The initial descent into Kalalau Valley looks as though you are on another planet. The trail snakes down rolling red rocks, weathered by millions of years of erosion from the various elements present here. Wind, rain, salt water, steepness, and time all play a factor here, not to mention the human touch which lays hidden beneath a lush canopy. In a way you do step into another world when you arrive to Kalalau valley on the remote Northwestern coast of Kaua’i and it’s one that very few people are so lucky to experience.
Although people have lived in the valley for thousands of years, there are no signs of modern civilization as far as the eye can see. Yet the valley is not without human influence. Stone terraces throughout give clues to the Hawaiian culture’s rich farming legacy. Trees now blanket the ancient community, but the invasive roots are still unable to penetrate or crumble the ancient infrastructure. The sight provides a real metaphor for the strength of Hawaii’s rich cultural foundation amidst the world setting their own roots amongst them.
The descent from the ridge to the valley took about 45 minutes. Each step became that much easier with realization that the 11 mile journey was nearly complete.
The trail along the valley floor to the beach is roughly a mile long. Along the way you begin to encounter signs of human life with various camps set up in every type of dream camping scenario: the bluff overlooking the ocean, the spot by the river, the shady orchard, and the beach outpost. Many of the camps are relatively elaborate, making one wonder how many trips it took them to bring in everything for a long-term stay.
At the very end of the trail is an idyllic waterfall; one that serves duly as a shower and water source for the campers. The water pouring streaming down is surprisingly cold; yet a very welcome sensation after such an arduous journey.
A few short steps from the waterfall is where the beach at Kalalau begins. To describe the area in words is no easy task. But imagine a large beach with deep, soft sand stretching for a mile in one direction, and 3,500 foot mountains jutting straight from the sea on the other side. Add in a few million years of erosion and you have dramatic cliffs and caves providing a view that demonstrates the power of beauty on a scale that is difficult to match.
For anyone looking for a good example of Mana, Kalalau is a good place to feel it. The entire valley is full of life, and even on the sandy beach one can feel the power of nature all around them. Indeed many people come (and stay) here for that very reason, some opting to abandon the amenities of western civilization to live a simple life. But regardless of how long the duration, chances are good that you will want to stay a bit longer.