Awa'awapuhi Trail, Na Pali Coast

6,5 miles, August 1997

The Awa'awapuhi Trail offers magnificent views on two beautiful valleys at the Na Pali coast, the Nualolo and the Awa'awapuhi valley. It is a trail that you should not miss - not too long, not too steep, not too difficult. You go down 1500 feet, but as you have a lot of time, it should not be a severe problem to hike them up again. The rating is medium heavy, as high temperatures and humidity make it strenous. If the distance is too short for you as an experienced hiker, you can append the Nualolo Cliff Trail and the Nualolo Trail. These trails are not so well maintained and more difficult. All trails together make a 9.5 mile-tour, of which 1.5 miles have to be hiked on Road 550 until you are back at the car. No water is available on the trail. For a sketch of the trails, click here.

To get to the trailhead, we had to drive from our hotel in Lihue on Road 550 to a place approximately 1.5 miles beyond Kalalau Lookout. It took us one and a half hours to get there. Perfect sunshine, and at 9.30 a.m. we entered the forest on a broad trail. We were a bit excited about our first real hike on a real trail on Kaua'i. The trail ascended for a short while, and then a long, not really steep, but continuous descent began.

The first part of the trail was very broad and pleasant to hike, the forest protected us from the sun, and I had not expected that it would be so easy. How would it be in the opposite direction ?

Many places were labeled with numbers, but we had forgotten to take the directory with us, which you can get in the museum at Kokee State Park. Nevertheless, the variety of plants impressed us.

Ferns covered wide areas and changed with trees. I admired the fractal design of the ferns, each little branch splitting up in two smaller ones. We spent time taking photos and looking around, and after one and a half hour we reached the place where a sign indicated to the beginning of the Nualolo Cliff Trail. Only a short distance, and we had reached the lookout. A handrail marked the rim of the cliff, perhaps essential during times of limited visibility.

We sat at the end of the trail and looked down to the left into the Nualolo valley. From time to time helicopters showed up, circled around in the valley and left it through the narrow passage that went out to the sea. After a while, I looked for a good place to take photos of the Awa'awapuhi valley to the right.

But the only photo I made ten minutes later did not show many details of the famous Na Pali coast. It was 11 a.m. when a cloud rapidly covered all of the surrounding landscape. We waited and hoped it would clear up again, but after half an hour we gave up. We hiked back on the Awa'awapuhi Trail, as it started to rain now and the Nualolo Cliff Trail would probably not be worth the effort.


The ascent, of course, took more time than the descent, and we did not hurry, but tried to keep a steady speed. As so often, the clothes were damp from rain and sweat, but the magic of the scenery in the forest was uncomparable. After about two hours of hiking upwards we were back at our car. Of course, now the weather improved, and the sun came out again.