Hanakapi'ai Falls isn't a waterfall most visitors will ever see. Nestled deep inside Hanakapi'ai Valley on the Na Pali coast, it'll take some effort to reach. After hiking two miles of rugged terrain of the Kalalau Trail you'll have to another two miles inland via the Hanakapiai Falls Trail, along one of the most rugged trails we've ever taken, to reach this 410 foot beautiful falls located on the back valley wall. Take notice of the native plant life as well as the small bamboo forests you will pass through.
The trail crisscrosses the stream several times, so be mindful of water flow. Make sure to pack rain gear because showers pop up frequently and carry drinking water since it is not safe to drink stream water unless it is purified. It's unfortunate you cannot see the entire falls from within the valley. Estimates, based on topography, say that the Hanakapi'ai Falls may top 1600 foot in height. As noted above, only the bottom 410 feet of the falls are visible from the ground. Total elevation gain for the segment between Ke`e and Hanakapi`ai is about 1060 feet (that's coming and going) and the hike takes approximately an hour and a half at a moderate pace. As noted, the falls are another two miles inland and it can take up to two hours just to reach the falls. The hike requires numerous stream crossings. Total elevation gain to the falls from Hanakapi'ai beach is 760 feet. This is a fairly strenuous hike.
IMPORTANT SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS FOR HANAKAPI’AI BEACH AND STREAM:
Use extreme caution crossing the stream and if there has been consistent heavy rain recently or the flow is high, do NOT cross at all. If you want to cross without getting your feet wet, you can sometimes skip across the rocks if you head inland a few meters; however it is far safer to get your shoes wet (or take them off and put them back on the other side) than it is to potentially slip on a rock and fall. For anybody carrying a heavy backpack; standard safety protocol is to unbuckle the waist and chest straps prior to crossing the river; that way if you fall in the river you can easily escape your pack and come up for air.
At times there is a rope tied across the river to help with crossings, however the general rule it to not cross unless you are sure you can do so safely. Although Hanakapi'ai Beach is a dangerous swimming spot, most drownings and near-drownings in Hanakapi'ai are in the river when people try to cross in water that is too fast and deep and they are swept away by flooding river waters. The water at Hanakapi'ai is usually clear and ankle-knee deep with enough rocks visible above the surface to rock-hop across – if it looks like a muddy, raging torrent; do not try to cross!. Crossing the river in waist high water requires skill and extreme care. If the water is over waist high, do not try to cross the river in any circumstances even if you are caught on the wrong side of the river and are trying to go home – just wait; eventually the flood waters will subside!
Please do not place yourself at risk by walking on boulders that are wet with sea water - if the boulders are wet it means that the waves come up that high (even if they are far away when you are looking at it - wave heights vary greatly between sets and getting washed off the rocks is a very common way people get injured or drown). Even in the summer time, when the beach is deep with white sand; people sometimes venture along the lava rock shelves on both ends of the beach. Many people have met their demise by being swept off these shelves by large waves after venturing on them at a low point in between sets. If the rocks are wet - stay off! A local rule of thumb is to watch the ocean for 20 minutes before going in or walking in a tidal zone.
We also highly recommend that you do NOT swim in the ocean at Hanakapi'ai Beach. There is often strong undertow, rip currents, a dangerous shore break and the reflection of the surf off the rock walls of the shoreline creates irregular and unpredictable waves.
Article Edited/Contributed by: John Derrick