Capt. Andy’s Sailing Adventure’s power catamaran can accommodate up to 49 passengers. // © 2012 Marty Wentzel
Everyone has their own power spot, and for me it has always been the Na Pali Coast. Draped along 22 miles of Kauai’s northwest shore, its 3,000-foot-high volcanic sea cliffs tumble from the sky to the sea, dotted with waterfalls, mysterious sea caves and unspoiled beaches.
Perhaps what makes Na Pali so alluring is its inaccessibility. The paved road around the island dead-ends on either side of the cliffs. Serious hikers can traverse a grueling 11-mile trail for rugged camping on one of its beaches but, for most travelers, it’s a place that’s easiest experienced from a boat or helicopter.
For me, the most carefree way to witness Na Pali is courtesy of a snorkel cruise. That’s why, on a recent visit to the island, I booked a ride with Capt. Andy’s Sailing Adventures. While the company offers the option of thrilling fast-paced coastal tours in an inflatable Zodiac, I chose to ride on its 55-foot Spirit of Kauai, a sleek and sturdy 49-passenger power catamaran combining comfort and splashy fun. The firm also offers Na Pali cruises on its luxurious Southern Star yacht.
Spirit of Kauai departs from Port Allen on Kauai’s south shore. After our group strolled down to the dock, we slipped off our shoes for the barefoot cruise to come. The adventure was captained by Matt Faria, a 16-year company veteran. Two other crew members adeptly juggled such jobs as serving drinks and snapping photos of passengers. Everyone munched on a continental breakfast of rolls, fresh pineapple wedges, juice and coffee as we listened to a description of the five-hour adventure to come.
Powering along the coast, we passed the last signs of west Kauai civilization before Na Pali took over. The farther we cruised, the greener and more majestic the cliffs grew. Along the way, Faria talked about the fascinating legends and history of Na Pali, where every valley, ridge and waterfall seems to be steeped in cultural significance.
Several times, Faria demonstrated his sailing prowess as he nudged the Spirit of Kauai super-close to sea caves while keeping us safe. He slowed the vessel when a large pod of spinner dolphins chose to swim alongside us, playing in our wake. Later, a few sea turtles waved their fins at us. Needless to say, a camera is a must on this voyage.
After two hours, Faria turned around the catamaran and hoisted the sails for a spell. Eventually, he anchored us in a calm snorkeling spot, not far from shore. Instruction was available for the novice snorkelers in the group, and it was easy to get into the water courtesy of the boat’s submerged platform. While I was disappointed that the fish were scarce that day, the sheer beauty of bobbing in the water directly beneath Na Pali’s majestic pinnacles buoyed my spirits.
Back on the boat, we dug into a generous lunch that included sandwiches, pasta salad and cookies. After lunch, several people sunbathed on the trampolines at the vessel’s bow while Na Pali watched over us.
For the remainder of the ride, the previously peaceful onboard atmosphere turned more festive. Faria cranked up the Jimmy Buffet tunes on the loudspeaker, and crew members passed out beer to the adults. Someone figured out how fun it is to lie on the trampolines and get splashed by the waves, leading to plenty of laughs and happy shrieks.
Agents can feel comfortable recommending this trip to clients who want to encounter Na Pali for themselves. It’s one of those power spots that everyone needs to see at least once in their lives, and Capt. Andy’s has what it takes to make that wish come true.