I often get emails from people around the world telling me that they planned a trip to Hawaii to hike the Kalalau Trail and they just found out that there are no permits available. They usually ask questions like:
- Can I be put on a waiting list?
- Will more permits be issued at a later time?
- Are permits necessary?
- Can I buy somebody else’s permit?
- What can be done? I already bought my plane ticket!
- Can I hike the trail without a permit if I don’t camp?
- Can I get a permit to camp at Hanakoa instead of Kalalau?
Ultimately, you have to plan ahead if you want to visit the Kalalau Trail. Permits can sell out up to a year in advance during busy times. There are no permits held back and issued later for last minute hikers. Permits are not transferable, the person’s name listed on the permit must be present with photo ID. Permits are necessary to hike past Hanakāpīʻai whether or not you plan to camp. Permits for Hanakoa and Kalalau are the same permit. If Kalalau is sold out, so is Hanakoa.
You are not alone! I was in the same position many years back. My buddy saw the Kalalau Beach from the air and immediately wanted to plan a trip for us to hike the Kalalau Trail. After some research (the old fashioned way before the information was easily found on a website) we discovered we needed to plan well in advance. We purchased our permits a year in advance and made our traveling plans around our permits.
There are people who will tell you that a permit is not important and you should go without one because there’s a good chance that you won’t run into a park ranger during your hike. This is not recommended. Violators may be cited, and those cited will have a mandatory court appearance. Not having the required permit is a petty misdemeanor under Hawaii law and a conviction will result in a criminal record in addition to penalties. Sure there’s a chance you can get away with it, but there’s also a chance you won’t.
Sometimes, there are permits still available a few months in advance, but for busier times, you’ll need to get your permits as soon as possible.
Here are some permit guidelines:
- If you are visiting Hawaii just to hike the trail, get your permit before you get your flight.
- Permits go on sale one year in advance.
- You can check to see how many permits are still available on the permit website.
- Permits can be purchased online or in person at one of DLNR’s district offices.
- You can stay (with a permit) at Kalalau or Hanakoa up to 5 consecutive nights.
- No two consecutive nights can be spent at Hanakoa.
- It is illegal for commercial boats to drop off or pick up passengers at Kalalau.
- Cancellations: refunds are available if at least 15 days prior ($5 cancellation fee)
Remember: Camping permits for Nāpali coast are extremely popular, and often sell out well in advance, particularly during summer. Please plan accordingly.
On rare occasion, somebody will cancel their permits and new permits will appear on the site, so if you’ve managed to read this far, and have a trip planned to Hawaii during a time where permits are sold out, you can always check back from time to time.