Kauai Kayaking

I’m having a serious island withdrawal.  This post is to give me a tiny artificial fix.  Last time we went to Kauai, we signed up for an all day Kayak trip down the Na Pali Coast.  It was a 17 mile open sea kayak adventure…

…and it was S-P-E-C-T-A-C-U-L-A-R!

We started on the north shore at Haena Beach at 6am.  I was so nervous.  The preceding week, I’d had nightmares that I wouldn’t be able to get back into my kayak if I ever got out of it in the open water.  And it hadn’t helped that my children watched “Shark Week” on Discovery Channel.  Even though I forbid them from telling me any grisly details, I still heard their squeals and yells as sharks ate people in my upstairs TV room.  So…yeah, the deep ocean terrified me.

There were about 8 couples and our guides.  We pushed out and I was shocked at how high the waves were when you are right in the midst of them.  On the beach, they look like little ripples, but when you’re out there, the waves can be quite big, and a bigger one can come out of nowhere and try to capsize you.

We’d go up a wave and see everyone…then go down into the trough and be all alone.  Eerie!  It rained on us pretty good as we kayaked around the bend and then began our trip down the rugged Na Pali Coast.

This coast has needle sharp mountains and green cliffs rising straight out of the ocean; there are no roads, just one thin hiking trail that goes along some of it (but even that ends up on a cliff edge right above the ocean).

There are sea caves.  We got to explore these in our kayaks.  If you’ve never gone into a sea cave before, beware.  The tide hits into the cliffs and ricochets off, causing a lot of turbulence as waves crash into each other.  Throw in a coral reef to tear you up if you capsize, and it gets even dicier.

Our guides helped guide us into each cave (that’s why they’re called guides).  Then they told us to get out of our kayaks in that dark, inky water.  Since there were no bathrooms, we had to use the ocean.  Nice.  Those humbling circumstances help you become super chummy with your fellow kayakers.

“Hey, we’ve peed together in a sea cave in Kauai!  Will you accept me as your Facebook friend?”

I was spooked the whole time that some unknown sea monster would yank me under by the legs.  Then the moment of truth came.  Would I be able to get myself back in my kayak?  I’m not super limber…never have been.

It was hard and I thought I’d capsize my husband, but I finally did it.  Thankfully, we had no good waterproof camera to document the process.  That’s something I’d rather forget.  Even after all my exercise I’d done to train and prepare for this trip…I was pretty lame at pulling myself back into the kayak.  My legs are dead weights.

Out in the ocean, when we’d get out of our kayaks to cool off, I was always a little anxious about sharks again.  My legs were dangling in the great unknown.  I kept my eyes peeled for dorsal fins, but only managed to pick out a few sea turtles.  Whew!

This adventure was so cool though, that by the 2nd sea cave, my fears completely left.  Even the treacherous waves and reefs we had to paddle hard to stay away from didn’t keep a big smile from filling my face.  I was having the time of my life.  This was the coolest adventure ever…and I wish I was back there right now!

We stopped for lunch midway at Milolii and had a catered lunch–the chilled fresh pineapple was divine.  Nothing has ever tasted so good!

After lunch and a rest, we paddled on and were soothed by that up and down motion of the waves.  It grew on me and I think I gained my sea legs.  I didn’t ever want to walk on land again.  When Polihale Beach came into view–the end–I almost cried.  I started dragging my oars, trying to keep my strong husband from bringing me into the heavy surf that ended up pounding us up onto the beach.

So fun!  So thrilling!  I could hardly walk on the beach when I got out of the kayak.  I was still moving with imaginary waves, and solid ground messed with my equilibrium.

If you get the chance to do this trip…prepare.  It’s a whole day of paddling and you need some upper body strength to get in and out of the kayak in waves.  The weather can make a difference too.  Our conditions were just about perfect–good wind at our backs, sunny (except for the first hour rainstorm).  If the wind stops and you had to do all that work by yourself, you could have twice as much work.  That might not be as heavenly…but I’d be willing to try it to see.

What about you?  Does this make you want to go play around in the waves?  [Don’t answer, Mom.  I already know your answer.]


P.S.  Check out the gallery here at Napali Kayak  for incredible shots that my poor disposable camera could never duplicate.  I was too cheap to buy a good waterproof camera to take along; I was afraid I’d drop it in the ocean.

23 thoughts on “Kauai Kayaking

  1. Haha, nope, I don’t envy you one bit! 😉 We can go kayaking around San Diego, go in the caves at La Jolla Shores, etc, but it’s not for me. The water is frozen here so I wouldn’t get in a kayak without a wetsuit. Then you’re right, there are many, many things in the water you can’t see. We have lots of jelly fish here, no thank you! And sharks, small ones and big ones. And stingrays, the list goes on. Did I mention I love swimming in pools with humans only?

    I’d love to go to Hawaii though and hike around. It looks just beautiful, with lots of photo opportunities.

    • Yes, the hiking is incredible. I can’t walk 10 feet without stopping to pull my camera out and shoot another flower or incredible view. I never liked the ocean until I went to Kauai. It’s warm, mostly clear where you can see down quite a ways to what’s in the water with you…but not out in the open water like the kayak trip (couldn’t see anything below me)…but it was amazing.

  2. Oh Char! That was such a cool post!!! You really get out and enjoy life. Good for you.
    My husband, son and I kayaked a few years ago on the ocean by Bar Harbor Maine. Just an hour or so. We got out and went around an island but the rest of the time had sight of the mainland. A porpoise jumped up right beside us which reminded me there were sea creatures right below us!! I’m glad we did it. It was an adventure I will always remember, but I’m guessing the scenes in Hawaii were quite a bit more spectacular! Maybe some day I’ll go to Hawaii.

    • That sounds amazing…especially the porpoise. I was hoping so bad we’d see dolphins (we’d seen a lot 5 years earlier when we went on that trip on a motored boat), but we didn’t. The guide told us the dolphins have more fun playing around by the motored boats because they’re fast.

  3. I am in awe of you. In fact, if I was in the same room as you right now, I’d be bowing. How cool that you did this. A kayak out in the wavy sea? No way would you get me out there. Although I love the ocean, I am a wimp and prefer to view it from the beach and the shallow water. Way to Carpe Diem!

    • Wow! You give me a big head. I’ve never had someone say they’d bow to me before. I assure you, I was not as cool as everyone else out there was. You saw me in my big floppy hat in this post, trying not to burn my pasty white skin…and if you’d seen me flopping myself onto the kayak like a seal, you might have laughed hysterically instead of bowing. I wanted to go to Kauai again, and this was the only way I could–my husband had to do a ‘different’ trip, and found this one. I was terrified for months just thinking about it…but went through with it just because I love everything else about that island and was willing to risk being eaten by a shark to see it again. And now I’m hooked. I would definitely do it again in a heartbeat.

  4. I love kayaking–in calm, still lake waters that are no deeper than 8 feet or so. I love the ocean, but I get seasick too easily. So kayaking out on the big wide ocean, no can do. Proud of you, though. I think anyone who can handle something like that deserves a gold star!

    • I love kayaking or canoeing on a still lake or calm river as well. That is very peaceful. But this was very fun. Of course, tonight as I watched Shark Week, there was a kayaker who got tipped over by a great white. So glad I didn’t see that before I went.

  5. You take some of the most amazing vacations! I’ve never been in a kayak, just canoes. The thought of capsizing in a kayak scares me too much. I know there’s training for how to right yourself, but I think I’d be in a blind panic. So for ocean viewing, I like sightseeing boats. They don’t have to be big, but I don’t feel nervous in them. 😉

    Someday, though, a trip to Hawaii would be nice. 🙂

    • These ocean kayaks were different than the white water ones that you can flip and turn around in. These are open and you sit on top…that way waves won’t sink you if they go over you. They would be cold here in Idaho on the rivers.

  6. That was very brave of you! I know how hard it is paddling a kayak in the sea or for any distance – have done it for a short time on the Gold Coast in Oz (with a lazy 5 year old in the back).

    • My hat is off to you! I needed a strong man in the back of mine to keep me going straight. I would have been to Timbuktoo if a lazy 5 year old had been in the back with me.

    • I haven’t been to Maui or researched it, so don’t know. My husband is thinking of going there in a few years. I know the snorkeling is better there, but don’t know anything else.

      • I have been to Kauai and love it, but we have spent more time on Maui because of the snorkeling. I will have to look into it. Your photos a great-it looks like so much fun and adventure too.

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