Kaua‘i nui moku lehua pane‘e lua i ke kai
Great Kaua‘i of the lehua groves which seem to move two-by-two to the shore (Maly)
Kauaʻi is the oldest of the eight main Hawaiian islands, and the island consists of one main extinct shield volcano estimated to be about 5-million years old, as well as numerous younger lava flows (between 3.65-million years to 500,000-years old). The island is characterized by severe weathering. (DLNR)
Historically, it was divided into several districts and political units, which in ancient times were subject to various chiefs—sometimes independently, and at other times, in unity with the other districts. These early moku o loko, or districts included Nāpali, Haleleʻa, Koʻolau, Puna and Kona (Buke Mahele, 1848; May.)
Although Nāpali, on the northwestern portion of the Island, is remote and difficult to access, many may not realize that for about a thousand years, Hawaiians lived along the Nāpali coast, farming, fishing and worshiping. There are irrigation ditches, terraced fields, house platforms, heiau (temples and shrines) and graves.”
“The design of these places took into account the natural topography and environment, and as a result these ancient sites often blend into the landscape. … The aspects of the land that Hawaiians sought for their sites – level ground, ocean access and availability of fresh water (hold true today.)” (DLNR)
The Nāpali valleys were intensively cultivated and the larger valleys such as Kalalau were densely inhabited. Taro was raised in terraced loʻi along the streams and other crops such as bananas, sugar cane and sweet potato were grown above the loʻi.
Other plants including wauke and mamaki for bark cloth and kukui nuts for food and oil for light were grown in the gulches. There were overland trails connecting many of these valleys and these areas were also accessed via canoe. (Handy; Maly)
Land use records from 1856-1857 show that lands in Kalalau, Pohakuao and Honopu valleys were being used for the cultivation of kalo, olona and kula. In the late-1800s Hanakoa and Hanakāpīʻai were also used for coffee cultivation. Kalalau was abandoned in 1919 and then used for cattle grazing in the 1920 for a limited time. (DLNR)
“The mountains along the shore, for eight or ten miles, are very bold, some rising abruptly from the ocean, exhibiting the obvious effects of volcanic fires; some, a little back, appear like towering pyramids”. (Hiram Bingham, 1822)
“There is a tract of country on the west coast of the island, through which no road is practicable.” (Bowser, 1880; Maly) “For twenty miles along the northwestern coast of Kauaʻi there extends a series of ridges, none less than 800-feet high, and many nearly 1,500-feet, terminating in a bluff that is unrivalled in majesty. Except for a very narrow, dangerous foot-path, with yawning abysses on each side, this bluff is impassable.” (The Tourist’s Guide, Whitney, 1895)
The trail was originally built around 1860 (portions were rebuilt in the 1930s) to foster transportation and commerce for the residents living in the remote valleys.
Local labor and dynamite were used to construct a trail wide enough to accommodate pack animals loaded with oranges, taro and coffee being grown in the valleys. Stone paving and retaining walls from that era still exist along the trail.
It traverses 5-valleys over 11-miles, from Hāʻena State Park to Kalalau Beach, where it is blocked by sheer, fluted cliffs (pali;) it drops to sea level at the beaches of Hanakāpīʻai and Kalalau. The first 2 miles of the trail, from Hāʻena State Park to Hanakāpīʻai Beach, make a popular day hike. (DLNR)
“Innumerable streams, forming wonderful cascades as they leap hundreds of feet in their tempestuous decent, pour over this bluff in the rainy season, and become mist before they reach the ocean. Beyond the raging surge, unbroken by any protecting reef, dashes against the precipitous walls of rock.”
“(T)he tourist can see all that has been described from Wednesday morning until Saturday evening, when the steamer returns to Honolulu. If, however, he has time and the inclination to remain another week, there are many points of interest that can tempt him to make a longer stay, sights and scenes that can never be forgotten…” (The Tourist’s Guide, Whitney, 1895)
“Here, about mid-way of what the natives call the Parre (Pali,) we landed, where is an acre or two of sterile ground, bounded on one side by the ocean, and environed on the other by a stupendous rock, nearly perpendicular, forming at its base a semicircular curve, which meets the ocean at each end. In the middle of the curve, a stupendous rock rises to the height, I should say, of about 1,500-feet.” (Bingham)
“Like Kalalau they had a trail from the table land above over the top of Kamaile and zigzagging down through the cliffs some 3,000-feet to the valley below but even this trail was difficult. At one place you have to jump a crevice only three feet wide but it goes down straight like a chimney and if you slipped you would only fall 800 feet to the rocks below. They call it the Puhi.” (Knudsen, late-19th-century)
“(At) Nuʻalolo Kai the fishermen built and kept their canoes and the beach must have been lined with them for the landing is most always safe as the channel is narrow and a big reef to the north protecting it.” (Knudsen)
“During the Māhele, the King granted lands to the Kingdom (Government), the revenue of which was to support government functions. In the Nāpali District, the ahupuaʻa of Kalalau, Pohakuao, Honopu, Hanakāpīʻai and one-half of Hanakoa were granted to the Government Land inventory.”
“Portions of the lands that fell into the government inventory were subsequently sold as Royal Patent Grants to individuals who applied for them. The grantees were generally long-time kamaʻāina residents of the lands they sought… Thirty grants were sold in the Nāpali District to twenty-seven applicants; the lands being situated in Kalalau and Honopu.” (Hawaiian Government, 1887; Maly)
The upper region of the area was put into Territorial Forest Reserve (Nā Pali – Kona Forest Reserve) for protection in 1907. Even before that time, the concern for native forest prompted cattle eradication activities in this area during 1882 and 1890.
In response to public demand and to promote improved public safety, camping permits for Nāpali Coast are issued for Kalalau only, the preferred destination at the end of the 11-mile Kalalau Trail (these permits also allow camping at Hanakoa, which is located a little beyond the halfway point of the trail, roughly 6 miles in from the trailhead.)
For most backpackers in good condition, hiking the 11-miles will take a full day. Those without camping permits for Kalalau Valley are therefore prohibited from attempting the entire 22-mile round trip hike in a day. For those with camping permits, get an early start.
Other than hiking the coast, the only way to legally access shore areas in Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is by boat. Personal or rented kayaks and guided kayak tours may land at two permitted areas (Kalalau and Miloliʻi,) and motorized raft tours take passengers on shore at Nuʻalolo Kai.
Landing of kayaks is permitted at Kalalau Beach (May 15 through September 7 only) with valid camping permits. Landings of kayaks and other watercraft at Miloliʻi Beach are permitted for camping (with valid permits, May 15 through September 7.)
Day use landings are allowed at Miloliʻi during the summer (May 15 through Labor Day) without a permit. No other boat landings are permitted within the park. Kayak landings are prohibited at all other beaches in the park, including Hanakāpīʻai, Honopu and Nuʻalolo Kai. (This only summarizes some of DLNR’s rules; review and know the rules before you go.)
The image shows a portion of the Nāpali coast. In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.