12 Rules for Hiking in the Hawaiian Rainforest (#11)

In which the white girl discovers that the coast is the place to be...
The Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast is gorgeous.  What kind of idiot would leave it and hike inland?

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.

White girl envisions a waterfall like this one near the Kauai Airport!
White girl envisions a waterfall like this one near the Kauai Airport!

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.


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.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

18 thoughts on “12 Rules for Hiking in the Hawaiian Rainforest (#11)”

  1. Did a blender really hit you in the head and you really had to be helicoptered out or is that a humorous exaggeration?

    1. Those poor kitties! I keep wondering if any groups will ever boat over with cages and save them. 🙁

      I totally forgot about the peacock. He had your number. Or maybe he just wanted your number.

  2. My favorite camping trip was kayaking in the San Juan Islands, but Andy has put his foot down: “We’re hotel people, honey.” I thought I could get him to compromise on some nice, unexciting hikes in a tame place like Britain (maybe Scotland if we want to get all crazy), but Andy is insisting on beaches and cabanas henceforth. So I think we will watch the REAL travelers — http://notesofnomads.com — and their awesome videos from the the very high precipice of a four-star hotel bed!

  3. Killer peacock?

    The bugs sound terrible! One of many reasons humid climates suck–crazy bugs that bite!

    How was Kauai btw!? My best friend went on her honeymoon there and my boyfriend also visited there recently… everyone raved about it!

    1. Kauai is gorgeous. Really, really gorgeous. The most lush and green of all the islands, and (I think) the least populated. If you’re going to Hawaii, THAT is the island to hit. But stay on the coast.

  4. So, was the bed shaken cause of the bug bites? XDDD And did he get hit by any swimming thing in the cascade? (I read the comments and you said YOU did NOT get hit. So, I came to that conclusion in the question I asked. xDDD)

  5. Sounded like a you had a nice time. XD

    I love your rules though, but I think I had probably broken every single one of them. “Hikes” with my friends always begin with a warning sign with a picture of a dude falling off a cliff or risk of flash flood etc

    Anyway, I bet it was romantic to see the coast and the waterfall in Hawaii, despite all the teasing 🙂 I would love to go there one day,

    1. Nice? Questionable. Memorable? DEFINITELY! Just like the ones with dudes falling off cliffs. 😉

      We were too hot and miserable for the waterfall to be very inspiring. Probably because we knew we still had to hike back through bugs, mud, and rotting guava fields!

  6. I loved this article. Hilarious! Everything you wrote is so true about men! My husband and I are thinking of visiting Hawaii and was wondering if hiking through rainforest was a good idea. I’m afraid of insects etc…I’m not adventurous. This article made up my mind about hiking there. I always thought near the coasts was a better idea!

    1. Thank you, Noel! Yes, yes, stay near the coast. Be smarter than us. The views are better there anyway. I’ve done some boat tours, too, and I really, really enjoyed those. You get to see aquatic creatures in addition to the view of the mountains, and go through the lava tubes. And you can take a nice dip in the water.

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