Usa Adventures Under Your Own Steam: Kayaking The Na Pali Coast

Strike out with paddle and kayak to take in one of the world’s most beautiful places.

Hawaii’s Na Pali coast, off the coast of Kauai, is one of the most beautiful places in the world, beloved by world travellers and Insta celebrities alike. And how better to experience it than under your own power? More and more tour companies are offering the opportunity to kayak around the sea-carved cliffs of the coast, an experience that’s unrivalled in the area, making its way onto bucket lists the world over.

So what can you expect, what will you see, and what should you bring?

The Cliffs, the Sea, the Beaches, the Rainforest

Na Pali (“the cliffs”, translated literally) is an expedition divided into three sections. First, paddle from Haena Beach Park to overnight stays at the Kalalau and Milolii campgrounds of the Hawaii State Park. From there, it’s another day of crystal blue waters and breathtaking volcanic landscapes along the western coast to Polihale State Park. The pace by canoe is refreshingly slow, allowing travellers to soak in the sights and sounds of sea and jungle. Some tours even let kayakers explore the coastal caves on their own.

The pace, though, means a level of ability with a paddle is required before you attempt the Na Pali Trail. Sunburn, dehydration, exhaustion and heatstroke can stop you in your tracks entirely. Also, even if you don’t usually get seasick, the sea can be rough, so bring seasickness medication. Specialist USA travel insuranceis more than advisable to cover possible mishaps or illness.

The Places You’ll Go

Starting in the Pacific west of Hanalei, the trail winds along sheer cliffs and lush greenery to Kalalau Beach. Kayakers can see a host of aquatic wildlife here including flying fish, spinner dolphins, even endangered green sea turtles or humpback whales. Guides often lead their groups to see the caves in this area up to Kalalau Beach, telling local stories, myths and legends. The water sources here are freezing waterfalls from the cliffs – how’s that for an invigorating shower after a day’s work?

The campsite at Kalalaku Beach is less plush resort and more music festival; laid-back vibes and surfer style mix with local colour. And speaking of colour, the Pacific sunsets here have to be seen to be believed, under tropical fruit trees and lulled by the sound of the waves – and a cocktail or two.

The next day takes you past coral reefs and lunar-looking igneous rock formations to Milolii Beach, where the camping is more wilderness standard, cabins and outhouses – much more peaceful than the party atmosphere of the previous night.

The last five-mile stretch to Polihale is even more stark, bare rock, followed by views of the coffee plantation, maybe even a local delicacy: shave ice with coloured syrup atop macadamia nut ice cream. You’ve earned it!

Preparation for Your Trip

Guides advise having four days’ worth of supplies, including food, clothing and purification tablets for the cliffside waterfalls. You’ll have plenty of places to camp available, but make sure you arrange access to the sites beforehand, especially in peak season. And as with any trip to the USA, travel insurance is a must for you and your belongings.

Author Plate

Ethan Bailey is an experienced adventure traveller and insurance expert with the team at Let's Go Insure. Ethan’s passion is to inspire his clients to go just that little bit further, deeper and higher on their travels and his expertise in providing the ideal insurance cover allows them to do just that. If you're looking for the best USA travel insurance Let's Go works with the most experienced underwriters, intermediaries and insurers to offer a range of competitive insurance without compromising on cover.

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