If you are coming to visit Kauai (or are already here), the odds are good that you have heard of the Na Pali (Napali) Coast. It probably came along as a recommendation from someone saying “You gotta see this”, or perhaps you saw one of the many advertisements from companies offering tours of the area.
We at Makana Charters come from both camps. We have to be honest – it’s our business to offer Napali Coast tours, so of course we will be telling visitors they should come. But as locals whose family history on Kauai is older than the record books, we simply want people from around the world to see the most beautiful coastline on Kauai, and possibly Hawaii – putting it in the running as one of the most beautiful coastlines on Planet Earth.
The State of Hawai’i recognized how special it is here and designated the area as a state park. There are no roads on the Napali Coast – the only way to see it is either by taking a boat tour or hiking the intense 22-mile round trip journey that many guidebooks rate as one of the toughest hikes in Hawaii. Even still, the trail ends at Kalalau Valley, leaving out almost half of the coastline. So the only way to see the entire coast is aboard a boat.
So where exactly is the Napali Coast, you ask? Geographically it is on the Northwest corner of Kauai. There are three ‘easy’ ways to access the coast, whereby you can get to viewpoints by driving a car:
- North Shore: The Napali Coast’s northern endpoint is at Ke’e beach, all the way at the end of highway 560. From here you can hike the Kalalau Trail – keep in mind that if you wish to go all the way to Kalalau Valley, you need a permit. You do not need a permit to hike to Hanakapia’i Beach and Falls, about 2 miles along the trail. This side of the coast can be wet – noticeable by the lush green vegetation everywhere.
- Kokee State Park – If you drive up all the way into Koke’e State Park, past Waimea Canyon, you will find the Kalalau Lookout. Drive just a little bit further and you will find the Pihea trail. Depending on your level of fitness, you may want to try the lookout, and if you feel adventurous, try walking along the ridge line of the Pihea trail. Both of these stopping points are fantastic places to view Kalalau Valley below. This is the best way to view the magic of the Na Pali Coast from 4,000 feet above.
- Polihale State Park – At the end of the road in the other direction is Polihale, a fantastic place to camp out or simply spend an afternoon watching the sun go down. The cliffs of the Na Pali Coast rise from the beach, heading off into the distance. You can feel the energy all around here, understanding why this area was a sacred site for our Hawaiian ancestors.
If you do come to the west side, stop by our shop and say hi! A boat trip aboard Makana is one you will not forget, as you see the spectacular coastline up close – sometimes even going inside the coastline in some caves (weather permitting). You will also have time to snorkel on the coast, seeing some amazing underwater life to give you a wondeful fun-filled half-day on the water.
We hope to see you soon!