Hawaiian Snapshots: Napali Coast, Kauai

Rugged and remote, this coastline reveals a different side of Hawaii


Forget driving. You’ll need a sturdy pair of walking shoes to explore Kauai’s Napali Coast. That, or you could take a boat ride. This 16-mile stretch of coast on the island’s northwestern shore is a wild realm of towering sea cliffs that rise to heights of 4,000 feet, punctuated by hidden valleys.

Hikers depart from a trailhead at Kee Beach to discover a network of trails that climb over precipitous headlands to reach verdant valleys and cascading waterfalls. The hard-core can camp and transit the entire coast, but most settle for a day hike, either a moderately strenuous two-mile trek to Hanakapiai Beach, or an additional two-mile scramble to reach a waterfall higher in the valley.

A less-demanding way to view the cliffs and valleys is by boat or helicopter. A number of operators offer trips along the shoreline in everything from sea kayaks and speedboats to sailing catamarans. Some tours include landfalls on remote beaches or at historic venues such as the ancient fishing village of Nualolo Kai, which is one of Hawaii’s most significant archeological sites.