Last winter I was flipping through National Geographic when I saw it - the 10 Most Beautiful Hiking Trails in the World. As an avid hiker, I was instantly drawn in, and knew I had to get myself on one of these. After some research, I decided on the Kalalau Trail in Hawaii - I had been planning to visit my sister who lived on a neighboring Hawaiian island and this seemed like the perfect sisterly bonding activity for two adventerous individuals.
So I booked my flights, and roped my sister in (not that it took any convincing), and we were all set to go. In the meantime, National Geographic put out a second list: The 10 Most Dangerous Hiking Trails in the World. And, to our surprise, there was a familar sight: the Kalalau trail. I posted the link to my sister's Facebook page telling her we were badass and I hoped she was ready, and my mom not-so-jokingly forbid us from going. Two months later we were catching a plane and renting a car, and driving across the Na Pali Coast in search of the Kalalau Trail (or rather, in search of parking).
The trail is an 11 mile hike into a secluded campground / private beach. You cannot get there via road, so everyone has trekked the 11 miles in, or come across the ocean on kayak. Therefore, you're left in a secluded Hawaiian paradise - freshwater waterfalls, white sandy beaches, caves, fresh fruit growing on trees, still pools of salt water you can float in. It's heaven on earth. And without a doubt, we knew why this had made the "Most Beautiful" list without question.
We set up our tent in the designated camping area before making friends with a few other adventurers, exploring, hiking further inland to find the gardens of the small community that lives out there semi-permanentely, taking a shower in a waterfall, soaking up the sun as we walked along sandy beaches, and sitting on the shoreline to appreciate the ocean's might as it crashed over us.
The strength of the ocean's waves was just one of the reasons the hike had made the Dangerous list - and for good reason. The hike was littered with warning signs telling us to stay away from the waves / the tide, and there were countless stories of those who had lost their lives by tempting fate to stick their feet in the ocean. Hawaii's surf is as powerful as it is majestic.
But that's not the only reason the hike was trecherous. Even without wading into unknown waters, the hike could prove fatal to an uncautious hiker. Around the seven mile marker, there is a stretch of trail that is 4-6 inches wide with a sheer rockface to your left and a steep drop to certain death on your right. Each step feels like a tight rope walk, and when the wind picks up to throw sand / dirt in your face, you may start wondering why you thought this was a good idea in the first place.
Personally, as one who is not fond of heights, I was certainly questioning my life choices. (And when we hiked back in the rain, those choices were doubly questionable).
But the other 10 and a half miles of trail are not death defying. They may be difficult at times with their constant change in elevation and with Hawaii's blazing sun beating on you from every direction - but it provides you the most beautiful views of the Na Pali Coast. We stopped more often then necessary just to gaze at the sights with our mouths open in wonder and to take in the fresh mountain-ocean air.
I cannot think of anything more wonderful than that!