Swimming the Kalalau Trail in Kauai

Many people have died at Hanakapiʻai Beach. Photo by Flickr/Tony Hisgett
Swimmers beware. Many people have died at Hanakapiʻai Beach. Photo by Flickr/Tony Hisgett

Hanakapiʻai Beach

Our next stop was Hanakapiʻai Beach and it is a killer. More than 30 people have died here since 1970. The surf is high and there can be a vicious current that sucks out tourists, already tired from their hike.

I made it out of the water between two large sets of surf but other swimmers got knocked about by the waves; a lone fin had to be rescued after it was sucked right off a foot.

As we struggled onto dry land, hikers gaped at us from the sand. They are advised not to swim here and with good reason. You need to be familiar with the currents and weather before you attempt this kind of entrance, or at least swim with others who are.

Out of the water, we got chilly quickly, so holding our fins and masks, we set off back along the slick, red mud trail in bare feet or diving booties, feeling slightly exposed in our wet swimming gear.

We got some funny looks from the people we passed; the trail is famous for its barefoot hippies who live in the valley and commute back to civilization for supplies. Most people were slack-jawed at the idea of us swimming the same route that they had just taken two hours or more to walk.

For the first half a dozen people, I explained about the current and the fins and the Olympic swimmer fantasy. But after that, I began to simply nod sagely. It’s OK to let people think you are Superwoman once in a while. Kauai is, after all, a rather fantastical island.

If You Go to Kauai:


Author Bio: Helen Raine is a conservationist and writer based in Hawaii. She has undertaken fieldwork in England, Malta, Peru, Zambia, New Zealand and Hawaii, often living for months in a tent. Her adventures in bird ringing and conservation continue to take her round the world. As a freelance journalist, she writes on a diverse range of subjects and has published hundreds of articles for publications such as the Times of Malta, Il-Bizzilla (Air Malta’s inflight magazine), FijiTime and Pink, a woman’s magazine. Helen is also a content writer for websites.