Where is Na Pali Coast State Park
The Na Pali Coast State Park is set on Hawaii’s fourth largest island, Kauai. It is often referred to as one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. There are rugged cliffs and narrow valleys that abruptly drop down to the ocean, with stone-walled terraces where ancient Hawaiians once cultivated the Taro root. The Na Pali Coast stretches for fifteen miles along the northwest coast of Kauai, between Haena State Park and Polihale State Park. The park is accessible to visitors via the Kalalau Trail, beginning on the north shore of Kauai. You can also reach the park by boat or helicopter.
How Big is Na Pali Coast State Park
The Na Pali Coast US State Park is 6,175 acres along the coast, with over 16 miles of shoreline. The coastline extends from the southwest coast of Ke`e Beach all the way to the western side of the island. The cliffs rise as high as 4,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. The popular Kalalau Trail, an 11-mile hike that gets you into the state park, crosses five valleys, a lush landscape, and tall cliffs, ultimately leading visitors to Kalalau Beach.
Na Pali Coast State Park Weather
The weather in the Na Pali Coast State Park is relatively balanced throughout the year. Summer temperatures usually get into the mid-80s, while winter temperatures can experience highs into the mid-70s. The northern area of Kauai typically experiences more rain showers than the southern side of the island. Though the showers are brief, this helps the park maintain its lush landscape. Most weather analysts will forecast rain every day, but as mentioned earlier, it does not last long. April through early October are the most popular times to visit as the weather is slightly warmer. Although hurricanes are historically rare on Kauai, they can still occur anytime from June through November. In the last few years, there has been increased storm activity around the island.
When did Na Pali become a State Park
Kauai is one of the oldest inhabited Hawaiian Islands. Polynesian navigators were the first to settle on the coast, where they grew crops, like sweet potatoes and breadfruit, brought over from their native lands. For hundreds of years, Hawaiians built self-sustaining communities here before Europeans and Westerners eventually arrived in Hawaii. Beginning in the 1960s, many travel magazines began to feature the Na Pali Coast, referring to it as “The Garden of Eden”. This sparked much tourism and an interest to settle on the inhabited land. This influx of visitors drove the state to start regulating the area, which lead to its recognition as a state park.
Things to do in Na Pali Coast State Park
There is no shortage of things to see and do within the Na Pali Coast State Park. With the 360-degree breathtaking views, every activity is unforgettable. Our National Park Visitors Guide outlines a shortlist of the main sites and how they are accessible.
The most popular route to the Na Pali Coast is through the Kalalau Trail. It begins at Ke’e Beach and stretches 11-miles through large and small valleys. It is a challenging hike with large cliffs, stream crossings, and narrow passages. It takes around day to traverse one way. You can hike a portion of the trail to Hanakapiai Beach, Hanakapiai Waterfall or Ha’ena State Park.
Rent a Car
If you are not a hiker, you can get see the coast by driving to Polihale Beach or Ke’e Beach. These locations provide stunning views down the coastline. Additionally, driving past Waimea Canyon in Kokee State Park provides many overlooks over some spectacular valleys.
For a more extravagant adventure, splurge on a helicopter ride to see an aerial view of the coastline. The flight will take you over the massive cliffs, famous waterfalls, major valleys, and even some beaches that are inaccessible to most visitors. There are numerous helicopter tours that operate over Na Pali.
Many visitors choose to reach the Na Pali Coast by sea. You’ll share the water with friendly dolphins and even some humpback whales in the winter. Boat tours offer motorized options or a more leisurely ride with a sailing catamaran. A majority of the tours will leave from the west side of the island near Port Allen.
Kayaking during the calmer summer months is very popular. Most tours include a 17-mile journey from Ha’ena to Polihale Beach. You’ll be kayaking among cliffs, sea caves, vibrant reefs, and waterfalls. You’re likely to see the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtles off the coral.
Camping is very popular among those who choose to embark on the full 11-mile Kalalau Trail.
The Hanakoa campsite is 6 miles from the trailhead for hikers who need a rest or are looking to avoid adverse weather. For those traveling by sea, you can also camp at Miloli’l, which is only accessible by ocean. Both options require a camping permit and have a limit on how many nights you can stay.
Much of the beauty of the Na Pali Coast can be found underwater. Many visitors head to Treasures Beach or Ke’e Beach to snorkel, as it provides some of the best snorkeling in Kauai. There are schools of tropical fish, exotic green sea turtles, and limu growing along the coral reefs.
Just off the trailhead of Kalalau is the fan favorite, Ke’e Beach. It’s a much safer option for swimmers compared to other beaches in the area. There are many shallow spots with a protected reef. There are even lifeguards on duty. Parking can fill up quickly, especially in the summer months, so plan to get there are early as possible.
A few miles north of Na Pali is Tunnels Beach. It is known for its world-class snorkeling and scuba diving. Just behind the sandy beach is a tropical jungle backdrop, making it one of the most unique and exotic spots on Kauai.
Hanalei is the nearest major town to the Na Pali Coast State Park. It is filled with timeless beauty, historic sites, and contemporary art galleries. Waioli Mission House is a great way to step back into Kauai’s history. The art galleries are filled with rare, native Hawaiian carvings from ancient woods. Many locals and visitors will stop by a ukulele concert at the Hanalei Community Center.
When to go to Na Pali Coast State Park
The most popular time to visit the Na Pali Coast State Park is in the summer months. The water is much calmer, the winds are steadier, and there are lower chances of rain. In June, visitors enjoy an extra three hours of sunlight. Camping, hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling are best from May-October. The winter months have unpredictable weather. Rain is more frequent and can be heavy during the nighttime and early morning. There are occasional storms that can cause flash flooding. Additionally, the sun sets earlier in December. The winter months are great for whale watching and avoiding large crowds. Each season provides a different adventure and reason to visit the magical Na Pali Coast.
Must-Have things to bring to Na Pali Coast State Park
There are a few must-have items to bring on your visit to Na Pali. List of Parks covers everything you need to know from equipment to food to necessary garments.
Be sure to bring plenty of water with you, especially if you’re planning to hike the Kalalau trail. There is no clean drinking water along the trailhead. As an alternative, you can bring something that will properly treat the water from the streams.
There are no options to buy food within the park. It is essential to bring enough to last however long you plan to stay in the park. Prepare ahead by packing meals, as well as snacks for the journey. Nonperishable items are good options, especially if you plan to stay a few nights.
There are no trash cans in the park, as the state wants to maintain its natural beauty. Visitors are expected to haul out all items brought in. Bring trash bags with you to avoid having to combine your stuff with your garbage.
Proper Hiking Boots
The terrain in Na Pali is magnificent, but rugged. It appears much as it did many centuries ago, essentially untouched. The trails have proven to be challenging with the stream crossings, narrow paths, and steep slopes. Quality hiking footwear is essential for a successful, safe hike.
A rain jacket is a must for the winter months. Rain is much more likely during this time, especially at night or in the early morning. If you plan to visit in the summer, the rain shouldn’t be heavy or last too long. Still, it’s not a bad idea to pack a light raincoat for your trip.
Sunglasses and Sunscreen
The sun in Hawaii has a higher ultraviolet index than your skin is probably used to. The UV rays can almost double in the summer compared to the winter months. Don’t forget sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses even if its cloudy outside.
If you plan to camp, you absolutely need to apply for a camping permit. Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to apply 90 days in advance. You’re limited to stay only 5 nights at the Hanakoa campsite and 3 nights in Miloli’l.
The Na Pali coastline offers many opportunities to go swimming between the numerous beaches, streams, and waterfalls. Whether it’s going snorkeling in magical-looking waters or simply to cool-off, a bathing suit is a must.
As mentioned earlier, snorkeling is a popular activity, especially at Tunnels Beach, Treasures Beach, or Ke’e Beach. Unless going through a tour, you will have bring your own snorkel gear. You should have goggles, a snorkel, dive flippers, and a life jacket. All should be available to purchase in the surrounding towns or on Amazon before your visit.
You’ll want both reliable hiking shoes and water shoes. Through the trails, you’ll encounter several water adventures. Find a pair that’s comfortable, supportive and protective. There’s a lot of coral within the water that could cut your feet. Quality water shoes will help protect against any potential damage.
Where to stay in Na Pali Coast State Park
The only option to stay within the park is by camping. To keep this historic area intact, the state limits reservations to a certain number per day and only allows campers to stay 3-5 nights, depending on the campsite. Permits are available 90 days in advance. You cannot pitch a tent along the trailhead; camping is only allowed in the Kalalau an d Hanakoa Valleys. If camping is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of hotels throughout the island of Kauai.
Food Nearby Na Pali Coast State Park
There are no options to buy food within the park, so it’s a good idea to bring some along. There are, however, many delicious restaurants in the surrounding towns of Princeville, Hanalei, and Wailua. Again, these towns need to be reached by a car so plan ahead and bring plenty of food options in the park with you.
Airports near Na Pali Coast State Park
There are three airports on the island of Kauai – Princeville Airport, Lihue Airport, and Port Allen Airport. Lihue Airport is the main airport for visitors and is 41 miles from the Na Pali Coast State Park. Princeville Airport is located on the north shore of the island and is 67 miles from the park. Port Allen Airport is mainly used for helicopter tours and skydiving.