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Recommending multi-day hikes in Hawaii is a bit of a challenge—the islands just aren’t big enough to for many long distance treks.
Kalulau Trail sign.
But the hike that best fits your wish list is the Kalalau Trail through the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park on Kauai. The 11-mile journey begins at Ke’e Beach and follows the Na Pali Coast—known for its stunning tropical scenery straight out of Treasure Island—along the island’s north shore. The hike will lead you along the pali (cliffs), past waterfalls, and through lush valleys where Hawaiian tribes once lived and cultivated taro. The trail ends at Kalalau Beach.
The footpath is the only way to access the beach by land and commercial boat access is prohibited, so you’re promised a serene camping experience. Camping here is not only allowed, but the Hawaii State Parks Department practically insists you do so by requiring hikers to purchase camping permits before venturing out on the Kalalau Trail. Fit, experienced hikers will handle comfortably the 11-mile hike in a day, making an overnight at the beach necessary before the return trip.
Accustomed to more daily mileage? Take it from me: Mucking through silt and bouldering slippery rocks with an inch of mud caked in the tread of your Tevas will slow you down. But, it’s Hawaii—take time to enjoy!
Here are a couple day hikes with beach components:
Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
This two-mile out-and-back departs and returns near Hanauma Bay and Sandy Beach Park on Oahu’s southeastern point. The trail offers views of Koko Head and Koko Crater, within Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline, and the historic lighthouse for which the trail is named. Depending on the season, off shore you may be able to see whales migrating and seabirds, such as the ‘iwa, nesting on nearby islets.
Ahupua’a O Kahana State Park
Located on the windward side of Oahu, 31 families live in this park devoted to preserving and fostering traditional Hawaiian culture. The park offers 10 beach campsites by permit and two short trails leading into the pristine Kahana Valley. Nakoa Trail is a 2.5-mile loop through rainforests of koa trees, for which the trail is named.