This is a lengthy report about our journey to Kalalau, made by my husband and I, and our two kids. First I will include a list of supplies that we packed for our hike. Keep in mind that everything we packed was in consideration of its bulk and weight. I will include brand names when I am able.
2 adult size hiking backpacks
2 child size Love Bug hiking backpacks
4 aluminum hiking poles with led flashlights on the ends
1 Wenzel Southbend dome tent
4 Intex wave mat inflatable pool floats (for beds)
4 Lightload beach towels (compressed to the size of hockey pucks and then they open into a regular size towel).
1 Open Country 2 qt. Billy Pot w/lid
1 metal spoon for cooking
1 Coleman burner that screws onto top of Coleman propane canister
2 Coleman propane canisters-only needed one.
1 bottle of 50 water purification tablets
4 water bottles with filters
4 backpack water bladders
Lots of Crystal Light and Gatorade packets
4 clip-on led headlamps
2 led flashlights
1 bar of Ivory soap –used for bathing, laundry, and dishes…lol
Box of asst. bandaids and Neosporin
Excedrin, Ibuprofen, and anti-diarrheal tablets (just in case)
4 plastic bowls, forks, and spoons
Lots of packets of instant oatmeal
LOTS of granola and energy bars
30 dehydrated meals—planning on 2 packages 3 times a day. We should have packed more meals.
2 cans of Bug spray
We each had a swimsuit, a change of clothes, an extra pair of socks, and a pair of flip flops
4 full size flat bed sheets for bedding. I found the cheapest and lightest sheets available.
1 frisbee and 1 beachball—for diversion
2 nylon 50’ ropes to attach to the kids on Crawler’s ledge…….
We packed the backpacks with my husband carrying about 40 lbs, I had 30 lbs, and the kids had about 12 lbs each. We didn’t strap anything to the outside of the packs because we knew the vegetation and bushes would be pulling at them. It is very important to tighten the backpack around your hips to take the strain off of your back and shoulders.
Each trip that we have made to Kauai, we have explored more and more of the island. On a previous trip, we had hiked into Hanakapi`ai Beach and had a wonderful day there. We promised ourselves that we would hike all the way to Kalalau the next time. Well, the next time was here and we were ready! My cousin who is a lives on Kauai drove us to the trailhead and dropped us off at dawn. “Us” being my 42 year old husband, my 11 year old daughter Lucy, my 9 year old son Luke, and my 40 year old self. We were excited, anxious, and Lucy was downright terrified. I think maybe we watched a few too many youtube videos of Crawler’s ledge. We waved good-bye to my cousin, took a few “before” shots of the trailhead and we were off!
The first two miles into Hanakapi`ai Beach were wet and slippery. It drizzled rain on us, but that quickly stopped and we had sunny and beautiful hiking conditions. At the river crossing at Hanakapi`ai, Luke slipped into the river and lost his hiking pole. We used the toilets there, (oh my gosh, you cannot imagine the stink!), and we took off again. The kids were a bit disappointed that we did not stay and play at Hanakapi`ai because they had had such a great time there the previous summer. Once we got back onto the trail, it became much narrower, but also much dryer. Since we were hiking with the kids, we made fairly frequent stops and took time to take photos at some of the awesome vistas. We spent some time climbing on Space Rock and just enjoying the view there.
I must tell you, there were more than a few moments when we wondered just what had we gotten ourselves into, and why were we doing this? The kids were being troopers, Lucy only had a few moments of near breakdown, but we would take a break at that time and she would suck it up; then we would continue on our way.
We reached Hanakoa at 3:30 in the afternoon. This was our first opportunity to sit and talk to other people. We got out our meal paraphernalia and starting cooking our first hot meal on the trail. The plan at that moment was to continue on to Kalalau once we had eaten and rested. Well, we all started playing in the river there at Hanakoa, visited the lovely composting toilet :rolleyes, and made the decision to set up camp and explore. We had carefully chosen our tent for ease of set-up and its lightweightedness, and we were not disappointed. Camp was set up within minutes. Lucy was the only one who chose to inflate her air-mattress. I knew it would be almost impossible to deflate them and get them back into the backpacks, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her no. She had had a pretty rough day. A little bit before dark, the mosquitos attacked with a vengeance. We all put on bug repellant but it didn’t seem to affect them much. We decided to light a small fire, and gathered twigs and leaves and the smoke did seem to repel them some. We spent a pretty restless night on the hard ground and were up early and ready to hit the trail again.
We continued on our journey, and all too soon we were on Crawler’s Ledge (or The Balcony). By this time, the helicopters and tour boats were in abundance. My husband had a rope tied around Luke’s waist, with the other end held tightly in his hand, and I had Lucy. We were inching ourselves along when a tour boat came around the corner. It was a bit unnerving to hear the captain on his loud speaker, explaining to his tourists where we were and what would happen to us if we slipped. Yeah, we didn’t need that reminder at that particular moment. The ground underneath our feet was pebbly, and just when you would think you had your feet planted, the ground would slide underneath you. If you tried to hang onto the side of the mountain in front of you, the mountain would break off in your hand. The only thing to do is to go slowly, and stay calm. I don’t think it is possible to convey our excitement and relief when we made it around that final corner and were met with solid rock, something concrete to grab onto. My legs felt like jelly. Lucy had spent a portion of that time crying and it took everything in me to calm her down and talk her through it. The smile on her face when I told her that we were through the hard part was rewarding. Note: Don’t show your easily frightened child youtube videos beforehand! Luke breezed through it like one of the little goats hopping around and informed all of us that was not a bit scary. As soon as we got back into the shady trees, we sat down for a much needed granola bar break.
While were there resting, to my horror, around the corner waltzed a naked young man. The only things we was wearing were sandals and a nylon string backpack. Lucy and I very embarrassedly looked at our feet as he passed by us. Wow, that’s not something you see in Texas! LOL.
Back on the trail, we continued on our way to Kalalau. When we saw the “Kalalau Valley” sign, we spent a moment rejoicing. We made it! Pictures were taken with the sign and we were all very relieved and happy. Then we headed down the trail again and saw the 9 mile marker which told us that we were actually still about 2 miles from Kalalau Beach. That is the point at which my little Luke cried. He was done. We gave him a pep talk, he perked back up, and we were off again. When we reached the red hill, we were again excited because we knew that was the entrance to the Valley. After slipping down the hill, we got to the river at Kalalau. There were quite a few people there at the river and it was kinda nice to talk to people. Horror of Horrors, here came the naked man again! Lucy and I again turned red and focused on our feet. He was kind enough to pass within a couple of feet of us….:shakingmyhead The other people got a good laugh at our embarrassment. Once we had rested a few minutes, we crossed the river and headed toward the campground. We chose our spot and crashed. We were a ragged group at that point. My husband got out the cooking supplies and I set up the tent. You can’t imagine how good that dehydrated food tasted at that moment. After a while, we made our way to the waterfall which we called the shower. We waited our turn to bathe and chatted with the locals. There is a very interesting and diverse group of people who call Kalalau home, and they are all super friendly. After we were clean, we headed back to the campsite and napped and rested until bedtime.
On the third day, finally, we woke up at Kalalau! This was what we had been waiting for. We ate, and went exploring. At the big cave, the locals were cooking breakfast in their outdoor kitchen area, babies were toddling around; the whole experience was amazing to me. I think I could live there too. We walked past the cave and around the corner. My kids played on rocks and in caves, and chased crabs. We were all excited to see a group of dolphins a few feet from us gracefully gliding past. Finally, we went back to the camp area, and found cherry tomatoes and passion fruit in abundance. It was nice to have something to snack on that did not need to be rehydrated. We talked to some of our neighbors and we met an amazing man named Lonnie. Lonnie is a local at Kalalau. He is very knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful. He gave us great advice about where to explore and what to eat. If you make it to Kalalau, you must look for Lonnie!
Day four was pretty much a repeat of Day three. More exploring, lots of laying around and being lazy. We went back down to the river for water and playing. Thankfully, there was no one letting it all hang out this time. This morning at daybreak, we had noticed a group of people standing on the beach. When we asked what they were doing, they told us that they were waiting for the fishing boat to pick them up. Hmmm, we were intrigued. If there was a possibility of getting a boat to take us back to civilization, we were all over that idea. Since my cousin was scheduled to pick us up the next afternoon at the trailhead, we either had to pack up and hike back to Hanakoa that evening, or make the decision to ride the boat. It really wasn’t a decision, we were just worried the boat might not show up and my cousin would be worried about us if we didn’t make it back at the scheduled time. We decided to take the chance on the boat.
Day Five: We were up and packed very early. We didn’t want to take a chance on missing the boat. That boat was our lifeline. We were all hating the idea of the 11 mile hike back out. I think Lucy would have decided to become a Kalalau native before she would have headed back onto that trail. We waited about 45 minutes on the beach and a boat arrived. The cave dwelling locals came running out of the cave and some of them swam to the boat. One of them swam out for us and asked if we could have a ride. The owner motioned for us to come out. Now, came the hard part. The surf was incredible that morning. We had to get ourselves and our packs past the surf, and out to the boat. Thankfully, my kids are very strong swimmers. We already had their packs tied into one of the air mattress, and we headed out. Before we knew what was happening, the locals were there to help us. My husband had his pack, a local had mine, another local had the kids’ packs, and I had Luke and Lucy. I looked beside me, and a man had Luke horizontally above his head and he shouted, “I’ve got the kid”! He swam, while holding my child above his head through the surf and out to the boat. It was very impressive. My husband felt like his pack was drowning him, so he let it go. I rescued the pack, and Lucy and I made our way to the boat. Finally, we crawled onboard. What an exhilarating event! I can never thank them all enough! Burt, the boat owner, took us on a wonderful NaPali coast tour. We went into one of the sea caves. There were 6 other people in the boat with us, and we all had a great time. Once we made it back to Hanalei Bay, we paid Burt ($80), and told all of our new Kalalau boat friends “GoodBye”. That was the best $80 we have ever spent. He refused to take anymore.
In retrospection: We are so glad that we have hiked the Kalalau trail. It was an experience that I know my kids will never forget. I fully expect Luke to drag his bride out there on a honeymoon someday, and I fully expect Lucy to never get any closer to Kalalau than Ke’e Beach, or perhaps the Waimea Canyon overlook. The people we met were some of the nicest people we have ever talked to, and definitely the least greedy and most helpful. What an incredible, amazing, unforgettable experience!!! My husband and I think we might like to go back one day, but either in a kayak, or a real boat. I don’t think there is a better place to lie on a beach under a sky full of bright stars and just be in amazement that you are actually there.