LIHUE — Hawaii’s most pristine and remote beach is Kalalau, a mile-long stretch of sand guarded by volcanic mountains fantastically chiseled like a Gothic cathedral.
There’s only one way in: a snaking, slippery cliffside trail that is 11 miles long and in some places only a foot wide. A surging sea roars 300 feet below, a constant reminder of the consequences of a false step.
“There’s little doubt the Kalalau Trail is one of the crown jewels of the entire system of Hawaii State Parks,” said Dan Quinn, administrator of the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks. “Due to its immense popularity, hikers often arrive at the trailhead without having made the proper preparations for what ultimately is a pretty tough trek, especially for beginning hikers.”
An estimated 500,000 visitors and residents hike the spectacular trail each year. Several have died. Many have been injured. Most had not set out to hike the trail in full, but rather set their sights on Hanakapiai Falls, located four miles in, or Hanakapiai Beach at Mile 2.
On Friday, DLNR released a new safety video detailing safety precautions all hikers should take — and the repercussions for failing to take them — as well as the most common rookie mistakes.
Like hiking without drinking water.
“We wanted a readily accessible video to visually depict not only the beauty of the Na Pali Coast, but to also try and get people better prepared for a hike on the Kalalau Trail,” said Kauai Fire Department Chief Robert Westerman. “The video includes footage of an actual rescue, and is another tool in our toolbox to inform and educate hikers so they can make good decisions before setting out on the trail.”
The six-minute-long video, produced by DLNR in cooperation with the Kauai County Fire Department and Civil Defense Agency, focuses on the first two miles of the hike to Hanakapiai Stream, which is the length the majority of hikers make. A state permit, available from the Division of State Parks, is required to traverse beyond Hanakapiai Stream or Hanakapiai Falls.
Rescues on the Na Pali Coast happen frequently. This year alone, dozens of people have been flown out of the Hanakapiai area after the stream flooded and they became stranded on the wrong side. Often hikers ignore weather forecasts, warning signs, and verbal cautions from state and county staff and put themselves at unnecessary risk. Due to the steepness of the trail and the fact that it is almost always quite slick, the hike is not as easy and straightforward as many people think.
“The video will be distributed widely on state and county websites, on various travel and tourism sites, and we’re working on digital access for cell phones and tablets,” according to Dan Dennison, DLNR’s senior communications manager.
DLNR’s video can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/135624713