Kaua’i Day 4: Hiking the Na Pali Coast

Monday, February 15, 2016

We woke up early on day 4 to the sounds of rain, but we weren’t going to let that stop us from the activity we had planned for the day.

You see, on day 4 of our Hawaii trip, I came to the sad realization that we were definitely not going to be able to sea kayak the Na Pali Coast like I had dreamt of. The rainy, windy weather forecast that we had seen on day 1, then day 2, and again on day 3 was not budging.

It took us longer that it should have to learn that the travel websites that said there was no bad time of year to go to Hawaii had lied to us. They had lied to us by omission. They had said that the temperature was perfect year-round — which was true — but what they didn’t say was that Hawaii still has seasons and winter is less than ideal if you want to do anything in the ocean because the surf is almost always dangerously high.

I had initially thought that we had just come to Kauai’s rainy north shore during a momentarily bad time and that it would clear up any day now and we would be on our way snorkeling in calm, clear blue waters and kayaking the Na Pali Coast to the amazing sea caves I saw photos of before our trip. Then I realized that it wasn’t just a momentary bad time for weather… it was a whole season and the bad surf and rain were not going away.

So instead of kayaking the Na Pali Coast, we would have to hike it to see it. And basically any activity we wanted to do (if it was safe to do), we were going to have to suck it up and do it with rain, wind, clouds, bad surf, goose bumps, you name it!

At 7 am we set out for our day of hiking along the Na Pali Coast to Hanakapi’ai Falls, which was an 8-mile round trip hike. Luckily, Pie had researched ahead of time and found out that this excursion would take us practically all day and we would want to start early in order to secure a parking spot close to the trail head. Also luckily, our rental property was right down the street from the trail head so we didn’t have to get up too crazy early to get to the trail head at a decent time.

I have a tendency to stop and take photos every now and then few steps, so it was also a good idea that we got an early start for our hike that mroning. What we didn’t plan for timewise — and should have since it happens just about every hike we go on — was ending up on the bonus scenic route of the hike.

The word “Na Pali” means “many cliffs” in Hawaiian and the Na Pali Coast lived up to this description exactly. The start of the hike immediately took us up along the coastline, which provided magnificent views of the ocean and waves crashing against the steep black rocky cliffs. Each view of the coastline was followed by a short trek into a valley and back out again to another view of the coastline.

This went on for about two miles until the trail hit the Hanakapi’ai River, which was a large river that ran out to the ocean. Once at this river, the trail continued upwards into the valley of the natural reserve and zig-zagged across the river until it reached the Hanakapi’ai Falls.

It was after this river and the subsequent river crossings that we somehow lost track of the bright pink flags tied to the trees that we should have easily been following to stay on the trail and instead ended up following a dried out river wash. Hey, it was easy to get lost with all the pretty, distracting scenery around!

I kept telling Pie several times that the river wash we were climbing up didn’t seem right and other hikers were no longer following behind us. After much insisting and nagging, Pie finally looked up a picture of the trail map he took on his phone (thank goodness for this map) and we realized we had likely lost the trail when it forked into a running river and a non-running river.

We took a B-line through thick trees to get back in the direction of the trail and by sheer luck, eventually found the real trail again without needing to climb down any crazy cliffs or cross any raging rivers. Unfortunately, by taking this unnecessary detour, we had lost some precious time to enjoy the trail with less hikers. By the time we caught up with the trail again, we were joined by hoards and hoards of hikers coming and going from the falls.

Although we had begun the hike tenderly walking in our comfy Reef sandals and trying to avoid getting our feet and legs muddy from the increasingly wetter trail, by the time we escaped our potential crisis of getting lost, we abandoned this idea that took way too much effort and time and just hauled ass through the muddy trail to get to the falls and then back to the trail head so we could wash up and relax!

Eight hours later we finally returned back to our vehicle. The parking lot was indeed full by then and it was surprising how many hikers we saw just beginning their hike at 3pm even though the weather was getting rainier and windier as the end of the day drew near.

Despite getting lost, this adventure turned out to be the best activity of the whole trip because we finally got to see and experience the best thing about Kauai up close, the Na Pali Coast!

Up next: It rains some more, but we finally get in some good snorkeling in!

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