18 In Featured/ Hawaii/ Hiking + The Outdoors/ Travel

Hanakapiai Falls – Kauai, Hawaii

Matt and I did the amazingly beautiful hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls. This hike was described to us as a 10 & 10: 10 in beauty, but also 10 in difficulty. It’s a minimum of eight miles, but if you wander around it can easily turn into an 11 mile hike, like it did for us. If you’re looking at doing this hike I have a few tips to get you started:

» Start Early – Not only do you get a great parking spot (you park at Ke’e Beach, and if you park on the street you will get a ticket), but you’ll get to beat the crowds as well.

» Eat Before You Hike – Matt and I have done 10+ miles of hiking in just a few hours multiple times, so we didn’t think much about doing anything different on this day. We didn’t eat breakfast, but honestly figured we would be fine. We were not. We were very hungry, in fact by the end of the hike we were bordering on hangry.

» Also, Take Food With You  – I highly recommend bringing a picnic, at the very least, a snack. We did bring snacks, but it still wasn’t enough. The waterfall or the beach would both be a perfect spot for a picnic.

» Don’t Take This Trail Lightly – Now, don’t be afraid of it either. Just know your limits. Matt and I thought this would be a complete breeze, but it wasn’t. There are river crossings, the trail skirts the edge of cliffs that are known to crumble and it’s really muddy. Be prepared to slip, to wade through rivers and watch for flash flooding along the many water crossings.

» Wear the Right Shoes – I recommend not only not wearing flip flops, but wear something with support that won’t completely weigh you down when they’re caked with mud.

» Enjoy the Challenge – At about three miles in, we didn’t understand how this trail was a 10 in difficulty, but then we hit the last mile which was pretty intense, but we still had a very enjoyable time and we liked having a whole new type of hiking challenge to push us and make us grow.


The beginning of this trail starts on the famed 22 mile Kalalau Trail, but you veer off two miles in toward Hanakapi’ai Falls. You start out going uphill and along the edge of the Na Pali Coast. It’s incredibly lush, breath-takingly beautiful and it also just so happens to be the only way to get into the Na Pali Coast on foot. It’s truly just so beautiful!

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Looking down at Ke’e Beach


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Matt and I were all smiles on this trail, even in the rain! It rains every day on this island, a lot of the showers are brief and hard, but they all bring a rainbow! 

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Look at those amazingly beautiful views of the Na Pali? I just cannot get enough of it! 


The trail is very distinct, but watch your step – it’s often slick and muddy and there are loads of rocks and roots all across your path.


Another rainbow popped up!


Our first view of Hanakapi’ai Beach! We knew that when we reached that beach we had passed the two mile mark. 



To get to Hanakapi’ai Beach there’s a good sized river crossing. There are a ton of river and stream crossings, but this was the first and it’s one of the biggest.


The river runs off into the ocean.


When I first crossed there was a massive line of people trying to cross the super-slippery rocks (the ones behind the two ladies with the sticks) but Matt and I decided to just jump on out and wade across. This is one of the reasons to bring the right shoes!


After crossing the river, you come to Hanakapi’ai Beach. This beach is absolutely beautiful and covered with this big, flat, smooth rocks that everyone has stacked into beautiful zen stones.

Hanakapi’ai Beach has one of those wooden signs made by a local man like the one at Queen’s Bath warning about the dangers of the unseen currents at the beach which have led to 80+ deaths! I decided not to take this risk, and we enjoyed a muffin together on the beach and listened to the waves crash onto the beach. It was so very peaceful.

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After our snack and walking around the beaches for a while, we started back on the trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls!


We walked through this gorgeous part of the path that was surrounded in bamboo. People had carved their initials and messages into them. It was quite pretty!

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The trail winds on for another two miles until you reach a view of the waterfall. Along the way you pass other, small cascades, rivers + streams, and have to do some rock scrambles, but it’s just so very beautiful! You start to wonder how it could get any prettier, but then you see the waterfall!


Our first glimpse. Around here is where, I think the trail ends, because there’s a sign saying that you’ve reached the waterfall, but if you continue on ahead, you can get to the base of it and I was sure to follow our helicopter pilot’s advice to ‘suck it up buttercup’ and take a dip. Let me tell you, that water was insanely cold! I didn’t dunk my head or anything because I thought my limbs were going to fall off! Haha!


Someone etched ‘vagabond’ into this fallen tree. Matt spotted it, and I just fell in love with it!

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Matt took this absolutely beautiful photo of the waterfall. Can’t you tell that it is so worth the 11 miles total that we ended up hiking around this gorgeous area? Would you make the trek?

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  • Reply
    September 14, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Beautiful sights! And I agree about your first tip – you can’t hike on an empty stomach, I carry energy bars when I go trekking, very useful to restore energy!


  • Reply
    Megan Indoe
    September 14, 2016 at 8:50 am

    11 miles! Whoa! This hike sounds dangerous and challenging but very rewarding at the end! Beautiful photos of your epic hike! I think I would be nervous around the cliffs and river crossings, also flash floods aren’t anything you want to mess around with. You gave some great tips though! I just need to muster up the courage to do a hike like this!

  • Reply
    September 14, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I love waterfalls so would love to do this hike, although it sounds like a fairly challenging route. Your tips at the beginning are really important and good advice. I came back from a recent waterfall hike in Wales with some horrible blisters so definitely agree about foot wear! Great pics too. I have pinned for future reference.

  • Reply
    Runaway Brit
    September 14, 2016 at 11:40 am

    This place looks like it is straight from the beginning of Time – it is unreal! Was it really humid when you did this walk, or is it pretty refreshing?

  • Reply
    Cori Carl
    September 14, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Such a gorgeous hike! Thanks for the tips on how to have the best time — it’s really hard to expect from a trail without first-hand information like that. People will talk about a difficult trail and it’ll turn out to be paved. I don’t think anyone wants to be stuck on a long hike with me if I haven’t eaten first!

  • Reply
    September 14, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    My first thought was “10 for difficulty – well I am out!” but then I was won over the photos. And it sounds like such an interesting hike with river crossings and waterfalls. Also I couldn’t help but think “they didn’t eat breakfast?!!!”. Good tips about taking extra food 🙂

  • Reply
    September 14, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Epic hike!! I did this with my family last year and it was intense. We were so felt so accomplished after! Great photos by the way.

  • Reply
    September 14, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Oh wow that coastline looks incredible. Love how untouched it is

  • Reply
    Natasha G
    September 14, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    What a beautiful hike this looks like! I would love to see the waterfalls up close! 🙂 Someday I will make it to Hawaii!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      September 27, 2016 at 9:09 am

      It’s absolutely beautiful for sure! You’ll absolutely love Hawaii when you get there!

  • Reply
    Vyjay Rao
    September 15, 2016 at 12:54 am

    The falls look beautiful. What I like about these kind of hikes is the bliss and joy one feels when you reach your destination and see the beautiful panorama stretched out before your, all the strain and tiredness evaporates immediately. Yes I would prefer not to do a hike on an empty stomach though 🙂

  • Reply
    September 15, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    OKAY DEF PINNING THIS ONE. I’m pretty much a joke when it comes to nature hikes but you sold me with all your beautiful photos. I think one of my biggest fears is twisting my ankle or something out in the middle of nowhere and that muddy path sure would be my undoing. Do you think a novice hiker could do a hike like this honestly because while I agree this is like 10 in terms of beauty, the difficulty factor kind of scares me…

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      September 27, 2016 at 9:05 am

      I totally understand that fear, but luckily you’ve got a babe boyfriend to carry you out 😉
      I do think a novice hiker could do this, but I think that you would have to just be prepared and know it’s going to take a while. I think if you’re in decent shape – which you obviously are in great shape – that it’s definitely possible. Just be sure to eat and pack some snacks because it took us about 7 hours.

  • Reply
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