A Reluctant Tourist on the Napali Coast

I’m a terrible traveller. Well, I love to travel but I hate being a tourist.

Yes, I agree there is no logic in that statement, but I never said I was logical!

My reluctance to be branded a ‘tourist’ stems from all those ‘typical’ tourists you see being herded from pillar to post, blindly following a flag-waving guide, holding their iPhones aloft to ensure they don’t miss the next great vista.

I know that description is probably me being unkind and judgemental, but I am just not ready to cast my lot in with these folks.

Despite this, there are some places and activities that are difficult for an independent traveller to access, or only possible at a cost that is prohibitive. It also seems a bit silly on my part to miss out on an iconic part of nature, just because I have some silly notion of how a traveller should act or be perceived.

So, back to the story…

The stunning cliffs along the Napali Coast, Kauai, Hawaiian Islands
The stunning cliffs along the Napali Coast, Kauai, Hawaiian Islands

Our Winter escape to the Hawaiian Islands was full of warm sunshine and moist, gentle breezes. All we needed to complete the triumvirate was a dose of sailing on sparkling blue water.

On Kauai, being a busy tourist destination, there were plenty of pleasure cruises to choose from, but as is our want, we opted for one that offered the opportunity to sail. True to form though, we found the sail was for the romance of the experience only, rather than any sort of functionality, and we motored the whole way up the Napali Coast and return.

The stunning cliffs along the Napali Coast, Kauai, Hawaiian Islands
More cliffs, more waterfalls

Blue Dolphin Charters sailed from Port Allen, on the southern edge of Kauai. When booking, we were warned that we must arrive on time or we would be left behind. With these threats still ringing in our ears, we were up and on the road by 530am and arrived at the Charter office 90 minutes early. That gives you an idea of the severity of the warning! With all that time to spare, we adjourned to McDonalds and sipped on terrible coffee as we waited for the usual laggards to arrive.

Why do people do that? Why turn up late when they know there will be repercussions? And why weren’t there the repercussions as threatened? Yes, we left 40 minutes late, and that just punishes the punctual.

I know, I know, I need to relax and go with the flow. I know, I’m on holiday and I need to get with Hawaiian time. Thankfully that did kick in as we ebbed and bobbed away from the pier, and spotted a massive old green turtle who had come to explore the protected waters of the little harbour. Out came the iPhones…

Map of Kauai, Hawaiian Islands
Kauai, Hawaiian Islands

Heading up the north-west coastline, the sea breeze blew the tension away, and I could enjoy the watery perspective of lush, tropical Kauai.

An excited cry soon went up, and we all lurched to the railings to watch a large pod of dolphins in a feeding frenzy. Unfortunately for us, the dolphins were more interested in their bellies than our boat, as they darted frantically after their breakfast. We had to be content in the knowledge that there was plenty of marine life about, just not near us.

The cruise hugged the spectacular Napali (also spelled Na Pali) coastline – all rugged, sheer cliffs and tumbling waterfalls. The size of the mountains, and the severity of their shape, instantly made me wonder about the day they were created. How fabulous and frightening would it have been to seem them rise from the boiling sea?

Spellbound by the scenery. Napali Coast, Kauai..See? I am relaxing!

Our boat bobbed us close to great stretches of pristine beach, into and under refreshing waterfalls, and near architectural rock formations that only Nature can design. In the meantime, the much younger and much groovier tourists whizzed past us, and in and out of caves at death-defying speeds in their rubber inflatable boats. Oh Lordy, not only am I a tourist, I am an old, sedate tourist!

Each twist and turn of the coastline revealed a scene more breathtaking than the last. The remoteness and the splendour of the volcanic cliffs were the perfect backdrop for the flocks of wheeling seabirds seeking a precarious perch. The charm of the scene was dulled a little by the frequent ‘whop whop’ of multiple tourist helicopters plunging down vertical valleys and hurtling around the cliffs. Yep, I’m a tourist, an old tourist and a poor one at that!

The very hungry and bossy Golden Chub. Source: Rick Long, www.reef.org
The very hungry and bossy Golden Chub. Source: Rick Long, http://www.reef.org

Eventually we reached the northern point of our cruise and we anchored for the requisite snorkel and lunch. When I snorkel I nearly drown, as both eyes and mouth pop open at the wonder of the fish. The Golden Chubb, a vibrant yellow, was obviously boss of the reef, as he came to check for food handouts and all the other fish scattered back to the coral.

After a relaxing float amongst the fishes, a delicious fresh lunch and obligatory Mai Tai, it was time to return to the pier in preparation for their scheduled evening cruise.

Homeward bound we cruise past the Pacific Missile Range Facility. Wikipedia tells me that “this site is the world’s largest instrumented, multi-dimensional testing and training missile range. The US military and subcontractors favour its relative isolation, ideal year-round tropical climate and encroachment-free environment. It is the only range in the world where submarines, surface ships, aircraft and space vehicles can operate and be tracked simultaneously”.

A better photo of the scenery, thanks to www.hokualakauai.com
A better photo of the scenery, thanks to http://www.hokualakauai.com

How lucky are the Navy men and women who live and work at that naval installation? The sonar towers, razor wire and missile installations did look a bit incongruous adjacent to the swaying palm trees, but I doubt the workers complain. That bit of sandy beach and tropical jungle would have to be the best posting in all of the US military.

More looming cliffs, more crystal clear water and more soothing breezes. The spinner dolphins leapt and spun, too fast for decent photography for this snap-happy photographer, but sometimes it is best just to ‘be in the moment’ rather than recording everything for posterity.

No, no regrets from this reluctant tourist. It is a privilege and luxury to travel, regardless of what we call ourselves.

Tourist, Traveller or Visitor? What are you comfortable with? And does it matter?

July 2015

The Basics

What: A ticket to ride costs around $USD140.00pp.

Spot the gorilla? Napali Coast, KauaiWhere: Most of the cruises depart from Port Allen, on the southern edge of Kauai. The boat then travels right up the western edge of the island.

When: We chose a day cruise of about five hours but they also offer dinner cruises, groovier rubber inflatable cruises plus scuba diving. Tours operate seven days a week.

Why: It was too good an opportunity to pass up – spectacular scenery, swimming and dolphins. What is not to love?

How: We hired a car and drove to Port Allen. It is very difficult to get there by public transport. Although the island bus system is good, buses do not connect well or run frequently to the port.

Who: Myself and The Brave Man* and 30 other tourists.

Related Posts: For more background on our Hawaii holiday, have a look at my post about meeting the locals and public transport adventures.

Related Blogs: For another enthusiastic view of sailing the Napali Coast, have a look at: http://lionandmaven.com/2012/08/13/kauai-day-7/

*The Brave Man refers to my husband. He is indeed a brave man for marrying a crazy woman like me!

A spinning dolphin spinning its heart out! Napali Coast, Kauai
A spinning dolphin spinning its heart out! Napali Coast, Kauai

3 thoughts on “A Reluctant Tourist on the Napali Coast

  1. Are you a traveler or a tourist? I would love your perspective. Mel


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