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Whether taking in this sight by land, boat or air, the ruggedly beautiful Na Pali Coast will leave you to marvel at the sheerness of some of its cliffs. This is an area where razor-thin, almost two-dimensional mountains rise parallel to each other, leaving impossibly tall and narrow valleys between them. You will see vertical spires and shake your head in disbelief at the sight of a goat perched on top. This page will take you through the many ways you can take in this gorgeous coast, and what to expect from one of Hawaii’s many wonders.

Na Pali Coast Weather

Kaua‘i doesn’t have the best weather in the state, but the best weather in the state is on Kaua‘i. What do we mean by that? Well, when it’s good here, it’s as good as weather can get—brilliant sunshine, crystal clear air, and gentle but constant breezes. That’s when it’s good.

Yeah, but I’ve heard it always rains on Kaua‘i. We heard this many times before we came here for the first time. The reality of Kaua‘i is that it gets more rain than the other Hawaiian islands. In fact, one of the rainiest spots on earth is smack dab in the middle of the island. Mount Wai‘ale‘ale is an undisputed year-round rain magnet, receiving around 400 inches per year, which is a staggering 33 feet annually.

All that said, the odds are overwhelming that rain will not ruin your Kaua‘i vacation. The coast gets far less rain than the waterlogged central interior, and throughout Kaua‘i the lion’s share of rain falls at night. When it does rain during the day, it is usually quite short-lived, often lasting a matter of a few minutes.

Na Pali Coast Jurassic Park

When Hollywood wants to convey the impression of beauty, lushness and the exotic, it’s no contest what location they choose. Kaua‘i has long been the location of choice for movie directors looking for something special.

As you drive around the island, keep an eye out for the locations of scenes from some of these movies: Jungle Cruise, Hobbs and Shaw, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, The Descendants, Just Go With It, Soul Surfer, first three Jurassic Park movies, Tropic Thunder, Dragonfly, To End All Wars, Six Days/Seven Nights, Mighty Joe Young, George of the Jungle, Outbreak, North, Honeymoon in Vegas, Hook, Lord of the Flies, Flight of the Intruder, Throw Momma From the Train, The Thorn Birds, Uncommon Valor, Body Heat, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Fantasy Island, King Kong, Acapulco Gold, Islands in the Stream, The Hawaiians, Lost Flight, Hawai‘i, Paradise Hawaiian Style, Girls! Girls! Girls!, Donovan’s Reef, Blue Hawai‘i, South Pacific, Miss Sadie Thompson and many more. Hollywood discovered Kaua‘i years ago.

Na Pali Coast helicopter tour

If ever there was a place made for helicopter exploration, it’s Kaua‘i. Much of the island can be seen only by air, and helicopters, with their giant windows and their ability to hover, are by far the preferred method for most.

Going to Kaua‘i without taking a helicopter flight is like going to see the Sistine Chapel and not looking up. The awe-inspiring Waimea Canyon unfolds beneath you. A good pilot will come up over a ridge, suddenly exposing the glorious canyon, often timed to coincide with a crescendo in the music you hear in your headphones. You will see the incredible Olokele Valley with its jagged twists and turns and stair-step waterfalls.

You will get a different view of Kaua‘i’s fabulous north shore beaches and reefs. You might see whales, depending on the time of year. And best of all, you will be treated to the almost spiritual splendor of Wai‘ale‘ale Crater. You have never seen anything like the crater—a three-sided wall of waterfalls 3,000 feet high, greens of every imaginable shade and a lushness that is beyond comprehension. Many people find themselves weeping when they enter the crater. Others find that they stop breathing—it happened to me the first time.

If it has been dry lately, it’s simply great; if it’s been pumping rain in the interior, the waterfalls are spectacular.

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Na Pali Experience

Na Pali Experience is a small outfit that operates only during the summer months (May–September) and takes only six passengers on their 24-foot power cats. They venture almost all the way to Ke‘e Beach unless the ocean is too rough. Then they turn around at Kalalau and snorkel at Nu‘alolo (they keep good, updated snorkel gear). Being in a boat this small means you’re able to get into all the sea caves (seas permitting), and it also means you’ll get to know your captain fairly well. They keep things more lighthearted than other operators and do a pretty good job of reading their passengers’ humor and tastes. Speaking of tastes, the only ding we feel is that the small size of the boat means less room for food. A 5-hour tour on the water with snorkeling works up an appetite—all they provide are snacks (like chips) and fruit. If you want something more substantial, you’ll need to bring it and endure the resentment of your fellow passengers. Otherwise, it’s a good product. We like the fact that they leave from Kikiaola—it’s way better than Port Allen.

Na Pali Coast kayak

If you really want adventure, consider a kayak trip down the Na Pali Coast. June through August are normally the only months where ocean conditions permit kayak transit. Kayakers put in at Ke‘e Beach on the north shore, exiting at Polihale Beach on the west shore, a total of 16 miles. Along the way you’ll encounter incomparable beauty, innumerable waterfalls and sea caves, pristine aquamarine seas, turtles, flying fish and possibly dolphins. If you’re doing this as a maverick trip (below), at night you can camp on beautiful beaches, sleeping to the sound of the surf. The experience will stay with you for a lifetime.

There are two ways to do this trip—either on a guided tour or on your own. Guided tours do the entire trip in one day, offering a more structured—though less leisurely—way to see the coast. These trips, usually led by experienced guides, offer the relative safety of an expert. The drawbacks to this method are a lack of independent movement, a more brisk paddling pace (it can be tough to do in one day) and the lack of an opportunity to camp. We like Kayak Kaua‘i for their deeper expertise. Expect to pay around $240. They bring the gear, food and know-how; you bring the muscles.

If you want twice as much cost and hassle but ten times the gratification, you can do a maverick trip. Na Pali Kayak and Kayak Kaua‘i will give you a personal guide who will travel with you to Kalalau and then make a judgment call as to whether you’re up to continuing on your own. You’ll need a valid camping permit with a kayak landing stamp for Kalalau or Miloli‘i before even applying for this service.

Na Pali Coast hike

Kalalau Trail

So you don’t like paddling or the surf is raging. You can still see Na Pali. Because the ultimate hike is also the most famous hike in all Hawai‘i—11 miles of switchbacks, hills and beautiful scenery. Much of the trail is narrow and not without hazards—hiking boots or at least closed-toe trail shoes are recommended. The trail calls for several stream crossings (some extra water shoes are handy for this). Don’t cross if the water is too high. Don’t go if overnight hikes are a problem.

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The first 2 miles of the trail leads to Hanakapi‘ai Beach (sandy in the summer, bouldery in the winter). There are plenty of slippery and muddy sections, and the second mile is steep downhill (and tough coming back up). It’s tricky in spots if you’re a beginner hiker, but it’s worth it. The views along the coast are exceptional. Hanakapi‘ai is a beautiful but treacherous beach to swim, and it takes most people 1.5–2 hours to hike each way. From here, there is a fairly tough 1.8-mile side trail upstream to Hanakapi‘ai Falls, one of the more spectacular falls and pools on the north shore. There are lots of false trails, and it’s easy to miss some of the river crossings, but you’re in a valley, so you shouldn’t stray more than a couple hundred feet from the stream. Many people like to reward themselves by swimming in the pool under the falls. Watch out for falling rocks. The views along this stretch are some of the prettiest on the island.

Waimea Canyon State Park

Waimea Canyon is a spectacular gorge that defies description. Island legend states that when Mark Twain was here, he dubbed it “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” (Unfortunately, when you read his biography, you find that when he visited Hawai‘i, he never set foot on Kaua‘i. Oops, there goes another urban legend.) Regardless, the layers evident on the sides of the canyon are reminiscent of the grander canyon in Arizona. Each layer represents a different eruption and subsequent lava flow. The canyon is 10 miles long, 1 mile wide and more than 3,600 feet deep.

To get to the canyon, take Waimea Canyon Drive from Waimea. They want you to go up from Koke‘e Road in Kekaha because they hope you’ll buy something there, but the views are better going up from Waimea. On your return from the canyon, you can take Koke‘e Road (between mile markers 6 and 7) down for a different view of the coast.

The canyon lookout is an awesome vista. At one time three rivers, fed from the island’s center by the Alaka‘i Swamp on Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale, all ran down the gently sloping shield volcano, emptying into the ocean at separate points like the spokes of a wheel. That’s what created the now-dry valleys you see on your way out to Polihale. When a fault caused the collapse of part of the volcano’s flank, the three rivers were forced to combine as they ran down into the fault. This new, opportunistic river carved a place for itself in the splintered and fractured lava flows. The results are extraordinary.

Kauai Island

Kaua‘i is a unique place. People who visit here recognize this immediately. There are plenty of places in the world featuring sun and sea, but no other place offers the incomparable beauty, lushness and serenity of Kaua‘i. Living here, we get to see first-time visitors driving around with their jaws open, shaking their heads in disbelief at what they see. Without a doubt, you will never see more smiles than during your visit to Kaua‘i.

Learn more about Kauai Island, it’s culture, Kauai weather, etc, at this link.

Hawaii Kauai

Kaua‘i is a unique place. People who visit here recognize this immediately. There are plenty of places in the world featuring sun and sea, but no other place offers the incomparable beauty, lushness and serenity of Kaua‘i. Living here, we get to see first-time visitors driving around with their jaws open, shaking their heads in disbelief at what they see. Without a doubt, you will never see more smiles than during your visit to Kaua‘i.

Learn more about Kauai Island, it’s culture, Kauai weather, etc, at this link.

Kauai Island Map

Find Kauai Island map at this link.Hawaii Kauai

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