The appeal of Napali Coast State Wilderness Park on the island of Kauai is its striking beauty. The pali, or cliffs, rise dramatically up to 4,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. Hidden beaches are dotted among its many sheer amphitheater-like cliffs rising above secluded green valleys, while waterfalls tumble down its walls from great heights.
It attracts all types of people from all over the world – day hikers, backpackers, trail runners, free spirits and hermits. The park, which stretches from Haena to the Milolii Valley, can be seen by air, land or sea – each a unique adventure I’ve had and none of which gets old.
The 11-mile Kalalau Trail is an arduous but incredible journey to secluded white-sand Kalalau Beach that takes six to 10 hours, depending on ability. (Most people are familiar with the trail for the first 2 miles to Hanakapiai Beach.) The helicopter tour takes you in and around the valleys, allowing you to look over the coast in a way that you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. The boat tour is the better of the two in many ways, as it takes you right into the scene with very little effort, which is what I chose to do this time around.
Sunny skies are clear and spray hits me as we ride out into the open sea. Makana Charters’ 32-passenger catamaran passes Polihale Beach to my right, the last beach accessible by car from the west side. I see campers lining the wide white sand beach and dunes to the start of the towering cliffs.
The light begins to change, as we continue in the shadow of those rolling cliffs and the ocean turns a vibrant turquoise blue like I’ve never seen. Dolphins appear, jumping and twirling in front of our boat – I count at least seven or 10 – and I feel like nothing could be as idyllic as this moment.