Hihimanu Ridge Trail, Kauai

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The view from the top!

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary

Hihimanu Ridge. This hike has been on our list since we first landed on Kauai, we have crossed off every other hike on our list (minus 2 at the moment), putting it on the back burner because of my fear of heights. When i first saw pictures of this trail and the view at the top, I knew without a doubt I HAD to do this trail, after all it was my idea to put it on our list to begin with. But every time Lucas brought it up, “Hey what about Hihimanu today?” I would find another trail and another excuse to keep putting it off. Finally I agreed it was time. What was I waiting for?

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Those two sharp peaks you see, we hiked that! 

Lucas has done the Okolehao Trail dozens of times through his work, its the first part of the Hihimanu Ridge Trail, but this trail was completely new to me, I was excited, nervous, but ready to overcome the fear that had been holding me back all this time. We loaded our packs, made sure we had plenty of water, and we were off!

The Okolehao Trail begins in Princeville off Hanalei River. Take Ohiki Road, a one-lane road skirting the taro fields at the north end of Hanalei bridge, and drive about  0.7 miles to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service parking area. Across the street is a small bridge marking the trailhead.

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The first lookout 
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Our view from the second lookout

The first part of the trail is typically one of the muddiest sections mainly because it sees the most wild pig activity and foot traffic. After the fist one-eighth of a mile you will ascend a few hundred feet in elevation (this section is VERY slippery and fairly steep). The first lookout point is off to your right near the power lines it gives you a good view of Hanalei Bay and the beginning of the Napali coastline. It would be a picturesque view if the power lines weren’t in the way of the picture. After stopping there for a brief minute to take it in and drink some water we continued the trek up the trail. After a few hundred more feet of elevation gain and a little less than a mile up we get to the first major lookout of the trail where the Aloha bench is. This is where MOST people stop it gives you a great aerial view of the Hanalei river and Hanalei Bay. The Hanalei river is great to paddle board or kayak and is very calm and typically quiet. Over half of the river is actually in the Hanalei wildlife refuge so the wildlife and fish are abundant! At this point you have about another mile before the trail starts getting sketchy.

As you continue along the trail you will come across your first few ropes that will help you descend and ascend, this will become the norm the rest of the trip. Keep trekking along and they become a bit trickier and you must become more and more reliant on the ropes as the trail goes on. Before you know it your at the hardest rope climb on the trail, a straight up mud wall (roughly 80 degree angle) where you HAVE to rely on the ropes to make it up, if i had to guess it was about 60ft or so to the top, I thought for sure after this ascend we were rounding the tip top and we would be there, but the trail continued. We knew we were almost to the top because the trail became narrower, the drop-offs on each side became more pronounced and the views kept becoming better and better. We finally reached a top platform where we could easily see the two peaks we had to climb, so close! Lucas continued on from here, as I was completely content with the first peak, I had overcome so much and as Lucas put it ” You punched your fear of heights in the face.” I was so overwhelmed with the view and the journey we just took getting here that I just sat in awe while he continued his trek of the final peaks.

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As he hiked ahead I got our binoculars out and watched him complete the hike. What an amazing accomplishment for both of us. The two peaks were not that bad, you just had to be careful of where you stepped as part of the trail was about a foot or so wide before it dropped off on both sides. My views were stunning but his at the end were down right incredible. A completely 360 view, a very rewarding hike! This hike has quickly become our favorite on the island, next time I will push myself all the way to the last peak 🙂

The Kalalau Trail

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

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The Kalalau Trail is listed as one of the worlds most dangerous hikes, of course just the sound of that makes my nerves cringe a little bit but of course for my husband he wants to mark every hike on that list off 🙂 When we both decided we wanted to tackle this hike back in January we each had our different reasons. His of course was primarily because its on the list of worlds most dangerous hikes, but also because its the only land access to Kalalau beach and along the Napali Coast. This hike for me was not about marking a dangerous hike off, it was about facing fears of heights, and knowing that I can do anything that I set my mind to. After purchasing our permits, there was no turing back. So for the following 3 months we researched, planned….packed….unpacked…. and repacked until we had exactly what we needed narrowed down.

March 19 finally rolled around and we were passed ready to experience this highly sought after trail for ourselves. Lucas was extremely excited, so was I, but I also had some nerves growing the last couple weeks leading up to this day. I had a backup plan if I ever HAD to turn around but the second we began the trail, I knew I would be just fine! We had woken up to a beautiful, flawless weather forecast for the two days we would be on the trail, and I knew without a doubt that was God’s way of telling me that “I got this!” Because if we had any chance of rain in the forecast the trail conditions would drastically change and become very dangerous, making the trail even more frightening and technical.

We began the trail at 7:00 am and quickly made it to Hanakapei Beach (2 miles in). We have done this part of the trail numerous times and easily crossed over the river and took a break along the beach for a few minutes. This part of the trail and beach are always extremely packed so one nice thing about leaving out so early is being able to enjoy the trail by yourself.

After we put our packs back on, we ventured up the hill to the next phase of the trail, beginning a new part of the path we have not yet explored. From here on out all the views and ridges were new to us so we took our time and paced along snapping photos and taking breaks when needed. The first few miles until you get to Hanakoa Camp (6 mile mark) are fairly easy, with the trail going up and down along the ridge as well as through the jungle. From mile 6 on it gets a little technical in some spots. Loose rocks, steep cliffs and of course “crawlers ledge”. For a few weeks leading up to the trip i did a lot of research on Crawlers ledge, probably watched way to many videos and kinda freaked myself out. I am not terrified of heights but am bothered by them a little bit so I wanted to be prepared. As we came up to mile 7 and were fixing to face crawlers ledge (actually a little past 7 miles) we quickly realized it wasn’t as bad as its made out to be. Sure its definitely a sheer drop off, and there is possibility of someone easily falling off if your not careful with your footing, but its no where near as sketchy as many make it out to be. I personally felt there were way worse parts of the trail where you could easily have slipped and fell, at least on crawlers ledge its solid rock instead of loose dirt and small rocks. Take it slow and watch where you put your feet, and of course if you want to look around make sure you stop first!

After mile 7 it felt like we were so close to being there, only 4 miles left and we would finally be able to enjoy the majestic Kalalau Beach, we were totally looking forward to jumping into the water! The shade along the trail began to get slimmer and slimmer and we were pretty much out in the open with the sun beaming down on us the rest of the way. As we neared “clay hill” we were greeted in the distance by the beautiful secluded beach we had traveled so far to see. Trying not to get barn fever as Lucas calls it, (where as you get closer to your destination you speed up unknowingly) we made our way closer and closer until we finally stepped foot on the sands! 7 hours of hiking and we made it! The feeling when you finally get there is unbelievable!

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We quickly found a spot to set up our camp and go check out the waterfall to cool off. Afterwards we headed to the beach to walk around and explore the caves! Such a neat place to be! Between the waterfall, caves, amazing beach and diversity of people, our experience will without a doubt be one for the books! We met some amazing people who each had there own reasons from making the trek. We met people from all over including a couple from Victoria Canada who were trail running along the way (totally impressive!), a super funny gentleman from Dubai who no matter what was going to find a way to not have to hike back out (he was hilarious and had such a fun personality!), and a super sweet couple from New Zealand which we hiked out with the next day just to find out they had no idea the trail was on the list of worlds most dangerous hikes, but they excelled on the trip and made it there and back no problem.

Our trip was one we will never forget. It was physically exhausting and mentally trying but the entire time we were surrounded by pure beauty. Every turn, every ridge (I believe there were 5) had its own unique setting, the further we went on trail the more beautiful the Napali Coast became, urging us to keep going, and we’re so glad we did because we will never forget it!

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More Waterfall Adventures…

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We have been on Kauai now a little over 2 months, being a small island you would think you’d run out of things to do and see but Kauai has proven to be quite the island for adventure. With its breathtaking beaches and the never ending list of hiking trails we have yet to run out of places to explore, which leads us to our most recent visits of two spectacular waterfalls!

Both growing up in the mountains of North Carolina we were spoiled with beautiful mountains and amazing waterfalls. Waterfalls have always been a love of both of ours so of course when we travel we are drawn to seek them out wherever we go! Kauai definitely has its fair share of waterfalls and you can bet that we will try to mark off as many as we can before our time on the island ends.

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The last couple weeks we had been scoping out the best kayak rental companies on the island so we can explore Wailua river and hike to “Secret Falls”, seems as everywhere we turned we were hearing about how stunning these falls were so we had to see what everyone was raging about, but the more we priced around the thought of spending $80-$100 on a kayak rental/tour to these falls the more we kept putting it off asking ourselves would it be worth that? So being the thrifters that we are, we started a plan B! We starting looking at thrift stores, craigslist and Facebook yard sale sites to find a couple kayaks that we could buy, use and resell, hoping to at least break even after it was all said and done. Well a deal finally slapped us in the face as we got a call about a 2 person kayak for $50! Of course we nabbed it up, the only thing we had to get now were a couple paddles which set us back another $5o, but having $100 into a 2 person kayak that we could use for the next few months and easily break even on after we were done was a no brainer win-win!

So now that we had our kayak, we set off to finally explore Uluwehi falls (Secret Falls). We put in near Wailua Beach and starting paddling up river, it was the absolute perfect day to be outside and we thoroughly enjoyed our trek up the quiet river. There comes a point in the river where you need to make a right turn, this will take you further upstream it becomes more narrow as you keep going, leading to a small beach area where you pull your boat up onto firm ground, you will easily spot the trail as its pretty well traveled with plenty of trail signs. The hiking portion is only about 20 min hike and can be slippery at times. Be prepared to get muddy! You will cross through a few streams, hike along the banks into the beautiful tropical forests and eventually be greeted by the amazing falls. It truly was a sight to see! Overall between the kayaking and the hiking (with about an hour at the falls) we spent a total of 4-5 hours on the adventure.

Another quick waterfall hike we did the following day were to the Ho’opi’i Falls. They are easily accessible just requires a short 20 min hike or so to the first falls. When doing research before heading out, many people found it tricky to find but luckily we had fantastic directions that we found on a trip advisor review and were able to find it no problem. I even talked my self into jumping off the rocks into this one (only about 15 ft or so) If you have desire to hike to the second falls (which we did) follow the lower trail that goes along the river pretty cool falls but In our opinion the first falls was our favorite out of the two.

Kalepa Ridge Trail

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Being centrally located on Kauai has been a wonderful thing! On days off when we want to get out and hike we can choose to go all the way North or all the way West on the island all in about an hours time. With so many hikes available on the island we have tried to hit the top rated ones that the locals or guidebooks have mentioned. Kalepa Ridge Trail is one of those amazing hikes that a local said to not pass up. (It is also spotlighted in the Ultimate Kauai Guidebook)

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To get to this trail you must drive to Koke’e State Park in Waimea. The beginning of the “trail” is located at the Kalalau Lookout, just behind the fenced area on the left of the lookout. The first part of the trail is wet, muddy and steep. Prepare to test your hiking skills during the first .5 mile but once your past that it opens up to incredible views of the Kalalau Valley. The rest of the hike down is pretty mellow as you weave in and out of brush and trees and along some pretty high drop offs along the edge of the trail as it follows the ridge on the way down. Trekking poles or a walking sticks are highly suggested.

On our hike we came across a family of wild goats crossing the trail. We sat and watched them for about a half hour just as they roamed around and eventually settled down to soak up the sun on some rocks on the side of the cliff. We made our way to the end where we both sat in awe at the panoramic views of the Kalalau Valley and Napali Coast. We even got to see some people on the Kalalau beach (we will be making our hike there in March!)

Overall the Kalepa Ridge Trail is a short but moderately difficult trail in some spots. The views are to die to for though, this is definitely a trail that we will be hiking again.

 

Officially our favorite hikes on Kauai

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With Lucas being a hiking guide on the island, we are constantly spending our free time hiking and exploring different trails across the island of Kauai. The Last two days we ventured out and did two hikes, one in Waimea Canyon called Awaawapuhi Trail and the other on the North shore going to Hanakapi’ai Falls.

The Awaawaphui Trail is a little over 6 miles RT. You can get to this trail by driving up to Kokee State Park in Waimea Canyon, at about mile 17 the trailhead is within a gravel parking lot on your left. It takes you from about 4,000ft elevation to the valley rim of Nualolo and Awa’awapuhi valleys at 2,500 ft. The majority of the hike is through shaded forest, with a continuous downhill trek on the way to a jaw dropping, panoramic view of the Napali Coast. One of the most amazing views of the island in our opinion. After an easy hike down, you must prepare yourself for the hike back up to the trailhead, 3.2 miles uphill  which goes by pretty quick as your mind is constantly in awe of the view you have just seen.

After our amazing hike on the west side of the island we decided to go to the complete opposite side of the island to the North shore and do a hike we have had our eye on since we arrived on the island, the hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach and to Hanakapi’ai Falls. The hike to the end of Hanakapi’ai Falls is 8 miles RT. You can hike to the beach about 2 miles in if you want a short day hike but we suggest if your able, to do the entire hike there and back to the falls. Both are on the beginning section of the Kalalau trail which we have permits to do in mid march but we wanted to get our feet wet and see what the first part of the trail was all about.

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We attempted to do this trail about a week ago but we were quickly halted about a mile and half into the hike when a lady broke her ankle and had to be heli-rescued out. That held us back about an hour which we didn’t prepare for and had to turn back around at the beach area as we were running out of time to be back before the sun went down. We arrived at the trailhead this time with the mindset that today was going to be the day we made it to the falls, and that is exactly what we did! The first 2 miles of the trail are a mix of uphill and downhill but you get tremendous views of Ke’e Beach and the Napali Coastline. When we made it to the beach we found a spot to take a little break before heading another 2 miles to the Falls. The hike to the falls was a bit more challenging than the first 2 miles we had done. You must hop across rocks to get over a few streams, and hike through some muddy areas as well as climb up wet mud covered rocks on the last .5 mile of the trail. But as you keep going you are greeted by some of the clearest water and small waterfalls as it leads you up for the grand prize at the end, Hanakapi’ai Falls. When you finally see the grand finale it is absolutely stunning! One of the best waterfalls we have seen in person, Lucas compared it to some of the Falls at Yosemite but with this one you can actually get up close and personal as well as swim in the pool below. Lucas braved the cold and quickly jumped in and right back out. The hike out went by fast as you knew what to expect on the way back. It seems like a long hard hike, but completely worth every step!

After 2 days of hiking a combined 14.5 miles we decided to take a day of rest, laying around the house and later going to spend some time on the beach! A much needed beach bum day 🙂

 

First Camping Trip in Kauai

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Since we landed in Kauai about a week and a half ago, we have been itching to go get out and go camping! We were ready to wipe off the dust on our summer camping gear since the last time we went camping in the backcountry was in Alaska in 20 degree weather! Needless to say much different gear is needed and we were totally ready for a change! We packed up our bags with our camping gear and headed out for a 2 day 1 night adventure.

The first day we woke up and headed straight to the Waimea Canyon with intentions of hiking the Kukui Trail (a 5 mile round trip strenuous hike down into the canyon) but by the time we meandered up to the trailhead it was getting later than anticipated. So instead we drove up a littler further to the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout were we started our hike on the Canyon Trail which ends at the top of the 800 ft waterfall called Waipo’o Falls. We were very surprised at how many people were on the trail, it was the most “touristy” trail we have been on yet since we arrived, but worth it as we reached the top one of the highest waterfalls on Kauai. Lucas braved the frigid cold water and took a dive into the pool of water from the waterfall which was pretty refreshing after the hike there.

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After we oohed and awed over the views from above we made our way back to the top, stopping along the canyon rims to take in the amazing views of the canyon and the Kokee rain forest. A great overall hike for any age, and with the spectacular views, its a must for anyone able and willing!

After our day hike we made our way down to Polihale State Park to set up camp and spend the night right on the beach! It is  located at the end of Highway 50 and is accessed down a very bumpy old sugar cane haul road. Polihale beach is the longest stretch of beach in Kauai and is the last beach on the west side, marking the start of the Napali Coast. We set up our hammocks and spent the rest of the evening enjoying the 7 mile stretch of white sandy beach and the massive waves from the incoming storm which was a few days out. By far this is our favorite beach on the island, and completely worth every pot hole and bump on the 5 mile dirt road leading there! We received a lot of strange looks and people smiling when they saw our little car driving out there, where most people only go with a 4×4 and car rental companies have strict policies against taking their vehicles out there. We were pretty impressed with our little Ford Fiesta we bought!

As we woke up to the sound of waves and the sun slowing rising, we packed up our stuff and headed up the mountain once more into Waimea Canyon to do the Kukui trail going 2,300 ft (2.5 miles) down into the canyon. Literally when the guide book said down, they meant DOWNNNN all the way! It was steep and pretty slippery with loose rock because it has been dry the last few weeks. There were not many people on this trail, we might of seen 10 people the entire day there and back. On the way down there were fantastic views of the canyon and we saw a lot of different vegetation as we traveled through the shaded cool forest, oh and a random goat head on the trail! Super random and quiet disgusting, but Lucas thought it was cool! As we reached the 2.5 mile marker we were greeted by the Wiliwili camp where we found a citrus tree and a cold river where we relaxed at after the intense 2.5 mile downhill hike, slowly preparing oursleves for the grueling hike back up! All in all the entire hike took about 5 hours RT, needless to say we were completely cooked and ready to head back to the house for a nice warm shower and cozy bed.

Our two day adventure was one for the books with so many amazing sights and some great hikes! We can not wait to get on some more trails and explore more of this island!

 

Kumo’o Nounou Trail (Sleeping Giant)

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My cousin (Autumn), my wife (Cynthia), and myself (Lucas) started the Sleeping Giant Trail at a yellow gate off of Kumo’o road. In the book “The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook” (very useful and a must have in our opinion) states the trail is moderately difficult but steep!

The first mile and a half was very easy. It was relatively flat with a nice long bridge and good tree coverage for a shaded hike. We saw well over a dozen chickens crowing their okole off (“butt” in hawaiian lol). The next mile was almost all uphill with a couple switchbacks and great views! Little berries that came from the Lilikoi tree covered the ground and ranged in colors from yellow to red, they smelled like a grape infused with beer. Along the trail we met several really nice people ranging in ethnicity and age, a few locals as well as travelers.

We reached a point of the trail that we thought was the top it had picnic tables and a shelter which opened up to a nice open spot with a great view to the left of Kapa’a! We took a short break and continued up the trail to the giants face which was only another quarter mile or so. The last hundred feet was us scrambling up a couple rock faces and then it opened up to a 360 degree view of most of the east coast!

The Guidebook had a pretty accurate description of the trail being steep and moderately difficult at times. We spent a total of 4 hours hiking 5.9 miles round trip, every step was completely worth it.

As of now we are in awe about how green and beautiful this island is, we love the people and how active you can be on the island. We will continue to write about more hikes and adventures we plan of doing! 🙂