Gifts From the Hanakapi’ai Trail

“So, what’s your plan?”

Ugh, if I was given a nickel for every time I heard that. But I suppose that it is a valid question for someone to inquire about a girl who’s pushing 30, spends all her “spare” money on traveling instead of saving, and really doesn’t have a clear plan as to what she wants to do “next.” Thoughts of this nature irked me during my recent adventure in Kauai.

It is one of the best, and most memorable places I have been to. The locals are amazing, the history and culture are rich, but above all the ‘aina (land, in Hawaiian) in all it’s lush, unspoiled, ruggedness emanates strong mana (life force), and will steal your heart away with its abundant beauty.

Autumn Aquarius Kauai Hike

Autumn Aquarius Hanakapi'ai Falls Hike-18

I’m beyond grateful that I got to experience a helicopter ride to see Kauai from above, and to take a boat ride through the Na Pali coast this trip, but I think my favorite way to get to know the island was by hiking one of her many well-known trails.

Autumn Aquarius Kauai Hike

Autumn Aquarius Kauai Hike

We hiked the Hanakapi’ai Falls trail which is an 8 mile (round trip), strenuous hike through the Na Pali coast. You have to brave traveling along high ocean-side cliffs, multiple river crossings, and (depending on the weather) either slippery and muddy, or dry and crumbly narrow paths in and out of several valleys with steep inclines and declines.

Autumn Aquarius Hanakapi'ai Falls Hike

Autumn Aquarius Hanakapi'ai Falls Hike

The trail leads to a large, beautiful waterfall that drops into a cool, deep pool to swim in. Hiking this trail is exactly what it sounds like: HARD…yet rewarding. I don’t know about you, but swimming in a natural pool along side a waterfall is not something I get to do everyday.

Autumn Aquarius Hanakapi'ai Falls Hike-12

Experiencing the awe-inspiring landscape, and wading through the cool waters of a beautiful waterfall (I’m waterfall obsessed) were not the only gifts I received from this hike. Me and “my team” as I call them (my dad and sister) tested our limits that day and when I reflect on the fun and scary parts of our 8 hour adventure (all of us took a scary fall at least once on the muddy trail), I realize that the real gifts I received were little reminders, for me, and anyone else who may be worried that they don’t have everything (or anything) in your life figured out at this moment. Remind yourself that:

…You are capable of more than you think you are. 

Mid-way through the hike we were sunburned, thirsty, hungry, and being eaten alive by bugs. I kept telling myself that at any point, since I was the “team leader,” I could turn us all around and head back, no worries. But we kept trudging along crossing deep rivers, hopping slippery rocks, and navigating a hard to recognize trail, and helping each other as well as other hikers we happened to encounter along the way.

Autumn Aquarius Hanakapi'ai Falls Hike-5

Autumn Aquarius Hanakapi'ai Falls Hike-21

There was this poor lady that actually tumbled off one of the cliffs and broke her leg about 5 minutes away from the waterfall 😦 . A lot of people were turning around because the last five minute walk to the falls is probably the most treacherous. The team and I were contemplating turning around as well because we were beyond exhausted and still had the long hike back to the trail head! We decided to keep on going though, because we were just too close to give up. Someone said that a helicopter was being called to air lift the lady out of there, and I just thought (and I feel kind of bad for saying this), Oh man, well at least if one of us slips, help would be on the way…

But we made it, partially unscathed and with the realization of the feat we just accomplished together. We realized that not once did we decide to give up. We made it, and we were capable of more than we thought.

The team hiking the last leg of the 8 mile hike!
The team hiking the last leg of the 8 mile hike!

I’m the type of person that prefers solo adventuring and was prepared to go this hike alone since my family is not into hiking or outdoorsy stuff. In retrospect though this adventure would not have been the same without them. When you look back at the majority of some of your fondest memories in life, they probably involve people you care about. People that will always be there for you. So don’t forget:

You have people in your life that will love you no matter what. They will still love you even if you fail, even when you’re not your best self, or even when you turn them into h’oderves for the bugs and drag them through a long arduous hike just so you can swim through a waterfall for a few minutes. Having great people in your life to support you and stand beside you on your journey is one of the greatest gifts of all.

Mom and auntie did not want to do the whole trail, but they made an effort!
Mom and auntie did not want to do the whole trail, but they made an effort! Thanks ladies!
Autumn Aquarius Hanakapi'ai Falls Hike
Three of us were in for the long haul. This photo was taken at the very beginning. We were unsuspecting victims at this point. Haha

Lastly, remember that:

Life is about the journey, not the destination! 

Sounds cliche, right? Well it’s true. Having goals or a destination is awesome! But it’s the journey that builds your character. This was one of the hardest hikes I have ever taken. I did not know what to expect at all. I freaked out when I saw the first river crossing not expecting to have to cross a few more rivers that were deeper and more challenging then the first. I tried so hard not to slip and fall flat on my ass on the muddy trail because I was afraid to get my clothes and shoes even more muddy than they already were. But I did slip, fall and get muddy (and got a hearty laugh of satisfaction from my sister), and you know what? It was liberating! Reaching the waterfall was as amazing as I thought it would be. But what I will never forget was the journey we took to get there.

Autumn Aquarius Hanakapi'ai Falls_

Autumn Aquarius Hanakapi'ai Falls Hike-15

Autumn Aquarius Hanakapi'ai Falls Hike-13

So, what’s my plan? I’m not sure yet. I’m just thankful for these little reminders that taking this hike made me remember. I may not really know where I’m headed but at least I know I’m on the way armed with the love of an amazing group of family and friends, the confidence that I am capable of anything, and the expectation that it will be quite the journey.

Autumn Aquarius Kauai

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Jamie is a writer with a passion for adventure, history, and more. When she’s not out exploring the world, Jamie is at home in sunny San Diego, CA chasing sunsets and carne asada fries, preoccupied with research, or invested in a good book and a cup of tea.

22 thoughts on “Gifts From the Hanakapi’ai Trail

  1. I’m happy for you that you’re enjoying life! As for your “savings”? You can’t take it with you, so make a wonderful memory while you can! Thank you for sharing your life with us!

  2. *Gorgeous* entry Jaime…I felt like I was there with you, walking the trail…Beautiful shots, too..!!…Thank You for sharing..!!..You blog is *Wonderful*..!!

  3. A very nice blog! Thirty is young! It is always good to travel while you are young and still have the energy to hike or do whatever adventure your travel entails. Wading through the cool waters of a beautiful waterfall? Well, next time try it on a rainy day and every time it rains, you will have a smile on your face.

  4. Love the new design on the site, Jamie. Looks fantastic. Terrific pictures. I’m in Hawaii now (Big Island) and enjoying the hell out of it.

    Stay on the good foot,

    Nick Fox

    1. I have zero clue about what I’m doing when it comes to designing websites, so Thank you, Nick! I appreciate it!

      Oh you lucky duck! Have a great time! And if you find a good kava place have a drink for me 🙂 .

  5. Wonderful story of your adventure! I have hiked that trail, alone, and in the rain…. not easy at all, yet something magical about that trail, and all of nature surrounding. You brought me some memories and many other considerations through your story, thank you!!

    1. Carolyn, thank you for reading and for your comment! I am so amazed that you did this trail by yourself. I had considered doing it alone since my family is not into hiking like I am but I’m glad they came and I can’t imagine doing it alone. That is so remarkable and quite an accomplishment for you! I’m glad you enjoyed my post and that it brought back memories for you!

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