Hanakapiai Falls

Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, Hawaii, USA

About Hanakapiai Falls

Hiking Distance: 8 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 4-5 hours

Date first visited: 2006-12-24
Date last visited: 2006-12-24

Waterfall Latitude: 22.18597
Waterfall Longitude: -159.59487

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Hanakapiai Falls (or Hanakapi’ai Falls) is a very tall (maybe 300ft) waterfall nestled deep in the back of Hanakapi’ai Valley.

I’d say a visit to this waterfall would require a half-day trip at a minimum.

Hanakapiai_Falls_025_12242006 - Hanakapi'ai Falls
Hanakapi’ai Falls

This would account for hiking the first two miles along the Na Pali Coast before hiking another two miles into Hanakapi’ai Valley.

Thus, the total round-trip distance would be 8 miles.

It was the only major waterfall on the Na Pali Coast (that I’m aware of) that I was able to access with neither a permit nor a paid tour.

And that was probably why I saw quite a few people doing this hike as well as chilling out around its plunge pool.

Of course, given the number of giant rocks and boulders around the plunge pool, that gave me pause to linger there for too long due to the rockfall danger.

So did this waterfall justify the effort to reach it?

Hanakapiai_039_12242006 - Dramatic scenery in just the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail en route to Hanakapi'ai Falls
Dramatic scenery in just the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail en route to Hanakapi’ai Falls

Well, we liked this waterfall enough to put it into our Top 10 List of Hawaiian Waterfalls.

So that ought to say something…

I’ve read in the literature that Hanakapiai Falls was named after a Menehune princess.

The Menehune were said to be dwarvish people who were the first humans to have settled the Hawaiian Islands from the Marquesas Islands.

Others followed from Tahiti (both part of modern day French Polynesia).

Hiking the Kalalau Trail en route to Hanakapi’ai Falls

The hike started off at the Kalalau Trailhead (see directions below).

Hanakapiai_074_12242006 - Waves crashing at Hanakapi'ai Beach.  For many people, this would be the turnaround point back to the Kalalau Trailhead
Waves crashing at Hanakapi’ai Beach. For many people, this would be the turnaround point back to the Kalalau Trailhead

From there, the trail coincided with the Kalalau Trail for the first two miles.

The Kalalau Trail is the famous trail that follows the Na Pali Coast all the way to Kalalau Beach after about 13 miles.

Anyways, in this stretch, the trail undulated through a couple of gulches.

So despite the modest distance, the physical exertion required due to the elevation changes made this section of trail deceptively taxing.

I found that it me between 60 to 90 minutes to cover this distance, which was a pretty slow pace for just two miles.

Hanakapi’ai Beach and the Hanakapi’ai Valley Trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls

Perhaps the most memorable thing about the first couple of miles of this hike was Hanakapi’ai Beach at the two-mile point.

Hanakapiai_006_jx_12242006 - Death tally for Hanakapiai Beach
Death tally for Hanakapiai Beach

Yes it was pretty, but boy was it a sinister place.

That was because of how violent the waves were.

Heck I was able to feel the thud of the waves when they crashed, and there was even a sign tallying up the number of people who have died at this beach (underscoring the obvious danger of swimming at this beach).

Continuing on from Hanakapi’ai Beach, I had to cross the Hanakapi’ai Stream (high probability of getting wet so water shoes would be a good idea) before heading inland into Hanakapi’ai Valley.

After passing by a small open area (where emergency helicopters would land if needed), the trail then crossed the stream a few more times as the trail itself narrowed and became more overgrown.

Towards the end of the trail, there were some really worn sections that were both slippery (thanks to wet rocks and mud) as well as exposed to modest dropoffs.

Hanakapiai_Falls_041_12242006 - Plenty of folks enjoying themselves at the base of Hanakapi'ai Falls on Christmas Eve 2006
Plenty of folks enjoying themselves at the base of Hanakapi’ai Falls on Christmas Eve 2006

Some parts of the trail were a little tricky to follow because of the numerous stream crossings.

But in general, I was able to persist in the general upstream direction to regain the trail.

After roughly another hour or so from Hanakapi’ai Beach (or perhaps 2-3 hours from the trailhead), I was finally at the base of Hanakapiai Falls.

I had some old maps that claimed this part of the hike was a loop hike.

However, from what I was able to tell, that loop no longer existed.

So I pretty much had to hike back out the way I came for a grand total of roughly 4-5 hours round trip on the trail.


Hanakapiai Falls resides in Napali Coast State Wilderness Park in the island of Kauai, Hawaii. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) website.

Wet_Cave_006_jx_12252006 - Spotted caves like this while driving to the road's end
Hanakapiai_006_12242006 - Trailhead for Kalalau Trail
Hanakoa_004_12252006 - Some sections of the trail were muddy and slippery like this one
Hanakapiai_008_12242006 - Looking back at the beaches near the Kalalau Trailhead
Hanakapiai_016_12242006 - Julie on the Kalalau Trail
Hanakapiai_017_12242006 - Looking ahead at some dramatic coastlines of the Na Pali Coast
Hanakapiai_025_12242006 - Really have to watch your step on this trail
Hanakoa_020_12252006 - Crossing the Hanakapi'ai Stream
Hanakapiai_046_12242006 - Made it to Hanakapi'ai Beach
Hanakapiai_055_12242006 - Looking out from under an alcove at Hanakapi'ai Beach
Hanakapiai_Falls_001_12242006 - Going past an open area as I entered Hanakapi'ai Valley
Hanakapiai_Falls_008_12242006 - Signs pointing the way
Hanakapiai_Falls_009_12242006 - Another stream crossing
Hanakapiai_Falls_010_12242006 - The trail to Hanakapi'ai Falls
Hanakapiai_Falls_014_12242006 - Hanakapiai Falls from a distance
Hanakapiai_Falls_016_12242006 - Hanakapi'ai Falls still within sight though the trail got increasingly more narrow and overgrown
Hanakapiai_Falls_017_12242006 - A particularly slippery and partially exposed part of the trail
Hanakapiai_Falls_019_12242006 - The trail started hugging the stream as the valley closed in
Hanakapiai_Falls_022_12242006 - Mini cascades like these get taken for granted when you're concentrating on the trail
Hanakapiai_Falls_027_12242006 - Finally approaching Hanakapi'ai Falls

From Princeville (30 miles or an hour drive north of Lihu’e), follow Route 560 west for 10 miles to its end near Ke’e Beach and the Kalalau Trail trailhead. Note that the 56 (Kaumuali’i Hwy) becomes Route 560 (Kuhio Hwy) just west of Princeville. The primitive parking lot has very limited space, especially considering the number of large trucks, SUVs, and RVs parking here.

I had difficulty finding parking at around 11:15am, and eventually found some spot in an unsealed muddy road turning towards the beach from the main car park. But in general, I’m betting that early birds get the worm (i.e. a parking spot) in this case.

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Tagged with: na pali coast, princeville, kauai, hawaii, waterfall, kalalau, hanakapiai, beach, stream, no permit

Visitor Comments:

Hanakaipiai Falls Advice from a Kamaaina August 11, 2014 10:08 pm by Philippe - I've made that hike four or five times, over the past 40 years, at various times of year. At times, there's a rope to help you cross the stream, as the water will be up to your thighs or higher. Also, there are often nudists here. I recall a fairly awkward moment in a very… ...Read More
Hiking to the falls September 19, 2009 11:58 pm by Chrissy - Breathtaking. Indescribable. If you can handle an 8 mile hike over mud, rocks, and steep terrain, this is a must-do while in Kauai. The pool below feels really cold, but jump in. It is incredibly invigorating. This was the best thing I did in my two weeks in both Kauai and Oahu. I loved it. ...Read More

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