My parents took my brother and I to Hawaii in 2007 after my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but I was raised by some pretty amazing people. They instilled in my brother and me some values that have enabled us both to live life to the fullest:

You’re always welcome at home, but you can’t move back—go get your own life ((hug)).

Never close a door along the journey of life; you never know when you may need to walk (or run!) through it.

Sleep when you’re dead. Go play outside.

2014-05-04 00.47.45

On that trip to paradise, which was about making memories as a family and celebrating the crap-hand my mom had recently been dealt, my parents proved to my brother and me that these values weren’t just great lessons they decided on a whim to impart on us kids; they were the cornerstone of their fantastic relationship and love for one another. One of their favorite adventures when they were younger was to break in little-known, poorly marked trails on the cliff sides of the island of Kauai in search of awesome 300ft waterfalls. Pretty cool, right? Like I said, amazing people.

The Na Pali Coast, what the Kalalau Trail runs along.

The Na Pali Coast, what the Kalalau Trail runs along.

Our first morning in Kauai, we woke up early to make the two-hour drive around the island from Poipu through Princeville to the head of the Kalalau Trail at Ke’e Beach. Here, they took us on their favorite hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls.

Hanakapi’ai Falls. If you haven’t been here, go. It’s worth it.

Hanakapi’ai Falls. If you haven’t been here, go. It’s worth it.

Long story short, I loved our experience so much that I finagled a way to move my job to Kauai in 2013. I went from barely making it through the 8-mile hike to the waterfall and back, to attempting to run the whole 22-mile (round trip) route to Kalalau Beach a few years later.

There are a handful of different destinations you can target along this side of the island, and they all come with a varying degree of difficulty. Your first views of the Na Pali coastline come at just 1 mile in. Hanakapi’ai Beach is a great respite at 2 miles in. Hanakapi’ai Falls juts off from the main Kalalau Trail and meanders back towards the namesake waterfall at 4 miles. Want to go a little further and see a tiered 1,400-ft waterfall? Obtain a permit and hike in to Hanakoa Falls, 6 miles in. Or, take your time (or run the trail) and go out to Kalalau’s breathtaking valley. There are no roads, no cars, and not a lot of people. The only brush with civilization you’ll have is seeing remnants of the archaeology left from a civilization of about 200 that lived in the Kalalau Ahupua’a in the 1800s.

Hanakoa Falls – mile 6

Hanakoa Falls – mile 6

If your legs are too tired to hike back, make some friends and swim!

If your legs are too tired to hike back, make some friends and swim!

We lost my mom in an accident in 2014, and celebrated her life at Hanakapi’ai Falls on a family hike a few months later. There’s something for everyone on the Kalalau Trail. For me, above all else, there’s a piece of my mom.2011

Kauai 2013 008