One Of Hawaii's Most Remote Areas Is A Little-Known Coastal Valley With Unparalleled Views

Kauai is known for its wild and rugged terrain. The entire island offers a lush and dynamic landscape, with its rivers, waterfalls, and foliage earning it the moniker, "The Garden Isle." Perhaps no place on the island better represents the marriage of beauty and unforgiving topography than the quiet statement that emanates from the Kalalau Valley.


A region tucked into the renowned Napali Coast, Kalalau Valley is difficult to get to, yet delivers the postcard essence of the island with its white sand beach, iconic streams trickling down the mountains, and jagged peaks overhead. The magic of the valley is not new to the inhabitants of Hawaii, with a history of Native Hawaiians farming taro there. In fact, at one point it's believed to have been home to up to 2,500 people. Although the area was populated until the early 20th century, today it's illegal to live in the valley. It is open to visitors willing to make an arduous hike, however a permit is required and can be difficult to obtain. Fortunately, there are other, more accessible ways to see this natural wonder.


Visiting Kalalau Valley on foot

If you're looking for a challenge after taking in the shorter hikes and adventures at Wailua River State Park, the Kalalau Trail will deliver. In fact, it's a bucket list hike for many people and it's the only way to get down into the valley by land. Starting from the north, where the road ends at Ke'e Beach, the 11-mile trail begins. Adventurous day hikers make the challenging trek as far as Hanakapi'ai Falls. However, a permit is required to go past this point. For those who do, the trail traverses more valleys, countless mountain streams, and a drop to sea level at Kalalau beach.


This journey is not without risks. Flash floods and falling rocks occur frequently, especially during heavy rains. Part of the trail is known as "Crawler's Ledge," earning its name from the need to hug the ledge in order to avoid the steep drop off on the other side of the narrow trail. Due to the length and difficulty of the trail, most hikers complete it with the goal of camping for a few nights, so keep in mind you'll also be hauling gear. With the proper permits, visitors can camp at Hanakoa or Kalalau. After your return hike, pick up some food and watch the sunset at the amazing stretch of coastline at Hanalei Bay on your way back to Princeville.

Other ways to see Kalalau Valley

If a multi-day, strenuous backpacking trip isn't what you had in mind for your vacation, worry not. There are other ways to lay your eyes on this photographer's dream. While the road that circles the island leaves a gap along the jagged, mountainous Napali Coast, you can drive to a viewpoint to look down on the valley below. From the vastly underrated town of Waimea, head into the mountains via Waimea Canyon Drive (also known as Highway 550). The Kalalau Lookout is just past the 18-mile marker.


Another popular way to take in the masterpiece that is Kalalau Valley is to take a helicopter ride through the region. While it's an expensive option, it's perhaps the best way to really see the peaks and valleys of Waimea Canyon State Park and even land at the base of the landmark waterfall seen in the first Jurassic Park film. However if budget, time, or interest don't align with a helicopter tour, you can also access views of the Kalalau Valley from the ocean. Check out one of the many boat tour options and enjoy the landscape from the sea. Note that boat activity in the area is heavy regulated and restrictions apply.