We had our plan for the day, come hell … or just a helluva lot of Hawaiian rain. We wanted to “run” the first two miles of the Na Pali Coast from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach, and then thrash through the jungle to the stunning Hanakapi’ai Falls, “only” another two miles. This is a treat of an outing if you are in Kauai. It is the first section of the famed Kalalau trail  along the coast and the only section you can do without a permit.

Seemed innocent enough. Sure, we’d get wet. We knew that. But little did we know what was to come. We loaded up our daypacks, filled plenty of water – still remembering our first time when we ran out of water like numskulls – took snacks and hats and plenty of sunscreen. Ha ha…. Optimists, aren’t we?

By the time we get there from our rented cottage near Kapa’a, it’s late morning. By then the mixed sun/clouds on the east shore had turned into drizzles and total overcast on the north shore. Although it’s stopped raining when we finally park, the air is so thick you could practically swim through it.

I tell Michael I was going to treat today like a fast hike. No racing. He nods, skeptically. We both start up the first rocky, root-covered incline of about 20 feet or so and we slowly speed up. The first slightly runnable surface we come to, we both launch into a jog. And the race to Hanakapi’ai Falls is on – it seems we can’t help ourselves. We love to run trails. Soon we were dripping sweat from our earlobes. We were breathing hard, sucking in thick cotton wads of humid air. And damn it felt good. But, oh, it was wet out. Really wet. Like so crazy wet we knew the streams ahead were going to be raging.

HITT Tip: The Hawaii State Parks website warns, “The upper half of this trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls should be hiked only in good weather to avoid dangerous flash floods and falling rocks.” Honestly, we recommend you listen. This is not a trail to mess around with. If you ignore the warning signs (as we did), and ignore our recommendation NOT to ignore the warning signs, you are doing so at your own risk!
Yes, this is (was) the trail on our way to Hanakapi'ai Falls ... it is now a small stream.

Yes, this is (was) the trail … it is now a small stream on the way to Hanakapa’ai Falls.

At the Hanakapi’ai Stream crossing at the final beach, we see a string stretched across at the trail. Not sure what for. It’s a flimsy string. Hold onto it and it won’t do you a bit of good. Slip and fall while holding it and you’ll take it with you. At the stream too is a sign that warns in no uncertain terms of the danger of flash floods and swollen waters. The sign also warns that you could be “seriously injured or killed” from the strong current. Seriously killed? We had no idea there was any other kind of death but serious … so there you go.

Starting up the path inland toward the Hanakapi’ai Falls after wading across thigh-deep water, it’s immediately clear that we are in for one wet adventure. For the first 20 minutes or so I’m trying to hop rocks and walk around the edges of muddy puddles but that’s soon fruitless – the path is now a small creek. There are more signs that you could be seriously killed. We ignore them. And so have dozens of others, from 20-somethings to 60-somethings, plus one family with two little boys around ages 6-8 – wearing mud as war paint on their cheeks. Everybody appears pretty nonchalant. You have to be if you are insistent about tossing care to the winds and flouting the danger of being seriously killed, as we did.

It takes us about 1.5 bushwhacking hours to the Hanakapi’ai Falls. About halfway up it starts POURING. My hair looks like I just got out of the shower. You could wring water out of every pore. We slosh through the creeks that were formerly alleged trails. We can’t come this far and not see the falls!!!! We get there but it’s coming down hard enough now, there is no time to “sit and enjoy.”  A couple of photos, one video and back we go.

We get to the final Hanakapa’ai Stream crossing at the beach, and the water has gone up a few inches – like to our waists. I follow Michael out and WHAM the current about knocks me over. Not that I was going to be seriously killed. I may have just gotten even more seriously wet than I already was. Folks are just standing on both sides kinda taking it in – the ones on the Ke’e Beach side staring at it wondering if they wanted to go to Hanakapa’ai beach that badly, and those on the far Hana beach side wondering how they are going to get back.

It’s stopped raining but our shoes are still squishing with every step and sorta of squirting water out the sides. It’s been quite a day. A great day. A fast-forward day full of adventure – adventure that inspires our souls.

HITT Tip:Take plenty of water, sunscreen, and let somebody know where you are. If the weather looks good, do not miss this trail. If the weather looks like it has rain in the forecast, perhaps wait for another day. Also, there are no stores near the beach so be sure to shop before heading out. If you are coming from the east or south, do not miss Small Town Coffee in Kapa’a, hands-down THE best coffee on the island with a true non-tourist atmosphere.

Heads up! This information was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, life is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.