Sunday, June 27, 2010

Napali: The Cliffs

Forget about driving around Kauai. Even the Army Corps of Engineers in the heat of battle during WWII got smacked by The Cliffs—Napali, the northwest quadrant of the island where a series of two- to three-thousand-foot steep ridges radiate seaward from the middle of the island. Beaches and deep valleys are accessible only by boat (and were therefore home to large villages during times of Polynesian settlement).

Most visitors seeking this wilderness drive north to road's end and embark on the notorious Kalalau Trail, a 12-mile up-and-down goat scramble that hugs the cliffs before ending at a beach and valley.

You can look down on Kalalau Valley by driving the other way around the island to road's end above the upper rim of Waimea Canyon.

A dozen or so Napali trails begin along the canyon road, including popular routes like the Awa'awapuhi, Nualolo, and Pihea trails, and lesser-known treks that go out Polihale Ridge, Miloli'i Ridge, and others. All these walks involve about ten miles round-trip and dropping down some 2,000 feet to where the escarpments end, often in places where you need to be mindful of footing. Kauai Trailblazer has details on pages 153 to 170.