From the desk of The Makai Guy|
In the fall of 1998, Hawaiian Governor Ben Cayetano ordered boat tour operators to stop using Hanalei Bay and River as embarkation points for NaPali tours. Reasons cited were concern over disruption to public use of Black Pot Park in Hanalei, and possible harm to the river and coastal ecosystem. The result was that several Hanalei tour operators went out of business, and those remaining moved their departure points down to the South side of the island, mostly from Port Allen. This not only makes for a LONG drive from the North Shore, but it is also a longer boat trip to get from departure point to NaPali Coast, and of course a longer trip back.
After several years of legal wrangling, a number of former and new operators are again operating from Hanalei, but some of the ones that moved to the south have remained there.
The Makai Guy, 13 June 2006
Raft picture courtesy Captain Zodiac
While helicopter tours are great, and allow you to see the entire island (and believe me, there's LOTS to see), I think boat tours are the BEST way to see the Na Pali. To me, they are a better bargain in that they cost less, and they take several hours so you can see the Na Pali in detail, rather than a quick fly-by on the way back to the heliport. While there are several boat tour options available, my favorites are what I call the "wet bottom" trips - on the zodiac inflatable rafts that Captain Zodiac formerly ran out of Hanalei and now run from Port Allen. Rafts and other small craft can get you "up close and personal". (Bouncing over the waves CAN get a bit rough, though, so those with bad backs or other physical conditions which could be adversely affected might wish to stick with something a bit more stable than a rubber raft.) On another of our Kauai visits, we also enjoyed a catamaran trip with Na Pali Eco Adventures from Port Allen. Or, if we get REALLY adventurous, we might even try seeing the NaPali by kayak sometime!
There are a number of sea caves along the coast, and if you're lucky, and if you are in a small and maneuverable enough craft, the sea conditions will allow your captain to venture into several of them.
On one trip we were enthralled by visits from several pods of spinner dolphins. We had no doubt how this species received its name as they treated us to their aerial acrobatics.