Chances are you will spot pods of playful spinner dolphins as you pass the sandy beaches of Barking Sands and Polihale. When you arrive at the Na Pali coast it will take your breath away! The raft will explore all the “nooks and crannies” of the majestic coastline.
This tour allows you to experience the Na Pali coast in a way that few other tours permit, as very few vessels have the permission from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources to actually land at Nualolo Kai. This is a memorable excursion to this historic site that few people who live in Hawaii have ever had the opportunity to experience.
Cruise Ship Passengers
These morning tours do not work for cruise ship passengers. The morning tour starts too early for any cruise ship passengers to make it to check in. While Pride of America stays overnight, the second day doesn’t work either as you wouldn’t have time to get back to the ship after your tour.
If you are on the Pride of America and overnighting in Kauai, you can do an afternoon tour or you might also consider a Sunset tour of the Na Pali on the afternoon / evening of day one in port.
The magnificent Na Pali Coast is an absolute must-see on Kauai. You have a few choices when it comes to how you visit this stunning shoreline with its towering spires, waterfalls falling into the ocean, and mysterious sea caves. If you are the adventurous type, then one of the Na Pali rafting tours is definitely the way to go as it gets you closer than larger vessels, especially those that have masts.
Here are the best rafting choices available … let’s break them down and figure out which is best for you.
The Na Pali Explorer is available year-round from Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor on the Poipu, or south side of the island. This is a larger raft at 48 feet which means a smoother ride (as smooth as rafts go, anyway…) and you have your choice of either regular seats or seating on the inflatable tubes for a more adventurous ride. This vessel offers cover for shade and a rest room onboard. If you are going to be on Kauai from November through March, this is the only one of these three available during those months.
From April through October, Kauai Sea Tours offers a smaller 24 foot raft on a longer excursion that includes a beach landing at Nualolo Kai. It is pretty special to walk around at this spot as it will take you back to ancient Hawaii. It is a secluded beach with absolutely no land access of any kind … the only way to get there is by boat and only a select few are given permits to land here. The visit to Nualolo Kai is only offered during later spring, summer, and early fall since giant ocean swells in the winter months make beach landings impossible. The departure is from Port Allen which is also on the Poipu side of the island, so it makes it most convenient if you are staying in or around Lihue, Poipu or Waimea.
If you will be staying in or around Kapa’a, Princeville or Hanalei during the months of April through October, then the Hanalei Rafting Tour would be the best choice. The same swells that prevent Kauai Sea Tours from landing in the winter also prevent the Hanalei Rafting Tour from taking off from the north shore. The advantage of this departure point is that you start the tour right at the beginning of the Na Pali coast, and you don’t have as long of a boat ride to get there. We don’t recommend anyone staying in Poipu to drive all the way to Hanalei for this tour though. The Na Pali Explorer and Kauai Sea Tours are a much shorter drive, and it is common to encounter a pod of dolphins on the way to the Na Pali Coast on those south shore departures.
Keep in mind that all of these rafting tours can be pretty bumpy. They are not recommended for anyone who has neck or back issues, and young children are not permitted. If you want to visit the Na Pali Coast by boat, but not necessarily a raft, then take a look at the options for the catamaran snorkel tours or the Na Pali Coast sunset motor tour.