Hiking the Kalalau trail (or part of it…) was breathtaking for two reasons… The scenery was breathtaking and the trail was also (literally) breathtaking. It was a tough trail. I hiked 2ish miles to a small beach nuzzled at the bottom of one of the steep and slippery descents. I hiked up over rain slicked boulders and down muddy trails, crossed where water had recently surged down the mountain and came danger close to dehydration (my own fault).
I don’t regret one minute of it. I started early, about 7 a.m., I was there at 5 a.m. to get some sunrise images (there is a beach located right next to the trailhead) and there were only a few cars; at 7 a.m. the parking lot near the trailhead was full and the overflow lot (about a quarter of a mile walk away) was quickly filling. By the time I left around noon both lots were full and there were cars parked along the road up to a mile away.
The views along the way are well worth the precarious journey, you’ll likely stop a dozen times before you get to the beach at the bottom of Hanakap’i Valley. Take a lunch, plenty of water, and a beach towel if you plan on taking a dip but fair warning, there are plenty of signs advising hikers to stay out of the water at this beach:
I’d recommend taking a 10 stop neutral density filter if you plan on leaving early in the morning as I did… You’ll need it in order to slow your shutter speed and create images like the ones you saw at the top of this article, if that’s your sort of thing. Otherwise, if you’re feeling daring, you can leave around 6 or 7 in the evening and hike back in the dark.*
*I don’t recommend this approach because you’ve got to be very careful where you place your foot and it’s difficult to tell if the rock you’re about to step on is wet or not when you’re bumbling around after dark.
A tripod is necessary if you demand uncompromising sharp images or you’re practicing long exposure photography. Bring something to clean your lens if you plan on getting some shots near the beach, the water is rougher here and there is ocean spray to deal with.
You’ll probably need at least four hours if you plan on practicing photography along the way. I could have used an extra hour or two at the beach but by the time I got there I was just about out of water and I wanted to get back before it got any hotter… And it was almost lunch time, I don’t miss lunch.
Leave your thoughts in the comments below, let us know if you’ve hiked this trail before or if you have questions about it.