The DLNR has just recently changed the rule concerning when camping permits are needed when hiking the Kalalau Trail. You used to be able to hike to Hanakoa and back without a permit. The new rule states that you need a permit to hike past Hanakāpīʻai Valley. Their announcement cited illegal campers as the reason for the change. Those who are caught illegally on the trail may be cited and those cited will have to appear in court on a petty misdemeanor charge.
This is a pretty major change since many hikers who were not able to get permits often desire to hike to Hanakoa and back in order to see as much of the Kalalau Trail as possible without a permit.
You will still be able to hike to Hanakāpīʻai Beach (2 miles, 4 miles round trip) and up to the falls (4 miles from the trailhead, 8 miles round trip) without a permit as a day hike.
Below you’ll find their announcement that was posted on the DLNR website on March 1, 2015:
In response to continued illegal campers abusing the fragile and overtaxed Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauaʻi, camping permits are now required to hike beyond Hanakāpīʻai Valley along the Kalalau Trail. Hanakāpīʻai is a two mile hike from the trailhead at the end of Kauaʻi’s north shore highway in Hāʻena State Park. Hikers may still access Hanakāpīʻai waterfall two miles upvalley without a permit. Signs have been posted on the western side of the valley indicating the point beyond which a valid permit is required. No day-use permits will be issued, only hikers/backpackers with valid camping permits may legally proceed beyond the sign. Violators of this policy may be cited, and those cited will be required to show up in court. Violation of this rule is a petty misdemeanor under Hawaiʻi law, and a conviction will result in a criminal record in addition to penalties.
This policy is being re-instituted in response to continued rampant abuse of trail policies, which has led to degradation of natural and cultural resources, overtaxing the capacity of the park’s limited composting toilet facilities, and overcrowding of the authorized camping areas in Kalalau Valley. These factors combined are contributing to lower quality visitor experiences and a growing number of public complaints, in addition to possible public health concerns.
We appreciate the public’s cooperation with this policy.