Swift streams and waterfalls continue to carve these vertiginous and rugged valleys as they pour into the sea. One of the most stunning wilderness areas on earth, it also contains ancient Hawaiian ruins of graves, temples, house platforms, and terraced fields. The fear factor increases past the initial two-mile path to Hanakāpīʻai Beach (best visited in summertime, as winter swells tend to wash it away). Only experienced hikers in good condition and with proper gear should venture further along the famous 11-mile Kalalau Trail. Check for path and park closures before making plans and don’t forget the $20/night permit to crash at a campsite. However long you trek, stay on the main path and pack out what you brought in.

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Na Pali on High

On the ‘must see’ list for visiting Kauai is the Na Pali Coast. Stretching for 15 miles, it is a truly breathtaking natural formation. In order to capture the epic expanse, I’d suggest a helicopter tour. There is nothing better than swooping along the ‘cathedrals,’ as this section is called, and then shooting through the canyons on the other side. It is an exhilarating experience that’ll keep you buzzing even when you are firmly back on the ground.

Hawaii's Hiking Paradise: The Nā Pali Coast

In Hawaiian, nā pali means “the cliffs.” The Nā Pali Coast in northwest Kaua‘i deserves its name. Over millennia, torrential rain has given the volcanic landscape grooves and spikes like those of a Gothic cathedral. Featured in such films as Jurassic Park and King Kong, the 15-mile stretch of primeval valleys and 3,000-foot sea cliffs is an iconic American landscape, accessible only by helicopter, by boat, or on foot. The main attraction is the strenuous, 22-mile round-trip Kalalau Trail. The route passes rock terraces where native Hawaiians once planted taro. Java plum, guava, rose apple, and papaya trees provide hikers with shade and ripe fruit. From the ridgetops, trekkers can spot dolphins, sea turtles, and the occasional monk seal playing in the turquoise waters below. The path ends at Kalalau Beach, where travelers can rest and, during the summer, camp before starting the journey back. If you travel to Kaua‘i, book a room at the St. Regis Princeville Resort. From $500. 5520 Ka Haku Rd., Princeville, (808) 826-9644, stregisprinceville.com. This appeared in the May 2013 issue.

Napali Coast Cruise

The Napali Coast is one of the world’s most beautiful places. I was so struck by the beauty of the green mountains rising out of the sea, and the dolphins swimming right under our boat, and the humpback whales too numerous to count that I forgot to take a photo of any of it. But the water is pretty too. There are many boat tours you can do, and I’m sure they’re good. We went with Liko Kauai Cruises and thought it was great. The boat’s a little smaller so it can get closer to the sea caves, and they leave from farther north so they can get farther. Our guides were good--though not natives, as the website hints they might be. It was an unforgettable day.

On Top of The World - Napali Coast, Kauai, HI

This hike of the Napali Coast, in Kauai, HI is an amazing experience. The views, as you can see are great, but there are also great beaches (they get more secluded the further you go), amazing waterfalls (think 300 & 500 feet pouring over cliffs), local history, fresh fruit, and great secluded camping on the beach near sea caves. Leave from Kees Beach on the North Shore, and get a permit for overnight camping from the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. The trail can be sketchy in parts from sheer 600' drop offs along the coast, to slick mud heading up the rivers to waterfalls. Hire a local to watch your vehicle back at the trailhead, and for an added adventure have Kayak Kauai meet you at Kalalau Beach with sea kayaks to complete the trip around the coast by kayak, otherwise this is an out and back hike. Amazing either way! High or low you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world!

Helicopter View Of Napali Coast

One the most beautiful spots in the world

View Of Napali Coast From Ke'e Beach, N Shore Kauai

Start of the trail down the Napali Coast on the North Shore of Kauai

Napali Sunset

I hiked this trail several times, and it’s always hard to pick my favorite photo. I love how safe it feels. Many are terrified by the height, but truly, the weather is beautiful, the trail is loaded with fruit trees, the meanest creature is a non-lethal centipede and the stars at night are fantastic over the ocean.

Hiking the Napali coast

The pic does not do this place justice. It is absolutely the most beautiful place on earth!

Na Pali Coast

The sailboats look so tiny along the rugged beauty of the Na Pali coast

Cliffs of Na Pali Coast, Kauai

The Na Pali Coast on the western side of Kauai (pictured here) was the backdrop for many movies, and for obvious reasons: the landscape and views here are simply stunning. On the morning this photo was taken, we had commissioned a short ride on a zodiac boat and delightfully found ourselves accompanied by spinner dolphins as the steam rose off the warm waters of the Pacific. The morning sun on the azure waves created slivers of sparkling diamond reflections, and the shore in the distance beckoned with almost cruel delight. I was in the early stages of what would turn out to be a very nasty respiratory illness as I took this photo, but the beauty of the moment caused my body to forget the pain, and I remember feeling energized and filled with awe as our little zodiac boat bobbed and lurched in the strong pull of the ocean. This is not an excursion for those prone to motion sickness (several people on the boat became ill), but rather a journey for those who yearn to see places few have seen outside of movies, and are willing to endure the tempestuous zodiac ride to reach it. This it is one of the most beautiful locations on earth, and vistas like this remind me of why I travel in the first place.


The Kalalau Trail is a precipitous, slippery, sometimes outright terrifying hiking track that hugs 18 miles of the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park in northern Kauai. Weather patterns here are legendarily volatile: the NPS website warns potential hikers, in capital letters, of “FALLING ROCKS, FLASH FLOODS, AND HAZARDOUS CLIFFS”). But thousands of intrepid travelers make the pilgrimage here, for a single reason: the most beautiful scenery to be found almost anywhere in Hawaii. Only you can decide if the view of a double rainbow arching over the sea from a thick palm jungle is worth the trek. Just make sure you’re standing on solid ground while you think about it. Sudden storms can turn an adventure trek into an arduous slog. Keep yourself dry—and your gear protected—with ExOfficio’s Rain Logic® outerwear.

Kauai: Na Pali Coast

The 3,000-foot cliffs of Na Pali rise from the blue Pacific like fluted walls keeping the world at bay. This 15-mile coast is the shoulder of an ancient volcano that once rose more than five miles from the sea floor, and today, it beckons visitors by foot, boat, and helicopter to gaze closely upon the razor-sharp ridges and plunging valleys. Ancient Hawaiians relied on canoes to access the Na Pali’s valleys, and boats remain the easiest way to explore the coast, especially in summer, when the calm surf makes it easier for kayaks to access the sea caves and scalloped beaches.

Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park

Swift streams and waterfalls continue to carve these vertiginous and rugged valleys as they pour down into the sea. One of the most stunning wilderness areas on Earth, it also contains ancient Hawaiian ruins of graves, temples, house platforms and terraced fields. The fear factor—and actual dangers—increase past the initial 3.2-kilometer (two-mile) path to Hanakapiai Beach. Only experienced hikers in good condition and with proper gear should venture further along the famous Kalalau Trail. However long you trek, stay on the main path and pack out what you brought in.

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