Na Pali Coast State Park Kauai, Hawaii
The Na Pali (‘The Cliffs’) Coast is the Hawaii of your dreams: 22 miles of vibrant green valleys with nearly vertical walls and thundering waterfalls plunging into the sea from cliffs as high as 4,000 feet. Hawaii’s last true wilderness, where no road will ever cross, it is protected as the Na Pali Coast State Park, whose 6,500 acres hug the northwest shore of Kauai between Ke’e Beach and Polihale State Park. You can view this magnificent piece of Eden by helicopter or boat, but the best way to experience the thickly jungled shore at the base of its craggy palisades is on foot.
Even fit, seasoned hikers find a challenge in the narrow, strenuous Kalalau Trail, an ancient 11-mile footpath that winds along imposing cliffs through the Hanakapi’ai, Hanakoa and Kalalau valleys—a remote, spectacular region that’s home to long-plumed tropical birds, golden monarch butterflies and many of Kauai’s rare and endangered plant species. The hike all the way to the end of the trail at Kalalau Beach is both gorgeous and gruelling, so hikers are advised to spend two full days on the way in, stopping often to admire the view, swim, pick fruit and revel in the experience. Note, though, that the sometimes-precipitous heights aren’t for those who suffer from vertigo.
The golden-red sands of Ke’e Beach, at the start of the trail, lie at the foot of sheer volcanic cliffs and are a favourite of swimmers, snorkellers, divers and kayakers. The two-mile stretch of the Kalalau Trail from here is a popular, moderately difficult day hike that climbs from sea level to 400 feet in the steep first mile, then descends to sea level at Hanakapi’ai Beach, which has sand in summer, but just rocks when the winter waves roll in.