Andy and I finally made it to Kauai. He’d found a lovely little B&B in Kapaa. We had our own cottage among the greenery, an island away from his Chinese parents. It was a blissful, romantic, quiet retreat.
So we left it and went hiking. Andy had a book on the best hikes in the world. One of them was on Kauai — the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast. I asked if there was a waterfall. I had visions of cooling off in the lovely waterfall together after a hot and sweaty hike.
Yes, Andy said. There is a waterfall. We have to turn inland after the first beach and hike a mile or so into the rain forest, but there’s a waterfall at the end of the trail.
Whoo-hoo, I said. Let’s go.
I am an idiot. But I am also a generous person and so I am going to share all the things I learned.
AUTUMN’S 12 RULES FOR TROPICAL RAINFOREST HIKING ON KAUAI
Rule #1: DON’T DO IT. Stay out of the rainforest. Stay along the coast, where there are nice sea breezes and minimal mosquitos. Coast = Good. Jungle = Bad.
Rule #2: If you MUST go into the rainforest, do not ever hike the day after a major rainstorm has drenched the entire island for 12 hours. Why? Because the runoff thinks your trail is meant to be a streambed. You will lose the trail repeatedly, crossing and crisscrossing various streams in an effort to find the trail once more.
Rule #3: If you insist on ignoring Rule #1, be prepared. Prior to your hike, bathe in a gallon of Avon Skin So Soft oil. Follow up with a quart of insect repellant.
Rule #4: No matter how much repellant you use, at least one determined mosquito is going to find the spot you missed. Probably in a bodily orifice. If you’re lucky, it’ll just be your ear canal. (Don’t count on being lucky.)
Rule #5: If you are in the company of a pig-headed male who ignores Rule #3 because he “grew up in Hawaii with tough Asian skin and the mosquitos aren’t THAT bad,” buy at least two tubes of topical Benadryl. Post-hike, apply them to the 100+ mosquito bites on pig-headed male. Otherwise, his incessant mosquito bite scratching will shake the bed and keep you up all night.
Rule #6: If the pig-headed male swears the waterfall is only a mile off the main trail, do not listen. Turn and run back to the main coastal trail. If you MUST follow him anyway because you’re young and obsessively in love, mentally tack on at least one more mile.
Rule #7: No matter how much you love guava, you will never drink its juice again after slogging through miles of rotting, insect-covered guava fruit.
Rule #8: One mile trekking through rotting vegetation, stream beds, overgrown tree roots, and unstable rocks is equal to approximately 3.5 non-jungle miles.
Rule #9: No matter how many callouses you think you already have from hiking, biking, dancing, and running, you will get blisters from climbing over/ sliding down/ stumbling on rainforest underbrush and rocks. Bring band aids. A whole box. Maybe 2.
Rule #10: If you see a sign that says, “Last Helicopter Medivac Landing Area,” DO NOT PASS IT. Something beyond the sign is dangerous enough frequently enough to require A MEDICAL HELICOPTER LANDING AREA. Seriously, TURN AROUND.
Rule #11: If you ignored Rule #10 and make it to the waterfall, exhausted, sweaty, and bug-bitten, you will want to climb into the cool pool of water and stand under the falls, just like they do in the movies. This is A BAD IDEA. Water is not the only thing that goes over the falls, especially after a heavy rainfall. Rocks, sticks, and discarded appliances are as likely to hit you as water.
Rule #12: Should you ignore Rule #10 and Rule #11 and get hit in the head by a blender, don’t whine. Apply direct pressure while hiking several miles back to the only clearing big enough for a helicopter to land.
The Na Pali Coast is stunning. I recommend viewing it by boat.