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Hawaiian trails, Chapter I

The unexpected and the steep cliffs

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Hawaiian trails by Patrick Rottensteiner, Chapter I

  • Layers of rock, luxurious vegetation and water.

The tricky part was that this romantic spot, a hidden beach, was 11 miles —about 18 kilometers— away on a remote stretch of coastline only accessible by water or a strenuous foot trail. We chose the strenuous trail option and decided to hike it in an out along the Na Pali Coast on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. We knew that it was going to be challenging, difficult and partly dangerous. What we didn’t know at that point is that the Kalalau trail is considered one of the most dangerous hikes in the world. But we had heard so many great things from other travelers that the excitement and will to start this adventure was much more present.


  • The unexpected and the steep cliffs

The rain. When we prepared for this adventure it was one major concern. The weather forecast was predicting heavy rainfall all the period we had planned hiking and locals had warned us not to do it with bad weather. The narrow paths could become very slippery and flash floods could likely happen as well as falling rocks along the trek. Unfortunately the entire night before the start of the hike it was pouring down.

We were trapped in between two feelings. The first one was anxiety because we had doubts whether it was possible to hike the trail in these conditions. Knowing the danger and what could occur with heavy rainfall along the coast didn’t comfort us at all. On the other hand there was our curiosity and this “once in a lifetime chance” occasion pushing us. It was a very tough decision to choose between following our heart and being rational. So we decided to follow both and try to hike the Kalalau trail as far as the conditions would allow us to go. At dawn, despite the rain, we packed our stuff and took the car to drive to the beginning of the Napali Coast trail. The clouds and the fast movement of the wipers were the only sound in the car as both of us were in deep thoughts. We were too nervous and worried to talk not knowing what would happen.

As we approached the coastline the weather suddenly changed and out of nowhere the sky cleared. For us, this was a providential sign encouraging us and comforting us that we had made the right decision. Looking back it was incredible how everything fell into place as it was totally dry when we arrived at the starting point.

  • The unexpected and the steep cliffs

After four miles we both felt like a first break to put our heavy backpacks down. Due to the remoteness we had to carry all food and water supplies with us, so we dropped our backpacks on the ground and put water and sugar into our bodies to boost our energy. Refuelled and ready to go again we moved on.

  • The unexpected and the steep cliffs

So many different green tones, huge trees giving us shade and plants shoulder high on both sides of the trail. We were joined by some tropical birds and even got the chance to eat some guava along the way. When we arrived at Hanakoa the first possible campground at mile six we decided to continue our adventure. The weather was great and this campground seemed to be a mosquitoes paradise joined by some wild pigs.

We were full of energy, in good spirits and were chitchatting along. The first section of the trail is a stretch of about two miles to the Hanakapiai beach. This part for us was an easy walk and we enjoyed seeing the first views of the coastline: the beach we had left behind and some impressions of the steep mountain chain.


  • The unexpected and the steep cliffs
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Patrick Rottensteiner

Patrick Rottensteiner

Photographer & Hiker
Patrick is a portrait, lifestyle and fashion photographer currently based in Munich, Germany. He has Dutch roots and grew up in South Tyrol, the famous Dolomites area in Northern Italy. The characteristic of his photography is to simplify, focus on the essential, shown through simple forms, colours and compositions. When not on an assignment he and his wife are traveling. Together they have recently been on a 460 day travel around the world.
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