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Napali Coast Tours

After our catamaran tour departs Port Allen, located in the Hanapape Bay on the southwest side of Kauai, we head north along the west coast of Kauai, towards the Napali Coast. Napali, meaning the cliffs or many cliffs, consists of 16 miles of dramatic coastline, vivid sea cliffs with over 4,000-foot steep drop-offs, emerald-green valleys, sea caves, and waterfalls. These cliffs were created millions of years ago when Kauai was formed and have since been shaped by years of withstanding the elements.

Hawaiians enjoyed an isolated life in the valleys of Napali for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Much evidence of their life is still found today. Artifacts have been recovered that are hundreds of years old, ancient heiau, or sites of worship, have been uncovered, and terracing is still present in many areas. It is estimated that life along the Napali began to change in the 1800s and early 1900s, as foreigners began frequenting the islands and introducing new ways of living. Native Hawaiians began abandoning their culture and simple lifestyle and eventually moved to more populated communities on Kauai to take advantage of emerging opportunities.

What You’ll See on Our Napali Coast Tour

This first prominent cliff we will encounter on our Napali Coast tour is the Makaha ridge and valley. This cliff is easily distinguished, as it hosts radar and tracking equipment and cellular phone sites you can see from a distance. One of the first prominent beaches is Milolii, about four miles northeast of Polihale Beach, and the westernmost and driest valley of the Napali Coast State Park. This was once a thriving fishing village featuring a stream near many heiau and shrines still found throughout the valley. This beach is only accessible by the sea and camping is allowed with a permit.

Nualolo cliff and valley are spotted next; another fishing village thrived here due to an excellent coral reef system fronting the beach. A visible “X” slashed into the high part of the cliff helps you easily recognize Nualolo. There are many myths surrounding this unique scar, but it is mostly credited to the volcano goddess, Pele, leaving her volcanic signature. Remnants of Hawaiian life can still be found in this area, including a rope ladder that connected the beach to the valley. In the valley, ancient burial and home sites have been uncovered, including tools, and artifacts, and evidence of a sophisticated terrace and agriculture network proves that this was once a popular community.

The next valley and cliff are known as Awaawapuhi, it is a great valley with a stream at the bottom. Sometimes you can make out a trail at the top, this is accessible from Kokee State Park and a vigorous hike will get you to an overlook of Awaawapuhi and another trail that connects to the Nualolo trail and cliff.

We point out the most famous sea cave along the way, the Open Ceiling Cave. The sea caves along Napali were mostly created by erosion, the constant waves have chiseled away at the porous lava rock. It is said this cave once had a weak roof structure that eventually collapsed, creating a skylight effect into the cave. This unique landmark often has brown boobies perched above the entrance.

Honopu beach and valley have been made famous by several feature films. A dramatic arch in the cliff connects two white-sand beaches, with a waterfall nearby. Movies like King Kong, Jurassic Park, Six Days and Seven Nights, as well as Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End all feature this beautiful backdrop.

The next valley, Kalalau, is probably the most famous and photographed valley of the Napali Coast. The valley and beach of Kalalau boast many hikers all year round; the Kalalau trail starts at Kee beach, and winds over eleven strenuous miles to Kalalau Beach. Freshwater is abundant with a stream and waterfall nearby, and the wide valley has excellent conditions for farming with terracing still in place from ancient days. When Napali was inhabited, it is estimated that a large population of two to four thousand Hawaiians may have lived in Kalalau at any given time. The cliffs directly behind Kalalau beach are known as the cathedral cliffs, for the cathedral-like spires jutting towards the heavens. You can see Kalalau from the top of the valley from the Kalalau Lookout point located in Kokee State Park.

After viewing all the famous sites of Napali, the captain points the boat west toward the Forbidden Island of Niihau. The channel between Kauai and Niihau is very deep and offers the best opportunity to see an abundance of sea life that resides in these Hawaiian waters.