Kauai: Kalalau Valley by Land and Air

My first trip to Kauai in 2017 with Sean Goebel was met with heavy rain and slippery, muddy trails. My second trip with Sean during the Summer of 2019 was a met with exceptional conditions. Our journey took us hiking to Kalalau Valley, swimming to Honopu Arch, spending nights under the Milky Way, Camping atop Kalalau ridge, and flying through Waimea Canyon to Kalalau Valley. This post will take you through our adventure from day 1.

Day 1

We landed in Kauai and figured out our situation for staying the first night and where to park our car during the backpacking trip. We stayed at Kumu Camp in Anahola the first night and woke up early to park our car and walk to Waipa Park and Ride. We took the first shuttle to Haena Park, the trailhead to Kalalau Valley. Our 12 mile hike to Kalalau went smoothly and we reached the beach well before sunset to be greeted with sunny skies.

Day 2

We woke up during the middle of the night to capture the night sky. We stayed until sunrise and had a nice nap after we hiked back to camp. It was a day of recovery and relaxation. We ended the day by enjoying the sunset at the beach.

Day 3

On the third day, we once again photographed the night sky and sunrise, then we spent the day at the next valley over, Honopu Valley. We swam a half mile (with fins and snorkel) over to Honopu Beach and brought our equipment in a dry bag. During the time we were there, the ocean and wind picked up to the point of white caps. The half mile back was the most terrifying swim of my life! The adrenaline in me took over and allowed me to swim back in less time than it took to get there. After a quick break, we hiked to the mouth of Kalalau river for sunset.

Day 4

We woke up early the fourth morning to pack up and hike the 12 miles back to Haena Park before the last shuttle left. We had great weather until the last 3/4 of the hike. I slipped into Hanakāpī‘ai river, soaking my shoes making the rest of the hike unpleasant. A rain started making the trail muddy and slippery and we ran out of water for the last 2 miles. Fortunately, we made it back to the shuttle early and our car wasn’t ticketed for parking at a restaurant for three nights (now you can legally park near the trailhead overnight). We went straight to Kumu camp for a much needed shower and then headed up to Kalalau lookout to photograph the stars and spend the night in our rental minivan.

Day 5

The next morning, we picked up my girlfriend from the airport as she joined us for the last two days. We spent the day exploring the rim of Kalalau Valley.

Day 6

Our final morning was spent on a one-hour doors off helicopter tour around Kauai. First we made our way to Waimea Canyon, passing numerous waterfalls and valleys and encountered a full circle rainbow. Even my ultra-wide 14mm lens couldn’t capture the whole thing. Then we entered from the back of Kalalau Valley and explored the Na Pali Coast. What an experience it was to spend four days exploring Kalalau and then seeing it from the air! After making our way down Na Pali coast, we flew over Hanalei and towards Mount Wai’ale’ale, one of the wettest places on Earth. The air grew thicker and the fog obscured the distant mountains. We caught a glimpse of the “Weeping Wall” where there’s tens of waterfalls cascading down the summit. Then back to Lihue Airport to conclude the helicopter tour. I’d say that it was well worth.

If you made it this far, I want to thank you for taking a look at my photography. Kauai is truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth in my opinion. If you see any photos that you would like to purchase as a print, please contact me.

5 thoughts on “Kauai: Kalalau Valley by Land and Air”

  1. Beautiful pictures !!!
    I remember this wonderful trek I did ten years ago and slept in the cave on Kalalau beach !
    One of the most exhilarating experience of my whole life !

    • Thank you, Dorian. There were some kayakers in the cave living in luxury with blow-up mattresses on my last trek out there. It’s a wonderful place and I wouldn’t hesitate to go again.


Leave a Comment