Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Backtracking: Honeymoon Adventures Kayaking the Na Pali Coast

In my Kaua'i highlights post, I promised a separate post about this experience, and it really needs its own! We decided to do this after I read in National Geographic that it was the #2 adventure on the planet (behind white water rafting in Colorado and in front of dog sledding in Alaska). Brendan wants to point out that I signed us up (because I knew he would love it, and I knew he would never pressure me to do it, even though he wanted to---ahhh love). The point is, this activity probably only works if both people are really up for it. As the guides told us, you really have to want it for yourself. 

We had an amazing time on the Na Pali coast day trip tour with Napali Kayak. The tour is offered everyday May--September (weather permitting), but advanced reservations are required (we reserved about one month ahead). 

The cost was 200/per person plus tax, and we needed to buy about 100 dollars in supplies before going. It was an experience of a lifetime that was well worth it, and we both had an amazing day. It's not an experience we would recommend to anyone, but for us, it was perfect! 

We checked in at 6:00am (which meant we were up at 4:00am--we were staying an hour away from check in in Hanalei), signed some forms, and loaded into a van. Napali Kayak got all the equipment to the send off sight (we helped carry kayaks and supplies) and made sure everyone had everything strapped down inside the kayak (in case of flipping). We had a brief demonstration about paddling technique and getting back into the kayak after getting out and/or flipping. We all got into the kayaks and the guides gave us a push into the ocean. 

At 1 mile in, they ask if anyone wants to turn around...it's your last chance to leave, so if you stay, you have to finish the last 16 miles. No one in our group left, but various people struggled with seasickness. We both took medication in advance, and luckily, we both were fine. 

Our guides were Annie, Scott, and Casey. The technique Annie told us was the punch out in paddling is 70% of it, while only 30% is the pull in. In other words, punch forward to make forward progress. I paddled great with no breaks, but in a tandem kayak (the only option), the front person (that was me) has to get used to the back person's (Brendan's) steering. It took me a little while to realize he wasn't going to let us run into something, even when it looked scary from my perspective (like going into a sea cave). Once we got that down, we were fine. Brendan didn't have any trouble matching my paddling (which is the job of whoever is in the back). 

We hit some really strong trade winds on our trip, and at one point, our guides talked about turning us around. Instead, we kept going, but it took us 2 more hours of paddling than the average tour (so we paddled 8 hours instead of 6 hours and arrived back at 9:00pm instead of 7:00pm). Honestly, even with that, I still felt strong, though exhausted, by the end. 

So, what is the experience like? You paddle for 4.5 hours and then have a 2 hour break. We paddled for more like 6 hours before the break. Napali Kayak takes you to see things that you can only see by kayak. Because the Na Pali coastline is not accessible by car, and you can only hike or take a boat so far, kayaking is really the way to go. We saw: giant turtles, sea caves, dolphins, waterfalls, scared Hawaiian beaches, and more beauty than I have words to describe. 

At the break, Napali Kayak provides a pre-packed/pre-selected lunch (they have vegetarian lunch, yay) that tastes like the best lunch of your life. After the break, you paddle 1.5 hours, but for us it was 2 hours due to the wind. When you return, they have your clean clothes waiting for you on the beach. You change, load up in the van and are taken to a place where you can buy dinner, beer, etc. It takes a couple of hours to get back to the base. Those are the logistics, but it's really like one of the most beautiful days of your life. The actual experience of it is hard to describe. It's perfect for inner reflection and silent bonding with a partner. 

Some of our pictures from the $8.00 waterproof camera: 

Sea Caves


Me :) 

Me and dolphins 

So, could anyone do it? I think anyone in reasonable physical shape could paddle the 17 miles if they wanted to. Our guides said they've seen grown men, former military veterans, etc. break down and cry on this tour...I mean, I guess it depends on the person. Everyone in our group was fine...even people that were sick. People that were a little older (like 60s) had a harder time...but were still able to do it. Our guides also said this is usually a disaster of a honeymoon activity, but we did great. I will say, I think weight lifting using New Rules of Weightlifting for Women for 9 months before I took this trip probably really, really helped me. My recaps are all on this blog for anyone interested. 

In terms of what to bring, definitely take dramamine before you go. You bring a waterproof camera, water, gatorade, snacks (we liked nuts and gummies), and a change of clothes. Wear Sunscreen/bring sunscreen. Wear a serious hat, a sunblock shirt, and sunblock shorts (or a towel for around your legs). Expect sunburn no matter what you do (inevitable) and blisters on your hands. I brought gloves and had fewer blisters than Brendan. Also, bring cash for dinner and to tip your guides (who will probably be life-saving more than once). We loved Napali Kayak and the guides and drivers. Everyone was awesome, and we were in good hands. The guides do this paddle every other day in season...they are inspiring and really cool. I don't mean to belabor the point, but tipping for any excursions on the islands really is proper etiquette, 10-20% of the price of the tour is the norm. 

So, that's pretty much everything to know about the Na Pali coast kayak! We were really glad we did it, and it was definitely a highlight of our trip. 

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