Administrative Details to a Na Pali Sea Kayak Trip

My wife and I celebrated our tenth anniversary by sea kayaking the Na Pali Coast of Kaua'i. While at first it may seem odd for a site primarily focused on winter hut experiences to post about a sea kayaking adventure, the reality is that both activities share many of the same qualities that make going outdoors so much fun. The Na Pali coast is an impressive stretch of cliffs and ocean that spans seventeen miles. Sea Kayaking this stretch of coast is only available for a few months in the summer time, when the swells are from the east/northeast. While it is most popular to do the trip in one day, we decided to go "Maverick" style, which meant that we would be guided to the beach that we would camp out on. However, from there on, we would adventure on our own. To help us with our adventure, we enlisted the help of Micco and Kayak Kaua'i, who pioneered the guided trip down the Na Pali.

State of Hawaii Parks Division

The major piece of administrative work is to secure your camping permits before you start reserving spots. There are two legal beaches to camp on during the trip. The first is kalalau, which is the ending point for the kalalau hiking trail, which is a very popular trail. The second is miloli'i, which is only accessible by boat, which makes it the perfect destination for a remote getaway. Which ever place you decide to camp, you must fill out the park camping and landing permit with the State Parks of Hawaii. There are special rules and fees for Na Pali, such as that you must have permission to not only land on the beaches, but also to camp on them. In order to reserve camping spots, it is in person, first come, first served. For mainlanders, this means that you have to fed ex or mail the forms, ID's, and money orders for the camp sites. Because of time, I Fed-Ex'd our forms and included a return envelope for the permits. I also called once the package arrived to get the reservation numbers, which are needed to begin the application process with Kayak Kaua'i. In order for the forms to be valid, you must sign and return the yellow copies back to Hawaii. We did this in person in Kaua'i, because we had some sight seeing and shopping to do along the way. If you prefer, you can mail them back.

Kayak Kaua'i

Once you have your camping permits, the next step is to fill out the Maverick Application on Kayak Kaua'i's website. You also need to send them your camping permits when you get them (I emailed pdf's). There is also a deposit needed. Filling out this form triggers your discussions with the team at Kayak Kaua'i. It is not a final statement, and things can change all the way up to your departure date. Their website has plenty of good information, but here are a few that stood out:

This page has a detailed of all logistical and trip requirements. It is a must read:

This page talks about the trip in general:

To determine sea conditions:

I would recommend one or two days in Hanalei before you go on the trip. You need to check in with Kayak Kaua'i a day before your trip, to finalize plans and get some instruction. We chose to go down to Lihue to hand in our forms, which also allowed us some time to vie some waterfalls and hike along the sleeping giant. Kapa'a also has the only major grocery store, Safeway, as well as a longs drug store. The prices at each were comparable with the mainland, but the reality is that we needed no food from these stores for our actual trip.

For our trip, we went as "Spartan" as possible: No tent, no stove. Eating light allowed us to keep cooking utensils at home and made for simple meal preparation. For sleeping, we used lightweight capiline tops and underpants. We used a cocoon sleeping bag liner, and a plastic tarp to put over the sand. For clothing we brought an extra pair of dry shorts and shirts, which we interchanged throughout the day depending on how wet we were. For drink, we brought our camelbacks for water, as well as an extra 5 gallon water jug. We were able to complete the trip without using water at the camp ground. If you do use water, you will need to treat it, because all the streams are to be considered contaminated. There is a natural spring located up the canpyon at Miloli'i, which people we talked with do trust. Luckily, we found some campers who had an extra coffee for us! For food, while on the boat we relied on energy bars, and on the ground we relied on awesome sashimi grade tuna and ceviche from the Blue Dolphin Fish Shop, local mangos, avacados and coconut water from Papaya's Organic Food Store. The Blue Dolphin packed our cooler the night before, and we refreshed the ice supply in the morning. We bought some extra ice the night before at the liquor store. The ice lasted long enough for us to enjoy a yogurt, granola and mango breakfast at Nu'alolo Kai after a snorkeling adventure.

In terms of our trip plan, we at first wanted to camp one night at Kalalau and one night at Miloli'i. Based on many factors, mostly due to the Swell conditions and our unfamiliarity with sea kayaking in these waters, we decided to opt out of Kalalua, and only camp for one night at Miloli'i. This made our food selection and water needs much, much easier. We had a guide take us all the way to Miloli'i. This allowed us to have an experienced person navigate the big water swells, as well as navigate some caves and lava tubes along the way. We would kayak the much mellower journey from Miloli'i to the take out at Polihale by ourselves.