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If you’re going to Kauai, you likely know that the #1 thing to do there is see the Napali Coast. If you’re done any research at all, you probably know that it’s not just something you can drive up and see. Kauai’s Napali Coast is so isolated and rugged that it can only be seen by air, from sea, or on foot. You’ll find information about the pros and cons of seeing it each way here, but this post is all about seeing it from the water!
The best time to do a boat tour down the Napali Coast is during the summer months (April to October). This is when ocean conditions are calmest. Tours are offered (only leaving from the south side) during the winter months, but they’re frequently cancelled due to high surf.
There are a TON of companies that offer boat tours down the Napali Coast, so narrowing it down can be a little tricky. I strongly suggest picking a tour operator that leaves out of Hanalei instead of Port Allen (or anywhere on the south side). When you leave out of Hanalei, your whole tour is up and down the Napali Coast. When you leave out of Port Allen, you have to sail for almost an hour before you even get to the Napali Coast, and to make it back within the four hour allotted tour time, the boats often turn back early and you don’t even get to see the entire coast. Leaving out of Hanalei is only an option during the summer months though due to weather. If your trip is during the winter months, your only choices will be to leave from the south shore.
You’ll also have to narrow down what kind of boat you’ll take on your tour. Boats range from small ocean rafts to large catamarans. When you have an option, always go out on a smaller boat. The big catamarans (although cheaper) can’t venture into the sea caves and that’s one of the best parts of the Napali Coast. Most of the tours on Zodiacs (ocean rafts) are advertised as “snorkel cruises” or “snorkel adventures,” but don’t go in expecting too much. These are definitely boat tours of the Napali Coast to revel in the scenery of one of the most magnificent parts of Hawaii with a (sub par) snorkeling spot thrown in. It’s not terrible, but I’ve done a few different tours that stop at different spots and it has never been anything to write home about. You’re going to see the scenery and enjoy being out on the water.
Like I mentioned before, there are so many tour operators to choose from. If you follow the criteria I’ve outlined above when looking, you’ll end up having a great time. I can’t speak about every single tour, but here are a couple I recommend: