The island of Kauai, of one of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, is noted for its jugged mountains, palm fringed beaches, and beautiful tropical scenery. For those that enjoy outdoor exploration, Kauai offers many exceptional hikes. An especially enjoyable and unique activity is combining hiking and swimming. There’s nothing quite like cooling off with a swim in the ocean after the exertion of a strenuous hike. Below, we outline 4 hikes on Kauai that begin and end at the ocean.
The first hike is an easy 1.5 mile round trip that starts and ends at Moloaa Bay on Kauai’s northeast coast. Moloaa Bay is a beautiful crescent shaped beach, made famous when it was used for the first episode of the TV series Gilligan’s Island. The trail begins at the north end of the beach and makes its way along the coast, eventually coming to a dead end at private property. The ocean views along the trail are soothing, and in the winter months you may even spot migrating Humpback whales. You can end your hike with swimming at snorkeling at the bay. For a convenient picnic lunch, the Moloaa Sunrise fruit stand nearby sells all sorts of healthy and tasty treats, from smoothies to sandwiches.
One of the most famous hikes in Hawaii is the Kalalau trail along Kauai’s rugged Napali coast. The Kalalau trail is 11 miles long and suitable for experienced hikers who are prepared to spend a night camping in the Kalalau valley. For a challenging day hike one can hike the first 2 miles of the trail to Hanakapi’ai beach. Resist the urge to swim at this remote beach as it’s one of the most dangerous on the island with strong currents at all times. At this point you can turn back, or hike inland for 2 miles to the 300 ft high Hanakapi’ai falls. Including the falls this makes for an 8 mile hike that takes around 7 hours. It’s important to prepare for this hike with hiking gear and plenty of water and snacks. The trail changes elevation frequently and can be very slippery when it rains. Heavy mountain rainfall is common in the winter, with streams becoming impassible quickly. Always check the weather forecast before heading out.
The Kalalau trail starts at the end of the highway on Kauai’s north shore at Ke’e beach. This beach has excellent swimming and snorkeling, especially in the summer months when the ocean is calmer.
In the town of Kapaa on the eastern coast of Kauai is the Kapaa Bike Path, a 4 mile long ocean side paved path. This hike is ideal for those that don’t like inclines, or need a smooth walking surface. The path passes by Kealia beach, a life guarded beach with swimming, surfing, and boogie boarding. The beach actually makes for a good starting and ending point. Walking north from Kealia takes you through the most scenic section of the path and to another beach called Donkey beach. This segment is approximately 3 miles round trip. There are several condo developments connected to the path, and access is very convenient for those staying in the area.
In Poipu on the southern coast of Kauai is the Mahaulepu coastal trail. The trail starts at Shipwreck beach in front the Grand Hyatt hotel and continues along undeveloped coastline for about 3 miles, passing remote Gillins beach 2 miles into the hike. It’s not uncommon to see an endangered monk seal napping on the sand. The solitude and beautiful ocean views make this one of the best hikes on the island. Although there are no inclines the hike is still fairly strenuous as parts of it are over sand and there are few trees to provide shade from the hot Hawaii sun.