NAPALI — There’s a way to explore the sheer cliffs and vibrant greens of the Kalalau Trail that have been off limits to hikers for the past year.
But you still can’t physically go there.
It’s through a new videogame-like virtual reality app that turns your computer into a portal to the rugged, coastline trail.
Developed by hiking enthusiast and Kauai property owner Med Dyer, the simulation takes you the two miles from the Kalalau trailhead at Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach and then upstream to Hanakapi’ai Falls.
And the profits from the app are being donated toward Kalalau maintenance, education and wildlife research.
“I did this to give accessibility to this place, users (will be) people who would otherwise not go on the trail at all or weren’t able to get permits,” said Dyer in a recent phone interview from San Diego with The Garden Island. “If you’ve hiked the trail before, you’ll recognize it.”
Dyer frequents Kauai three or four times a year to manage his vacation rental property. He and his family have been coming to Kauai for 30 years.
His love for the Kalalau Trail was sparked about 10 years ago, through hiking trips there with a group of Boy Scout dads whose kids were all grown.
Dyer started the project just before the April 2018 floods closed the trail and has been working on building the entirety of it from scratch for the past year. He has a background in headphone products, working in acoustics and audio research and development.
The app is something he did in his spare time as a labor of love.
“It’s an accurate rendition. The technical process, it was building a set of 3D models that look like the stuff you see on the trail,” Dyer said.
The point of the app is to allow people to explore the trail, not to use the app for navigation or as a guide. It’s strictly for the experience.
“People have already done video of the entire hike. This is more about the exploration,” Dyer said. “There are lots of Easter eggs to discover when you’re wandering on the trail.”
Dyer also points out that the release of the new app and its development don’t have anything to do with the closure of Kalalau Trail, the state parks or Kuhio Highway.
The app can be found at gumroad.com, and Dyer is working on getting it available for download from other app stores.
The cost is $1.99 and it’s free for those with accessibility issues to hiking the real trail.
He also says he’ll be working on extending the trail on the app to go all the way to Kalalau Beach, after waiting to see reactions of users.
“About 99 percent of people do the first two miles and I wanted to see what people want,” Dyer said. “I’ll go all the way to the beach. And I want to include one of my favorite things, the swim around the corner to Honopu.”
Find the Kalalau app at: https://gumroad.com/l/kalalautrail