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Kayaking Na Pali Coast

Nicola Burridge
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Embark on an exhilarating journey through the untamed splendor of Hawaii’s Na Pali Coast.

Discover hidden coves, towering cliffs, and vibrant marine life as you set off on this unforgettable adventure along one of the world’s most stunning coastlines.

It can be a bucket-list experience to kayak Na Pali Coast.

Our guide unlocks the secrets to a perfect kayaking experience, from navigating the crystalline waters to discovering the unforgettable vistas that await along this breathtaking stretch of coastline.

Why Kayak The Na Pali Coast?

The Na Pali Coast of Hawaii is one of the most beautiful coasts in the world. It features towering cliffs, narrow valleys, rugged sea caves, cascading waterfalls, and secluded beaches. 

This scenic and historic coastline is also featured in the Jurassic Park movies.

The best way to experience this mystical coast is by kayak. The only other option you have for exploring this wild coast is on foot. From a kayak, you get to see the pali, or sea cliffs, from an entirely different perspective and you can access sea caves and secluded beaches that are not accessible to hikers. 

The kayaking trip along this coast is roughly 17 miles long and takes an entire day to complete. However, you can break up your journey and extend your trip by camping at one of two locations along the way. 

Kayaking Kauai’s Na Pali Coast is not easy. You will experience ocean conditions, with strong currents and high surf. There are also limited places to stop along the route: only two designated landing beaches.

To kayak this coast, you should have an excellent level of physical fitness. You should also be a strong swimmer and have some experience of kayaking. 

I don’t recommend kayaking this coast of Hawaii if you’re a beginner, as this trip is a challenging paddle that’s best suited to advanced paddlers with sea kayaking experience. It also often requires several hours of kayaking without a break.

It’s worth mentioning that there is no cell service on the remote Na Pali Coast. 

What To See When Kayaking The Na Pali Coast


As well as the stunning scenery, one of the main draws for people to kayak along this spectacular coast on the west side of the island of Kauai, is the abundance of marine life.

When kayaking along this coast, you are likely to see sea turtles as they bob their heads out of the water or swim along near your kayak. 

Dolphins are also common sights along the Na Pali Coast, often jumping and playing around in the waves. 

If you’re lucky, you may see the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, one of the rarest seals in the world. 

If you plan to combine your kayaking trip with snorkeling, you’ll also have the chance to spot colorful reef species, such as butterflyfish and parrotfish.

Sea Caves, Secluded Beaches, And Coastal Waterfalls

Video: Kayaking The Na Pali Coast

There are lots of sea caves along this stretch of coast, some of which you can paddle into. There are also several sea arches, carved out by the power of the ocean and volcanoes. 

One of the famous caves is the Waiahuakua Cave, the second-longest sea cave in the US. You can paddle through this large cave and witness the Waiahuakua Falls, the waterfall that flows into the cave through a hole in the ceiling. 

You can also explore an open-ceiling cave near Honopu Beach. 

Honopu Beach is one of the secluded beaches you’ll come across as you kayak around this rugged coast. Waterfalls can be seen cascading into the ocean from the cliffs and around the caves.

Access to the beaches is not permitted. The only two accessible beaches for kayakers are Miloli’i and Kalalau.

Best Places To Kayak On Na Pali Coast

Ha’ena Beach

Ha’ena Beach is one of the most popular launch spots for kayak tours on Kauai’s Na Pali Coast. This scenic beach is located on the north coast of Kauai and is a great starting point for the 17-mile sea kayaking trip along the Na Pali Coast. 

Starting at Ha’ena Beach means you can paddle along the rugged coastline in a southwesterly direction so that you’re paddling with the current. This can be an easier route than paddling against the current heading north from Polihale Beach.

Because this beach is in Ha’ena State Park, you need to have Ha’ena State Park reservations to access the beach. 

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/II – difficulty depends on the ocean conditions. Easy conditions if calm but can be difficult with strong surf and currents.

Where to launch & How to get there:

Ha’ena Beach, HI-560, Kapa’a, HI 96746

Ke’e Beach

Ke’e Beach is a picturesque beach that lies within Ha’ena State Park, which means you need reservations to access the beach. This beach marks the start of the Na Pali Coast. 

It can be an excellent place to launch if you have your own kayak. Commercial kayak tours are not permitted to launch from this beach.

With generally calm, clear waters in the summer, this can be a popular place for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. The calm waters can also make launching a kayak a little easier. 

The beach is sheltered from large waves by a coral reef. However, beyond the reef, the waves can often be pretty strong.

To kayak NaPali Coast, you can launch from here and head south to paddle alongside the towering cliffs. 

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/II – easy to moderate. Generally sheltered waters close to the beach with stronger waves beyond the reef.

Where to launch & How to get there: 

Ke’e Beach, Kuhio Highway, HI 96746

Polihale Beach

Polihale State Park Beach is typically the landing beach and exit point for paddlers having completed the Na Pali Coast kayaking trip from the north. 

Launching from this beach means you will typically have to kayak against the current to paddle north along the Na Pali Coast. This will usually be more difficult than paddling from the other direction. However, the water tends to be calmer in general on this side of the island.

A benefit of launching at this beach is that you’re within sight of the rugged cliffs that make up the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park. This might be useful if you don’t want to kayak the entire distance or don’t want to stray too far from your base camp.

One trip you could do from this starting point is the five-mile paddle to Miloli’i. This can be a good spot to stop for lunch before paddling back on the five-mile return journey.

If you want to kayak the entire 17-mile route, I recommend you use this beach as your exit and start at Ha’ena on Kauai’s north shore. 

Class of Rapids rating:

Class I/II – easy to moderate. Easy, mostly flatwater in calm conditions. Susceptible to strong currents and surf.

Where to launch & How to get there:

Polihale State Park, Lower Saki Mana Road, Hwy 50, Waimea, HI 96796. 

Best Time Of Year To Kayak Na Pali Coast

Generally, the only time of year you can safely kayak the Na Pali Coast is during the summer months. Because of the rough seas during the winter, it’s not possible to kayak this coastline at any other time of year. 

Organized Na Pali Coast kayaking trips are only available in the summer months, usually between May and September. 

Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park only permits kayaking along the coast between May 15th and September 7th. 

Even when paddling during the summer, the weather conditions can change quickly, making this route difficult and dangerous to kayak. Some sea caves and beaches may not always be accessible due to rough seas.

It can be better to begin your adventure in the morning when the winds and ocean conditions tend to be calmer. 

Is A Permit Required For Kayaking Around Na Pali Coast?

You don’t need a permit to kayak along the Na Pali Coast. However, you may need a permit to land on some of the beaches and to access some of the launch sites in state parks. 

You will need a permit to access Ha’ena Beach or Ke’e Beach. You will also need a permit to land or camp at Kalalau Valley, one of only two legal landing spots for kayakers on this coast. 

The second legal landing spot for kayakers is Miloli’i Beach. The Miloli’i Valley can only be accessed by boat during the summer months. Kayaks can use the beach for day use without a permit. But you will require a permit for an overnight stay. 

You can obtain a permit for Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park online. 

Kayakers are not allowed to land at any other beaches along the Na Pali Coast. 

What To Pack For Kayaking The Na Pali Coast

There are no services or facilities on this part of the island so you will need to bring all your essentials with you. This includes enough drinking water for your entire trip. 

It can be very hot at the landing beaches and paddling all day in the sun can cause you to become dehydrated quickly. Also, don’t forget your sun protection. I recommend storing all your gear inside a dry bag to protect it from ocean spray and capsizes.

  • Life jacket (tour companies should provide these for guests)
  • Drinking water or water purification tablets 
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Lunch and snacks
  • Change of clothing
  • Towel
  • Camping gear for an overnight trip
  • Rain jacket 
  • Snorkel gear
  • Waterproof phone case
  • Dry bags
  • GPS device (if you’re not on a guided tour)
  • Marine radio (if you’re not on a guided tour)

Na Pali Coast Kayaking Tours

There are three outfitters on the island of Kauai where you can arrange guided paddling trips along the Na Pali Coast. These outfitters have the legal permits required to land passengers inside the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park.

Napali Kayak

Napali Kayak is based in Hanalei on the north coast of Kauai and offers two day-trip options for kayaking the Na Pali Coast: one full-length tour starting at Ha’ena with the final destination at Polihale; and one full-day trip from Polihale to Miloli’i and back. Both of these trips include opportunities to swim and snorkel. 

Kayak camping trips are also offered, ranging from two to seven nights. Additionally, you can book a private guided tour if you want a custom-made kayaking trip.

All kayaking trips with Napali Kayak require you to be a strong swimmer and be in good physical condition.

You can rent kayaks and camping equipment from Napali Kayak if you want to embark on a self-guided trip.

Kayak Kauai

Kayak Kauai is located at the Wailua River Marina on the east coast of Kauai. 

You can rent kayaks for exploring the calm waters of the nearby Wailua River for a few hours or you can rent kayaks plus camping gear for exploring other locations on the island. However, these rental kayaks are not for use in the ocean. 

Kayak Kauai offers three Na Pali Coast kayaking tours on sit-on-top double kayaks with rudders. One tour is a full-day trip along the length of the Na Pali Coast from Ha’ena and one is a full-day round-trip tour from Polihale to Miloli’i. The third tour is a multi-day kayak camping trip.

Outfitters Kauai

Outfitters Kauai is based in Lihue and offers guided tours on the Wailua River and the Hule’ia River, with custom trips available for kayaking the Na Pali Coast. 

You can also rent kayaks for use on the local rivers. 

Final Words

Kayaking the Na Pali Coast is not for the faint-hearted (or anyone who suffers from sea sickness). This is a grueling trip with very few places to rest. However, if you choose to venture to this part of the island, you’re rewarded with some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. 

I recommend booking a tour if you plan to experience this part of Hawaii by kayak unless you’re a very experienced sea kayaker. Launch in the morning and don’t forget your dry bags.

> How to explore Hawaii by kayak

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