Hiking permits are necessary in order to fully hike Kalalau Trail, but you have to make sure to get them on time. In many instances people get to Kauai and decide last minute to hike, and are surprised to find that the permits are sold out. If this happens to you, you aren’t totally out of luck. You are allowed to hike in approximately 2 miles to a place called Hanakāpīʻai Beach and back without a permit. There is also a side trail up to Hanakāpīʻai Falls that is an additional 2 miles. That can be a good trip totaling approximately 8 miles round trip.
A permit is needed if you are planning on going past Hanakapi’ai along the Kalalau Trail whether or not you plan to camp. Anyone caught past Hanakapi’ai risks a hefty fine and a day or two in court.
The earliest you can get a permit is a year in advance, so the more advance notice you have of the trip, the better, that way you can get permits before they’re gone. Permits for busy months like May and June usually sell out the fastest.
Click here for more information on hiking permits for Kalalau.