Na Pali Coast is located on the North-west side of Kaua’i. It is nearly inaccessible, except by boat or helicopter. Often regarded as the most beautiful portion of Hawaii, this 17-mile stretch of coastline is a must-see for residents and visitors alike.“Na Pali” means “the cliffs” or “many cliffs” in Hawaiian, and from Ke’e Beach on the north shore to Polihale State Park on the west side of the island, sea cliffs soar to incredible heights. These cliffs stretch thousands of feet into the air and are second in height only to the sea cliffs of Moloka’i. Deep and narrow hanging valleys with roaring waterfalls that flow into the sea complete the coastal view that will steal your breath away.
Story of the Na Pali Coast’s Formation
Millions of years of erosion has created both the sea cliffs and the hanging valleys of Na Pali. Year after year, large winter surf pounds Na Pali Coast which widens sea caves, causes landslides, and chips away at the cliffs. Meanwhile, freshwater erosion from flowing streams combined with steady trade winds continually shape the valleys. In this way, natural processes have worked together to create the breathtaking landscape that we enjoy today.
History of the Na Pali Coast
For hundreds of years, Hawaiians inhabited almost all of the valleys on Na Pali Coast. Their communities farmed, fished, and traded amongst one another to survive. Once Europeans and Westerners arrived in Hawai’i, families slowly began to move out of the area. By circa 1930, none of the valleys on Na Pali Coast remained inhabited.
In the early 1960s, National Geographic featured an article that called Kalalau Valley “The Garden of Eden.” This sparked an influx of curious “hippies” seeking to settle into their own secluded society, which necessitated the creation of the permit system. After several years, the state decided to break up the hippie commune and start regulating camping, hunting, and hiking along the entire Na Pali Coast.
The Na Pali Coast Today
Today, people still come from all over the world to hike to Kalalau Valley, but they are only allowed to stay for five nights. The trail that leads to the valley, commonly referred to as “The Kalalau Trail”, begins at Ke’e Beach and traverses five valleys before ending at Kalalau Beach. It is a spectacular way to see the “accessible” part of Na Pali Coast, but this adventure is not for the faint of heart; in 2008, Backpacker Magazine listed the Kalalau trail as one of America’s 10 Most Dangerous Hikes.
All of the valleys, beaches, caves and waterfalls between Kalalau Beach and Polihale State Park are inaccessible by land, which is why boating is the preferred method for viewing the coastline. Na Pali Coast boasts an incredible array of marine life. Dolphins, turtles, and tropical fish are seen on a daily basis. Monk seals, rays, or whales often make an exciting appearance.