Kalalau Trail is Now Open But There Are Changes

Reservations required for all Hāʻena State Park visitors

Sven Bannuscher
Photo by: Sven Bannuscher – The Kalalau Trail, one of the hardest hiking trails in the world along the Nāpali Coast

As of June 17, 2019, the Kalalau Trail is officially reopened and ready for visitors.

Hāʻena State Park and Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park (Including the Kalalau Trail) were closed in April 2018 due to severe flooding and damage to the parks and roads after several storms that hit Kaua’i’s north shore. The area saw 50 inches of rain in a 24-hour period.

Prior to the closures, the DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) had been considering changes in their park management strategies to provide a better visitor experience while also protecting the surrounding communities and natural resources.

During the 14-month closure, while Kūhiō Highway was under major construction, the DLNR finalized it’s new master plan and worked to implement new changes when the parks reopened. Some of the changes implemented as of the re-opening on June 17, 2019 are listed below.

A new 100 stall parking lot has been built to accommodate all private-vehicles. Parking along the street is no longer allowed. Overnight parking is only available on a limited basis to overnight permit holders.  Along with the new parking rules, parking fines have increased to $200 per violation.

All day-use visitors to Hāʻena State Park are required to purchase online reservations (https://www.gohaena.com/) prior to their arrival. This includes visitors entering in private-vehicles, shuttles (kauaiNSshuttle.com) or walking/biking in. Reservations will be limited in number to prevent overcrowding. Approximately 70 parking stalls are set aside for reservations while about 30 stalls are for locals to use (no reservation needed, first come-first served). The park will be open daily from 6:30am until sunset.

Even though the Kūhiō Highway is now open, there is still construction going on. Also, the day-use process at Hāʻena State Park is still new and there may be issues that cause a slow-down in the system. Visitors are cautioned to be patient and plan ahead for delays.

Day-use visitors will include those visitors going to:

  • Kēʻē Beach and other attractions in the area
  • Hanakāpīʻai Beach (Approximately 2-miles away along the Kalalau Trail, 4-miles round trip)
  • Hanakāpīʻai Falls (Approximately 2-miles up from Hanakāpīʻai Beach, 8-miles round trip)

Day-use visitors at no time will be permitted to hike the Kalalau Trail past Hanakāpīʻai Beach. A Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park camping permit is required to hike past Hanakāpīʻai Beach whether or not you plan to camp.

Permits are required to hike the full Kalalau Trail. Those with permits are not subject to the newly implemented Hāʻena State Park visitor limits & reservation system. Entrance into Hāʻena State Park will be granted with a Kalalau camping permit. Limited overnight parking is only available to overnight permit holders and must be reserved in advance.  Without a parking reservation, permit holders will need to arrive by shuttle (www.kauaiNSshuttle.com) or arrange for private drop-off.  The new shuttle service is taking reservations starting Friday, June 21, 2019.

For more information about obtaining a reservation to visit Hāʻena State Park, click here.

Camping permits:

Currently the State is only issuing 2019 permits 90 days out. There may still be road construction repairs that will close the roads (and thus the trail) for days at a time. They don’t know exactly when these closures may take place and don’t want to give out permits too far ahead of time. After these issues are resolved, we expect them to begin their “Year-in-advance” policy again.  For more information about obtaining a camping permit, click here.

Haena State Park
Haena State Park

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  1. When getting a parking permit it requires you to enter a time. If you choose the morning time (6:30 am) does this mean you have to leave by 12:30 pm (which is the start of the afternoon time)? Also if getting a parking permit does that include entry into the park for your passengers? I couldn’t find this information on the site. Thank you!

    1. Yes, for a morning parking reservation, you must leave by 12:30. If you want to stay all day, you must get both a morning and an afternoon reservation. Yes, that does include entry.

  2. finding the new system to be impossible to work with.. Absolutely no parking available 14 days out and I started looking at 6 AM. And finding return trips on the shuttle that cooperate with the trip to the trail is not negotiable. . . . the return trips available are on the same shuttle that my party of 4 is being limited to choose based on availability is the same shuttle we would be taking there in the first place. Hope this gets resolved so that everyone interested in visiting the island for the expressed purpose of taking this hike can actually do it.

    1. I agree, the system needs a lot of help. Hopefully the State figures things out to make the process less complicated soon. They are trying to keep the number of visitors to 900 when it used to average 3000. That means there are 2100 disappointed people every day. That’s no fun.

  3. The system is not working. You cannot get past July and there are only 5 days avail and no parking.

  4. It is impossible to get any parking, I want to buy parking permit for 7/25/19 and today is 7/11/19, the first day I can purchase for 7/25/19, I tried the whole morning starting at 8:00am and the website already told me they are all sold out. Any of the days that they allow you to buy are sold out. How can that be possible? So basically no one can purchase the parking permit. And the shuttle cost $15.00 per person, I have 7 people in my group and 3 of them are little kids, so I have to pay $105.00 to visit this public beach and trail? As well just close it down or told everyone to do shuttle, so we don’t need to waste time to purchase permit online anymore.

    1. Yes, the State of Hawaii has made it very hard to visit the park. They used to have 3000 people a day visiting the park and the new system makes it possible for only 900 people to visit. The parking is limited due to the parking lot being so small. 2100 people per day who want to visit the park are not allowed to. Unfortunately there is nothing that we can do about it.

  5. I am looking to get a permit to that allows access to Hāʻena State Park to hike to the Hanakāpīʻai Falls. It seems like a camping permit is required, but in the section labeled “Day-use visitors will include those visitors going to:” it does include in the 3rd bullet “Hanakāpīʻai Falls (Approximately 2-miles up from Hanakāpīʻai Beach, 8-miles round trip)” This however seems to be contradicted by the next statement though. “Day-use visitors at no time will be permitted to hike the Kalalau Trail past Hanakāpīʻai Beach. A Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park camping permit is required to hike past Hanakāpīʻai Beach whether or not you plan to camp.” These seem like mutually exclusive statement unless that additional hike is considered a detour from the Kalalau Trail and therefore does’t count as hiking past the beach on the Kalalau Trail. I just want to clarify this before deciding which permit is required.

    One other thing, if I do only need the day permit, will I need to purchase both a parking permit and an entry permit or are they one in the same? It was a little unclear to me.

    1. You are misunderstanding. The Hike up to the Falls is NOT along the Kalalau Trail. You do not need a permit to hike to it. You do need a permit to continue hiking along the Kalalau Trail.

      If you have a reservation to park, that counts as your reservation to visit.

  6. What is the earliest time that you can make the reservation? When I go on at midnight, the date hasn’t changed but at 7 am it’s sold out.

    1. Are you going on at midnight Hawaii time? I would try it at midnight hawaii time and then stay on until it lets you reserve.

  7. So currently I can not plan a flight and stay on Kauai with the expectation of being able to hike the Kalalau or even to the falls, or to snorkle at Tunnels.🥺. These are the reasons I go to Kauai.🥴 I get wanting to preserve it, but it makes me sad that I can’t enjoy it. Are the passes being bought up by your groups making profits ….🤔😏

  8. Wow… next time I want to get exclusive at Haena I’ll do the pay for play on Kauai. Seems like the entire Napali Coast is now pay only… how sad.

    1. It’s disappointing, but I do understand the need for funding to maintain the beautiful parklands. Thousands of visitors a day is a huge amount of traffic, I can imagine the waste generated and the erosive traffic. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  9. If the parking is sold out on any of the days I want to hike to trail to the beach, can I have someone drop me off from a private vehicle? Only some of our group want to hike. Do you have to have a reservation to get dropped off?

    1. Yes, you need a reservation or permit to enter the park. You can get dropped off but you can’t enter unless you have a camping permit (to hike the whole trail) or a reservation (to hike just the first 2 miles).

  10. We have our permit to camp on the Kalalau trail Sept 17. I understand we need to use the shuttle but we are trying to figure out where to park our rental. I can’t get anyone to answer the shuttle phone but they did email me to say I need to park in town. I don’t know where and what all that means. Just trying to figure out what to do regarding the car while we are on the trail for two nights. Any guidance is appreciated.

    1. That is an ongoing problem. There is no designated overnight parking anywhere. I would suggest talking to your hotel you are staying at the night before and asking them if you can park there for a couple extra nights for a fee. There might be limited overnight parking at Ali’i Kai Resort for a fee. Contact them at 808-826-9988.

  11. Has anyone used an Uber or Lyft instead of the shuttle?
    I don’t see any reservations available for the days we will be there.

    1. Uber is a good solution to get there. But there is no cell service at the trail head so getting back you’ll have to have other arrangements. Many people hitch back to town with a day use visitor.

  12. So if you are local, can you park in one of the first come/first serve 30 spots with no permit?
    Are other locals finding this is working?

    1. You can only park there for day-use. There is still no overnight parking. Yes, there is often parking available, especially if you get there early.

  13. The way I understand this is, if there are 2 of us we will need a parking voucher and 1 entry voucher. This will allow both of us onto the trail for day use. Is this correct?

  14. Is the trail currently open? Is there a proposed close date. Looking to potentially hike the trail the first week in November.

  15. What level of a hike its the first two miles in to the beach, moderate or difficult? Are thee a lost of steep climbs?
    I will be in Kauai in two weeks and would like to experience the trail with a day pass for two people.
    When should I reserve a day parking space.
    Thank you

    1. The first two miles are moderate. Some steep inclines with rocky trails. Make your reservations 30 days in advance as soon as they come available. They can sell out quick.

  16. Aloha everyone,

    My wife and I plan to do the full hike with a camping stop at some point March 6th-14th 2020.
    What is the forseeable status for construction works or would you even recommend going at that time?

    How many days in advance should we get the permits and what permits will we need (Park & Parking, Camping on the way)?


    1. March is a great time to go. You should get your permits 90 days in advance as soon as they become available. There is no place to park near the trail head so your best bet would be to take the shuttle to the trail head or get dropped off via uber/lyft/taxi.

  17. Just drove down the road to the ‘New’ parking area, the landscape now littered with the ugliness of ‘no parking, $200 fine’ signs. Totally ruins the charm on the beautiful drive… signs what seems like every 12 feet in front of the cave. Just so sad, a real change from my last visit 20 years ago.. for the worse I might add.

  18. I want to purchase a permit for the Kalalau trail for January 26th. The reservation system shows “C” for closed, and there are no dates open through February. Does this mean that the park is closed, or are reservations not open for 2020?

  19. If i have a camping permit do i still need a park reservation? Also can i park at Haena beach in the morning and just run the 1.5 miles to the park? Thanks

    1. A camping permit does not allow you to park. You need an overnight parking permit. You need a parking reservation to use the parking lot.

  20. Hello, I have been trying to reserve a camping permit for Kalalau beach. However with the current system i can only make a reservation 30 days in advance. Today July 26, I want to reserve for August 20. However, it is just past 30 days and i am not able to reserve. My big complaint is how are there only 10 spots left for Aug 20 when the reservation system does not let you reserve by then. I tried making a reservation at midnight hawaii the night before and encountered the same problem. only a few spots were available and they sold out in like 5 seconds. How are people getting reservation and bypassing the system?? If you go on their website, days just outside the 30 day window are already close to being sold out even though you are not able to reserve them. How is this happening? I tried exactly at midnight with no luck.

    1. I agree. It’s very frustrating how hard it is to get a permit. When you have hundreds of people trying to get one of 60 permits available, you are going to have a lot of disappointed people. Here’s one of the reasons why permits disappear before the day: Let’s say you are wanting permits for a specific Thursday so you are waiting for 30 days before that day to get your reservations. Now, let’s say that someone else is wanting to visit starting on Tuesday of the same week. That person can make reservations 2 days before you can. If that person chooses to stay 3 days, then one permit for Thursday disappears 2 days before you can reserve it. This can happen a lot on weekends. Trying to get a Saturday night can be really hard because so many people come in on Friday and stay over Saturday. The system isn’t perfect. Sorry that you didn’t get your permits. Good luck next time.

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