Destination found: Kalalau Beach

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Karel and I were led to believe that the beach would be fairly uninhabited, maybe 6-8 people. However, we would guess closer to 25-35 people were there. We found a lot of hikers—such as ourselves—who planned to stay one day, then pack out. However, there were a lot of “residents” of the beach too. We spoke with a man from Oregon who had been at the beach for the past three months. Another had been there for a full 10 months. Reading between the lines, many of the inhabitants wanted to be “off the grid.” Keep in mind, it is against state law to boat to the beach and drop people off, so the only way in is by foot. With very little oversight by the state, it is certainly a place where one could disappear for a long time. However, the state requires permits in order to stay at the beach, but appears to enforce it very liberally.

How would one sustain themself for such a long time without a food source? The Kalalau Valley (not far from the beach) has a large abundance of fruit trees. Many of the locals sustained themselves from this source, but we also found out about a system of people who bring food and supplies into the community, then swap and barter, or just contribute. For the most part, everyone was very cordial and outgoing, but there was an occasional sense of ownership by the “residents” put out by the transient hikers.

The beach is quite scenic. Beautiful sunrise imagery. About the only annoyance was the multiple helicopters giving coastal tours. I spotted six in the air at one point. As for the ocean, we were quite surprised to see people swimming, especially considering the warnings we had heard previously. We were told that the water was calm the days we had been there. For weeks beforehand, the water was too hazardous to swim. We splashed around a bit, but didn’t venture too far into the water. It is quite understandable why riptides can be so deceptive. As I stood in the water and the waves receded, I could feel the sand under my feet give way quite quickly. A powerful riptide could sweep you off your feet and drag you out to sea with little suggestion.

We only stayed for about 24 hours and then back on the trail. We didn’t relish staying at the six-mile camp again, so we pushed through all the way back to the trailhead in one day. It took us about eight hours to trudge our way back. My feet were tender the following day. I could grumble and complain about the hike back, but I’ll spare you.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience. I would like to return, but would plan on staying longer in order to soak in more of the atmosphere. Karel feels the cliff section of the trail would keep him from venturing back to the beach…big sissy.

Postscript: If you should ever need to store your luggage while on this hike, we found Guardian Self Storage (in Lihue) to be helpful. The reason I mention this, is we did a lot of searching before we found a place that would keep our luggage for short periods.

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