Kalalau Trail Run

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Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast of Kauai

One of our top priorities in Kauai was doing a long run on the Kalalau trail along the Na Pali coast. You absolutely have to check out this trail if you go to Kauai. Even if you just hike the first mile or two, you will see so much beauty and catch absolutely epic views of dramatic cliffs and sparkling little beaches. The tropical plants, flowers and birds are surreal and if you can get past the more crowded beginning of the trail it really starts to feel prehistoric out there–quiet and beautiful like the world was just created. This place is stunning and totally draws you in, but we had a rather difficult time sorting out what was possible for us to legally do in a day trip. If you go to the Hawaii State Parks website  you will see all the rules and warnings about how far you can go with and without a camping permit. As of March 1, 2015, you have to get an overnight camping permit to hike/run beyond Hanakapi’ai Beach (2 miles in), even if you’re not camping. The goal of this is to prevent overcrowding, reduce trash, and increase safety on the trail which is obviously great; however, we were super disappointed when we saw that because the permits were completely gone for the time frame we were traveling. Thankfully, we emailed the park and got permission to run 6 miles in. So, if you don’t get an overnight permit and you’re truly planning to run in and out on the same day over the course of a few hours, an email may be worth a try.

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Hanakapi’ai Beach: 2 miles in, usually a little rough for swimming

It is important to note that the trail is pretty intense, with water crossings, sheer drop offs and loose rocks in some places (especially after the first two miles). In the 6 mile section that we tackled, it never got to the really tricky, edge-along-on-your tiptoes, total palm sweat areas that we saw on some You Tube videos, but it is good to be careful and more aware the further you go. The trail is also extremely hilly and potentially very hot with a lot of direct sun on the exposed ridges. Within our 12 mile round trip jaunt on the trail, we gained nearly 10,000 feet of elevation. It was crazy. The views are so distracting and the whole thing feels like such a massive adventure you don’t realize how much you’re doing until the exhaustion starts setting in. That’s why you will see many warnings on the internet, in guidebooks, and even at the trail head. It is kind of wild out there and depending on the weather, it can get pretty sketchy.  You absolutely have to be careful and know your limits, but if you can manage that, it really is an adventure of a lifetime.

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The View

My biggest piece of advice based on our experience is to bring plenty of snacks, water and some kind of water treatment in case you run out. We are experienced trail runners, but we still underestimated the time it would take us to do this run and used 3 liters of water between the two of us before running out with a mile or two to go in the blazing sun. Thankfully, it worked out and some angelic person was selling coconut water straight from the coconut at the bottom of the trail, but it was sobering to us to realize how close we cut it. Multiple times we have looked back and decided it was a miracle our water lasted as long as it did. So, pack carefully and try not to over do it even though it is very tempting to just keep going!

Note: Parking at the trail head is limited and can fill up pretty early in the day. We ending up parking at Tunnels Beach and starting the run on the road. This is not ideal as it added 3 miles to the run, but it is an option if there is no parking. Also, bring along plenty of snacks/food for after the run too. My memory is that there were not tons of places out there to grab dinner.

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Deep in the Na Pali Coast

 

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Views down the coast

Keep looking for adventure far and nigh!!

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Kauai

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Shaka on the Kalalau trail

So typically I post about places within easy striking distance of Greenville, SC, but today I wanted to share about an amazing place we had the opportunity to visit that is basically the opposite of easy striking distance. This past June, my husband and I got to go to Kauai, Hawaii. We were planning to do something fun for our five year anniversary and when airfare to Hawaii dropped hundreds of dollars lower than I had ever seen it, our choice became easy. Apparently last year and even 2016 are proving to be better years for travel due to lower fuel prices, so if you’re considering the trip, now might be a good time to jump on it.

I would recommend that anyone considering Kauai for a vacation take the opportunity. Hawaii is every bit as beautiful and unique as people claim. I’ve been to multiple Caribbean islands (St. John, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel- all incredible places!), but Hawaii, particularly Kauai, still felt special and worth the lengthy flight and subsequent jet lag.  In many places, the air is infused with exotic bird songs and literally smells like flowers and fruit . The water is dramatically blue and speckled with spinner dolphins, giant sea turtles and neon fish that hardly seemed real. You get the contrasting beauty of dramatic volcanic mountains and multi-hued beaches. Then, there are the sunsets–soft golden light making a haze over the jagged  hills with fiery orange and pink finishes or the flourish of a rainbow. It really is magical.

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Sunset hike below the Nepali Overlook, West Kauai

Each island has its charms, but for us, Kauai was a great fit. We love to do outdoorsy things and prefer a less touristy more natural environment. Some blogs and travel forums talked about it lacking some of the restaurants and tourist options that other islands have, but we did not find this to be a problem. There was only one night we had trouble finding a place to eat because it got a little late on a weeknight and everything seemed to be shutting down. Even then, the problem wasn’t a complete lack of options. We were just being picky and looking for something amazing, relatively cheap, and also casual. Our take away was that you need to plan, but if you do, there are plenty of great places to get food. As far as activities go, we had a full week in Kauai and did not even come close to getting bored.

There are so many things I could recommend in Kauai, from tiny honor-system fruit stands and stunning snorkeling with giant sea turtles to the famous farmer’s markets and paddle boarding in Hanalei Bay. However, I will try to limit this list to a few highlights (more to come in the next post):

To Stay:

If you’re looking for the lush, green tropical feel, I would definitely recommend the North Eastern side of Kaui as a home base for your trip. We picked two spots in that part of the island and as much as we loved the whole island, that area continued to feel the prettiest. At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong staying anywhere, but we loved these spots.

Princeville– We stayed at  Hale ‘O Imi Loa , a VRBO rental that we were very happy with. It was very comfortable, clean, and pretty. The location worked really well as it was close to Hanalei, not far from the Kalalau trail, and a reasonable distance from everything else we wanted to check out

Kilauea– We had an amazing experience at the  Kauai Retreat Center with our Airbnb host, Hilary. This place was lovely and the breakfast was so fun! Delicious fresh fruit and flowers were out everyday and the whole place was super clean. It is very airy and bright. You can hear people out in the common areas because all the windows stay open to keep the temperature comfortable; however, the beauty and cleanliness of the spot outweighed that little inconvenience.

                                                                                         Eat and Explore:

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Queen’s Bath

The Queen’s Bath- A hotly debated spot, I found. Many people shared horror stories about the dangers of this place and others described a beautiful, peaceful must-do excursion.  For us, it was a cool hike to a gorgeous turquoise pool; however, we could totally see where the potential danger comes in. The waves really crash in and if it’s a particularly wild day, you can get swept out of the pool or off the rock wall that creates it. If you go, definitely be careful and don’t underestimate the ocean. We heard that locals will watch any swimming spot for at least a little while before getting in, just to get a feel for how the water seems to be acting on a given day.

Hanalei Bay– Gorgeous bay, perfect for SUPs and catching sunsets. We rented paddle boards from the place that hosts Napali Kayak tours and Kauai’s North Shore Surfing School. This location is in Hanalei and the price was reasonable. They even helped us strap them on the rental car.

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Paddle boarding on Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Farmer’s Market-  Top notch market with a great view.

Lei Petite Bakery and Coffee– Great little Princeville breakfast spot. We loved the Acai bowls and the eggs Benedict dish was good too.

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Acai bowl at Lei Petite

Pink’s Creamery– smoothies, ice cream and Hawaiian grilled cheese

The Dolphin – Great market for fresh local fish! Not the crazy deals of the farm markets, but reliably delicious.

Trucking Delicious– gourmet grilled cheese food truck

Puka Dog– Funny name, but these are actually tasty Hawaiian hot dogs.