Hawaii’s “Garden Isle” has rebounded from floods, and the Napali Coast’s Kalalau Trail has reopened with sustainability top of mind.
When to go: June, the coolest of Hawaii’s summer months, is an ideal time to visit. King Kamehameha Day (June 11) is a statewide holiday, with parades to celebrate the first monarch to unite the Hawaiian Islands.
Why go: The Napali Coast on Kauai’s North Shore has long beckoned travelers. There are the golden beaches, the precipitous cliffs rising out of the cobalt waters of the Pacific—and traversing it all, the 11-mile Kalalau Trail, an arduous trek that winds past a towering waterfall and lowland forest. There were also, however, crowds, especially on those golden beaches. So in mid-2018, after the region closed following record rainfall that caused devastating floods and landslides, local officials and residents took the opportunity to reassess. During the year it took to make repairs, locals saw wildlife return to bays and beaches it had once abandoned due to flocking visitors. In late 2019 the area reopened under a new tourist management system that limits crowds in two preserves: Haena State Park and Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. The nearby Limahuli Garden and Preserve, which has endangered plants and birds found nowhere else on the planet, also has a new booking system in place to reduce crowds. Hanalei, a walkable, tranquil town on a crescent bay, serves as the gateway to the Napali Coast, and it, too, is back on its feet after the storms.
Need to know: In the past, as many as 2,000 people a day visited Hāʻena State Park and its beach. Now, entry is capped at 900, parking is limited and strictly enforced, and a new North Shore shuttle service requires advance reservations. Travelers can book up to 30 days in advance. Meanwhile, airfares to Hawaii are dropping as competition soars. Southwest begins direct flights to Kauai from both Oakland and San Jose, CA, in January 2020. —Tovin Lapan (AFAR Magazine, AFAR.com)