Basic info: I’m athletic in my late 20s, little to no hiking experience but lots of conditioning. My wife is mid 20s, little hiking experience, little to no conditioning (did an elliptical 3-4 times a week for 3-4 weeks for about 30 minutes a time). We went to Maui for 4 days for the start of our honeymoon, then arrived on Kauai (yes, we are a little crazy for doing the trail on our honeymoon)!
Booked a condo near the Makai golf course (about a 10-15 mile hike), got online for our permits and shuttle service. On arrival, stopped at Costco and got food (dried mangos, peanut bars, protein bars, and the nut cube things). Morning of, walked to the shuttle (earliest one at 7:30). Left at 7:30 on the dot, maybe 10 people with us (all day hikers), maybe 5 open seats or so. 2 hop ons came with us.
Arrived at 8:05, started hiking the trail at 8:20am (there’s a half mile hike to the trail head). First mile almost all up, 2nd mile all down. We got to Hanakapiai beach around 9:45, but ended up staying there about 30 minutes (it took a while to find a good place to cross – I jumped the rocks, but my wife went to the beach, took her shoes off and crossed there). Originally we were going to do the extra hike to the falls, but decided we’d try to make it all 11 in the first day (GOOD decision). My wife was already a bit tired, but not too bad.
Next 4 miles weren’t too bad, a lot of up and down, but almost all covered. Arrived at Hanakoa around 2pm (for those counting, that’s about a mile an hour). We definitely had to stop and take mini breaks, the farther we went the more frequent. We also saw significantly less people after the 2 mile part – maybe 5 people heading towards the trailhead, and no one passing us (and we didn’t pass any).
Decided to keep going, even though we both were pretty tired. At about mile 7 we hit crawler’s ledge… not my favorite. Ultimately, I was fine. No dirt, good footing (not really climbing, still just hiking), just super exposed. It was a bit windy, though the wind was pushing us towards the cliff. We also didn’t know what to expect – on the way in, it felt like 300 meters. On the way out (2 days later), it felt like 50 meters. After that, there was more exposure, but that’s when my wife started having trouble. She was exhausted, and so she started panicking a bit, but we made it through okay. I think the biggest thing was not knowing where the end was. Finally, towards the end of the trail, we hit a creek again and she fell in (that shocked her as well). Luckily we were only 20 minutes away, so we made it and set up camp at around 6:30 or 7:00 (so the 11 mile hike took us 11 hours or so). Set up the tent, went to the waterfall, and fell asleep.
Next day, we went back to the waterfall to shower, then packed up camp and left around 10:00 am to hike back to Hanakoa. This time it was far easier, though my wife also had to go through some anxiety again. But she pressed through (praying the entire time we hiked back those 5 miles), and we made it back to Hanakoa around maybe 2:30pm. We thought about pressing through for the last 6 miles, but with no guaranteed ride home (and likely having to hike in the dark), we decided to camp there. Bugs were pretty bad, but not the worst I’ve ever seen (Boundary Waters in Northern MN was far worse).
Last day we got up at 4:00am and packed up the tent in the dark (I had a headlight). Hit the trail by 5:30, and hiked the first portion in the dark/dawn for about an hour before I could turn my headlight off. Finally reached the end around 9:45 (so coming out we averaged about 35-40 minutes per mile). Shuttle came about half an hour later, and it was just my wife, me, and another guy riding back.
Gear: Tent, 2 sleeping pads, 2 sleeping pillows, 2 light/medium (normal) blankets, 1 queen sized fitted sheet (we put the 2 sleeping pads inside it). If done again, we’d take a hammock instead. I had a 50L camping backpack, she had a 30-40L backpack (normal school backpack size), though hers also had a strap to clip between the shoulder straps to hold them together. We also brought a tarp that ended up being useless (it wasn’t wet where we camped).
Clothes: 2 changes of clothes. Both wore athletic dry fit shirts, she wore athletic shorts and I wore khakis (recommended for the many pockets). Normal tennis shoes. I forgot my hat (mistake), and we both used a lot of sunscreen (for the exposed parts, mostly the last 5 miles of the trail). We also had sandals for the beach and for after.
Food from Costco: Dried mangoes (at half the bag), the nut medley formed into cubes (ate the whole bag), the peanut bars with peanut butter stuff on the bottom (ate maybe 12), protein bars (ate maybe 8), Welch’s fruit snacks (ate maybe 6). We also had a few leftover Ritz cracker sleeves. We ate almost all the food we took! No hot food nor camp stove (we did see a ton of leftover fuel (like 3-5 containers, both at Hanakoa and Kalalau) on the free tables, though)
Water: I wanted to be cautious, so we took 1 1-L bottle, 4 750ml bottles, and a sawyer filter (with it’s 750ml bag). I think it was overkill, but I was glad I brought them. There’s a stream almost every mile, we never came close to running out of water. I think the bare minimum would be 2 liters with a filter, but to be safe bring 2.5-3L…
Misc: 2 LED light bulbs (from Amazon), tourniquet, sun screen (used less than 6oz of reef safe, only used about 8oz sun screen the whole trip) and bug spray, iphone for listening to audiobooks. No hiking poles (my wife wishes she had some though).
Worth it, even just for 2 nights and on a honeymoon? Absolutely – my wife is incredible. Da Krack afterwards was also incredible. Also, apparently Mark Zuckerberg was on the trail when we were (we saw his pictures), but we didn’t see/recognize him.
Provided to KalalauTrail.com by Kevin Krile