CRUISING THE NĀ PALI COAST WITH CAPTAIN ANDY'S
If you've been following me for a while you guys know by now that I absolutely LOVE to plan trips. I do a ton of research in order to pick where we will go and, once we decide, do even more to find the best activities to do - you can read my post about how to choose your destination and create an itinerary HERE. Kauai's Nā Pali Coast is jaw-droppingly beautiful and we wanted to see it EVERY way we could. Thanks to Captain Andy's, we were able to experience the beauty of the coastline by sea! Captain Andy's has options for both catamaran tours and zodiac raft tours, and being the thrill-seekers that we are, we chose to do the 5.5-6 hour Nā Pali Day Expedition. The tour is exactly what Captain Andy's advertises - WET AND WILD!
We set out for Kikia'ola Small Boat Harbor from our hotel, the Wyndham Bali Hai in Princeville, bright and early. The boat was set to leave at 9:30 AM and we were about a two hour drive away. When we arrived at the harbor we checked in with our guides, Captain Robert and his first mate Maddy. We loaded all of our belongings into the dry bags they provided, handed over our shoes, and hopped in the 24' rigid hull inflatable raft. There were about 12 of us all together and we had plenty of room (the boat usually holds 14). The type of raft Captain Andy's uses for their expeditions allows for exploring caves and landing on secluded beaches along the Nā Pali Coast, and it goes FAST! The Captain let us know that the water would be a little rough to navigate when it came to snorkeling and seeing the caves, but we were guaranteed to have fun and get wet!
We started the tour by heading out into the ocean towards Polihale Beach, a seventeen mile stretch of white sand and sand dunes that is basically the end of the road before you get to the coast. FUN FACT: The white sand actually comes from parrotfish that chew up the coral and then poop it out! While we were cruising past Polihale, Maddy pointed out an island to our left. That island was Niihau, or the "Forbidden Island." Niihau has been privately owned by the same family since 1864, when Elizabeth Sinclair purchased it from King Kamehameha V (a successor of King Kamehameha the Great, which you may remember from our Kipu Ranch ATV Adventure) for $10,000! Can you believe that?! Apparently, the only way you can visit the island is to either be a descendant of someone who was born there or to join an owner-controlled half-day helicopter tour, which allows you to visit the deserted white-sand beach. They even turned down Mick Jagger when he asked to visit! There are only 60-or-so islanders that live in a tiny village on the other side of the island, and the Sinclair's vowed to preserve their privacy. These islanders even still speak Hawaiian!
After stopping for a bit to learn all about Polihale Beach and Niihau, we cruised deeper along the Nā Pali Coast, hopping over giant waves about 8 feet high! That was when we spotted an ENORMOUS pod of dolphins - I'm talking like 50 dolphins! It was absolutely incredible! We watched them spin in the air, surf the giant waves, and follow along in our wake before heading further along the coast. But not before jumping in the water for a quick swim!
Because the swells were so large, we were unable to enter many of the sea caves that are usually included on the tour. Better safe than sorry, though! In the winter months it gets pretty tricky, but Captain Robert was able to take us very close to Wai’napanapa, or the Fertility Waterfall Cave, and Puka Lani, or the Open Ceiling Cave, which is featured in one of Ryan's and my favorite movies, A Perfect Getaway (it inspired us to hike part of the Kalalau Trail!). When the weather is better, and during the summer months, the raft will dart in and out of these sea caves and plunge under cascading waterfalls.
Here are a few of the caves you can hope to see on your rafting expedition:
Wai’napanapa // Fertility Waterfall Cave
The first cave we visited, Waiʻnapanapa, means crooked water, and the cave literally EXPLODES water when the large swells push in and out. Since we had pretty large waves on the day of our expedition, we got to see the cave in all of it's glory. Maddy also told us the story of how the spring water falling off the center of the cave is said to be a waterfall of fertility by Hawaiians!
Puka Lani // Open Ceiling Cave
Open Ceiling Cave was perhaps the cave I was looking most forward to seeing! Also known as Pukalani (translated to "hole in the heavens"), it is definitely a sight to behold. Captain Robert got us as close as we could safely get to the cave, but we were unable to go fully inside. However, you could see the sun spilling into the cave from above, turning the water a beautiful blue and green color.
Wai'ahu'akua // Double-Door Cave
The Double-Door Cave at Waiahuakua Valley may be more of a tunnel than a cave, with a separate entrance and exit. It measures 1,155 feet in length, and once inside the deep, dark cave, a waterfall falls from 3800ft through a hole in the ceiling! I can only imagine how beautiful it is, since we weren't able to go inside. The Hawaiians named this cave Waiʻahuʻakua, which means God's Water Altar (wai meaning water, ahu loosely meaning altar, and akua meaning god).
Waiwaipuhi Sea Cave // Pirate's Cave
This sea cave is nickamed Pirate's Cave by boat captains, after the skull shape etched into the cave wall. This is Nā Paliʻs tallest and deepest cave. The only way in and out of Pirate's Cave is to drive through a giant waterfall! I can't wait to get back to the Nā Pali Coast in the summertime to see this and the Double-Door Cave with my own eyes!
On occasions, like the day we took our excursion, the conditions get very windy and Captain Andy's will decide to turn the boat with the wind at Kalalau - the most scenic area of the coast. If that happens you would not make it to the Double-Door and Pirate's Caves. But, when the weather complies and you do get to visit all of the caves, you might even get to see sea turtles, dolphins, monk seals, and sharks inside! Luckily, we were able to go a little bit past Kalalau and got to enjoy the beautiful view of the Cathedrals of the Nā Pali Coast, also known as the "Guardians of Kalalau" (and we could even see Kē'ē Beach in the distance, where we would begin our hike of the Kalalau Trail!). It was truly incredible to see this sight from sea, air, AND land!
Once we turned the raft around it was time to head to smoother waters for lunch and snorkeling. When conditions allow, Captain Andy's will usually land on the remote beach and site of a historic Hawaiian fishing village, Nu'alolo Kai, for hiking, snorkeling, and lunch. Unfortunately, when we went on our expedition we were unable to stop at the beach, BUT we did get to see Hawaiian green sea turtles basking in the sun on the shore! We cruised along and found a second pod of dolphins, deciding that this was the perfect place to enjoy the delicious meal that Captain Andy's provided. The menu for the day was Oven Roasted Turkey Sandwiches on Homemade Focaccia with Havarti Cheese, Red Onion, Green Apple, Mixed Greens and Bacon Jam paired with a Three Cheese Tortellini Pasta Salad tossed in Pesto with Sun Dried Tomatoes - YUM! We also had some fresh fruit and Coconut White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies for dessert!
We even had a great view of the Honopū Beach and Sea Arch (where James Bond flew through the arch in Goldfinger!) while we ate. As we floated amongst the dolphins and admired the view, Maddy told us the legends of Honopū Valley, sometimes referred to as the Valley of the Lost Tribe. It is in this valley that the bones of many chiefs are buried. Warriors would volunteer to climb cliffs hundreds of feet high in order to place the bones into a suitable cave. Once they knew that the bones were secure, the warriors would jump to their deaths, ensuring that the location would remain a secret. The Hawaiians believed that their chiefs were the direct descendants of gods and that the “mana” or life force of the chiefs was so strong that, if found by the wrong people, it could be used against the tribe. Such a crazy story - it gave us all chills!
Even though we were unable to see some of the sea caves or stop at Nu'alolo Kai, the weather did make for some HUGE waves and we were still able to snorkel in a beautiful cove! We spotted some Ornate Butterfly, Yellowfin Surgeonfish, Whitebar Surgeonfish, Golden Chubb, Moorish Idol and more! It was a great way to end our amazing trip! But the fun wasn't over yet, on our way back to the harbor, Captain Robert told us to hang on tight as he went into high speed and did some donuts (Check out the video in my Instagram Highlights of Kauai!).
If you are ever in Kauai, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking a tour with Captain Andy's. It is truly an unforgettable experience and I can't wait to get back to the island in the summertime to explore the Nā Pali Coast more!
PS: Be sure to follow Captain Andy's WARNING: Due to the bumpy and bouncing nature of the ride, they cannot accommodate pregnant women, anyone with any history of back or neck issues, medical conditions or recent surgeries, or children under six years old. This is for the safety of everyone on the boat and if you fall into any of these categories you can still experience the beautiful coastline on one of their catamarans!
Our excursion with Captain Andy's was comped in exchange for the blog and social media coverage we provided. However, I am not being compensated for this post. Thank you to Captain Andy's for having us for your Nā Pali Day Expedition on the Nā Pali Coast!
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