How to Get a Permit for the Kalalau Trail, One of Hawaii's Most Beautiful Hikes

Everything you need to know about permits and reservations for this popular Kauai hike.

Kalalau Trail with mountains and Kalalau Beach in background

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Kauai's Kalalau Trail is the epitome of a paradisiacal Hawaiian footpath. It stretches 11 miles along the Nāpali Coast, sandwiched by stunning blue waters and mountains shrouded in dense vegetation. This stretch of coast, dotted with idyllic waterfalls and swimming holes, is wildly popular among tourists but has taken beatings by storms and even briefly closed to undergo restoration. It's now open, but visiting isn't as simple as it once was.

A permit system was introduced in 2019 to limit crowds on the trail following severe thunderstorm and flood damage. Originally, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources required a permit to hike any part of the trail. Since, the rules have loosened, and visitors may now hike the first two miles from Ke’e Beach to Hanakāpīʻai Beach without a permit.

Here's what you need to know about hiking the Kalalau Trail, including current information on permits, Hā’ena State Park fees, camping, and more.

About the Kalalau Trail

Steep steps in the dirt on Kalalau Trail

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The Kalalalau Trail is located in Hā’ena State Park on Kauai's northern shore. It begins at Ke’e Beach and ends at Kalalau Beach, hugging the coast for 11 miles. The trail traverses valleys, crosses cliffs, showcases mountains, and passes by waterfalls and beaches. Though fit hikers can finish the trail in a day, most want to take their time and soak in the sites. There are two campgrounds on the route: Hanakoa six miles in and Kalalau at the end of the trail.

The Kalalau Trail is considered strenuous due to several dangerous sections. Expect vertical dropoffs and steep grades at times. Hikers should always be prepared to encounter falling rocks and unpredictable water currents.

Reservation and Permit Information

Campsite with view of the Napali coast and Kalalau Beach

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Because the trail is located in the state park, all hikers are required to pay Hā’ena's entrance fee. (Hawaii residents get in free.) Those without a state ID must reserve a five- to six-hour time slot on Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance, and you want to secure a reservation as early as possible as spots fill up due to the park's daily 900-visitor cap.

Park passes are available for entry via the shuttle ($35 per person), entry and parking ($10 plus $5 per person), or entry only (walk or bike in, for $5 per person). The fee and reservation is good for entry into the park and the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail, which provide access to Hanakāpīʻai Beach and the two-mile-long side-hike to Hanakāpīʻai Falls (eight miles round-trip).

To hike past Hanakāpīʻai Beach, you "must possess a valid camping permit whether or not you plan to camp," the trail website says. Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park camping permits cost $25 per person, per day for Hawaii residents and $35 per person, per day for non-residents. Only 60 people are permitted on the trail at once. Permits can be secured on the Hawaii DLNR reservation system up to 90 days in advance.

Keep in mind that the camping permit is an additional requirement to the park entrance fee.

Tips for Hiking the Kalalau Trail

Even though there are some hoops to jump through, it’ll be well worth it once you see the breathtaking beauty of the Kalalau Trail. Here are some more tips for a smooth trip.

  • If you're having a hard time securing a park reservation or camping permit — not uncommon, considering their popularity — keep an eye on the reservation websites as they are regularly updated with new availability due to cancelations.
  • Check weather reports and park conditions the day you go. The trail is already dangerous even in good weather.
  • Your best bet for a multi-day hike on the Kalalau Trail is to purchase an overnight parking pass for Hā’ena State Park or to get dropped off and picked up from the park entrance. While the shuttle is convenient, overnight parking in the Waipā Park and Ride lot, where the shuttle stops, is not permitted.
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