Na Pali Coast
Events Kauai Na Pali Coast Nikon Z9 Ocean Touring Photography

The Na Pali Coast: Bright, Brooding & Enchanting

Is the Na Pali Coast of Kauai as dramatic as portrayed in the travel promotion articles? Are the Sunset Tours offered as enchanting as advertised?  Depending on your guide and boat, I would answer yes to both.

Na Pali Coast
The Na Pali Coast late in the afternoon. © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC.
NaPali coast
The Kalaulau Valley Brooding in the Afternoon. © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC.

On this day, my friends Jennifer and Kathy, and my wife Linda are going for a Triple Play – a long beach walk at Dawn and Sunrise in Waimea, a hike on the Kalepa Trail overlooking the Kalaulau Valley, and a boat tour on The Na Pali Coast at Sunset.

It is in the Cards

Well… better to be lucky than good.  The first two items – the beach walk and the hike – are under our control.  The third – the Sunset Boat Tour – we use Makana Tours as our host.  Makana is a family owned firm that is local to Waimea.  The Robinson family owns Makana. Makana offers arguably the best blend of professionalism, reliability, flexibility, and personal touch on the Na Pali.  Makana has six boats that scale to the demands of the size of the crowd desired.  In short, with Makana, you can set up a private tour for a few, or comfortably ride along with group of 15-40.

On this day, we ride with a group of 25 people on the Na Pali Kai III.  The Na Pali Kai III was the Robinson’s second boat for touring.  It was completely overhauled this past year. The Na Pali Kai III looks magnificent.  Captain Mike is at the helm, with Tony, Bobby and Asia as the crew.  Tony assists at the helm, Bobby acts as the Host and Asia as the Narrating Guide.  One of the things I like about Makana is the quality and continuity of the staff.  In my mind it is a difference maker when choosing a tour group.

The Beach Walk

Jennifer Grabs Sunrise.

Linda, Jennifer, Kathy, and our Border Collies (Sage and Willow) head out (with me) at Dawn. We walk on the beach from our house to the Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor and back.  The round-trip is four miles.

Kikiaola will be the point of departure later in the day.  Kikiaola is operated by the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBAR) of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). The State of Hawaii has put a fair amount of effort (both new construction and staffing) into Kikiaola the past few years.  The upgrades and improvement in regular maintenance at Kikiaola is noticeable.  The harbor is used heavily by the tour companies these days – so there are moments throughout the day where things can feel hectic.  However, Kikiaola remains a nice blend for locals and commercial service.

The Hike

Na Pali Coast
Along the Kalepa. © Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC.
Kathy and Jennifer on the Kalepa.

The Kalepa Ridge Trail has few (if any) equals in Hawaii. This is not a trail for anyone who is less the a competent and fit hiker.  Jennifer and Kathy are serious hikers and long-time friends.  Jennifer lives on the Big Island of Hawaii.  She has been our friend for over 20 years. Kathy lives in the Wood River Valley of Idaho.

Feral Mountain Goats on the trail.

For more background and images of the Kalepa Trail, a Post is located [here].

The Na Pali Coast Boat Tour

Linda, Jennifer, Kathy, and I enter the Harbor at 1:30.  As soon as the last passengers arrive, the greeting staff sends us (one party at a time) to the Na Pali Kai III.  Captain Mike and staff greet us warmly.  The group covers key aspects about the trip.  The setting is professional, attentive and sincere.

Tony and Captain Mike
Asia and Bobby

Everyone is seated comfortably.

As we head out Bobby Colborn takes the time to make everyone feel as if this is “their” outing and squared away for the trip.

Within 5 minutes of being at full power and speed, Bobby notices movement in the water.  Bobby and Asia guide Captain Mike and Tony towards the location of the spotting.

With purpose and ease Captain Mike guides The Na Pali Kai III into full viewing position.

Soon after, bottled nosed porpoise gather and start jumping out of the water and into the sky.

The patrons on the boat are excited.  One lady says to her daughter, “this trip is already a success.”

Start of the Na Pali Coast

As the Na Pali Kai III approaches the start of the Na Pali Coast, I point out the cliff top that Jennifer, Kathy and I had hiked to the afternoon before.  The location is well known to locals.  Linda and I hike there often.  The overlook is a great spot for whale watching.

Always Up for A Boat Ride on the Na Pali

Linda is always up for a boat ride on the Na Pali Coast.

Hello Sister

As Captain Mike guides the Na Pali Kai III up the coast, we encounter the Seiko.  The Seiko is part of the Makana fleet.  It looks like the Seiko is hosting a private tour.  The people look to be enjoying themselves immensely.  The Seiko is a very cool boat, and offers a terrific ride – even in rough seas.  We say hello and goodbye to the Seiko at Nualolo, and Nualolo Kai Beach. This area is sacred to Kauaian’s.

Nualolo is a special place for me.  I visit it by sea and land, beach to overlook, often.  If you are interested, a few of my Posts on Nualolo are located [here] and [here].  Below is a view down to Nualolo Kai from the rooftop.

View from the Roof of Nualolo. © Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC.

View After Amazing View

The trip up and back down the coast on this day is wonderful.  Asia provides a superb blend of commentary at the right time and space.  He gives you great insight as to the area’s natural and cultural history with well placed humor.  Bobby provides supporting commentary while making sure everyone on the Na Pali Kai III is engaged.  Captain Mike guides the Na Pali Kai III with the touch of an artist, not a bus driver. Tony provides an offering at Kalaulau.  It is done with a nice blend of stage theatrics and sincerity.


The Finish

On the the trip out, the focus is on getting up close an personal with the coastline.  The return route’s focus is on giving you a territorial perspective.  I think this is a great approach.

The weather and seas are highly variable in the region. In December it is rare to have relatively calm seas and a mixture of sun and cloud cover.  On this day we get it.

Just before the end of the trip, Makana attempts to offer snorkeling and a swim, followed by a meal (that you have ordered).  On this day we get a swim and a meal.

Kathy, Linda, Jeff, and Jennifer.

Another nice aspect is that Captain Mike stops the boat on the return at the Kalalau Valley and Cathedral. Bobby will take a photo of any person or group.  On our Triple Play Day, Kathy and Jennifer get to be on the water with the background being a spot they hiked to and were standing upon four hours earlier.


And finally a sunset to end all sunsets.

Na Pali Coast
Sunset on Ni‘ihau and Lehua. © Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art LLC.

*** Jeff’s Thoughts and Other Worthless Trivia ***

A link to Makana Charters is located [here].

I do not receive compensation for recommending Makana or sending you to their site.

I use Apple (iPhone), ARCA, Cambo, GITZO, Nikon, PHASE ONE, Rodenstock, Schneider, and Sony as my camera gear.

For Triple Play Day, I photographed as a resident of Kauai shooting as a tourist out with my friends.

On the hike, I utilized the PHASE ONE IQ4-150 Digital Back, XF Body, and PHASE ONE 35MM Blue Ring Lens for image capture.

On the boat tour, I utilized two Nikon Z9 cameras, Z20MM lens, Z35MM lens, and Z 70-200MM lens.

As always, the iPhone is an indispensable high quality camera.

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