If you are reading this post, you are likely a friend of the outdoors and not excited about sitting in your vacation rental all day reading a book. Sweet! That’s the kind of folks we at Princeville Vacation Rentals are, too! The whole team here is pretty adventurous and loves to “embrace the filth” as we call it here on Kauai. What does THAT mean, you may be asking? Try to conquer a few of our favorite Kauai hiking trails below and you’ll find out!
(Easy, but muddy)
If you hike the Powerline Trail up at the end of Kapaka Road in Princeville, you’ll find out. It’s mucky and muddy and tons of fun! Using your smartphone, check out Kapaka Road on the GPS, then drive Mauka (toward the mountains) until the road dead ends. You’ll see a water tank—pull around the right side of that or park just before it. There’s usually not too many people around here so parking isn’t much of an issue.
Powerline is about 14 miles long and ends up in Wailua via an old trail that used to be driven all the time to maintain the (you guessed it) power lines, hence the name. Now they maintain this group of poles via helicopter; it’s not as well maintained as it used to be, but it’s still passable. We walk to the other end at least once a year, spend the night with friends in Wailua, and then walk or jog back the next day. It’s not all that steep in most parts, but it’s pretty wet most of the time, and that means your shoes won’t be dry for long. Feel free to take yourself out for 1 or 2 or 3 hours and then just turn around and come back. It’s a perfect spot for out and back hiking on the North Shore without too much elevation change. You’ll get tons of mountain and waterfall views looking north toward Hihimanu and Namolokama. If you get far enough toward the Wailua side, you’ll see the red dirt emerge and experience what we call “red hill.” It’s a favorite spot for mountain bikers to come and test their technical skills both riding up and downhill.
From the Princeville side, you can also get brave and use the smaller trails that spur off of the main Powerline Trail for mountain biking single track or trail running. Thanks to Bike Doktor in Hanalei (a great place to rent bikes), there are some great riding and running trails out there. The local cycling Ohana has done an excellent job of making trails and keeping the existing trails groomed.
(Medium and steep, or hard if you go the distance)
Ready for a mountain top finish here on Kauai? You’ve come to the right place.
WARNING! If you are not super uber extra fit, please do not try and get all the way up to the summit of Hihimanu (Manta Ray Mountain). It’s about 4 hours up, and once you get there, another 3 hours back. We’ve done it many, many times here with the crew at PVVR, but it’s just as dangerous on the way back because you are so tired from climbing.
The good news is there are several places you can get up to and turn back before the rope sections and climbing starts. If you are coming for anything more than just the first couple of lookouts over stunning Hanalei Bay, bring gloves. Anyone should bring bars and salt replacement, as well as tons of water. It’s a steep climb from the start and will surely make you sweat.
When you get to the famous one lane bridge headed down from Princeville, instead of going right toward Hanalei Town, take the left following the river up to the mountains. Drive slow for about 3/4 of a mile, and on the right you’ll see a little bridge that shoots from the road over into the bushes. That is the trailhead. It’ll say “OKOLEHAU” on the side of the bridge. That means “Bottoms Up” in Hawaiian. Good name for this hike because it’s going to take you from the bottom of the valley where the taro grows all the way up to the top of the mountain.
Just about 1.5 miles in and after the steep sections, you’ll make a hard right hand bend and the trail will start to level out. This is where you’ll find the first of several amazing lookouts over the North Shore of Kauai. Go another mile and you’ll come to a bench with an even better view!
This bench is where the fun starts. If you are daring enough, look left and follow the trail down the spine and back up along the ridge. Put on those gloves and power up on food and water; it’s about 38 rope sections to the top. If you are a super-pro, bring your hammock. There are two nice Fuji pines up there which are perfect for stringing up your hammock and relaxing for a few minutes.
While on the way up, please remember: Don’t be a hero. If you get tired, just turn around anytime. You can’t really get lost on this trail; it’s just one way up and back. If you DO make it to the top, all we ask is one thing: Send us pictures!!! You will be very close to Namolokama Mountain and can likely feel the energy from the giant waterfall that crashes down from Waialeale Crater. It’s easily one of the best views on the island; you can see from Kilauea all the way over thru Hanalei and into Wainiha.
(Hard but legendary – unforgettable miles!)
Kalalau has attracted all walks of life. The stunning and isolated beaches, valleys, waterfalls, and natural sliding pools will turn you inside out. You will feel so free and rejuvenated when you reach your final destination. All you will want to do is play, explore, and live life to the fullest. Kalalau’s natural untouched scenery will leave you with a sense of what old Hawaii use to be like. The fresh star fruits, lilikoi, and crawfish in the river will keep you full throughout your stay—just in case you wanted to live off the land like a true Hawaiian native warrior!
The starting point to Kalalau trail is off of Ke’e Beach at the end of HI-560 W Road. It is recommended to park your vehicle by Haena Park. There are three ways to get to Kalalau Valley and beach: You can hike on the one-way trail for 11 miles (that’s a total of 22 miles if you hike back to Ke’e Beach, so bring a water filter because there will be streams to drink from to stay hydrated); you could also kayak for three hours from Ke’e Beach with all of your camping gear and coolers (If you do decide to camp there with your family or friends, make sure you get a camping permit at the Kauai County Building in Lihue); if you are really lucky, you can ask a local resident with a motor boat from Hanalei Pier to take you there as well. There is no wrong way to travel there, but make sure you pack at least four days’ worth of food and water. You will want stay longer than intended and capture every new discovery you find in Kalalau!
The initial trail has many dangerous places like the crawlers ledge. It will have you literally walking on the edge. It’s a challenge that will have you feeling like a champion when you finish the hike. Always stay on the trail and follow the signs. The streams will be refreshing and fun to walk over, but be careful and always go with someone you can trust. A buddy system is recommended and good pair of Vibram Five Fingers Trek shoes will help you stay flexible like Spider-Man when walking around dangerous areas of the mountain.
The best time to go to Kalalau is during the summer. The waters are calmer, and the beauty of the beach will really resonates with your soul. The locals, who live on Kauai, come here to get away from the everyday hustle—many love that isolated feeling! They also come here with their spouses, on a mission to propose in front of all of their family and friends. Kalalau will change you forever. It will have you ready to conquer the world and live your dreams!
Hanakapi’ai Falls | Beach
(Can be long,. bring plenty of food/water)
Hanakapi’ai Falls is about 300 feet high and worth the 2-4 miles trek. Although it may seem like 4-8 miles round trip is a lot to hike, it really goes by quickly with a great group of adventurous friends; just make sure to stay hydrated at all times. This waterfall is one of the most popular waterfalls to hike to in Kauai. Take in the breathtaking view of the Napali Coast and have fun while hiking. Most locals like to videotape the journey to remember their fun times. The Hanakapi’ai Falls is the payout at the end and so worth the hike!
To get to Hanakapiai Trail, drive to the end of Haena on HI-560 until you reach Ke’e Beach. There is parking available at the end of the road. The best time to take the hike is during the summer when the streams are not rising high.
The trail will have you crossing streams and holding onto branches as you climb over hills. There are some unique spots, like the bamboo area, that will certainly have you getting your camera out. It is so fun to venture off into the luscious mountain areas. If you look closely, you will spot the many love notes left by prior hikers carved in the bamboo. At the end of the hike, you will feel your fitness being tested, but also rewarded. Spiritually, it will keep you grounded, and the trail signs will keep you on track. The waterfall bowl is extremely cold and the rocks are slippery, but it’s pretty darn beautiful to splash and play in.
If you need more help, as always, call us at 808-639-9999 and we will get you more ideas about cool things to do while staying with us at PrincevilleVacationRentals.com
Looking for other Kauai hiking trails ? Click below to see the best around!
Thinking of CYCLING trails? Check out this section of the website: