Preserving Kalalau

gear perservation weight Jun 21, 2022

Most people who have been there would agree: The Kalalau Trail, Beach, and Valley are unique and very special places with a rich history and unique flora and fauna. Unfortunately, humans have managed to destroy many places like this elsewhere in the world and - despite efforts by the state of Hawaii and the Department of Land and Natural Resources - Kalalau is also facing degradation due to people’s actions.

Please join me in taking steps to preserve Kalalau, so we and many generations to come can enjoy this extraordinary place and the natural wonders it has to offer responsibly.

Here are the “do this, not that” things all of us can help with:


Get the proper Permits - Don’t go Rogue

A big part of the efforts put forth to preserve the beauty and pristine nature of Kalalau and prevent over-crowding is, you guessed it, the permit system. Yes, it’s far from perfect and getting these coveted permits is difficult and inconvenient. But in a way, that’s the point: limit the number of people who have access to Kalalau.

So please, don’t go without a valid permit. Besides, do you really want to take the risk of getting caught without one? Rangers due check and violators of the permit policy may be cited, and those cited will be required to appear in court. Violation of this rule is a petty misdemeanor under Hawai’ian law, and a conviction will result in a criminal record in addition to penalties.

Also, keep in mind permits are non-transferable and cannot be traded or purchased from private parties. Please play by the rules and don’t go rogue.


No Camp Fires - Enjoy the Nights and Stars as they are

I know it’s tempting, and maybe it’s somewhere in our caveman DNA that we want to make a fire when camped out in the wild, but please resist the urge! Not only is this not allowed (big surprise), but it’s also creating the risk of the fire spreading to brush and trees in camp. I’ve seen several fires stoked by the strong wind quickly growing to 5-6 ft high and glowing embers being carried into the trees. One night, at least five fires were burning along the beach and the whole camp smelled like smoke and ash. 

This applies not only to Kalalau Beach but also to Hanakoa Camp, by the way.

Instead, enjoy the quiet night on the beach and the awesome starry sky without the smell of smoke!


Boat Drop-Off / Pick Up

Getting a ride in and/or out with a boat is illegal, yet too many people still do it. One morning I counted over 20 people lining up for various pick-ups. My suspicion is that many of these folks also don’t have valid permits. 

Those that come in bring a ton of stuff which ends up turning into trash, which often does not get packed out.

Kalalau Beach is not a regular campground or tourist beach. Part of the attraction is that you must earn your way in on foot or in a kayak. That is part of what makes it so special.

So please, no shortcuts! And be prepared - mentally and physically - to hike in and out. It seems like too many decide that the hike in was quite strenuous, so they find a boat to take them out instead of hiking back. All this just helps keep the illegal boat shuttles in business. Don’t do it - please hike in and out.

(Disclaimer: This obviously does not apply to medical emergencies and other types of necessary evacuations.)


Don’t leave Trash (or “Supplies”) - Pack out all your Stuff

Nobody wants to hike into a campsite on a pristine and remote beach just to find it littered with soy milk cartons, cans, bottles, or peanut butter jars. Think of the kind of campsite you’d like to find and then leave your spot in Kalalau (or Hanakoa) in that very condition.

Unfortunately, a good number of people don’t seem to think that way and leave behind trash. There is no regular “clean-up crew”, so this stuff just sits and rots there. Don’t count on volunteer groups or even the DLNR to come in a fly or pack all this junk out for you.

There’s also a slight variation to this theme: Some backpackers bring too much stuff or too heavy items, including food or other supplies. Then they realize that all this weight adds up and they don’t want to carry their stuff back out anymore. Consequently, they have the idea to just - “unselfishly” - leave that stuff as a ”benevolent donation” for the folks coming after them. I’ve seen this include fins, snorkel gear, chairs, propane cartridges, waterproof bags, or even just dehydrated backpacking food. Many think that leaving these items on the “free table” makes it okay. Others don’t even go that far and just leave these “donated supplies” right at their campsite.

Don’t do this. Carry out what you carry in. Even if the items you leave are in good condition, chances are high they won’t get used or consumed but instead become part of the ever-growing trash pile. Putting your stuff on the free table doesn’t make it right.

Please pack out everything you brought, even if you realize you packed too much or heavy items. Chances are that with your food consumed, your pack will be lighter on the way out anyway. Better yet, if you see trash others left behind, grab an item or two and pack it back out to help reduce the pile.

And think twice if you really need to bring your big DSLR camera, tripod, fins, and other heavy gear. On this trail, every ounce counts, so less is more!


Fortunately, the Kalalau Trail still is an extraordinary place, but we need everyone’s help to keep it that way. So please follow the simple rules above and help preserve Kalalau for many years to come!

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