke’e Beach after almost 6 hours of adventures. This is one of my favorite memories from my trip on Kauai and highly recommend this hike for anyone visiting, especially if you are not hiking the Kalalau Trail. The Hanakapiai Falls Trail will give you a good taste of the Na Pali coast without the full-blown experience of the Kalalau Trail.

HOLD UP! Are you sure you’re ready to start hiking and traveling? GET INSURED FIRST!

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Where to stay on Kauai

I’m going to recommend five places to stay on Kauai. All five of these spots are in great locations but each one is a little different. Two are a luxury pick, one is a family choice, the other is a value selection. For more accommodation recommendations you can check my favorites in the Kauai Where to Stay Guide.

Kauai Shores HotelLuxury (but value also): A luxury feels with the resort-style property, palm trees, and a beautiful pool area. However, it is less than $300 a night. The best part about this hotel is that it is right on the beach. The restaurant literally looks out to the waves, which is an awesome spot to start your day with breakfast.

Koloa Landing ResortLuxury (high-end): I was lucky enough to spend three nights reviewing Koloa Landing Resort and honestly the place is just phenomenal. It has the LARGEST pool on all of Kauai with beautiful, natural-style landscaping throughout the pool areas.

The Grand Hyatt ResortBest Family Resort: With the best kids’ club on the island, wildlife talks in the lobby, and a five-acre pool complex that includes an enormous lazy-river pool, a waterslide, and a saltwater lagoon big enough for kayaking, the Grand Hyatt is unbeatable for keeping kids busy and parents happy.

Hilton Garden InnValue Pick: The Hilton Garden Inn is your number one choice if you are on a budget but still need comfort. The Hilton has a beautiful pool, has private beach access and hot tubs so you are still getting an awesome value and the resort experience.

11 of the Coolest Waterfalls in Hawaii (with Map and Images) - Seeker

Friday 16th of April 2021

[…] quite a trek to reach Hanakapi‘ai Falls, but it’s definitely worth the effort. You’ll have to hike a total of twelve miles, four of […]

The Ultimate Kauai Travel Guide – Fancy Nanc-ista

Sunday 20th of October 2019

[…] Kalalau Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Kauai. People come from all over the world just to do this trail. Supposedly this hike is really advanced and you need a permit to hike it. It might be well worth it for the epic views! You can hike about 2 miles of this trail to Hanakapiai Falls. […]

Kay

Friday 26th of October 2018

Hi, which month you did this hike?

15 BEST HIKES ON KAUAI, HAWAII - Journey Era

Tuesday 27th of February 2018

[…] challenging 11- mile, the coastal trail along the Na Pali Coast. You can hike the first 2 miles to Hanakapiai Falls without a permit but any further than that you will need the permit. The trail ends at the secluded […]

Tuesday 12th of March 2019

Aren't most of these trails closed since last April though?