On our previous visit to the island of Kauai in 2009 we had hoped to hike the Kalalau Trail, which is the only land route to the Na Pali Coast. But Sydney was only 4 years old at that time and too small to tackle this difficult hike. Out of curiosity, though, we did venture up the mud covered trail over rocks, roots, and along a shear drop-off to a viewpoint. The people we saw on the trail heading back down were covered in mud and looked exhausted. They also looked at us as if we had to be crazy to take a 4 year old on this trail. We had only hiked a ¼ of a mile up the trail, but it had given us an idea of what the 11 mile long Kalalau Trail was like. It was going to be tough! And in case you are wondering just how tough of a hike it is, the Sierra Club has rated this trail a 9 out of a 10 in degrees of difficulty.
Now that Sydney was 6, we thought we would give the Kalalau Trail another go. Two miles from the trailhead is Hanakapi’ai Beach, which is as far as you can go without a permit. Even though a 2 mile hike does not sound very hard, it was said to take the average person 2 hours to hike it one way. Even longer if you are only six.
With food, water, and sunscreen in our backpacks we started up the trail. Our goal was to reach Hanakapi’ai Beach, but would turn around if it became too difficult for Sydney. Not only would we have the rugged trail to deal with, but also the tropical sun and high humidity. The first mile was a scramble over rocks, roots, and mud, just as we remembered it. But the trail along the second mile actually got easier to hike on, except for a few rocky areas and about a half mile section of ants covering the trail. As we descended the trail we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Hanakapi’ai Beach. We had lunch on the beach and enjoyed cooling off in the fresh water stream that snakes down from the valley above. We had made it in just a little over 2 hours, which is pretty good considering we travelled at the speed of a 6 year old.
Hiking the 2 miles back out was just as tough as it was coming in, but was definitely worth it. Sydney did really well, even though she decided that she no longer likes long hikes. She was the youngest person to have made the hike to the beach that day, and she really impressed everyone we passed. Maybe someday we will go back and hike the full 11 miles to the end of the trail.