Captain Andy's Na Pali Raft Day Expedition Overview
Captain Andy's Na Pali Raft Tour was the best tour on the Island of Kauai! I would literally travel back to Kauai just to do this tour of the Na Pali coast again.
Captain Andy's offers a number of different boat Tours on the Island of Kauai from relaxing sunset dinner cruises, to the exciting raft expedition I will review in this trip write up.
The Na Pali Raft Day Expedition is a 6 hour tour where you get to experience the best of the Napali Coast from a 24 foot Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB). If you are not too familiar with boats, this is a pretty small boat which is why this trip is very personal and extremely fun.
Throughout the tour you will get a thrill ride on the 24 foot RHIB, experience the beautiful Na pali Coast of Kauai, swim, snorkel, eat some great lunch and tour an ancient Hawaiian village learning all about its history. In short this is a must do trip if you are visiting Kauai!
Captain Andy's Na Pali Raft Expedition Map
If you are familiar with my website, you know I love my detailed maps. On this trip I recorded our entire boat trip with the Caltopo App on my phone.
ℹ️ Gear Recommendations
If you would like expert gear recommendations for your next adventure check out the Ten Digit Grid Gear Locker. I detail why each item has a spot in my backpack!
The entire trip for us ended up being a massive 57.7 miles on the water by boat! With that said, your tour may or may not match the route that we took. Sea conditions change daily and you may not be able to get to explore every sea cave. We actually got lucky on our trip, wind and waves were pretty massive the couple of days leading up to our tour. Our boat Captain didn't think we would hit all the sea caves up, but the seas calmed down a bit when we got out there and we were able to see the entire Na Pali coast.
Here is the route we took on our epic trip:
The map data above can be viewed and downloaded on Caltopo here.
Arriving at Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor
Captain Andy's Na Pali Raft tour Expedition starts early in the morning at Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor. When you arrive there is large grass parking area to park in show on the Google Earth screenshot below marked with a "P" and then you will meet up with your boat captain for the tour under the shaded picnic area marked with a star:
Once everyone is broken up into the smaller boats and given a safety brief on what to expect while out on the water. Captain Andy's provides everyone with a waterproof backpack you you can put anything into, I had my own backpack that I broughts and I had everything in their already in my favorite waterproof bags.
Before getting on the small RHIBs you are asked to take off your shoes or sandals. While on the boat everyone is barefoot. You will get your shoes back when you get off the boat for lunch and the hike around the ancient Hawaiian village.
As you board the RHIB, everyone sits along the outside. There are ropes around the entire RHIB that you can hold onto. There is also a rope on the floor of the boat that you have to keep at least one feet under while the RHIB is moving. With your foot strapped in and a hand on the rope, this is how you "buckle up" for the awesome ride to come! If you are not comfortable with holding on while sitting on the side of the RHIB there are four seats at the back of the boat.
Boat Ride to the Na Pali Coast and Dolphins!
Once outside of Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor you get to quickly experience the raw power and speed of these 24 ft RHIBs on the open Ocean! It's absolutely thrilling!
I won't lie, we had some decent size swells the day we went out and I was a little apprehensive on how well the foot hold and rope around the RHIBs perimeter would do holding me in. After a few minutes though, you realize it's perfect and I felt super safe the entire trip. As someone who actually got their boat license before their car license in New Jersey, I was super impressed by our Captain's skills in maneuvering the boat. Hands down the best small boat Captain I have ever seen.
While out on a small RHIB in the big open Ocean you are bound to get wet. We all could have been a lot more soaked if it were not for the expert small craft skills our Captain had. I can not say enough how impressed I was with his skills. I don't want to talk too much about the sea caves yet, but that was beyond expert level piloting of the boat, unbelievable. Essentially I felt safe the entire 57+ mile trip.
While on the way to the Na Pali Coast, our Captain gave us some great history and information of the island of Kauai and of the local coastline we were driving along. At one point a huge pod of dolphins stopped by and came within arms distance of our boat. Being in the small RHIB and being so close to the water, it was such a special close interaction with the dolphins.
While I was busy taking photos above water with my "real" camera, @MightyGirl was creative and stuck our GoPro down into the water to take some fantastic underwater video footage and pictures of the dolphins all swimming together.
A quick Swim at the Start of the Na Pali Coast
As we continued along the coast with the beautiful untouched Polihale State Park to our right, we quickly approached the Na Pali Coast.
Where the Polihale Beach ends and the massive cliffs begin, is the very start of the Na Pali Coast! When we got to this spot, our Captain cut the engines of the RHIB and non chantly asked, "Anyone want to take a dip?"
I thought he was joking at first, we were in this small boat in pretty deep beautiful blue water looking at the very beginning of the Na Pali Coast. A few seconds later I was jumping off while they dropped a ladder off the port side of the RHIB!
Having the boat to jump off into the deep blue ocean surrounded by the Na Pali Coast cliffs was absolutely magical. The water was extremely clear and very refreshing. It was just perfect!
Exploring the Napali Coast Sea Caves
Once everyone was back onboard the RHIB, we were back flying down the coast but this time we were taking in the natural beauty of the Napali Coast and exploring the wonderful sea caves.
While zooming along taking in all the sights and smells, the breeze quickly dried us all off after our quick swim earlier. Our Captain continued to give us fantastic history and pointed out all the different geological patterns in the cliffs.
One of the most fascinating things to see are the waterfall scars. I won't share the entire story so I won't ruin the tour for you, but the short version is some streams were redirected to help make less fertile parts of the island better for farming. As a result, there are these "scars" in the cliffs where water falls used to fall back in the day. As you pass by the many waterfall scars it's crazy to imagine what it would have looked like back in the day with all the waterfalls flowing!
The Na Pali Coast is so beautiful as it is, which made it hard for my brain to comprehend how much more beautiful it could have been with more waterfalls! But don't let that disappoint you, you should still see a handful of waterfalls out on this adventure!
One last fun fact on the waterfall scars, is in more recent history the island re-directed one to essentially turn the waterfall back on. They eventually stopped it again though because all the fresh water flowing back into the ocean was killing a reef that had formed since the waterfall was originally stopped.
Next up with finally went into our first sea cave along the coast! When we got to the sea cave and started to pull in, we actually had to back out of it and wait our turn. A local sea turtle was actually on his way out of the cave!
After the "traffic jam" was sorted out our captain had us backing up into our first sea cave. Earlier I mentioned how skilled our Captain was at handling the RHIB in the swells, well now in the cave I was even more impressed. He expertly backed us into this small sea cave and held us in place while wave after wave came into the shore. As I said earlier in the article, I felt safe the entire time out there and they said if the waves were not safe then we would not go into the caves.
One of the coolest sea caves along the coast was one with no roof. Maybe it's not officially a cave at that point, but we drove into what looked like a cave with no ceiling and a small rock island in the middle of it. The best part of the "no ceiling" sea cave, is that there was a lot of light, so it was great for taking pictures!
This brings up more great Kudo's for the staff at Captain Andy's on this tour. Not only was their staff super professional but at all the key spots for photos they made sure everyone had a chance to get a picture of themselves before moving on to the next location. At one point at the very end of the trip, our Captain saw me trying to snap a picture while we were moving pretty fast to get back to port. He looked over at me and asked if I wanted him to stop the boat real quick to snap a picture! I didn't want the entire group to wait for me to take a picture so I politely declined, but it was awesome that he even asked.
The other great photo spot we stopped where everyone in the group took turns taking pictures was in front of Kalalau Beach in front of the beautiful Kalalau Valley.
The Kalalau Valley reminded me of something out of a fantasy movie. The eroded ridges over the years now look like a handful of spires sticking out of the lushus green valley.
Earlier I mentioned you would see some waterfalls so I guess I need to add some waterfall pictures. After our quick photo stop in front of Kalalau Beach the next cave was "guarded" by its own waterfall! I thought we would be soaked going into this cave, but somehow the Captain was able to squeeze us in without getting drenched. Part of me wonders if he saw me with my big camera and dodged the falls on purpose.
Nu'alolo Kai State Park
After we saw the last two caves on the far end of the Na Pali Coast we sped back across towards Nu'alolo Kai State Park which is where the ancient Hawaiian village is.
If you come on this trip, don't expect to be dry the entire time. There is no official dock at Nu'alolo Kai State Park, which is where we stop to snorkel, eat lunch and tour the ancient Hawaiian village. Since there is not dock for the RHIBS to park at, they tie up to two moorings, and you climb down into the water and walk into shore. This is where those waterproof bags really come in handy that they gave out at the beginning of the trip.
I climbed down the ladder of the RHIB into the crystal clear Hawaii water, holding my backpack above my head. The water was about mid-high chest level on me and I am about 5 feet 7 inches tall. Tides can always change so you never know you may have to swim in depending on the time of day or day of the year.
When you reach the beach there are some stairs through the rocks that bring you up to a nice shaded picnic area. If you have been holding your bladder for most of the trip this is the one spot during the tour you can stop to use the bathroom, in a nice pit toilet. Once everyone is settled ashore, the Captain Andy's team gives a quick safety brief for snorkeling and then you are back into the water to explore!
The surf was a bit large the day we were there so our snorkel area was a bit limited. ALong with the rougher surf unfortunately comes reduced visibility in the water. The snorkeling was just ok for us that day, but as with snorkeling conditions change constantly. EIther way it felt great just to be back in the water swimming again!
After a nice relaxing lunch in the shade with our new friends we met on our small boat, it was off to walk through the ancient Hawaiian village. Again the Captain Andy's staff gave a fantastic walkthrough as you learned the fascinating history of this ancient Hawaiian village. I don't want to spoil the whole tour, so I will just leave you with a picture.
After the tour, it's back in the water to board the RHIBs. Once on board we belined it back to the small boat harbour we left from earlier this morning. As we rode back, our Captain played some fantastic music as we took in our final sights of the Na Pali Coast. When we got back to the dock, all I could think about was that I want to come back to Kauai, just to go on this tour again! One of the other couples on the tour with us mentioned they took one of the helicopter tours earlier in the week, and that this Na Pali Raft Day Expedition was better than the helicopter tour.
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