NaPali Coast State Wilderness Park
Like every other US state, Hawaii has a number of State Parks that are centrally managed. Unlike other states, the parks in Hawaii are spread out between 5 different islands. The tiny island of Kauai boasts 9 different State Parks. NaPali Coast State Wilderness Park sits on little Kauai.
NaPali Coast is located in the center of the rugged 16 miles along the northwest side of Kauai. The wilderness park is a 6,175 acres of protected land. As it happens, Kauai is the oldest inhabited Hawaiian island, and NaPali Coast among the oldest inhabited area of Kauai.
The NaPali Coast itself extends southwest starting at Ke'e beach extending all the way to Polihale state park. It includes roughly eleven miles of untouched coast. The na pali (high cliffs) along the shoreline rise as much as 4,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. The state park was formed to protect the Kalalau Valley.
NaPali Coast is one of the many reasons Kauai is considered the Garden Isle of the Hawaiian archipelago. This was by far one of my favorite parts of my trip to Kauai!
Exploring the NaPali Coast
I explained in a previous article, Cruising Kauai, that Kauai has one main road. The ends do not connect, and it does not go through the State Park areas. The only way to access and explore this area is by hiking, kayaking, or boat. There are a couple of trails which could be considered day hikes, but the main trail, The Kalalau Trail, is 11 miles long, and recommended for only experienced hikers.
My family and I decided to take a boat tour along the NaPali Coast. there are a number of vendors that provide boat tours in the area, and some can be arranged through the Hawaii State Parks website. We opted for a NaPali Coast boat tour that had a snorkeling excursion. These boat tours are an all day adventure.
There are so many things that can be seen from the water that you would otherwise never know were there. There were waterfalls, sea caves, and coastal jungle areas. As said, people have lived on this part of Kauai for a very long time, and there is often research to learn about those civilizations being done. The tour guides pointed out archaeologists working on a dig, which I found to be very cool.
Another really awesome part of the NaPali Coast boat tour was that the guides were so knowledgeable. They told us how many different movies have been shot using the tropics in the park, and the NaPali Coast with its interesting rock formations. I had no idea how many films had utilized the area for their shots! They cited movies such as Jurassic Park, King Kong, Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar, Hook, and so many more.
Snorkeling the NaPali Coast
Eventually we got to a reef where the tour guides stopped the boat, handed out snorkeling equipment, and explained how to snorkel. I absolutely loved it!
Being in the water and getting that close to marine life was awesome. I did however freak every now and then, whipping around to see if there were any sharks near by. As much as I love the ocean, getting eaten is still a fear.
I had purchased some underwater disposable cameras just for this. I wanted a picture of a sea turtle. I waited, and waited, and waited some more, until eventually I was the only one still in the water. The tour guide hollered and said it was time for me to come back. Reluctantly, I swam back to the boat.
No sooner did I climb in the boat get my flippers off, that there in the water, sure enough, was my sea turtle. I begged to get back in but the guides said we had to eat lunch (which they provided) and continue with the tour.
This tour had some of the best views, from the cliffs, to the beautiful turquoise waters, as well as the beautiful colors of the marine life. I would recommend a NaPali Coast Boat Tour to anyone spending time on the island of Kauai. It is not a budget experience, but it IS a lifetime experience!
On the way back to the docks the sunset was stunning. It was the perfect ending to a beautiful day.