Holo Holo Charter: Na Pali Coast and Niihau Super Tour
When Holo Holo Charter offered to host us on one of their boat tours, we quickly decided on the Na Pali Coast and Niihau Super Tour. Being the only company that offers this incredible trip, we knew we didn’t want to miss it. We actually even had other plans that day, but changed them to be able to accommodate this tour during our travels in Kauai. We are so happy that we did!
Early Morning Start
When we arrived at Holo Holo’s office for an early morning check-in everything went very smoothly. There wasn’t much hanging around, as they quickly got us orientated and walked us down to the dock. Right away you could tell that the staff was professional, approachable, skilled, and knew what they were talking about.
Na Pali Coast and Niihau Super Tour is the premiere trip on Holo Holo, one of the largest and fastest vessels on Kauai. At 65 feet, this agile power cat is long and wide enough to give you a swift, adventurous ride even at her top speeds. And what an adventure it was!
As we pushed off from the dock, the sun started to rise, giving us a spectacular show to enjoy. The light in the sky and the way it played on the clouds was magnificent. A view we would have never seen if we hadn’t been on Holo Holo. It made for some spectacular pictures.
A continental breakfast of scones, bagels with cream cheese, breakfast breads, fresh fruit, juice, water, and coffee were provided for all. Drew enjoyed the scones going back for seconds, while I had more than my fill of fresh fruit. Once breakfast was offer beverages were still available.
One thing we really liked about the Holo Holo tour is that they offered aids for sea sickness for free. We’ve been on many other boat tours and have never had any of these provided free to all. It’s the extra little things that this that go far in our book.
Heading out to sea, we came upon a pod of Spinner Dolphins. One of the great perks about the Na Pali Coast and Niihau Super Tour with Holo Holo is that Spinner Dolphins are seen daily. They came right up to our boat, swimming in front and along the sides of the boat.
Right away, they begun displaying their behavior that gives them their Spinner Dolphin name. Acrobatic displays as they leap out of the water, into the air, spinning were a delight to see. There was even a new baby that the staff said was 1-1 and half days out, trying to leap into the air to spin for us. They were remarkably lively creatures and you could tell one of the biggest crowd pleasers for everyone on board.
Most of the Spinner Dolphin is dark grey, with darker patches along the tail stock, back, and throat. The dolphin has a distinctively long and thin beak, with a dark tip. The dorsal fin stands up straight and can be an easy identifier to see these gentle creatures at sea. However, the easiest way to spot Spinner Dolphins is by their aerobatic spinning.
Na Pali Coastline
Our first point of interest was to view the breath-taking Na Pali Coast. You really have no idea how beautiful this place is until it is right in front of your face. The Cathedral Cliffs are spectacular. With so many waterfalls, lush valleys, and sea caves to see, it made for a fanatic morning. Seeing the Na Pali Coastline is something we highly recommend that you see by boat the next time you are on Kauai.
While hearing about the history of the Na Pali Coast, I had no idea that the hippies that lived there in the 60s and 70s were such a big part of the history of Kauai. This was a welcome surprise to learn since I had lived there myself as a toddler in the 70s with my hippy mother and this left me with an urge to learn more about the Na Pali Coast and Taylor camp.
Niihau and Lehau
After sightseeing along Na Pali, we headed across the channel for a choppy and wet ride to the islands of Niihau and Lehau. The main reason we selected this tour out of all the others, was because it provided us the opportunity to see both Niihau and Lehua. Holo Holo Charters is the only company granted permission to take visitors to see these islands.
Lehua is a small, crescent-shaped barren island which is part of the extinct Niihau volcano. Lehua is a Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary providing habitat for at least 16 species of seabirds. Lehua is a noted destination for both snorkeling and scuba diving. It is also well known for an unusual geological formation dubbed “the keyhole”. Located in one of the crescent’s narrow arms, is a beautiful tall, thin notch cut from one side, all the way through to the other side of the arm.
Niihau, also known as the “Forbidden Island”, lies about 17 and half miles from Kauai. The population of Niihau remains around 200 inhabitants who still speak Hawaiian as their first language. This island is generally off-limits to all but the relatives of the island’s owners and invited guests. Because of this, our visit to Niihau was all done off-shore.
Once we arrived at Niihau, we anchored for a couple hours of snorkeling. The crew assisted everyone in being comfortable with snorkeling, as well as getting in and out of the two entry/exit points off of Holo Holo. The crew was in the water and on board, always keeping an eye on us while snorkeling. They helped to make everyone feel safe while also pointing out the comings and goings of the aquatic world around us.
Just as we were getting into the water to snorkel, we saw our first of two Hawaiian Monk Seals. With only 1200 Hawaiian Monk Seals left in the world, they are very rare to see. We were delighted to have one swimming in the water with us, but kept our distance to respect this endangered species.
When we’d worked up an appetite from snorkeling and following all kinds of tropical fish around, we got back on board for a gourmet deli-style buffet lunch. Everything was set up under the shaded cabin with a large bar area, tables, and plenty of seating. We got to choose from a variety of breads, deli meats, cheeses, vegetables, and condiments to assemble our own sandwiches. We also enjoyed pasta salad, spinach dip, and more fresh fruits. A selection of beverages, as well as beer and wine once everyone was back on board, were offered, as well.
As we were turning around to head back to Kauai, we enjoyed some time up front sunbathing on the forward nets. This ended up being the perfect location to hang out as the captain pointed out another Hawaiian Monk Seal sunbathing on Lehau. We got to see the seal up close as he lay so still we feared he may not be alive. That is until he lifted his head to look at us, rolled to one side, and waved his flipper at us as though he was saying hello! What a sweet face that Hawaiian Monk Seal had.
The way back to Kauai was a wonderful ride. We sat on the back of the boat enjoying the sunshine, ocean, and company of others on the tour. The staff also filled us in on all kinds of information on Kauai that only locals would know. It was truly a great day with an amazing tour aboard Holo Holo. We encourage you to take the Napali Coast and Niihau Super Tour with Holo Holo Charter next time you are on Kauai.
Make your reservations online with Holo Holo and you will save $20 per person! Make note that tours often fill up 3-5 days in advance. Booking your tour early in your vacation is always good idea in case weather forces your tour to be postponed. We’d hate for you to miss such a great tour of the Na Pali Coastline, Niihau, and Lehau.
A Few Notes to Consider Before Booking
This is not a tour we would recommend taking children on. Being out at sea for 7 hours is a long time. There were stretches of time that Holo Holo was going very fast and even we felt a little nauseous at one point. This was the first time I have ever experienced this at sea and have been on some very choppy rides in the past. Because this is a 7 hour tour, if you are prone to getting sea sick this is not the tour for you. Instead, book one of Holo Holo Charters many other tours at sea.
Would you like to go the Na Pali Coast and Niihau Super Tour?
All photography by Kimmy Hayes © 2013.