Hanakoa Falls

Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park (Kauai Island), Hawaii, USA

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 5
Hanakoa Falls
Hanakoa Falls is the other of two well-named waterfalls featured on the Kalalau Trail along the famed Na Pali Coast.

This one is much taller than Hanakapi'ai Falls but it has lower flow (at least in my experience). And although I've seen it said that this waterfall can top 1000ft, I was only able to see the last 300 or 400ft of it. If the height figure is correct, then perhaps there are more hidden tiers unseen from the ground (I did recall seeing more tiers from helicopter rides that weren't be visible from the ground).

Being situated well into the Na Pali Coast, this impressive falls is nestled within one of the cathedral-like wrinkles in the mountains backing Hanakoa Valley at the half way point of the Kalalau Trail.

In order to get all the way to Hanakoa Falls, I had to obtain a hiking permit (or a camping permit) because it required me to hike beyond Hanakapi'ai Beach. I managed to pick it up in person from the Department of Land and Agriculture building in Lihu'e. Moreover, I was able to get a day hike permit a couple of days before the hike (essentially the last minute) because I wasn't seeking a camping permit, which I understood required bookings several months (6 months?) in advance!

Looking back at Hanakapi'ai Beach from the permit sideBut even with that said, I struggled big time with the day hike because it was brutally narrow, hilly, and slow. It was wrought with hazards such as the nearly constant long drop-offs on the makai side along with nearly constant slippery and narrow sections of track almost forcing me to scratch myself against some of the overgrowth protruding onto the trail.

All said, it easily took me from day break to sunset to cover the 13 miles round trip. Indeed, it was a pace that was nowhere near the usual 2mph from more normal hikes. I also nearly dehydrated and suffered a heat stroke after running out of water so the lesson learned here was to bring a filter (you can read about my adventure here) or iodine tablets.

In terms of logistics, the turnoff for Hanakoa Falls was after the crossing of Hanakoa Stream about 4 miles beyond Hanakapi'ai Beach along the Kalalau Trail (or about 6 miles from the trailhead). There were picnic shelters nearby that kind of hinted to me that the easy-to-miss signed turnoff was near. It easily took me nearly 5 hours just to get to this point.

Once I managed to find the overgrown spur trail, there were bright ribbons tied to twigs to help identify the difficult-to-follow Hanakoa Falls Trail. At times the trail hugged eroded ledges overlooking Hanakoa Stream. Other times, the trail disappeared into the dense shadows of vegetative overgrowth providing plenty of headscratching and doubling back moments for me.

The falls finally became visible through the foliage about 1/2 mile from the turnoff heading inland from the Kalalau Trail. A posted sign warned against falling rocks, and the field of large boulders that have already tumbled down the hillside provided an additional warning against me venturing any closer.

Even though I managed to reach the falls at around midday, and I took an extended lunch break until around 1:30pm, the hike back seemed long and difficult. So do keep in mind that this hike is not for the faint-of-heart!

Directions: This hike shares the same trailhead as the Hanakapi'ai Falls trail (let alone the Kalalau Trail). See that page for direction details.


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PHOTO JOURNAL
Direct look at Hanakoa Falls
The Na Pali Coast beyond Hanakapi'ai Beach
I was far enough along the Kalalau Trail that I could see fluted pali on the mauka side
The familiar first two miles as I started the hike very early in the dayThe familiar first two miles as I started the hike very early in the day

Going past the Hanakapi'ai Beach warning signGoing past the Hanakapi'ai Beach warning sign

Sign indicating that a permit was required to proceedSign indicating that a permit was required to proceed

I met up with some backpackers who kept me company for half the hikeI met up with some backpackers who kept me company for half the hike

The trail was narrow and constantly had dropoffs.  I could see why permits were required even for the day hike!The trail was narrow and constantly had dropoffs. I could see why permits were required even for the day hike!

We encountered mountain goatsWe encountered mountain goats. Unfortunately, these introduced species were probably decimating what's left of the native flora on the island.

Tall mountains still providing shadow from the sun this early in the morningTall mountains still providing shadow from the sun this early in the morning

Finally entering the shallow Hanakoa ValleyFinally entering the shallow Hanakoa Valley

A shelter and some signage.  I must be getting close to the fallsA shelter and some signage. I must be getting close to the falls.

Crossing the Hanakoa StreamCrossing the Hanakoa Stream

These pink ribbons helped me figure out where I was to go amongst the overgrowth to continue onto the fallsThese pink ribbons helped me figure out where I was to go amongst the overgrowth to continue onto the falls

Finally approaching Hanakoa FallsFinally approaching Hanakoa Falls

Some infrastructure at the mouth of Hanakoa ValleySome infrastructure at the mouth of Hanakoa Valley

Looking back at Hanakoa FallsLooking back at Hanakoa Falls against the sun

Now on the long trek back to the trailheadNow on the long trek back to the trailhead

Looking ahead at the coastal scenery along the Kalalau Trail on the return hikeLooking ahead at the coastal scenery along the Kalalau Trail on the return hike

Fluted cliffs in the backgroundFluted cliffs in the background

I noticed this shameful display of litter near Hanakapi'ai BeachI noticed this shameful display of litter near Hanakapi'ai Beach


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS



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MAP OF THE FALLS

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TRIP REPORTS
For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS


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