Napali (The Cliffs) meet the ocean along a 30-plus-mile roadless section of the northwest coast of Kauai. For many, visiting this wilderness is via a rugged, 11-mile trail that reaches the Kalalau Valley, which is about midway along the run of cliffs and stream valleys. The Kalalau Trail is at least a two-day trek that involves planning and permits.
But most people visit Napali from the sea, as did the Hawaiians in the old days when populated villages thrived in just about every crease on the coast. The Hawaiians used outrigger canoes. Today's adventurers jump on a charter boat in Port Allen on the West Side of the island. Vessels vary from open Zodiac rubber boats to steel-hulled inboards, but most people ride on big diesel assisted sailboats. Among the most popular companies in Port Allen are Captain Andy's and Holoholo Charters.
Tips: Prepare for sea sickness, especially in the winter. Over-the-counter pills will work for many, but if you are prone to this ailment, ask your doctor for "the patch," which is applied behind your ear hours before departure. Some ships include a trip to the island of Ni'ihau with a tour of the Napali Coast. Seeing "the Forbidden Island" is a thrill (only native Hawaiians can set foot there) but this option makes for a long day. Consider just doing the Napali. Some tours offer swimming and snorkeling: You'll want to ask beforehand.