The Kalalau Trail is considered a dangerous trail, located in the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park of Kauai. Most people know this trail for the first 2 miles to Hanakapiai Beach, but permitted backpackers can go the full 11 miles to Kalalau Beach at the end, where camping is allowed.
Set among a coastline of steep cliffs, valleys and streams, the Kalalau Trail requires the most rescues on Kauai. Aside from the usual risks that come with hiking, rain on this coastline can cause the many streams in the area to flash flood. Kauai’s red clay dirt can crumble when dry and be extremely slippery when wet. Strong ocean currents can pull swimmers out to sea.
Deaths on the trail happen often enough that a sign posted at Hanakapiai Stream tallies its victims — close to 100 the last time I visited. This doesn’t include deaths at other streams and beaches, those from falling rocks or falls from great heights.
Still, the trail’s wild and remote beauty attracts day hikers, backpackers, free spirits and illegal campers, who stay for extended periods. About 500,000 visitors and residents ventured out on the trail in 2015, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.