After a spectacular final traverse beneath Kanakou - a perfectly-proportioned peak that towers - you arrive at a red, earthy saddle above a long sloping descent. This is Red Hill - a notable landmark on the trail and the point that marks the official entrance into Kalalau Valley. From the height of land, you can cast your eyes downward and see a bit of the long, lonely swath of Kalalau Beach - the final destination of the Kalalau Trail.
Looking east from Red Hill
If the weather is good, a stop at Red Hill is absolutely required to take many pictures of the fantastic views east and west along the coast, and up into Kalalau Valley.
Also at Red Hill is a faded sign indicating that you have arrived at Kalalau Valley.
Many guidebooks and descriptions describe Red Hill as a difficult climb and/or descent, but I feel it is neither. The slope is only moderate and the footing is good, and it is only about five hundred feet of elevation gain or loss. Hardly a major obstacle.
First glimpse of Kalalau Beach
The descent of Red Hill is quite scenic; the open red soil slopes mean you have a nice aerial view of everything as you descend toward Kalalau Beach. At the base of Red Hill, the trail enters open forest, soon crossing several very flat areas with the ruins of low stone walls visible off to the sides. These are remnants of historic Hawaiian settlements in the valley.
Brian descending Red Hill
After crossing a bit of the flats in the forest, the trail reaches Kalalau Stream - the main watercourse that drains [the big] Kalalau Valley. At regular water levels, it is possible to rock-hop across without getting wet, but I can easily imagine that this stream could be quite high if there was any significant recent rainfall in Kalalau Valley, especially given its catchment area.
Brian crossing Kalalau Stream
Arriving at Kalalau Beach
After crossing the stream, the trail climbs up the opposite bank, and there is a junction with a side trail leading up Kalalau Valley (the side trail is a spur route that dead-ends after a couple of miles of heading up the valley). Beyond the junction, the Kalalau Trail soon emerges onto a grassy verge above Kalalau Beach. The beach is beautiful, wide and long - about 1km (0.6 miles) long.
As you walk along this final stretch of trail, there are several 'camping' signs indicating side paths to the official campsite areas. There are a lot of good campsites along a fairly significant stretch; most of them are on very flat ground in an open forest immediately adjacent to the beach.
After you've set up your tent, there is nothing quite like taking a stroll out onto the beach to watch the waves, whales, cliffs, and sun (in season, whales can be seen breaching the waters out to sea). The surf in this area is known to be rough and dangerous, and there are many warning signs advising you to stay out of the water (unless, presumably, you really know what you are doing).
Behind the beach, in the landward direction, the pali (cliffs) rise with incredible steepness and with fantastic shapes. A small ribbon waterfall cascades down on the extreme right-hand side of the valley.
Below are a few pictures from a spectacular sunset we watched on our visit to Kalalau Beach.