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Motivated by experience-based travel, clients want to see Kauai’s untouched nature up-close.
The island’s Napali Coast — 17 miles of northwestern coastline — is a great place to do that. With sea cliffs, waterfalls, beaches and lush vegetation, it’s a magnet for nature lovers. Here are four great ways for visitors to see the Napali Coast for themselves.
Boat ToursClients can view Napali’s highlights from the water during boat tours. One company, Capt. Andy’s, offers tours ranging “from wet, wild raft adventures to relaxing catamaran rides,” said Trisha Lorenzo, marketing director for the local tour operator. Dinner tours can include barbecued filet mignon and jumbo shrimp skewers prepared by a chef onboard.
“My special memory is when we were out on a Napali raft snorkel trip,” she said. “We came upon a pod of spinner dolphins, and they gave us a magical show, swimming right by the boat and jumping in the air.”
In the winter months, clients can have views of the humpback whales that come to the Hawaiian Islands, she says. Her tip: Book early, as trips fill up quickly.
Other boating options include Holo-Holo Charters’ Napali Sunset Cruise and Makana Charters and Tours’ five-hour excursion, which includes a deli lunch and snorkel equipment.
Helicopter ToursClients can snap aerial shots of the Napali Coast from the air during a helicopter tour. One of many companies offering air tours is Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, which runs a 55-minute flight out of Lihue Airport and a 45-minute adventure from Princeville Airport on Kauai’s north shore.
Jack Harter Helicopters offers 60- and 90-minute tours on an AStar helicopter. Departing from Lihue Airport, clients glimpse not only Napali’s stunning scenery but also Waimea Canyon, Hanalei Bay, Manawaiopuna Falls and Wailua Falls.
Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours runs private tours above the rugged splendor of the coast and over the deep, colorful gorges of Kauai’s Waimea Canyon. During its photography tour, limited to parties of one or two passengers, clients choose where to fly.
Hiking TrailsOne Kauai hike especially lures risktakers and adventure seekers: the Kalalau Trail, a dangerous 11-mile trek. As of July, the Kalalau Trail was still closed due to flood damage, with repairs expected through November, according to Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.
When reopened, it will be the most intimate way for experienced hikers to interact with Kauai’s untouched coastline, as it’s the only land access to that portion of the coast. Annually, about 500,000 visitors use the trail, which starts at Kee Beach. Many people turn around at the 2-mile marker, which is located at Hanakapiai Beach. You need a state permit to continue to Kalalau Beach.
A more family-friendly hike, based in Kokee, is the Pihea Trail. It starts at the Puu O Kila Lookout, 1 mile beyond the Kalalau Lookout. It’s not as narrow, overlooks the same vista and provides that foot-on-the-ground experience.
Guided tours are also available, including Hike Kauai and Kauai Hiking Adventures. They recommend bringing 1 liter of water per day hike and wearing Vibram five-toed shoes.
Kokee State Park LookoutsKokee, Kauai’s upland state park, provides sweeping views from 4,000 feet above sea level. To get there from the westside town of Waimea, clients drive uphill on Highway 550. The road hugs Waimea Canyon as it heads toward the rainforests. Along the way, clients can enjoy a picnic and see Hawaiian forest birds such as apapane, iwi and moa.
The primary stop is Kalalau Lookout, which offers a picturesque view of the coastline. Blockbusters such as “Jurassic Park” and “King Kong” were filmed in the green valley below. Go early in the morning, because the fog rapidly sweeps in to cover the view of the expansive Pacific Ocean if you wait too long into the day (11 a.m. is a good cut-off time, a state park guide told me).