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Nifty Shades of Blue: Raft Riding Kauai's Napali Coast

A view of the stunning Napali Coast from our fast-moving ocean raft. Photo: David Croxford for HAWAII Magazine.

It’s midday on a Wednesday and my only task at the moment is to somehow put into words the almost surreal hue of clear blue water at which I’m gazing from my seat on a Zodiac raft in gentle waves off the Napali Coast.

When the raft slows down to allow us a closer look at an enormous pod of spinner dolphins swimming past us, I ask other passengers for adjectives. Someone offers: “How about cerulean? Or cobalt?”

That’s almost right.

Our captain, Chris Turner, a longtime waterman who has plied this awe-inspiring coast for many years, turns to us and smiles.

“Windex blue,” he says in a helpful, matter-of-fact manner.

He’s absolutely spot-on, too. Oddly, Windex blue really is the almost-unearthly color of the Nāpali Coast’s offshore waters beneath a cloud-dotted sky on this sunny June day. Peering over the edge of the raft, operated by outdoor adventure company Napali Riders, we watch as the curious dolphins cruise together, cautiously circling our vessel. A few yards away, dorsal fins surface and a lone dolphin leaps above the waves for a quick, showy spin.

Napali Riders' raft captain Chris Turner guides us through a sea cave. Photo: David Croxford for HAWAII Magazine.

With its captivating views of boundless ocean, fluted sea cliffs rising up to 4,000 feet above sea level and seemingly infinite possibilities for exploration, the Napali Coast is a nature-lover's nirvana. Ever-fascinated with the majestic north shore Kaua‘i coast, we’ve explored our fair share of it in HAWAII Magazine's pages over the years—by land, on hiking trails winding around its peaks, sheer cliff faces and shoreline; and by air, via helicopter tour. Never, however, close up by sea.

I suggested it was high time we did.

And so, earlier in the morning, my camera-toting companion and I arrived at Napali Riders’ office in the westside town of Waimea encouraged by our first sight. Passengers returning from an “early bird” tour of the coast were happily checking out photos and video from their 4½-hour raft tour. My photographer friend quickly began packing his best gear in provided waterproof bags. 

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
The Daytrippers: A day hike on Kauai's Napali Coast.
Going Coastal: Rafting Maui's Kanaio Coast and Molokini Islet
Kauai’s Napali Coast trail and Kalalau Valley closing for two months, Sept. 7

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