When people think of Hawaii, the first thing that usually comes to mind are the beautiful beaches and surfing. However, the island is also home to some greenest mountains, lush rainforests, and rare plants and animals. Local and international tourists can appreciate the natural beauty of Hawaii by hiking. Although surfing is the most popular activity in Hawaii, hiking is a close second. Each island in Hawaii has hiking trails that allow people to enjoy the natural surroundings.

The island of Kauai is lauded as the place in Hawaii with the best hiking trails. Visitors can choose from ridge trails, beach trails, canyon hikes, and jungle trails. Options are plentiful--whether you're a beginner or an experienced hiker, there is a lot to discover on the island of Kauai.

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Planning Your Hike

Hiking is a relatively low-maintenance outdoor activity and is also the best way to get to know a new place. When going hiking, it is best to pack only the essentials. The bare essentials for a short and easy hike would be a lightweight top, shorts or leggings, and a good pair of shoes. Those who intend to take more difficult trails may opt to wear hiking boots.

Hiking trails in Kauai are safe, except under certain weather conditions. Unfortunately, Hawaii is prone to sudden weather changes, so it is best to check the local weather forecast before heading out.

Hiking trails in Kauai can take visitors to beach trails, rainforests, and arid landscapes. Before hiking, visitors must prepare themselves for the weather and the type of trail they will undertake. Some hiking sites have rest spots where visitors can rest and hydrate. Bring protective gear such as a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen for reapplication, light snacks, and a filled water bottle. Bring a camera to take pictures of the views and to make memories with companions. Pack light and put everything in a backpack so that both hands are free.

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Hiking In Kauai

Trail 1: Kalalau Trail (Hanakapaiai Trail)

The Kalalau Trail is one of the best and most challenging trails in Kauai. It is an 11-mile stretch (one-way) that allows hikers to see the beautiful NaPali coastline. At the end of the trail is a secluded beach of the same name (Kalalau Beach).

This trail is an intermediate-hard difficulty level and is not recommended for groups with children. Hikers have the option to end the hike at Hanakapiai Beach (4 miles back and forth) or go the entire route to Kalalau Beach and back (22 miles back and forth).

Hikers are required to make online reservations. The Kalalau Trail is located within a protected state park, so be prepared to be exposed to the wilderness. Although it is a challenging hike, the hard work is definitely worth it, considering the landscapes and views of the ocean.

Trail 2: Kuilau Ridge Trail

The Kuilau Ridge is a shorter and easier trail. It is a 3.6-mile hike back and forth and is recommended for groups with children. The stunning backdrop of the jungle can be pretty refreshing, especially to city-dwellers who are used to seeing buildings and highways! It is an easy to moderate difficulty level trail that can be finished within 2-3 hours.

Trail 3: Canyon Trail

Those who want an in-land adventure can opt for a hike at the Canyon Trail (aka "Grand Canyon of the Pacific"). It takes hikers to the top of Waipoo Falls and offers hikers a view of the Waimea Canyon. This moderate-level hike is about 3.4 miles back and forth and would take about 2-3 hours to finish.

Hiking Tours

Hiking tours are highly recommended, especially for first-timers. An experienced tour guide would provide background information about the location, flora, and fauna and share stories of local legends and myths if it has any. Likewise, some trails may require guides and reservations, as in the case of the Kalalau Trail.

Fees can range from $300 for 4 people (Kuilau Ridge) to $580 for a group of 4 (Waimea Canyon).

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Flora and Fauna

Hawaii is an isolated tropical island and is home to over 80 different bird species, of which 21 are exclusively in Hawaii. This includes the Nene Goose, the state bird. It cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The pristine and unobstructed landscapes provide the perfect habitat for the flora and fauna to thrive. This is where many endangered, endemic, and unique species of animals have thrived and survived.

Keep an eye out for some of the endangered plants and animals. Here are some endangered plants and animals that might make an appearance on your hike.

Endangered animal species:

  • Hawaiian Monk Seal
  • Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle
  • Hawaiian Bat
  • Humpback Whales

Endangered plant species:

  • Mahoe (Alectryon micrococcus var. auwahiensis)
  • Liliwai (Acaena exigua)
  • Hawaiian vetch (Vicia menziesii)

When To Visit

It is best to go hiking under good weather conditions. Prepare to head out when the sun is out, and there's a low amount of rain. This usually happens during the summer months of May to September. However, Hawaii does have tropical weather all year long. It is possible to go hiking even during the winter months. Hikers must be prepared for sudden weather changes and the possibility of prolonged exposure to the sun.

Other Activities

Aside from hiking, there are many options for outdoor activities in Kauai. These include birdwatching, driving tours, and boat tours.

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