NaPali Coast

Na Pali Coast is the gem of all gems on the island of Kauai.  Stretching across a road-less expanse from Polihale Beach in on the West Side to Makana Mountain and Ke’e Beach in Ha’ena on the North Shore; the NaPali Coast makes up the breathe-taking, beautiful north-west coastline of Kauai.  Filled with dramatic cliff faces, pristine beaches, rugged hiking trails and extensive archaeological sites;  Na Pali Coast is an environment of immense power where natural forces are continually evolving the shape of the land.  

Ways to Visit NaPali Coast

There are 3 ways to visit the NaPali Coast; by land, by sea or by air:

NaPali Coast By Land

By far the most popular way to hike the Na Pali Coast is on the Kalalau Trail which begins at Ke’e Beach.  11 miles of hiking through both large and small valleys, snaking ones ways around cliff faces, amazing views and a lot of physical exertion will take you all the way to Kalalau Valley, the official end of the trail.  It is a minimum 3 day round trip journey for most people to hike all the way to Kalalau and back which means that you have to be well outfitted and prepared for the journey.

Hiking NaPali Coast

If the timing is not right for you to have such an in depth and intensive experience; there are other ways to see the Na Pali Coast by land.   Taking a shorter hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach or Hanakapi’ai Falls is a very popular option which many people choose.  For avid hikers who prefer to get another perspective, there are multiple trails along the ridge tops above the Na Pali Coast.  These trails are not for the faint of heart; hiking along the tops of the Pali often entails coming close to the edge of 2500’ sheer drops.  For people who enjoy cliff edge, panoramic views; it is an experience that is well worth the effort.

Driving NaPali Coast

Finally, if you are not a hiker at all, you can see the Na Pali Coast by driving to Polihale Beach or Ke’e Beach where you have stunning views down the coastline or by driving past Waimea Canyon in Koke’e State Park and stopping at either the Kalalau overlook or Pu’u o Kila overlook which is the start of the Pihea trail.   Both of these overlooks take you to the back of Kalalau Valley where you can peer down on one of the most spectacular valleys in all of Hawai’i Nei.

NaPali Coast By Sea:

Traditionally, the Na Pali Coast was accessed by sea via the gateway at Polihale.  Canoes would travel what used to be inland waterways in a large estuary between Waimea and Mana (the springs that provided the fresh water this delicate environment were plugged and diverted in the 1950’s to make way for large scale agri-business) and then continue on along the Na Pali Coast to the settlements at Miloli’i and Nu’alolo Kai.   All along the Na Pali Coast, valleys are named for the features seen from the ocean such as Ho’olulu (the sheltering place) and Waiahuakua (the water altar of the Gods).  There are multiple sea caves, waterfalls and other fascinating features along the Na Pali Coast, and even you have hiked the coast many times, exploring it by sea is a wonderful experience

Today, most people who explore the Na Pali Coast by sea chose to either go on a motorized vessel or by kayak.  Most of the motorized tours leave from the west side near Port Allen and include snorkeling as part of their day.   Many of the tour boats stop at Treasures Beach for their snorkel and do a quick drive by of one of the most amazing sights in all of Hawai’i – Nu’alolo Kai.  If you are going to spend a day on water along the Na Pali Coast, make sure that you go with a company that stops at Nu’alolo Kai and allows time for both snorkeling and exploring the amazing archaeological site there.   Another thing to be aware of is that most of the sailing catamarans which operate along the Na Pali Coast are under motor for the entire morning as they head up wind and then motor sail back down the coast to Port Allen.  It is still a wonderful experience, as the large catamaran provides plenty of room to move around on deck; however they are too big to take their boats into the open ceiling cave; which is one of the highlights of tours on smaller boats.

Kayak NaPali Coast

If you are in good physical shape and are more adventurous in nature, you may want to consider taking a kayak tour along the NaPali Coast.  Kayak Kauai is our recommendaton for a kayak tours and it is truly an incredible experience to paddle in and out of the sea caves and stare up at the massive cliffs above you.  The kayak tours all start in Ha’ena and end in Polihale – on most days this means that you are going with the wind and the swell; however not always.  They usually stop for lunch at Miloli’i which is a wonderful stretch of white sand protected by reef.  

NaPali Coast by Air

The aerial view of the Na Pali Coast is also incredible and dramatic.  Numerous helicopter tour companies operate on Kauai and almost all of them plan a flight path that includes winding in and out of several of the major valleys along the Na Pali Coast.  After flying up Waimea Canyon, the pilot will fly out to the Na Pali Coast somewhere near to Makaha Ridge and then turn right taking you back to the north shore.   

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Article Edited/Contributed by: John C. Derrick & Victoria Derrick
Published/Updated:

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