The Magnetism of Napali Coast

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The Magnetism of Napali Coast

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai
Sep 11, 2013


Early one morning over Labor Day weekend, I hitched a ride with Captain Andy’s, a tour boat operation that explores Kauai’s famed Napali Coast. 

Andy wasn’t at the helm; he’s long since relinquished that role. Anthony captained my boat and Mads did the same for a matching 24-foot, 14 passenger rigid-hull, inflatable raft. They fired up their twin, 140-horsepower engines, and we galloped out of Kikiaola Harbor like young thoroughbreds too long corralled in a pen. We cut west, passing a lone smokestack, remnant of the sugar cane industry and performing a periodic high-speed loop-de-loop, of sorts, slowing and stopping to allow a pod of spinner dolphins to swim through, as we passengers dunked our waterproof cameras into the water, hoping to capture, at least, one decent photograph of the charismatic marine mammal that everyone seems to love.

There’s something about the wind in my face at sea. There’s even something more about the turquoise blue water off the beach at Polihale. Thankfully, Captain Anthony saw that look—or, more likely, felt it himself--for he stopped the boat and let us all pile into the water. 

I remember one of the first times I saw Napali Coast. It was evening, the sun was setting, and throwing a blanket of gold across the line up of cliffs fading into the distance. I was captivated. For all my words, I could only utter meaningless superlatives—beautiful, gorgeous, spectacular. (And truth be told, dozens of visits later, and those are still the first words that come to mind.)

The next time I visited Napali, I wanted to get in the water and snorkel. The next time, it was to hike the 11-mile trail into Kalalau, one of the most famous valleys along Napali. And, this summer, as you may recall, I kayaked the length of the coast, camping for two nights each in Kalalau and Milolii Valleys.

Napali Coast gets under your skin. It’s a place you want to immerse yourself deeper and deeper. No wonder some people hike into Kalalau for a couple days and wind up staying a couple months. Or longer.

There are two halves to Napali, the east, lush side with its volcanic rock draped in greenery, and the west, dry side, its rock a masterpiece of eroded faces and designs. The demarcation between the two is Alapii Point, the westernmost tip of Kauai. It catches the last of the northeast trade winds that provide Kauai with greening showers. Everything west of Alapii sits in Kauai’s rain shadow. The difference in rainfall from one side of Alapii Point and the other is dramatic.

On this trip, I was headed to Nualolo Kai, the mid-way point, a valley marked by a giant X in the cliff face backing it—and bordered on one end by Alapii Point. The plan was for Anthony to drop me off and continue on his way with the other eight or 10 passengers to the lush side. They would dip in and out of a half-dozen sea caves, cruise through a waterfall or two, hear Anthony share the history and legends of the place and utter the words—beautiful, gorgeous, spectacular.

The morning had started grey and sprinkly, but somewhere along the way—possibly as soon as we departed the harbor—the skies had cleared and the sun beamed. As we approached Nualolo Kai, Captain Anthony turned to me. “Do you want to stay on?” he asked, and before he could finish saying, “We could drop you off on the way back?” I was already nodding my head.

“Yes. Yes.” I said. “Go. Go.”

Because some opportunities are not to be passed up, and a visit to only half of Napali Coast does not satisfy. Napali is a wonder of nature to be re-lived over and over again, and I plan to enjoy many more experiences if given the opportunity.

Do you have your own Napali Coast? That is, a place that never grows old? A place that continues to enchant, no matter how many times you see it? If so, please share.


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