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Travel Guide: Running the Nā Pali Coast in Kauai

One of the United States' most stunning trails is waiting for you.

One of the United States’ most stunning trails is just a plane flight away.

Trail running on the Nā Pali Coast of Kauai, Hawaii, as Sage Canaday and Stephanie Howe recently did, is an unforgettable experience. Kauai is one of the most beautiful locations in the United States, and the abundance of rainfall on the island’s north shore makes it one of the most lush and tropical places on Earth.

The 11-mile Kalalau Trail winds through that growth, hugs the coastline and takes runners atop majestic cliffs, amazing waterfalls and more awesome scenery. It is a rugged trail and demands caution, especially when rainy conditions make it wet, slippery and muddy.

RELATED: Photos: Running the Kalalau Trail

With the proper preparation, though, running the Kalalau Trail can be an experience you will never forget. Here are a few quick tips for planning your trip.

Getting to Kauai

Kauai is serviced mainly by the Lihue Airport on the island’s southeast coastline. Looking at the map, you’ll see that the airport is about on the opposite side of the island from the Kalalau Trail, but no worries—it’s only about an hour away by car.

Several major airlines fly into Lihue, often with a connection through Honolulu (though there are flights originating from the mainland).

Getting to the Trail

Kalalau Trail is only accessible from the north side of Kauai. To reach the trailhead, take Kuhio Highway (Route 56/560) west beyond Princeville and continue through Hanalei for about 4 miles to reach Ha’ena State Park and Ke’e Beach at land’s end.


There are many places to stay in the resort hub of Princeville or the locals’ hangout of Hanalei. Camping on the beach can be amazing, and is allowed at two points along the trail (Hanakoa and Kalalau) but permits are required.

Running the Trail

We asked Canaday and Howe what they thought about the Kalalau Trail after they finished running it. Here’s what they said:

“There are technical bits and there are smooth bits, so it always keeps you on your toes,” Canaday said. “It’s a fun opportunity to really connect with the island and experience the natural beauty.”

Added Howe: “It’s a true adventure run. The trails aren’t totally buffed out, but that’s why I love running on it. It makes for a more stimulating run, both mentally and physically.”


If you’re planning to do out-and-back runs, keep your swimsuit and towel in your car so you can relax on Ke’e Beach when you finish your run. The park closes at sundown, which means watching the sunset can be the perfect ending to a perfect day.