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Hawaiin Words for Your Na Pali Coast Tour

Austin Kalalau 2

At Na Pali Experience, we love sharing Hawaiian culture with our guests! One of the easiest ways to get started is to share the beautiful language of the islands. Here are some Hawaiian words that you might hear on your Na Pali Coast tour.

Aloha – Hello, Goodbye, I Love You. Aloha is a common greeting that you will hear throughout your time in Hawai’i. Yes, it means hello, goodbye, love, but also so much more. It embodies a way of life in Hawaii, perpetuated through the people. Hopefully you will feel the Aloha that our Captains have for our guests and the opportunity to share Kauai and Na Pali coast with you. For the deeper meaning of Aloha, check out this beautiful explanation of Aloha at

Napali – The cliffs. Na is The (plural) and Pali is cliffs. Napali is the Moku – a section, of Kauai that we visit on the tour. Each moku is made up of different Ahupua’a – land division, that stems from the top of the mountain down to the ocean. The ahupua’a we pass on the tour are Hanakapi’ai, Hanakoa, Pohaku’au, Kalalau, Honopu, Awaawapuhi. On the way to Napali, we start in the Moku of Kona, at Kikiaola and go all the way to Mana.

Na Pali Experience Catamaran Tour Kalalau

(Na Pali “Cathedral Cliffs” at Kalalau)

Nai’a – Dolphin. Mostly likely to encounter on Morning Magic tours, could be as soon as we pull out of the boat harbor. Hawaiian spinner dolphins put on a great acrobatic show. Nai’a are very akamai – smart, clever, intelligent.

Na Pali Experience Catamaran Tour Dolphins

(Nai’a outside of Kikialoa Boat Harbor)

Honu – Hawaiian Sea turtle. You have the best chance of a sea turtle encounter on our Afternoon Adventure when they are usually out feeding at Nualolo. Honu are a common ‘Aumakua – Ancestral spirit. In Hawaiian mythology, other ‘amakua could be mo’o – gecko, pueo – owl, mano – shark, and many other forms.

Na Pali Experience Catamaran Tour Turtle

(Honu at Nualolo Kai)

Anuenue – Rainbow. Kaua‘i is known as much for it’s rain as it’s rainbows. Rainbows are pomaika’i – a blessing, sign of good fortune.

Na Pali Experience Catamaran Tour


(Anuenue on our Afternoon Adventure Tour)

Kai – salt water. Wai – fresh water. ‘Moana – ocean. Nalu – wave. Our tour runs May – Sept because the waters along Na Pali are usually calm and glassy, making excellent conditions to explore all the sea caves. On the rare occasions when the surf swell rises, some of the sea caves might not be accessible on that day.

Na Pali Experience Catamaran Tour

(Waiʻahuʻakua Sea Cave. This is not only one of the most poetic names in all of Na Pali, but the translation is equally beautiful. Wai – water, Ahu – altar, Akua – god.)

Mauka – Towards the mountains, Makai, towards the ocean. Anywhere you are on island, you can tell directions by orienting yourself with the mountains and the ocean. Sometimes your guide will use these directionals to point out wildlife in reference to the boat.

Pu – conch shell. If conditions are right, your captain may blow a pu inside a sea cave. The sound resonating inside the caves is guaranteed to give you chicken skin.

Na Pali Experience Catamaran Tour

(Capt Nate blowing a Pu in Sea Cave)

Aloha ‘Aina – Love of the land. Na Pali Experience is committed to keeping our precious Na Pali Coast pristine and preserved for everyone to enjoy. We are proud to take responsibility in being sustainable, low-impact and eco-friendly operation. One of the ways we do that is an annual Na Pali Coast Clean Up. We hope that though our tour we can share our Aloha Aina with you. 

(Capt Abe packing up a small fraction of the trash we collected on the last Na Pali Coast Clean Up)

Hana Hou – Encore, do it again! More commonly heard at a concert or hula performance, you might find yourself shouting Hana Hou! after you see a Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin put on a show for you!

‘A‘ole pilikia – You’re welcome or no problem. A common reply to Mahalo – Thank you or Mahalo Nui Loa – Thank you very much!

Pau Hana – After work. You might hear your captain mention something about his plans to get pau hana drinks with his ‘Ohana – family. Here are some of our favorite spots to hit up after a tour.

A hui hou – Until we meet again. You will learn that we do not say goodbye in Hawaii, we say aloha and a hui hou.

No Ka Oi – The Very Best. If you thought that our Na Pali Coast tour was No Ka Oi, please head over to Tripadvisor and leave us a review!

(A Private Tour anchored off Nualolo for a family trip that was No Ka Oi!)

Now it’s time to put your new knowledge to good use! If you are ready for the best way to experience Na Pali, book your tour with us today!

If you would like to learn even more Hawaiian words to use on your Kauai vacation, check out this glossary by Hawaii Tourism Authority.