Like Nowhere Else on Earth
When it comes to astounding raw splendor, the Napali Coast steals the show. In Hawaiian, Napali literally means “the cliffs” and this grand coastline lives up to its name. The Napali Coast has an extraordinary landscape—a place blessed with so much natural beauty, you would only think it’s possible in your fantastical imagination. With alluring lush valleys blanketed in velvety green, cascading waterfalls, sea arches, and sheer cliffs that touch the sky, this destination creates a surreal backdrop for the many hidden coves and beaches that dot the legendary shoreline.
The Napali Coast is about a 15-mile stretch of mostly inaccessible terrain that holds an array of isolated gems and breathtaking vistas. There are three main options to enjoy the treasured destination—by air, foot or boat. Each mode of exploration provides a different, yet equally, profound experience. The coastline is wild and remote and it’s always important to take extreme caution when planning your adventure here. Rivers and ocean conditions can change rapidly and without warning. Newcomers not familiar with Napali or Kaua'i’s drastic weather patterns may want to check into booking a local tour guide company for a safe and unforgettable adventure.
If you enjoy a balance of extreme thrill and uncompromised comfort without breaking a sweat, viewing Napali from up in the air may be the best option for you. Soar high above peaking mountaintops, staggering cliffs and the blue Pacific while taking flight with one of the island’s famous helicopter tours. This is by far the most awe-inspiring way to view the Napali Coast from top to bottom. Behold sights only accessible by air and clearly see the dramatic changes in landscapes of the Garden Isle. Professional pilots provide comprehensive information for a personalized tour. Experiencing Napali by air may be a little pricey, but if you want to truly see Kaua'i for yourself, a helicopter tour won’t disappoint. To book a tour, call Jack Harter (808) 245-3774, Safari (808) 246-0136, Sunshine Helicopters (808) 245-5953 or AirVentures (808) 651-0679.
The most intimate and challenging way to encounter the Napali Coast is by foot. Hikers and adventure seekers journey from all over the world to see this remote locale up close and personal—hiking the famous Kalalau Trail is one of the best ways. For those in good physical condition, the journey takes a full day just one way, crossing five major valleys on an extremely strenuous trail. This is an overnight adventure where hikers usually camp at the rewarding Kalalau Beach at the end of the path. The Kalalau Trailhead starts at Ke'e Beach and is located literally at the end of the road (Hwy 560), as far north as your car can take you. Upon arrival, the trailhead will be marked with a sign to the left. However, you don’t need to trek the entire 22 miles to experience Napali at its finest.
The Kalalau Trail is commonly divided into three parts. Hiking part one, from Ke'e beach to Hanakapi'ai is fun, yet challenging. The hike from Ke'e to Hanakapi'ai Beach is approximately two miles on a trail that is maintained and heavily traveled, as most people opt for this route and don’t venture past this point. Hanakapi'ai Beach provides a quaint white sand cove in the summer months and rough crashing waves during the winter. While serenely beautiful and a picture perfect spot, swimming is not recommended as strong rip currents and large surf make the beach dangerous and deadly—even for experienced swimmers.
The true reward, however, is to continue onto part two of the hike, making the rugged 4-mile journey inland to see Hanakapi'ai Falls—an amazingly majestic waterfall cascading 300-ft down a sheer cliff. This hike leads you through serene bamboo forests and an untouched Kaua'i jungle. Wild mountain goats navigate the valley cliffs and may even exchange a curious glace as you trek the trail. You’ll cross a river and streams, so be cautious of water flow, flash floods and threatening weather conditions. Bring plenty of drinking water and always pack out what you packed in.
Hiking Napali is truly spectacular with incredible vantage points. Be sure to pack light and bring adequate hiking gear. Be forewarned that traveling the entire Kalalau Trail is very grueling. Hiking and camping permits are required and can be obtained at www.hawaiistateparks.org or at any State Parks office. Day hiking is allowed without a permit up to Hanakoa Valley (six miles in from the trailhead). Always be cautious of seasonal conditions and check the weather report before heading out. It is also wise to let someone know where you are planning to go.
It is said that ancient Polynesians navigated double-hulled outrigger canoes across the Pacific before landing on Kaua'i’s Napali Coast. Head out to sea and view the magical shoreline as ancient explorers once did. There are many options when it comes to adventuring Napali by sea. Whether you’re looking for an intense kayaking tour, a thrilling Zodiac ride or a relaxing sailing cruise, summer is prime time to partake in these popular options since ocean conditions are mostly calm and safe. Cruising along the coast will allow for unbelievable sights: intricate sea arches, waterfalls, verdant valleys and hidden caves. To experience the exotic and remote beaches with pristine landscapes and rare colorful seashells, venture by kayak or Zodiac. Swim in the refreshing topaz waters where you’ll be sure to spot colorful tropical fish, green sea turtles, and often, the acrobatic spinner dolphins. With vivid sunrises, sunsets and fountains of rainbows, you’ll be guaranteed the best of both worlds—land and sea.
Exploring Napali by sea is an activity that should not be attempted alone or without professional guidance. The ocean here is very unpredictable with strong rip currents and sometimes, dangerous surf. Many companies offer a variety of tours and cruises to perfectly suit your party. Contact Blue Dolphin Charters (808) 335-5553, Capt. Andy’s (808) 335-6833, Holo Holo Charters (808) 335-0815 or Kauai Sea Tours (808) 335-5309.
You simply cannot say you’ve experienced Kaua'i until you’ve explored the incomparable Napali Coast. Whether by air, land or sea, experience for yourself the many reasons why there is no other place like this on Earth.