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Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi'ai Falls
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mini location map2014-04-06
44 by photographer avatarpaulhubbard
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Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi'ai FallsKauai, HI
Kauai, HI
Hiking avatar Apr 06 2014
Hiking4.10 Miles 1,308 AEG
Hiking4.10 Miles
1,308 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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So we decided out first hike as a married couple should be to a waterfall in Kauai. Hanakapa'ai falls fit the bill exactly! We got up super early (for our standards) and hit the trail at 8:30am. The first 2 miles of the trail are spectacular, with panoramic views of the beaches and the cliffs of the Na Pali (sp?) coast!

At the 2 mile mark we crossed the creek at the Kalalau beach - The water was about 1 foot deep, and I was able to keep my boots dry by rock-hopping. We goofed around on the beach watching the intense waves breaking for about 20 minutes, then two of our party decided to return to the trailhead to join their wives (who were busy shopping in Hanalea), so off they went, and we headed inland towards the falls.

after 1/2 mile or so, we ran across people coming back from the falls who were all complaining about the water rising; "it was ankle deep when we went, and waist deep on the return trip..." We persevered, hoping to be able to get to the falls. There's always clouds at the mountain tops, there's always a waterfall there, and there's always a creek running below the falls. What could go wrong?

When we got to the first of the river crossings it was obvious we were going no further. The water was deep and swift! There were people across the river who created a human chain to get everyone across, and even with that one of the girls was swept under and almost got washed away, but they were able to get everyone across. It was at that point that we turned around, disappointed that we wouldn't make it to the falls.

On the return trip I kept wondering how we would be able to cross the creek to get back, btu only with respect to how would keep my camera dry. Little did I know...

When we arrived back at the creek crossing, the 1 foot deep crossing was now a 6 foot deep raging river. No crossing here! There were a bunch of people milling around, some trying to make a makeshift crossing with an old ladder and other debris, but everyone knew we weren't going anywhere.

People on the trailhead side of the river went for help, and we got to the task of gathering firewood and prepared to hunker down for the night, collecting Ti leaves to make bedding and doing our best to create some kind of shelter. Air rescue finally showed up at about 5:30pm but they were only able to pluck the people trapped further upstream and bring them to our location before it got dark. We were there for the evening, with only our swimsuits and tank tops for protection. Even the locals were not aware there was a flash flood building in the mountains. We were told the water rose 5 feet in less than 5 minutes.

It rained... Then it rained more... Then it rained harder... It seemed like the more we begged for the rain to let up, the harder it came down. More rain fell that night than we see in Arizona in a year! I found a trash bag, complete with trash. I emptied it, turned it inside out, and we wore this for a rain poncho all night. The ground was so saturated and muddy that there was no laying down. There was one tarp that provided minor relief from the rain, and we gathered under it, but then we got cold. So most the night we stood (yes, STOOD) by the fire to stay warm, even though we were getting drenched the whole time. Water flowed out of my boots when I stepped!

When first light broke, the air rescue returned and took us out 4 at a time back to the parking lot. We got back to the hotel and cancelled our dinner cruise that was going back to the same area - We'd had enough rain for one day!

Honeymoons are supposed to be unforgettable, and this one certainly met that expectation!

But we will be going back, now we HAVE TO make it to the falls!

Video of the river when we tried to cross back:

News story - I'm in the yellow shirt in the upper left:

Pics coming soon!
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Extreme
Of course, it IS Kauai...

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Hanakapiai Stream Heavy flow Heavy flow
Flash Flood!
Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.
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