One Of The World's Best Coastlines Is This Hawaiian Gem So Stunning It Doesn't Look Real

Hawaii is known for its striking mountains, Insta-worthy beaches, and lush landscapes. One coastline, in particular, delivers on these expectations and more. In fact, the northwest coast of Kauai is a region that incorporates all of those elements in the most dynamic ways. With a mixture of sandy and rocky shores and a backdrop of steep and colorful cliffs, the Nā Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii, will especially make you wonder if you're in a virtual reality.


Unlike destinations with tourist traps you should skip when visiting Hawaii, the Nā Pali Coast is a must-see if you make it to the island of Kauai, also known as the Garden Isle. Although its harsh landscape makes it more difficult to get to than some of the island's other attractions, the fact that it's a place like few others makes it worth the effort. With an otherworldly ruggedness, visitors get a taste of nature's forces while enjoying incomparable natural beauty. Fortunately, there are many ways you can view sections of this 17-mile stretch of coastline, where a trip is guaranteed to be memorable.

Enjoying the Nā Pali Coast by land and by sea

A visit to Kauai requires a rental car for proper exploration. Even with one, though, there are limitations to where you can go. While a road traverses alongside the outer edge of the island, it ends above the Nā Pali Coast on the north portion of the island and stops after passing through the under-the-radar towns of Waimea and Kekaha on the south. That means no road connects north to south along the western side of Kauai, so it helps to know where you'll find the Nā Pali Coast's gems.


To access it on foot, you'll find the trailhead not far past one of the best places to watch the sunset at Hanalei Bay. You can take a day hike or apply for a permit and do a multi-day backpack trip 11 miles into the bucket-list-worthy remote Kalalau Valley. While hiking is the only way to reach the area by land, visitors with the proper experience and permits can kayak to a few legal landing spots. By far, the most popular option is to take a guided sea tour, which can provide access to rock arches, beaches, and an archeological site. There are many types of ocean voyages, from dinner cruises to Zodiacs, so pick your favorite and enjoy the views.

Nā Pali Coast from above

A budget-friendly and leisurely way to enjoy the stunning views of the coastline is to look down on it from above. That's no easy task, considering the peaks jut 4,000 feet into the air. To accomplish this, stop at the Kalalau Lookout north of Waimea, which provides an overlook of the valley below. However, viewing the Nā Pali Coast from the interior of the island is a little like trying to see the outside of a house while sitting at the dining table. To really understand why this coastline is so stunning, it's best to take in the cliffs from the water. 


Alternatively, if you have the budget, the most memorable way to survey the coastline may be on a helicopter tour. Not only will you see the vastness of the mountains that meet the sea and the clouds that perch above the peaks, but you'll fly over coves of sandy beaches and along the rocky shore. It's also the only way to get to the cinematic Manawaiopuna Falls, an iconic landmark used as the backdrop in the blockbuster "Jurassic Park" film. Although you might have to pinch yourself, we promise the Nā Pali Coast is real and well worth the visit.