Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, March 30, 1999

Na Pali Explorer
Journey by sea to Nu'alolo Kai, site
of an ancient settlement.

Commercial boating
still afloat at Na Pali

By Stephanie Kendrick
Assistant Features Editor


There is no automobile access to Na Pali Coast State Park on the northwest shoulder of Kauai. Commercial aircraft cannot land within its boundaries. A portion of the area is accessible off the Kalalau trail, but for most visitors, access to some of the most spectacular wilderness in the world, has been mostly available by sea.

Art As the commercial center closest to both the head of the Kalalau trail and the boundaries of the park itself, Hanalei was Na Pali tour central. That is changing.

Those wishing to tour the Na Pali Coast have had their options reduced, though not eliminated, by Gov. Ben Cayetano's decision to restrict commercial boating out ofHanalei.

Of the three small-boat companies approved for landing permits in the Na Pali Coast State Park, only one, Na Pali Explorer, is actively marketing tours that land in the park. And it is the first of those companies to have completed the move to Port Allen, on the south shore of Kauai.

High surf prevents kayak and small boat tours of the Na Pali Coast for much of the year. But from May 1 to Sept. 30, Na Pali Explorer will offer some tours of the coast at Nu'alolo Kai, an ancient Hawaiian settlement.

The state has designed a walking tour of the site, which historians have determined was not abandoned until 1919 when the last of its residents moved to the towns of Hanalei and Waimea.

Na Pali Explorer also offers non-stop tours of the coast, as well as snorkel tours off Niihau and Nu'alolo Kai.

Kauai Seatours, which also is approved for a landing permit, according to the State Parks Department, has offered snorkel and landing trips to Nu'alolo Kai for years and would like to do so again.

"We are hoping to be able to do the beach landing, but there are time constraints," said Ronnie Rover, general manager.

The company, which operated out of Hanalei as Hanalei Seatours, is in the process of moving to Port Allen.

Touring Na Pali from Port Allen vs. Hanalei adds at least an hour to the trip each way, said Rover.

The company is refitting its boats in preparation for the longer trip and plans to add a larger boat to its fleet.

In addition to landing at Nu'alolo Kai, Hanalei Seatours has transported campers bound for Milolii Beach, which is inaccessible except by sea.

Given the time constraints of operating from their new location, Rover was not sure the company would be able to offer that trip this season.

Hanalei Seatours does not land at Kalalau Beach at the end of the 11-mile Kalalau trail. For years, the company referred Kalalau-bound campers to Captain Zodiac, the lastcompany authorized by the state for a landing permit at Na Pali.

Captain Zodiac is the only permitted company with boats small enough to make the landing at Kalalau, said Rover.

But after more than 20 years of hauling campers and delivering food and other supplies to Kalalau, Captain Zodiac has no plans to use its permit.

"We still have a permit to land on Kalalau, but we don't have a permit to get down the coast," said owner Clancey Greff.

Greff can no longer launch at Hanalei and getting to Kalalau from Port Allen is a daunting prospect given the size of his boats.

But while Captain Zodiac has no plans to make the move, Na Pali Explorer and Kauai Seatours will be headed to Na Pali from Port Allen come May and happy to take you along.

"We love what we do and it's really a treasured thing for the people who come to Kauai. I don't want to see it disappear," said Rover.

For more information on tours offered by Royal Hawaiian Cruises, parent company of Na Pali Explorer, call (808) 335-9909 or visit For more information on tours offered by Kauai Seatours, call (808) 826-7254 or visit

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