Put the spectacular Na Pali Coast on your “must do” list when planning your Kauai vacation. No visit to Kauai is complete without seeing this magical coastline, an 11-mile stretch of 3,000 foot emerald green sea cliffs, hidden lava rock caves, uninhabited beaches and not a car or building in sight. Only accessible by helicopter, boat or hiking, the Na Pali Coast is where the Hawaiian gods must have envisioned heaven.
There are only three ways to access these stunning sea cliffs – by air, land or sea – each offering a different perspective and experience than the other. If possible, we suggest experiencing the Na Pali Coast at least one way, but if you can fit it into your schedule, you won’t be disappointed to return more than once.
A Bird’s Eye View
Photo: Marcus Bloss
Helicopter tours of Na Pali Coast will have you swooping in-and-out of its magnificent valleys and up-close to thousands of feet of waterfalls faster than you can say the name of Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a. From the sky, you will get a feeling of just how vast this coastline is and the intricacies that make up each mile along the way. You also gain quite an appreciation for those who dare to traverse the 22-miles round trip by foot.
There is no tour company on Kauai as exceptional as Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. Your feet will be anything but aching as you settle comfortably into a luxury business class seat aboard one of their American Eurocopter Eco-Star chopper. In fact, the only thing working will be your eyes and they are in for a feast. Blue Hawaiian’s helicopters feature plush state of the art seating, two-way pilot communication and expansive glass windows to view Na Pali. Your pilot narrates the entire tour, with music to fit the backdrop in between. Not only do you get to see Na Pali, but you get to fly around the entire island and view numerous waterfalls, rocky canyons and the pristine waters of the north shore! Book a tour with them today by visiting https://bluehawaiian.com/kauai/tours.
Like the Ancient Hawaiians
Earlier, we mentioned those brave and adventurous souls who decide to hike the entire 11-miles in and then back out again, much like the ancient Hawaiians who once lived in the walls of these isolated valleys. Before you decide to go this route, please keep in mind that this is not a day hike; overnight camping permits are required and that it is a difficult trail for even the most experienced hiker. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the trail.
The Kalalau trail head begins at Haena State Park, which is literally the end of the road on Kauai’s north shore. Over the course of the trail, hikers traverse five valleys, crossing streams and skimming along narrow trail areas with sheer cliffs before reaching the sandy white shore of Kalalau. The first four miles of the trail are for day hikers, most choose to stop at Hanakapiai Beach or hike an additional two miles inland to Hanakapiai Falls, a 300-hundred foot waterfall with a glittering pool to swim in. Past Hanakapiai Beach is Hanakoa Valley and waterfall. This is as far as you can go without a permit. Once you continue past Hanakoa, the trail gets much harder and even more dangerous, only experienced hikers should attempt the rest of the trail. The payoff at the end…an endless white sand beach and lush valley with a freshwater stream running through it leading to secluded waterfalls. Camping areas are clearly defined along the terraced areas bordering the stream. Of course, camping on the beach on a carpet of soft sand surrounded by thousands of sparkling stars in the sky is an option, too. Congratulations, you have reached the garden of eden.
One last very important about hiking and camping in Kalalau: Please remember to haul your trash back out with you. The Hawaiians believed in leaving a place a little better than when they first arrived and that custom is still valued today.
A Three-hour Tour (to the tune of Gilligan’s Island)
A tour of Na Pali Coast by boat may be more than three hours, more like 5 1⁄2 hours for a snorkel tour and 4 hours for a sunset dinner cruise by catamaran, but we promise you will get safely back to shore on Kauai when it’s over. Choose your pace with a relaxing catamaran snorkel day tour or sunset tour or choose an exhilarating, fast paced, “hang on until your knuckles are white” tour aboard a zodiac where you will zip in and out of sea caves. Each type of tour offers a different experience, but one thing remains the same: the view of the staggering cliffs, cathedral shaped spores that rise out of the ocean, and deep blue of the water beneath you. If seeing the Na Pali Coast by boat is for your, there are several companies on island are well known for their first class tour experience:
Holoholo Charters high powered fleet of vessels gets you to the Na Pali Coast faster than any other boats out there. They also offer exclusive tours to both the forbidden Niihau Island and Lehua Rock. Taking a tour with Holoholo will sometimes make you feel like you have the boat to yourself, they never book more than 49 people on a tour, which means you will have more room to sightsee, take photos and enjoy the view. Prices range from $114 and up.
Book your tour on https://www.holoholokauaiboattours.com
Blue Dolphin Charters
View the Na Pali Coast from 65’ deluxe catamarans, private charter for big game fishing, or on one of their zodiac rafts. Their catamarans are designed to ensure a smooth ride and maximize your fun. Choose between their snorkel tour that includes lunch or sunset dinner cruise on their catamarans. Blue Dolphin is the only tour company that guarantees dolphin sightings on your morning tour or the next tour is free. Prices range from $119 and up.
Book your tour on https://bluedolphinkauai.com
Capt Andy’s Sailing Adventures
Capt Andy’s 65” Star Class yachts glide effortlessly along the coast, making your forget you are out on the open ocean. Capt Andy snorkel and lunch tours are approximately 5.5 hours long, while his sunset dinner sail is approximately 4 hours. Once you reach Kalalau Valley, the Captain lets down the sails and out come the cocktails. Capt Andy’s experienced crew are made up of watermen and women who grew up surfing, diving and exploring Kauai’s waters, and are eager to show you the Na Pali Coast from a local perspective. Prices range from $119 and up.
Book your tour on www.napali.com
Kauai Sea Tours
Sail the coast aboard the “Lucky Lady” 60 foot catamaran and you will feel like the luckiest person on earth. Or, take a Kauai Sea Tour raft adventures. This is the only company that actually includes the opportunity to land on Nualolo Kai for a guided hike of this ancient Hawaiian village. After landing on shore, head out to explore the sea caves or get up close with Hawaiian spinner dolphins as they frolic and play in the wake. Their ocean raft adventure tours range from $110 and up; catamaran tours range from $126 and up.
Book your tour on https://kauaiseatours.com
There’s one last way to see the Na Pali Coast, by guided ocean kayak tours that combine the panoramic, exotic scenery from the ocean and the physical skill and stamina needed for rigorous activities like hiking. An ocean kayak tour with Outfitters Kauai is an all day adventure, usually starting at sunrise on the North Shore and finishing 17-miles later at Polihale State Park. Along the way, you will stop for lunch on a secluded beach and paddle alongside dolphins and sea turtles as you traverse in and out of sea caves. Kayak sea tours are only for those 15 and older and it is recommended that you don’t try it unless in very good physical condition. Tours start at $238.
Book your tour on https://outfitterskauai.com
Whether by air, land or sea, the Na Pali Coast is a visually stunning and dramatic coastline that you must add to your bucket list.