Camping on a secluded beach in Hawaii with rugged, moss-covered cliffs, a waterfall, and the clear blue Pacific Ocean: Can it get any better? Probably not. But accessing the amazing Kalalau campsite on the island of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast takes a lot of effort. You’ll have to secure a permit and backpack along the 11-mile Kalalau Trail to reach your destination. But once you’re there, you’ll be able to kick off your shoes to enjoy the white sandy beach, where you and a maximum of 59 other people (there’s a 60-person permit limit, per night) can enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime camping opportunity under magical starry skies.
On the north shore of the island of Kauai, the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail, where you’ll start your arduous hike in, sits at the end of the road—literally. Kuhio Highway (state Route 56) travels through the town of Hanalei and ends in the Ha’ena State Park parking lot and Ke’e Beach, where parking and backpacking permits apply (see Details below). The trail is graded, starting and ending at sea level but rarely level as it traverses five valleys to the cliff-bound beach with a one-way elevation gain/loss of 5,000 feet (budget a full day of hiking accordingly, with appropriate hiking shoes or boots for steep/muddy terrain, rain gear, and trekking poles recommended).
You seriously can’t go wrong with any of the designated camping areas here. Choose white sand, or grassy terraced sites, both with views of the blue Pacific and dramatic fluted cliffs. You may also get a grand view of the Ho’ole’a Falls on the west end of the beach.
When To Go
Your best bet is between May and September. The lush, tropical hike in will be hot and humid, but the trade winds should give you a nice breeze, as will the occasional rainstorm (which often produce rainbows). The longer days between March and October will allow plenty of daylight to both reach your destination, and enjoy the view for more hours.
From October to April, you’re more likely to have steady rain showers and storms that can create flash flooding and dangerously high surf. Flooding can make the stream at Hanikapi’ai unpassable, foiling your plans to reach your blissful camping spot.