Do you remember the helicopter landing scene on Isla Nublar from Jurassic Park where a helicopter flies between lush green valleys and lands in front of a waterfall?
Do you remember the sea caves from Pirates of the Caribbean?
Do you remember Harrison Ford in Peruvian jungle in Raiders of the Lost Ark?
That is KAUAI !
The oldest and northernmost island in Hawaiian chain, Kauai is the most underrated island where the most beautiful places are very remote and inaccessible.You either need to hike, take a boat or ride a helicopter to enjoy the real beauty of the island.An island where a day starts lazy but ends up in an adventure.You will have to work hard and spend some money to actually see the awe aspiring natural beauty of the island.It doesn’t have an endless sun of the Big Island, luxurious resorts of Maui or history and flamboyance of Oahu.Instead, it’s quite wet, lush and sleepy.If you are into nature than you will have to work extra hard to get to the dreamy landscapes for which Kauai is famous.The best beaches are hard to get which means no umbrellas, no chairs, no coolers and no picnic tables on the long stretch of sand.
I find North Kauai to be the most beautiful part of the island especially Napali Coast.Because of its remoteness, it still holds its heavenly aura and is not overrun by tourism.We experienced the coast in 3 ways – by hiking, on a boat tour and took helicopter ride.All 3 were completely different and unique experiences.I have never seen a single region from so many different angles.
Explore Napali On Foot
The easiest way to see the lush green cliffs is from Kalalau Point but believe me viewpoint doesn’t do any justice to the magical cliffs.If you want to see a little glimpse of the vast landscape, hike Awa’awapuhi Trail which starts at Kalalau point overlooking ocean and Kalalau beach, only beach allowed to camp on the coast.The trail is for expert hikers.Its extremely narrow, steep, slippery and muddy especially when it rains.Its a 6.5 mile round trip.The final lookout is at the end of the very narrow ridge with 1000 foot drop off on either side.Its very dangerous and most people stop before the ridge.The trail takes you down first and it takes you so low, you almost feel like you are inside valley overlooking hidden waterfalls.
Another way to experience Napali is by hiking 11 mile (each way) Kalalau trail.Its again an extremely difficult hike on the narrow ridges overlooking ocean and requires overnight camping.The trail was closed during our visit due to flooding.
Explore Napali On Boat
Hiking cannot take you everywhere especially on the remote beaches, reefs, turquoise waters and mammoth sea caves.We took Na Pali Snorkel Raft Adventure with Kauai Sea Tours and it was an amazing way to explore the waters of Napali. If you are healthy and fit, I would suggest you to choose Raft instead of Catamaran because Rafts can take you inside the sea caves just because they are smaller vessel. Don’t expect raft ride to be smooth and comfortable. Depending upon the waves in the ocean, the ride can turn into nightmare with people puking everywhere and severe back and neck ache.The day of our trip was one of the perfect days on Napali coast.Within few minutes in the ocean we saw dolphins and turtles dancing around our raft.Cruising through beautiful Kauai landscapes, we saw island of Niihau, the only island in Hawaiian chain where tourism is not allowed.As we rafted through green cliffs of Napali, we came across most beautiful beaches on the island and intriguing sea caves. Napali coast is filled with amazing and picturesque sea caves and going with a tour gives you extra edge as they tell you story behind every cave.For eg there is an open ceiling cave where ritual combat took place for the throne just like Black Panther.The cave is not always accessible and its at discretion of the captain if the cave is doable.Since it was a perfect day, we were able to explore most of the sea caves including “Double Door” or Waiʻahuʻakua,Open Ceiling,Pirate,Sea Arch and Ho’ululu cave.While coming back, we stopped at a reef for snorkeling with turtles and fish.Overall it was quite an adventurous experience and worth the money.
Explore Napali By Air
We decided to take helicopter ride in Kauai because over 70% of the island is inaccessible unlike other Hawaiian islands.Only helicopter can take you inside the majestic valleys of Napali, cascading waterfalls, inside Waimea Canyon and Mt Waialeale volcano crater.This tour is best if you actually want to see the real beauty of Kauai as seen in the movies.The 1 hour flight gives a perfect bird eye view of the lush paradise.
Take Tree Tunnel to enter the sunny side of the island which is mainly popular for its beaches,vacation rentals, resorts and condominiums.This is the commercial area in the island where most tourist stay.The most popular attraction are Poipu and Spouting Horn.
East shore is also known as Royal Coconut coast.Among the farms of coconut trees, you will find resorts, golf courses, beach parks and historical places. Wailua and Kapaa are good towns to explore.We stayed in Kapaa. It is a very peaceful town where you can only be able to hear the sound of ocean.Its not very vibrant as Poipu but all the necessities are readily available.The popular attractions are Park,Opaekaa Falls,Wailua River State Park and Wailua falls.
This shore is like an unopened book waiting to be explored. Kokee State Park is hikers paradise. Waimea Canyon is also called “The Grand Canyon Of the Pacific”.As I already mentioned in my blog if you are planning to hike just one trail, go for Awa’awapuhi Trail in Kokee State Park at Kalalau Point to see magical cliffs of Napali. Polihale State Park is the farthest you can go but be prepared to drive on very bad dirt road for 3 miles.