The Na Pali Coast is an approximately 16-mile stretch of Kauai’s northwest coastline known for its breathtaking scenes of mountains and cliffs rising dramatically from the ocean. It’s regarded by many as Kauai’s most scenic attraction on an island full of scenic attractions.
It’s also one of the most beautiful spots in the world. The Na Pali Coast stretches from Ke’e Beach on one side of the island to Polihale Beach on the other. The coastline features rugged mountains and valleys formed by millions of years of erosion from both the ocean and rainwater.
The coast can best be seen by a boat excursion from Port Allen or Hanalei Bay, and from air on helicopter and airplane tours. The coast can be experienced up close and personal via a hike on the Kalalau Trail and the Hanakapiai Trail (the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail).
The Kalalau Lookout, accessible by car, provides a view of the Kalalau Valley and a portion of the Na Pali Coast. Kayak and small boat trips are also available. One way or the other, don’t miss seeing this incredible slice of earth on your trip to Kauai.
Na Pali Coast Tours
A Na Pali Coast boat tour is one of the top activities on Kauai. We advise you to schedule your tour early in your trip so that in the case of bad weather, you can reschedule for later in your trip. A Na Pali Coast tour by boat on the island of Kauai is the trip of a lifetime.
You will never forget the unparalleled beauty of this marvelous coastline, where mountains rise majestically from the sea, waterfalls trickle into the ocean and amazing sea caves captivate the senses. Dolphins, turtles and even whales (in season) often add to the magical experience. Nowhere on Earth does nature shine brighter.
There are several companies that offer boat tours of the Na Pali Coast, including Holo Holo Charters and Na Pali Coast Hanalei Tours (seasonally, from Hanalei Bay). Most tours leave from Port Allen, on the island’s south side. During the spring, summer and fall months, some tours on smaller boats leave from Hanalei Bay. And several small raft tours depart from the Kikiaola Boat Harbor in the Kekaha area.
The tours that leave from Port Allen are mostly on larger catamarans that have a below deck (with restrooms) and offer food, drinks and appetizers. The smaller boats that leave from Hanalei Bay and Kikiaola Boat Harbor have less amenities and rougher rides, but are able to get closer to the coast and into several sea caves (conditions permitting).
In the event of bad weather or rough seas, some Na Pali Coast tour operators will sail instead to Kipu Kai as an alternative.
Below are some tips for your Na Pali Coast cruise.
- Book your cruise in advance of your trip to ensure availability.
- Book your cruise during the first part of your trip to Kauai in case the cruise is cancelled due to rough seas and needs to be rescheduled for a later date on your trip.
- Late spring, summer, and early fall, when seas are usually calmer, are the best times for a Na Pali Coast cruise, and the least likely times a cruise will be cancelled due to sea conditions.
- Be flexible, rough seas can strike at any time and cancel a cruise.
- Have a backup plan in case a cruise is cancelled. A trip to the Waimea Canyon area is one option if a cruise is cancelled.
- Unfortunately, cruise companies do not warn passengers in advance of cancellations. Instead, the companies usually offer a refund, a Kipu Kai cruise to the south shore (where seas are usually calmer) or rescheduling.
- A Kipu Kai cruise is nice, but it doesn’t compare to the Na Pali Coast.
- Many cruises are barefoot only so be prepared. In Port Allen, shoes are left in bins near the boarding area.
- Wear water-friendly clothing. It can be windy, so hold on to your hats and other items.
- Bring a camera or phone with camera, but hold on tight or secure the camera to yourself with an attachment so that it does not go overboard.
- The boats do rock, especially when traveling from the port to the Na Pali Coast. Seasickness is a concern even on the larger boats. For seasickness, consider taking one tablet of Dramamine (or similar medication) a couple of hours before the cruise and another pill just before the cruise.
- $20 (or more) is a good amount to tip the crew after the cruise.
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