April hiking on Kauai's coastal trails

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of October 30-November 5, 1997
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April hiking on Kauai's coastal trails
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April hiking on Kauai's coastal trails
Question: We would like to hike the Na Pali Coast trail. What is the status of the beaches and trail conditions in April? The weather, I assume, would be warm but wet. Is this too early in the season to get sandy beaches?

Bonnie Taylor
Bellevue, WA

Adventure Adviser: The general rule on Kauai is that it's a pretty soggy place. In fact, some say Mount Waialeale, the second-highest peak on Kauai, is the wettest place on earth, receiving 450 to 480 inches of rain per year.

Half of the Na Pali Coast lies on the wettest side of the island — the north coast — which receives almost 45 inches of rain per year. The other half of the Na Pali Coast lies on the west side of the island, which also happens to be the driest side. For example in Polihale, the average rainfall is 5 inches per year.

You may not have any problems with rain, though, because the wet season is from November to March. You may, however, have problems with the residual effects of rain on the trail.

According to the book Kauai Trails, by Kathy Morey (Wilderness Press), the general condition of the Kalalau Trail (the trail you have to hike in order to get to the Na Pali Coast) is poor. She cites the reason as very fragile and rapidly eroding soil, and terrain that's not solid rock but softer, crumblier soil that provides poor footing.

You should also know that even a little rain can turn the trail into a slippery, gooky clay that is virtually impossible to hike. Though the trail is beautiful, Morey warns against inexperienced hikers attempting it.

If you're planning to do any backcountry camping along the Na Pali Coast, you'll need to buy a permit at least two months in advance from the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Call 808-245-3433 or 245-3444. For general information about Hawaii call 800-464-2924.

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