Postcard from Kauai: Cruising the Na Pali Coast

Na Pali Coast Catamaran Tour

Even on an island where every landscape is more stunning than the last, Kauai’s Na Pali Coast will take your breath. Its razor-edged cliffs and waterfalls plummet to the crashing waves, with luminous green valleys peeking through the gaps. Remote and rugged, Na Pali has no roads or infrastructure and there are only three ways to see it: from the air, from the ocean, or via an intense hike. Looking up at the cliffs from the water is the most magical by far.

Family-friendly boat tours of Na Pali abound, but the secret is to choose one of the companies that leaves from Hanalei on Kauai’s North Shore (most depart from the Port Allen area down south). The coastline is just west of Hanalei Bay, meaning you reach it in a matter of minutes rather than the two-plus hours it can take from Port Allen. We went with Na Pali Catamaran and had a fantastic experience. Their 35-foot vessel is very simple without the bells and whistles of larger ones, but the worthwhile tradeoff is small group sizes (18 maximum) and the ability to enter the sea caves that dot the coastline—something the bigger and fancier boats can’t do. A capable and engaging crew, plus a break to snorkel amid the sea turtles near Nualolo Kai, make this a spectacular half-day excursion with kids age 5 and up.

TIP: The waves along Na Pali can get bumpy, especially on the return. My 10-year-old thought the roller-coaster effect was a blast, but it’s a different story for those prone to seasickness. Go first thing in the morning for the smoothest conditions, and take Dramamine or Bonine just in case. Na Pali Coast tours run only from late spring through mid-fall; winter is too rough.

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Relevant Links:

Browse all family-friendly hotels and things to do in Hawaii on Ciao Bambino

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Three must-do family adventures on Kauai

The perfect laid-back day on Kauai with kids

Why Hawaii is the ultimate tropical escape with kids

Editor’s Note: Photo by Lisa Frederick.

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