What You Need to Know before You Hike Kalalau Trail



E Komo Mai – Welcome to Kalalau Trail where you find one of the most breathtaking views on earth while paying only a small price of heavy perspirations trudging through 22 miles of a muddy tropical jungle and scant quantity of blood donated to swarms of aggressive mosquitoes. But each time as your struggles seem to culminate, you emerge from the tortuous jungle trail and find yourself on a clifftop with 180 degree coastal view in the front and stunningly lush and rugged mountain view behind you. It is all worth it.

In order to hike Kalalau Trail, however, you need to do some preparation. You want to be in good physical shape to handle a round trip of 22 miles of strenuous hike over a few days; you also want to make sure you don’t have fear of heights as you will be hiking on top of cliffs overlooking hundred some feet of steep drop into the crashing blue waves of Pacific Ocean. It also helps to acquire adequate permits and carry the right gear for a trip like this.

1.How many days do you need on this trail?

We had four days and three nights since we weren’t in any hurry. It felt very adequate for our pace and comfort. We camped one night at Hanakoa Valley on the way in and two nights on Kalalau beach. We had one day to explore Kalalau valley.

We encountered people staying for various length of time. We saw a trail runner going in and out in one day. We also met some people hiking 11 miles in one day, camping one night and hiking 11 miles out the next day. There were also people hiking in to linger for an extended period of time from days to weeks to months or even years. You are not technically allowed to stay more than five nights in this state park but it is obvious that no one is checking.

Do you have the right gear to camp in a muddy jungle?

2. How do you acquire a permit to hike Kalalau Trail?

Visit the Hawaii DLNR reservation system at this link. The permits sell out quickly so you want to plan this trip months ahead. We bought our permits in late Nov for our end of Feb trip.

IMG_2897-2.jpg3. What do you need to pack for this trip?

Like any other hiking and camping trips, you will need to pack for clothing, camping gear and food. But this camping trip is different from any of our previous experiences. We realized that this was the first tropical camping trip we had done. It was hot and humid at night. Here’s what I’d recommend you to pack for a three night camping trip to Kalalau.

Must pack for everyone:

  • STRONG bug repellent; these are some of the most aggressive mosquitoes I’ve encountered.
  • Sunblock
  • Sunglasses
  • Printout of your camping permit
  • Water (1L is appropriate as there are plenty places to refill. Water here is NOT drinkable without filter or treatment. Leptospirosis is known to infect the waters in Kauai.)
  • Camera & Spare batteries


  • 3 synthetic T shirts or tank tops (fast dry as it is very possible to encounter rain here; designate 1 dry shirt as your sleeping shirt)
  • 2 pairs of underwear
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 1 swim trunks/ swimsuit
  • 3 pairs of socks (this place is muddy, you will want fresh socks just in case)
  • Brimmed hat (when the sun comes out, it is no joke; if you have one with cloth hanging down the back to protect your neck like this, it’s even better)
  • 1 pair of very comfortable hiking boots
  • 1 sports bra (for her, duh)

Hiking and Camping:

  • 2 or 3 season tent with rain flap (we packed a 4 season tent and it was too hot)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag or liner
  • Inflatable pillow
  • Headlamp
  • Water filter (We bought a new water filter system and it worked great)
  • Iodine water treatment tablets (If you are truly concerned about Leptospirosis, it’s not a bad idea to both filter and treat your water. That said, we only filtered.)
  • A comfortably fitted hiking backpack. It’s amazing how much difference it makes to have a backpack that shifts the burden to your lower extremities rather making you carry it all on your shoulders.
  • Rain cover for your backpack
  • Hiking poles (these are essential, in my opinion, to get me safely through the slippery muddy trails)
  • Toiletries: surprisingly you won’t need toilet paper here. There are two outhouses on Kalalau beach, one in Hanakoa and one on Hanakapi’ai beach. All of them had toilet paper.
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste
    • Contact solution/case/glasses
    • Hand sanitizer
  • Microfiber towel
  • Sandals

Food and Cooking: totally depending on the number of days you are spending on this trail

  • Pocket rocket and MSR fuel canister x1
  • Cooking pot
  • Foldable bowls/fork/spoon/spork
  • Dinner x 3 (freeze dried meals, ramen, bread, cheese, salami, a bag of kale, a bag of carrots, etc)
  • Lunch x 4 (Clif bars and fruit bars)
  • Breakfast x 4 (oatmeal and hot chocolate packets)
  • Fruit: oranges and pears
  • Snacks: trail mix, dried fruit, jerky, etc

4. What else do you need to know?

Ke’e beach parking lot was jam packed by the time we got there. We were told this lot is pitch black at night, a perfect place for break-in’s. It’s not advisable to leave your car here overnight.

There are three locations you can park to access this trail. The one at the trailhead is the Ke’e State Beach Park Lot. This lot is pitch black at night and there are reported break-ins and smashed windows. I even read a report that someone cut a gas line to siphon gas. Ha’ena State Park is a little over half a mile from the trailhead. There is no camping at this beach park so also not a great option for overnight parking. Finally, there is Ha’ena Beach Park. The parking lot is lit by street lights and there are people camping on this beach throughout the year which makes this lot the safest to park overnight. We parked our rental at Ha’ena Beach Park with nothing left in the car and doors unlocked. We came back four days later and found our car untouched.

Welp, that’s it! You are all set for a trip to Kalalau! Is there anything else you’d like to add to my list? Leave me a comment if this post is helping you with your trip planning. 

Our hike part 1 and part 2



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