Otherworldly is a term often used to describe the environment along Kauai's Alakai Swamp Trail. The approximately five-million-year-old swamp is about 4,500 feet above sea level, and it's one of the most distinctive experiences to be had on the island. With native flora and fauna found nowhere else, otherworldly isn't a surprising depiction.
Weaving through the world’s highest rainforest and swampland, the trail begins in Kokee State Park and leads to the spectacular Kilohana Lookout. Rare and endemic Hawaiian birds call the swamp home, while moss and vines hang from trees and cover foliage like green blankets.
The Alakai Swamp Trail is often shrouded in mist, too, creating a unique charm and mystique to the highly acclaimed hike.
Mystical, magical Alakai Swamp — Photo courtesy of pfly
The Alakai Swamp trailhead branches off of Mohihi-Camp 10 Road, which is usually accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles. So a hiker’s best bet is to start on the Pihea Trail at the beautiful Puu O Kila Lookout.
Tracing the edge of Kalalau Valley, the trail weaves through forests of native ferns and Kauai’s own mokihana berry. A man-made wooden boardwalk covers the path, winding its way through misty bogs, dwarf forests and, depending on the weather, a lot of mud.
After about two miles on the Pihea Trail, veer to your left at the Alakai crossing and continue along the boardwalk, which changes to descending stairs along the swamp trail. The trail is considered strenuous, but the boardwalk keeps hikers out of the mud, with the exception of occasional breaks in the path.
The sweet reward after two more miles on the swamp trail is the Kilohana Lookout. From here, you can see nearly 4,000 feet down the coast and across valleys to as far as Haena Beach on the North Shore.
Walking to a rainbow — Photo courtesy of *bjo
Trekking the Alakai Swamp Trail often requires a full day; it’s a long journey that showcases unmatched beauty for about eight miles round-trip. It's a great birding trail, too, with amazing views, depending on the mist
Plan for most of your time to be committed to hiking, and start early. You don’t want to be left out here in the dark.
Remember to wear good shoes. Bring a camera, outerwear, sun block, snacks and plenty of water.
The Alakai Swamp is best experienced when exploring other places on Kauai's west side. Start the day with the trail before ending it with the island's best venue for the sunset at Polihale State Park.