Anyone who has researched the Hawaiian island of Kauai has most definitely encountered stunning scenes of the Na Pali Coast. It’s pretty impossible to avoid them. Pinterest is filled with them, and I see it pop up in my Facebook feed nearly every day. It has this mystical, other-worldly beauty that has long captivated all who are lucky enough to witness it.
Kyle and I were two such lucky people last August when we visited Kauai as part of our three-island anniversary trip. Now, there are lots of ways to experience the Na Pali Coast, but the traditional way people see it are about the least traditional ways you can imagine. Only about 10 percent of Kauai is accessible by car, leaving the rest to be explored by foot, air, or sea. If we’d had more time—and any ambition to hike 11 miles—we could have followed the Kalalau Trail along the Napali Coast. But since we’re less than athletic, we opted for viewing the coastline via helicopter, catamaran, and canyon rim!
The dramatic coastline first came into view as we rounded the island on the hour-long “Private Island” tour with Mauna Loa Helicopters. We chose the company because they allowed for a “doors-off” tour. I captured unadulterated views of the magical Na Pali with my camera. It has this way of leaving you totally speechless—and after the tour, you wonder if it was all just part of some fantastic dream.
That same evening, we boarded the Southern Star Na Pali Dinner Sunset Sail with Capt. Andy’s Sailing. The four-hour cruise began with cocktails and longing on the front of the catamaran, feeling the sea spray on our faces. We saw a pod of dolphins playing in the waves, and watched flying fish jump in front of our boat. Then we saw it—those spectacular cliffs from an entirely new angle. They almost take on this foreboding appearance when you’re gazing up at them instead of looking down from a helicopter. It’s one of a handful of times in my life when I’ve gazed upon something so gargantuan and felt inconceivably small. After the requisite number of pictures are taken in front of the cliffs, a delicious meal is served on the return trip—along with gorgeous sunset views.
The following day, we got a third viewing of Na Pali by a very happy accident. We decided to venture up the Waimea Canyon. We’d see this by helicopter the previous day, too, and wanted a closer look. The reds of the earth are like nothing we’d ever seen! At the very top, we pulled off at the Kalalau Lookout. Now, if I’d done my research, I would have known about the dramatic views, but not knowing was almost better! Standing 4,000 feet above sea level, the lookout gives you a dead-on view of the Na Pali Coast—one perspective we hadn’t yet seen. Some of my very favorite pictures from our Hawaii trip came from this very spot. I highly recommend a visit!
No matter how you choose to view the Na Pali Coast—by air, sea, hike, etc.—just make sure you take in the views on your trip to Kauai. It is truly a sight to behold, and will stay with you long after you leave. Trust me.
What to know if you go:
Kauai Helicopter Tours by Mauna Loa Helicopters
Tours start at $274/pp
3656 Ahukini Road
Lihue, HI 96766
Phone: (808) 652-3148(808) 652-3148
Southern Star Na Pali Dinner Sunset Sail with Capt. Andy’s Sailing
$149/pp (book online to save $10)
4353 Waialo Rd #1A-2A
Eleele, HI 96705
Phone:(808) 335-6833(808) 335-6833
Located at the 18 mile marker on Kokee Road on a drive up Waimea Canyon