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Napali Coast Shore Excursion Tips

Napali Coast. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Napali Coast. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Napali Coast is often on Hawaii cruise itineraries, but it’s not a cruise port. Passengers don’t get off their ships. They just enjoy some fantastic scenery as they cruise past it.

Nā Pali means “high cliffs” in Hawaiian, which is a starting point for why Napali Coast is so popular with Hawaiian cruises. The cliffs are as high as 4,000 feet and surrounded by lush and dense jungles. They make Napali a famous and mountainous shoreline on Kauai island.

Kauai is the fourth largest Hawaiian island. It lies about 120 miles away from Honolulu. So cruise ships reach it quickly after embarking.

Ships usually dock for the day at the city of Lihue before spending several hours on the next afternoon drifting along the 17-mile Napali Coast. But cruise passengers don’t have to wait until the day after Lihue to see Napali. They can take a shore excursion.

Anyone who takes an excursion from Lihue has the best of both worlds. They can explore the shoreline during the excursion. Then they can take plenty of photos of the coast on the following day when the cruise ship sails past it. Just hope for good weather.

Shore Excursion Tips

Although it’s possible to drive to Napali, the Hawaii Tourism Authority recommends exploring Napali by air or boat. They offer the most expansive views.

Cruise visitors who drive there need plenty of time and reliable transportation for the trip. Nā Pali Coast State Park is 42 miles or about 90 minutes from the port.

A helicopter tour will cost about $350 per person, although sales and discounts are sometimes available. The excursion lasts about 90 minutes from takeoff to landing. Some operators offer a one-hour version that will cost between $250 and $300 per person. (Note that all prices are subject to change at any time.)

It’s helpful to value helicopter rides based on their cost per hour of flight.

Slightly less expensive plane tours are available that also take about an hour. These tours may cost a little less than $200 per person.

Another option is a tour of the coastline by boat or raft. This tour will cost about $230 per person and last about six hours. A raft tour will offer a closeup experience not available from the decks of the cruise ship.

Some boating tours include snorkeling and cost anywhere from $185 to $300 or more per person. They offer a chance to explore sea caves.

The weather is a major factor in the experience of any shore excursion to Napali. Kaui is not known for heavy rains, but a bad weather day can ruin an excursion. Anyone who takes a shore excursion to Napali should confirm the excursion cancellation policies. Most reputable excursion operators allow cancellations with refunds with at least a 24-hour notice.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
July 18, 2022

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