About 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.
However, it has lower flow (at least in my experience).
Although I’ve seen it said that this waterfall can top 1,000ft in height, 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 wouldn’t have been 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.
It was roughly at the half way point of the Kalalau Trail.
Hanakoa Falls Permit
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.
Ordinarily, I understand that permits to do the Kalalau Trail beyond Hanakapi’ai Beach would typically require bookings six months in advance!
However, I was able to secure my permits last minute because I wasn’t seeking a camping permit (for Kalalau Beach).
Instead, I only needed the day use permit for Hanakoa Falls.
Hiking to Hanakoa Falls
There was a reason why the authorities required permits to do any kind of hike beyond Hanakapi’ai Beach.
I even 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.
I also had to contend with slippery and narrow sections of track that almost forced 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 to do this hike.
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.
The Spur Trail to Hanakoa Falls
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, I took an extended lunch break until around 1:30pm.
Therefore, the hike back seemed even longer and more difficult as I gave myself less time to get back before dark (though the break was very necessary).
So do keep in mind that this hike is not for the faint-of-heart!
Hanakoa 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.
This hike shares the same trailhead as the Hanakapi’ai Falls trail (let alone the Kalalau Trail). We’ll reproduce the driving directions here for convenience.
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.
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