Kayak the Na Pali Coast - the ultimate paddling experience


The Na Pali Coast of Kauai is legendary, featuring 3,000 foot cliffs towering over aqua blue coastal waters. The 17 miles of remote coastline wilderness are unreachable by car and boating, hiking or helicoptering in are your only options to get a glimpse of this hidden natural spectacle. The paddling trek on a kayak is by far the most profound way to experience this wilderness. Though not for everyone, those who sign onto the full day adventure of paddling the coast will have a life long memory of the epic natural rock cathedral spires that tower over head, and the epic blue ocean.

At a Glance:

Highlights: As you paddle down the coast the peace and quiet sets in as you drift below some of the most extraordinary geological sights on Kauai. When conditions are calm, you can even explore hidden sea caves and beaches that bigger boats can not reach.
Activity Level: Moderate-extreme depending on your paddle experience and weather. Paddlers are responsible through there own efforts to make this journey happen.
Hazards: Launch and landings require attention to details that your guide will explain. Personal Floatation Vests are provided and recommended.
Time Length: 6 to 10 hours paddling 2 hours driving.
Cost: $240 plus tax, offered daily weather permitting April through September

This ultimate paddle experience is primarily a summertime adventure due to more favorable wind and ocean conditions. When the conditions are unfavorable, the trip will not go out so rest assured your safety and enjoyment is paramount in planning this trip. During the summer trips go out daily starting with a 6 a.m. meet and great at the Kayak Kauai offices at Wailua Marina. Reservations are required.

Kayak Kauai are the industry leaders in this trek, their "novice" on our trip had 8 year experience and the other had 15 years. These are the guys you want watching your back for a day on this stretch of ocean. Once you have signed in and are provided personal floatation vests and "wet-dry" bags you begin an adventure that will take you completely around the island in 12+ hours. Serious bragging rights may ensue for all those on board by days end.

A 45 minute van ride takes you to past the town of Hanalei to the launch point of Haena County Beach Park. The pre-launch paddle lessons and safety warnings are valuable information, with the #1 rule of the day being, have fun! Though I might also recommend the "don't loose your paddle" as a close second rule.

The 1st mile of paddling in your double seater kayak becomes the proving ground. Basically you have a mile to get your head geared into this activity, before passing the point of no return. Two guides work with your group, one in the lead and one in the rear. They are very present in this beginning process to get you aware of the effort and focus needed to make the full days journey. As one guide said, "after we get on the water we have to be real, which is not always being nice because we have had the experience of people going past their limits, freaking out, and even refusing to paddle any further which leads to a difficult day. To be fair to all we have to make sure people are aware of the fact that its an all day effort based on there own paddling."  

Once you make the commitment to paddle, you will not be disappointed. The view from the base of thousand foot tall cliffs is rarefied, revealing layer upon layer of lava rock that formed Kauai 5,000,000 years ago. If the conditions are calm enough, there are sea caves to explore and waterfalls to paddle through. The lush green Kalalau Valley, the centerpiece of the Na Pali Coast wilderness is an epic sight from the water. It resembles the kind of Hawaii view the original discoverers, the Polynesians, may have viewed upon finding these islands. Many valleys follow, and a few Cliffside waterfalls as you continue along the coast.  You may even notice the beach cave made famous in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies fronting one of the beaches.

The hours seem to slip by as you find your paddling rhythm and your waterproof camera fills with endless scenic wonders. Eventually you round the point that has been in farthest view down the coast, and your lunch destination Miloli'i Beach is in sight. The guides take you to a channel through the reef for a soft beach landing. Watch out that you don't run into a green sea turtle, they frequent this beach as does the occasional monk seal. Dry land and standing up on your under-used legs provides a great relief for all as lunch unfolds from picnics your guides have paddled in for you.

Depending on the kind of weather and the progress made there is often a little window to beachcomb or photograph the epic cliffs overhead. Look for the white tailed "tropics birds" that spiral overhead as they flutter to there roosts. As your group assembles on the beach for the next leg of the trip, the view back from where you have paddled is spectacular. This adventure is something to be proud of, as only a few thousand people of the millions of visitors that reach Hawaii every year make this sort of trek. The paddle to the Polihale Beach seems short by comparison to the long paddle before it. A combined sense of relief and regret greet you as you see the beach grow ever larger as you approach. The journey has been epic, in the truest sense of the word, hopefully you got a few good pictures to remind you of the ultimate paddle journey you have undertaken.

Kayak Kauai booking link:

  • Wailua River Marina is off of HI-route 56 the Kuhio Highway at the town of Wailua.
  • From the north: following HI-route 56 south, cross the Wailua bridge and make your first right and follow the road in looking for the signs for "Kayak Kauai".
  • From the south: following HI-route 56 north, look for signs for "Lydgate Park" on right and get in left lane. Turn left onto small connector road before the Wailua bridge and go to stop sign. Carefully cross the southbound lanes and enter Wailua River Marina. Follow the road in and look for signs for "Kayak Kauai"


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