Tag Archives: Na Pali Coast

How to See Kauai’s Na Pali Coast

Have you dreamed of visiting the Garden Isle of Hawaii? Kauai is home to stunning natural wonders including Waimea Canyon, Hanalei Bay and Wai’ale’ale Crater, but no visit to Kauai is complete without visiting the majestic 17-mile stretch of the Na Pali Coast.

You have three options when visiting the Na Pali Coast — hiking, helicopter tour and boat ride. I’ll go over each of these options below, but if you only have time for one of these activities while visiting Kauai, book a helicopter flight!

HELICOPTER TOUR

By far, the best way to view the Na Pali Coast is by Helicopter because most of the areas are inaccessible by land or sea. I booked a flight with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters — the same company we used for a helicopter tour of Maui — and from start to finish, the service was top notch.

If you plan to take any photos, Blue Hawaiian’s pilots fly on the left of the aircraft which means there’s more seating for the best views of the Na Pali Coast. All of the helicopter tours fly from the south, up the coast, so you’ll want to be on the right side of the aircraft and most of Blue Hawaiian’s passenger seats are on this side. I also highly recommend requesting Shay as your pilot!

Blue Hawaiian also provides black shirts to every guest (as a courtesy) because black reduces glare on the windows. I’ve been on flights where the other passengers are wearing white or detailed print clothing — which means their clothing choices are affecting everyone’s photos.

BOAT TOUR

I’ve been on two boat tours of the Na Pali Coast. The first was on a large Catamaran with Blue Dolphin Charters. The weather did not cooperate on this particular trip in June, so many of the passengers got seasick. I have to say, the staff was amazing catering to everyone’s needs — running around, feeding everyone saltines and Ginger Ale, but if you do get seasick, take Dramamine!

My second boating experience along this coast was during the last week of August and the weather was absolutely perfect. I booked a zodiac tour with Holo Holo Charters. The zodiac tours provide a closer look at the caves along the cliffs, but I would not want to be in a zodiac on a choppy day.

Both of the above tours go to the same snorkeling spot along this coast. If you are looking for the best snorkeling on the island, this is not the trip to book. For snorkeling, I recommend Poipu Beach or Tunnels.

HIKING

You can hike in some areas of the Na Pali Coast — depending on the weather — but the hikes are not for the faint of heart. This side of Kauai is extremely wet, which results in muddy and slippery conditions along the edges of the towering cliffs. If you do hike the Na Pali Coast, please come prepared with walking sticks and plenty of food and water and check the weather beforehand!

We hiked a section of the Kalalau Trail (an 11-mile trail that leads from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach) and were advised by a ranger to turn around after 2-miles due to flash flood warnings. The day before we arrived, hikers ignored these advisories and were forced to spend the night along the trail because the water level was too high to pass on their return trip.

HOW TO PACK FOR THE NA PALI COAST

Whether you’re hiking or taking a tour along this strip of coastline, there’s a few things you won’t want to forget.

Checklist-IconTrekking Poles: If you plan to do any hiking, bring foldable hiking sticks! Many of our fellow hikers wished they had walking sticks to keep them from falling in the mud and assisting with the river crossings.

Checklist-IconDramamine: Definitely bring this for any of the boat rides along the Na Pali Coast and you may even want to take one before your helicopter flight; it can get bumpy. Dramamine has a Non-Drowsy version that we bring on all of our trips.

Checklist-IconDark Clothing: Wear dark, solid clothing on the helicopter flight — preferably black.

Checklist-IconRain Gear: Let me just say, plan for rain on the Na Pali Coast. Bring a poncho or, even better, a light rain coat.

Checklist-IconHiking Shoes: I forgot my hiking shoes on my first trip to Kauai and my running shoes were completely ruined after hiking the Na Pali Coast. Hiking shoes with ankle support are even better.

Checklist-IconGo Pro: Your camera gear will likely get wet, whether you are hiking or taking a boat tour of the coast. I got soaked on both boat tours of the Na Pali Coast. If you take the zodiac tour with Holo Holo Charters, they will take you underneath waterfalls, so don’t plan on bringing any non-waterproof camera gear! We bring our Go Pro Hero 4 and a selfie stick on all of our adventures. (See our complete travel camera buying guide here.)

Checklist-IconDaypack: We were so happy to have our hiking daypack with attached rainfly. It rained for almost three hours straight during our hike and everything except my camera gear was thoroughly soaked.

Tips to Trip In Hawai

Hawaii is on nearly everyone’s travel bucket list, but every island has different, unique attractions. Not sure how to decide? Check out our favorite places throughout the islands and start planning your trip. Aloha!

BLACK ROCK ON KA’ANAPALI BEACH (MAUI)

If you’re a fan of anything fun, you need to go to Black Rock. Cliff diving, scuba, and snorkeling with tropical fish are just the beginning – sea turtles are usually spotted here and the stunning scenery is a photographers paradise. Every night the Sheraton Hotelhas a symbolic torch lighting/diving ceremony that symbolizes the site’s ancient legend that spirits jump off these rocks as a final passing. The torches at sunset are gorgeous, so make this a full day excursion.

WAIPIʻO VALLEY (HAWAII, THE BIG ISLAND)

Home of Hawaii’s tallest waterfall, the secluded Waipiʻo Valley is full of hidden gems not accessible to the public. Because it is private property you must book a tour to gain access to it all; although we recommend KapohoKine Adventures, there are tour companies who offer horseback riding or ATV tours as well.

SHIPWRECK BEACH (KAUAI)

Although the real shipwreck for which it’s named for has long disappeared, Shipwreck Beach has awesome views and is a favorite for local surfers.  Swimming is only recommended for strong swimmers due to rough waters, but experienced surfers and boogie boarders may be up for the challenge! Hiking the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail is well worth it, and the golden sand beaches are perfect for sunbathing.

The Grand Hyatt Resort & Spa is a gorgeous property that sits right on Shipwreck Beach and comes highly recommended by other travelers looking for a luxurious getaway on Kauai.

ROAD TO HANA (MAUI)

Time to rent a Jeep, pack a bag, and hit the road! The drive to Hana takes about 2 to 3 hours (depending on where you’re departing from), but that’s with no stops – and trust us, you will want to stop. Plan for a few days to really take in all of the sights of Hana has to offer and book a hotel reservation in Hana Town! Dining, waterfalls, beaches, and trails are scattered along Hana Highway, so take your time and pick some places that seem to interest you most. This interactive map may help you plan your trip.

NA PALI COAST (KAUAI)

The magical 17-mile shoreline of the Na Pali Coast is so unique, in part due its remote location. The only way to access this area is by water, helicopter, or your own two feet. Take a swim in the Open Ceiling Sea Cave and check out the Waiahuakua stream, which ends tumbling off the mountain through the roof of a sea cave. Talk about amazing photo op!

If you are looking to spend some time on the north shore, (which I highly recommend!) the St. Regis Princeville is very close to the main trails on the Na Pali Coast and this resort is beyond stunning.

PAPOHAKU BEACH (MOLOKAI)

One of the largest white sand beaches in Hawaii is also one of the quietest, so if you’re looking to get away from the crowds for a while this is the place to go. You can soak in views of Oahu from the shore but getting in the waters is fairly dangerous and highly discouraged.

MANELE BAY (LANA’I)

Another quiet getaway! Swim at Hulopoe Beach, golf at the gorgeous Four Seasons Resort, or explore marine life at the tide pools. This family-friendly spot has picnic areas and gentle waters perfect for swimming; hula lessons and lei-making classes are offered by the Four Seasons for those looking for an authentic Hawaiian cultural experience.

KALAUPAPA (MOLOKAI)

Although the famous Molokai mule rides are currently unavailable, this sacred Molokai village has a distinctly unique settlement history that will likely be fascinating to curious visitors. The beautiful St. Philomena Church founded by a beloved Father Damien can be visited by booking a Damien tour, which also visit the final resting place of Father Damien himself. Research Kalaupapa’s history beforehand and prepare yourself for a spiritual, breathtaking journey.

POLOLU VALLEY (HAWAII, THE BIG ISLAND)

The black sand beaches and black lava rock make for a gorgeous landscape, and the short (but steep) hike is very rewarding – bring lots of water and shoes with good traction, as the trail can be slippery. Stop by the small town of Hawi on your way for lunch and homemade fudge!

Staying on the Kohala Coast is a must during your trip to the Big Island of Hawaii.Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel has one of the few swimming beaches on this side of the island and it even has a few resident turtles to keep you company while snorkeling. I stayed here for three nights and did not want to leave

HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK (HAWAII, THE BIG ISLAND)

For those outdoorsy types, this national park will be a must-see. Deserts and lush rain forests make for an awesome hiking and biking experience, and that’s just during the day! Go at night to see the glow from molten lava, and take in the view from above by helicopter with Paradise Helicopters tours in Hilo. They even offer extreme no-door tours for you adrenaline junkies!

PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR HAWAII

Photo Equipment – I highly recommend bringing a GoPro for underwater photos (and a selfie stick!) and a nice camera for land activities. (See our complete travel camera buying guide here.)

Clothing – Sandals or flip flops (I love Rainbow sandals), a couple of swimsuits,sunglasses, and a sun hat are must-haves any time of year. I also highly recommend bringing water shoes.

Rash Guard – I always pack my long-sleeve rash guard on island trips. It protects you from the sun when snorkeling and provides a little warmth if the water is chilly.

Snorkel Equipment – You’ll save a ton of money by bringing your own and you won’t be stuck with old equipment. We brought this mask and these travel size fins.

Reusable Water Bottle – Refilling your water bottle not only saves money, but it’s so much better for the environment! We use this CamelBak water bottle at home, but if you want something more compact, this collapsible water bottle is perfect for travel days and hiking.