Hanakapi'ai Valley marks the spot where a side trail heads off south to Hanakapi'ai Falls - one many beautiful multi-hundred foot high ribbon falls that exist along the Na Pali Coast.
Although a visit to a spectacular waterfall would have been nice, our time for the day had been fully allocated to the Kalalau Trail. Westward we continued.
Much narrower trail now
After Hanakapi'ai Valley, the character of the Kalalau Trail changes dramatically. It is no longer a wide, almost road-like, track; the trail becomes very narrow, often overhanging with tropical vegetation. Clearly the amount of traffic the trail receives beyond Hanakapi'ai Beach is drastically lower. That is all good with me - I prefer quaint little remote paths to an over-eroded hiker highway.
Smiley Face Spider
One thing that continued from the first stretch of trail was the slickness of the mud underfoot, and we struggled for grip as we ascended a switchbacking route out of Hanakapi'ai valley. Unfortunately, some thoughtless hikers had needlessly cut shortcuts across some of these switchbacks, creating ugliness and greater opportunity for erosion and trail destabilization. Do not cut switchbacks, please!
Hiking above Hanakapi'ai Beach
Looking east from above Hanakapi'ai
Once out of Hanakapi'ai Valley, the Kalalau Trail is more direct for a bit, traversing along more or less on the level high above the ocean and beneath groundwater-moistened black basalt cliffs.
Jenn beneath basalt cliffs
Brian ducks for the camera
Two and a half hours after starting out, we approached a gate-like highpoint. The trail passes through a small notch, between a large outcropping of lava (known as Space Rock), and the toe of a steep ridge. There is a fence and sign here, marking the entrance to the Hono o Na Pali reserve. The reserve was established in 1983 to help manage and preserve the rare native plant species on Kaua'i, and to deal with the invasive non-native plants and fauna (especially feral pigs and goats). The native plants, not having any natural chemical or physical defenses against mammalian browsing, are especially susceptible to destruction.
Entrance to the reserve
Crossing the fence into the reserve and through the notch marked by Space Rock, we laid eyes on the next valley along the coast - the Hoolulu Valley. It somehow felt "wild-er" here. I'm not sure what it was; the view of the tropical forest clinging to the steep slopes of this small valley perhaps, combined with the crashing surf from the turquoise waters 800 feet below, and perhaps also the fact that the trail was now this intimate little-used path threading its way through the landscape. Regardless, it was a fine spot to stop for a mid-morning break.
Looking out from the jungle
We continued on, following the Kalalau Trail across Hoolulu Valley. The route contoured into the valley, descending and switchbacking gently down about 400 feet of elevation as it did so. After crossing the Hoolulu Stream, the trail contours back out of the valley.
Once out of the valley, the trail traversed west across steeply sloping forested slopes. We noticed that the undergrowth in the forest was getting a little more open. The plants seemed to be changing slightly, too, losing a touch of their 'tropicalness'. The trail, we noticed, was no longer slick and muddy - now it was just a nice, slightly moist earthy path.
In places, the trail opened out onto a steep vegetated slopes, offering spectacular views back along the coast from where we'd come, and down to the frothing waters of the ocean, five hundred feet below. A delightful section of trail!
Break below Waiahuakua Falls
A highpoint along the trail at the entrance to Waiahuakua valley - the next valley along the coast - was another perfectly scenic spot for a snack break. It was now shortly after 11am, and we were getting close to running out of water. We had deliberately gone with a light water load because we knew that there would be plenty of spots to fill up along the way. We planned for a water filtering break at the next little stream. Looking up, we could see a fantastic ribbon waterfall cascading down more than a thousand feet of mossy cliffs. Surely we'd have to cross that idyllic watercourse in the next little while.
Heading into Waiahuakua valley