I recently traveled to Kauai to hike the famed Na Pali Coast Trail. A very challenging 11 mile hike that ends at the spectacular Kalalau Beach. I had dreamed of this trip since my twenties when a young surfer friend described his recent trip to Kauai and the Na Pali Coast. It was the dreamy, far away look in his eyes that captured my imagination.
The small town of Hanalei Bay is the gateway to the Na Pali Coast and also evokes fond memories for me. As a young girl my dad would play the guitar and my sisters and I would gather round him to sing Puff the Magic Dragon. How surprised I was to find out that “Jackie Paper frolicked in the mists of Hanalei” was the same Hanalei Bay I was about to visit! The town held up to my childhood imaginings. The mountain range is very exotic and as it turns out was the back drop for the famous scene in the movie South Pacific when the mysterious and haunting Bali Hai is sung by Juanita Hill. The town itself was sweet and non-commercial , with lots of grassy areas to eat and relax.
The Napali Trail itself is difficult and treacherous. It begins with a two mile ascent walking on slippery, wet, lava rock that eats shoes. This part of the hike is well traveled and can be almost comic to see how ill prepared many of the tourists are for this type of hiking. We too were unprepared in that we should have packed much lighter. The trail is an exhausting up and down and the terrain demands a slow and thoughtful hike as the consequences of losing your footing can mean a 2000 foot drop into the Pacific Ocean. We had planned to camp at Honokua Valley but it was so dark and damp we stumbled another 100 yards up to a narrow ridge where we threw down our sleeping bags to watch the sunset. It was spectacular.
The next day we planned to hike the remaining five miles with trepidation as we had been told there was a place on the trail so dangerous that it was referred to as “the crawl” because that is literally what you had to do to get safely past this part of the trail. With a forty pound back pack this proved to be more difficult than anticipated. To make matters worse the trail has these little small pebbles of lava rock that roll like marbles under your feet. Once past this part of the trail however it’s a gradual descent into one of the most beautiful and remote beaches I have ever been to. Kalalau can change you. As evident by the small community of individuals who look like they sprung out of the land. Lean, tanned, and relaxed with a ready smile. Some stay for weeks as the beach has a fresh water stream, fruit trees including Hawaiian Apples, oranges and passion fruit. There is often music at night where strangers gather around a fire to make friends and share hiking horrors.
The trail home was momentous in that we were gifted by the mysterious little people of Hawaii called Menehune. We stopped for water at one of the last fresh water streams before tackling “the crawl.” Hanging on a tree branch we saw a beautifully hand crafted bracelet made from the grasses along the trail. It was so camouflaged that even seeing it, was in itself, miraculous. We were not sure if was ours to take, but when it fit perfectly on my wrist, we decided it was a gift from the Menehune. The Menehune are the people who live in the deep forests and hidden Valleys of the Hawaiian Islands. When I slipped that bracelet on my wrist that is when the magic happened.
To this day we cannot remember when or if we passed the treacherous “crawl.” We were dreading that part of the trail when we found ourselves suddenly transported to the Honokua Valley refreshed, safe and almost home! Really, it was the strangest thing, and so in the spirit of Hawaii we thanked the little people for our easy deliverance back to civilization.
The trip to Kalalua was a spiritual journey beginning with the heart strings that pulled as I dropped into the beautiful town of Hanelei and ending with the mysterious gift from the Menehune. The land, the people, the mountain peaks and the ocean combine to renew the soul and change a person forever. I am so thankful for the opportunity to experience Kauai on foot, in the jungles and on its wild beaches. You must go!