Hi there! You are probably here, on my site, because you are trying to solve same problem like I was trying to solve two months ago. You want to go on Kalalau trail, but the permits are sold out. Here is some info about Kalalau trail without a permission.
You can walk 2 miles from the beginning of the trail (next to Ke’e beach) to Hanakapi’ai beach. You can walk without a permission to Hanakapi’ai waterfall also. In that case, the round trip is 8 miles long. That is a quite decent trail and believe me, you won’t see anything that special beyond Hanakapi’ai. The hype around Kalalau trail is quite overhyped.
If you take a helicopter or a boat ride around Napali coast, it is much better than the trail itself. You will enjoy Napali coast much more in this way. If you walk, you can’t really see the coast and the conditions along the day are not good for observation.
You will be at north side of Kauai. On the morning, the Sun will be hidden behind the coast. You will see a fair portion of shadows and the landscape will have the high contrast – not good for taking any photos. A similar situation happens on the afternoon. How the Sun goes up, the blue water fog also goes up. The fog blurs landscape details along with your photos. For those reasons, the sightseeing from the distance is much better.
But if you still want to go, here is some good info for you. It comes from well informed person which I have met when I was on Kauai.
The permission is mostly because of hippies in the valley. The rangers need some legal obligation to ask them to leave. The rangers go there 3-4 times per month. Mostly, they focus on hippies and they don’t bother with tourists. In additions, the fees supports the maintenance of the trail itself.
In 2015, the rangers stopped the man who was providing supplies to the hippies with a small boat. That was a deal breaker for the most of the hippies because even they can’t survive without the basic stuff. If they would be gone, the rangers’ visits will be gone also.
If there is someone who is checking permits at the beginning of the trail (next to Ke’e beach), just tell him/her that you are going to Hanakapi’ai beach.
There are 60 permits per day. Surprise, surprise… They are all sold out two weeks in advance. BUT…
…not all of them are used. I consider myself like a fast hiker. I was starting like the one of the last ones and finished like the one of the first ones in both directions. I was carefully counting the people along the way and at Kalalau beach.
Most of the permits are for one or two nights, but in general you should meet around sixty people in both directions along the trail. Reality?
Instead of the group of sixty people at Kalalau beach, there were around thirty five persons at the end of the day. I’ve met fifteen people when I was coming to Kalalau beach and around twenty people when I was coming back from Kalalau beach.
What does it mean for you? You can go to Kalalau beach without a permit. It won’t be any disaster for the environment or the state park. There is a really high probability that you slip and nobody will bother if you have a permit or not.
If you want to increase your chances, finish the trail before sunset [so the regular way I guess 🙂 ] and leave before 9:30 AM. It takes some time to get to Kalalau beach, even for rangers and they have their working hours. 😉
If you want to stay more than one night, you have to risk it or you can ask me to provide you a permit. Yes, you are reading it correctly. I can provide you a genuine permit even if they are sold out. Like I stated above, I know a right person at the right place. The permit will cost you same $20 like at the government site. If you are interested, send me an email with subject “Kalalau beach”. You can find my email over here.
Good luck with Kalalau trail!