The best way to appreciate Kauai’s natural beauty is undoubtedly on the trail. The ‘aina (land) is a sacred part of Hawaiian culture, with a focus on respect and conservation. The positive energy, or mana, radiating from the land can be felt deeply by those immersed in nature here on Kauaʻi, from mauka (mountain side) to makai (ocean side.) It’s important to always ask for permission before entering any area designated as kapu (forbidden) or not expressly open to the public. There are ways to enjoy an “off the beaten path” experience while also respecting Hawaiian culture.
MĀLAMA THE ʻAINA BY HIKING RESPONSIBLY
Mālama means to protect, conserve, or take care. Here are ways that you can hike responsibly and respectfully:
- DO NOT take rocks, sand, flora or fauna with you, and refrain from carving your name into trees.
- DO clean your gear. Hawaii’s biodiversity is fragile and unique, so before hiking, be sure that your shoes and clothing do not carry seeds, soil, or organics. This is especially necessary to protect ohia, the most abundant native tree in the state of Hawaiʻi. They are dying very quickly from a fungal disease called Rapid Ohia Death.
- DO NOT leave trash behind when you are camping or hiking, at the beach, or a park. Pack it in and pack it out to do your part in keeping Kauaʻi beautiful.
- DO stay on the trail. By respecting the boundaries of clearly marked hiking trails, you are keeping yourselves and fellow hikers safe, as well as preserving the plants and animals that create a delicate ecosystem off the path. Venturing off can damage the ‘aina and create erosion as well, which can lead to trail closures and hazardous conditions.
- DO wear environmentally-friendly bug repellent to protect yourself and our insects.
- DO NOT feed wildlife. They have everything they need.
SELECTING A HIKING TRAIL
To choose a trail responsibly please select from one of the many State Park Trails within Kōkeʻe State Park or Waimea Canyon State Park. We highly recommend that you check for park updates on the DLNR website for any parking fees, reservations or permits that may be required.
For the experienced hiker, the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park offers the world famous Kalalau Trail.
The Kalalau Trail is an 11-mile trail that leads from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach along the Nāpali Coast, and provides the only land access to the rugged Nāpali Coast. The trail traverses five lush valleys and crosses above towering sea cliffs. Camping is allowed at Hanakoa or Kalalau with a permit. It is possible to complete a day hike to Hanakāpiʻai and up to Hanakāpiʻai Falls without a permit, although a reservation is required. Please note that these are extremely strenuous hikes intended for the advanced hiker.
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR HIKE
Hiking the Garden Island will undoubtedly be an experience you will never forget, boasting some of the most magnificent views on earth. However, heading into the tropical abyss requires a little forethought as far as must-haves for the trail. Here is a list of essentials for a hike on Kauaʻi:
H20 is your best friend. Hydro Flasks have become an essential hiking companion here on Kauaʻi. Remaining hydrated will ensure that your hike will be pleasant, and absent of the dangers of dehydration.
- SUNSCREEN + BUG SPRAY
Sunscreen for the sunny parts of the trail, and bug spray for the shade are two good rules of thumb. Because the environment is so naturally lush and wet, trails will oftentimes be a hotbed for mosquitos. Protect yourself rain or shine with these two items, and remember to get a reef-safe sunscreen for when you take a dip in the Pacific afterwards.
- FIRST AID KIT
It’s always important to bring a small first aid kit with you on a hike in case of emergency…or blisters. Kauai’s landscape can be somewhat unpredictable based on weather and trail maintenance, and many beautiful hikes are very remote. Because of this, it is important to have first aid basics on you. Your kit should include band aids and bandages for potential blisters, cut-cleaning solution like hydrogen peroxide, tape, ibuprofen and an antihistamine. Being diligent about keeping any wounds dry and clean is the best way to avoid contracting a nasty infection.
- PROPER ATTIRE
More often than not, you will run into a light shower and changes in temperature on a hike here on Kauaʻi . A light rain jacket and an extra pair of socks is always a good idea. Appropriate, comfortable, and broken-in footwear is also advised. (Best to break in those new hiking boots before you hit the trails.) Because of the frequent rain showers, always be prepared for muddy conditions on the trail. Hiking sticks can oftentimes be found at the trailhead, left behind by previous hikers. You can also bring along trekking poles if you have them to help you navigate the terrain.
Apples, bananas, protein or granola bars, or trail mix are all good options to bring on a hike. It’s important to have something on you to keep your blood sugar up, and replace the calories you are burning.
As with all outdoor activities here on Kauaʻi, remember – safety first. It’s always wise to research a hike prior to arriving. Gather your essentials, consider timing, weather, and physical capability before hitting the trails. We enjoy arranging special hikes and excursions with our Timbers Kauaʻi owners. Recently we explored the Nounou Trail. Never hike alone, and always be prepared. Happy trails!