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Hiking Kauai, HI
mini location map2016-10-22
14 by photographer avatarchumley
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Hiking Kauai, HI 
Hiking Kauai, HI
Walk / Tour avatar Oct 22 2016
Walk / Tour
Walk / Tour
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1st trip
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Figured I'd put a few overall notes down for anybody planning on a trip to Kauai for hiking.

You can fly direct to Lihue (LIH) from Phoenix (PHX). There are two flights daily and both return as red-eyes. I found the prices to be best during the week. Lower prices seemed to be available with connections in LAX, SFO, or HNL. But the connections made the 6.5 hour trip significantly longer with most connections being 3+ hours.

Rental Car:
All the major agencies rent at the Lihue Airport. There is poor public transport on the island and the few cabs are very expensive. A rental car is almost required. The good thing is it's a small island and you can't really rack up many miles, so the rates are quite reasonable. I rented through Costco for under $200 for the week.

Food and Supplies:
There is a Walmart in Lihue (but not a supercenter) and a Costco (which has the cheapest gas on the island). Gas ranged from about 50¢ to $1 more than in Phoenix. There are three places I know of that sell fuel canisters for your backpacking stove (isobutane/propane mix)--because you can't bring these on the plane. ACE Hardware in Lihue, Napali Kayak Tours in Hanalei, and Kayak Kauai in Wailua. We got ours at ACE and it was only $6. It was some South Korean brand but worked just fine.

There are several Safeway stores in the various towns as well as another full-service grocery chain called Big Save. Both offer all the staples you need. Your Safeway discount card works there. If you shop at Big Save you should sign up for their discount card. We also enjoyed the fresh deli selections at the local Ishikara market in Waimea on the way to Koke'e and Waimea Canyon.

It will rain while you are on Kauai. It's a rainy place. But except on the mountain, showers are usually brief. Most rain actually falls at night! The old volcano that makes the high-point of Kauai, Wai'ale'ale is 5100 feet in elevation, and the rain gauge there is often cited as the wettest place on earth. In some months it receives over 50 inches of rain, and averages 450+ inches of rain annually. Just 18 miles west of there on Polihale Beach, the average rainfall is just 8 inches. See this [ photo ] . Trade winds blow from the northeast so that side of the island receives more rain. It is all squeezed out by the mountains and the south and west coasts of the island are nearly dry. Depending on the strength of the trades and the available moisture, you may choose to hike one side of the island or the other on certain days if you have flexibility.

There are state parks and county parks which allow camping. The county parks are all on beaches and offer camping at $3 per night per person. Permits can be purchased by mail in advance, but I would just get them in person at any of a number of locations. See their website for campground locations as well as the locations where you can pick up permits. Pay attention to the limited hours for the permit offices:

Haena Beach Park, Anini Beach and Salt Pond are the three best county camping beaches. All have restrooms, sinks, and outdoor cold beach showers.

The state park campgrounds are $18/night up to 6 people. Koke'e is a beautiful campground that may sell out on weekends. Weekdays rarely sell out and would not need to be reserved in advance. It has developed campsites with a grill and spigot in each plus bathrooms and cold showers.

There are four primitive campsites in Waimea Canyon that we passed on our day hike there. All are basic with a rain shelter, picnic table, fire ring, and a composting toilet. As a tourist and visitor, I would get a permit if I planned to stay at any of them, but I'd be shocked locals ever buy a permit here. There's just not much use. The other sites in the mountains are also primitive and rarely visited. The final site is on the west coast at Polihale State Park. It's Hawaii's longest beach and getting here requires a 5-mile drive on a rutted dirt road that voids your rental car contract. :)

State Park camping can be reserved online. I was able to do it on my phone and never printed the actual permit. See:

In 1992, Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai square with 145-mph winds. The US Navy radar station up near Koke'e recorded 227mph before it was destroyed. :o So what does that have to do with anything? Yeah, so a chicken farm was destroyed in the hurricane freeing all the chickens. Now 25 years later, the island is innundated with chickens. They have no predator and they are everywhere. This isn't really a problem except if you are trying to sleep outside. For some reason these are the dumbest birds known to man and will begin their morning cockadoodledoos at 2 or 3am. Bring the best earplugs you can buy. You will need them! (The exception being the Na Pali coast where I believe the permanent residents effectively manage the population in the most delicious way possible :-$ ).

Kalalau Trail / Napali Coast:
Camping permits for this trail are $20pp/night and are available from the State Park website above. Unlike the others, this one sells out in advance. It is limited to 60 people per night and you are limited to a 5-night stay. I would recommend a minimum of 2 nights. If you wish to explore either of the two waterfall trails on the way to Na Pali a 3rd or 4th night are nearly required. We didn't manage to visit either waterfall due to our 2-night stay not providing the time for it. (Hanakapi'ai Falls and Hanakoa Falls).

Other Hiking Trails:
There are a bunch of other hikes on the island, but I would recommend the ridge line hikes from Koke'e State Park toward the Napali Coast. The views are phenomenal. Waimea Canyon is amazing, but some of the best views are enjoyed from the short viewpoint hikes rather than descending all the way to the bottom. I found this book to be a useful resource as it focuses much more on hiking and other outdoor recreation than other all-encompassing guidebooks. ... zona

See reports of my hikes here:
Sleeping Giant
Nualolo Awaawapuhi
Waimea Canyon to Lonomea Camp
Secret Falls
Kalalau Trail

This was one of the most memorable trips I've been on and I can't recommend it enough to others who enjoy outdoor recreation. (I hear there are nice resorts on the island for people who just want to sit by the beach and lounge, but this is a hiking website! :) )
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Kokee State Park
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