July 7, 2022

The 11 Best Kauai Boat Tours

Note: Some tour providers on this list may be running more limited operations due to COVID-19 or may impose testing or vaccine requirements. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.

From humpback whales and spinner dolphins to peaceful sea turtles, Hawaii’s beautiful seas teem with wildlife. Observing these creatures, as well as Kauai‘s dramatic cliffs, is best done from the water aboard a catamaran, kayak or even inflatable raft. U.S. News selected the following boat tours as the best available after analyzing both traveler and expert opinion.

Kayak Adventures – Guided Kayak Adventure on the Wailua River

Paddle your way through the Wailua River on this approximately six-hour excursion that’s limited to 12 people. During the tour, you’ll also hike through the Wailua rainforest to Uluwehi Falls for a swim. Along the way, guides share information about the ancient history and culture of this area, which is a National Historic Landmark. Travelers particularly enjoy the hike and say guides are friendly and informative. Kayakers also say the included lunch is tasty. Tours operate Monday through Friday at 7:45 and 8:45 a.m. Tickets cost approximately $110 for participants ages 13 and older and $90 for children, who must be at least 5 years old to participate.

Holo Holo Charters – Napali Sunset Dinner Tour

If a sunset sail is at the top of your Hawaii to-do list, consider this 3 1/2-hour cruise. Aboard the company’s 65-foot catamaran, you’ll be treated to views of a sunset, rocky cliffs, sea caves and local sea life while gliding alongside the Napali coast. Cruises are limited to 49 passengers. The tour also includes a hot dinner, as well as mai tais, beer and wine. Tourgoers describe the crew as exceptional and say the views are fabulous. Reviews for the food are more mixed, with many describing the dishes as average. Several travelers also warn of choppy waters and advise taking motion sickness medication ahead of your cruise. Tickets start at $180 for participants 13 and older and $160 for children ages 5 to 12. Children younger than 5 are not allowed on the cruise. Tours generally depart daily from Port Allen, but departure times vary by season. Holo Holo Charters also offers snorkeling cruises and a daylong tour that sails by the neighboring Niihau island.

Blue Dolphin Charters – Niihau & Napali Coast Snorkel

Discover the Napali coast and the island of Niihau on this 7 1/2-hour tour. Though you won’t set foot on Niihau, you will get a chance to snorkel in the waters just off its coast. In addition to snorkeling equipment, tourgoers also have access to boogie boards, pool noodles and a slide on the boat. The trip also includes breakfast and a deli-style lunch with beer, wine and mai tais, as well as nonalcoholic beverages. Travelers report seeing lots of wildlife and praise the friendly crew. Tours are generally available Tuesday, Friday and Sunday with a 6 a.m. check-in time. Tickets cost approximately $245 for adults 18 years and older, $230 for youths ages 12 to 17 and $215 for children ages 5 to 11. Children younger than 5 are not permitted on the tour. Blue Dolphin operates a few other snorkel tours as well as a whale watching trip and sunset cruises.

Kauai Sea Tours – Napali Raft Snorkel Tour

Be prepared to get wet on this tour, which takes place aboard a rigid-hull inflatable raft. Thanks to the boat’s design, it can access sea caves, go beneath waterfalls and hug the coast, allowing passengers an up-close look at nature. Participants have the opportunity to snorkel and enjoy a packed lunch and nonalcoholic drinks while on the excursion. Tour-takers praise the crew and say they enjoy the views and the plentiful wildlife. Others caution the ride can get choppy. The 5 1/2-hour trips depart at 7 a.m. year-round, and additional tours at 1:30 p.m. are offered from April through September. Tickets start at $180 for participants 13 and older and $160 for children ages 7 to 12. The company also offers a seasonal variation of this adventure that includes a walking tour of the Nu’alolo Kai State Park (which is on the Napali coast) as well as sunset cruises on traditional boats.

Na Pali Coast Tours – Na Pali Sight See Adventure

Calling all thrill-seekers! This catamaran tour departing from Hanalei Bay promises lots of adventure, jaw-dropping views and plenty of speed. As you travel along the coast, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, sea turtles, humpback whales (in winter), waterfalls and rainbows. Travelers rave about the stunning views and appreciate the captain and crew’s knowledge of the island’s history and wildlife. Reviewers also appreciate the ability to access multiple sea caves thanks to the boat’s easy maneuverability. Though the boat affords up-close views of the coast, it also doesn’t protect against sea spray and is not equipped with a restroom, so keep that in mind when booking. Due to the more adventurous nature of this tour, it’s not recommended for pregnant people or those with back or neck issues. Tours depart Monday through Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Tickets cost approximately $190 per person. Note that passengers must be at least 4 years old to ride. If you’re hoping to explore in the water, consider the company’s four-hour snorkeling tour.

Set sail along the Napali coast during a trip with Capt. Andy’s.(Courtesy of Capt. Andy’s)

Capt. Andy’s – Classic Na Pali Snorkel Picnic Sail

This cruise aboard a 55-foot catamaran includes a trip along Kauai’s Napali coast, snorkeling in a tropical reef, as well as a continental breakfast, lunch, desserts and drinks (including beer and wine). You’ll also learn a bit of Hawaiian history. Travelers enjoy the views and wildlife spotted on this cruise. They are also complimentary of the food. Tickets cost approximately $185 for adults and $165 for children ages 3 to 12. Children younger than 3 are not permitted. Tours depart daily at 8 a.m. and last about 5 1/2 hours. Capt. Andy’s also offers daytrips as well as dinner and sunset sails.

Catamaran Kahanu – Kauai Whale Watching Tour

For those looking to go whale watching in Hawaii, this catamaran cruise is just the ticket. From December to mid-April, animal enthusiasts will have the chance to spot humpback whales as they live in Hawaii’s waters to care for newborn calves. Travelers may also spot other wildlife like dolphins and sea turtles. Tourgoers report seeing lots of whales and dolphins and describe the crew as passionate and knowledgeable. Tickets cost around $90 for ages 18 and older and $85 for youths ages 5 to 12. Children must be at least 5 years old to join the cruise. Tours depart daily from December to mid-April at 1:15 and 3:30 p.m. and last approximately two hours. Catamaran Kahanu also offers a boat tour around the Napali coast.

Makana Charters and Tours – Makana 12 Passengers

This five-hour tour aboard the Makana – a 32-foot catamaran – includes exploring sea caves, lunch and snorkeling at Nualolo Kai, one of the island’s best beaches. A native Hawaiian family owns the company and operates the tours. What’s more, the boat takes no more than 12 snorkelers out at a time. Travelers particularly enjoy the coastal views and say the crew is very attentive. Choose from a morning cruise departing at 8:30 a.m. or an afternoon tour at 2 p.m. Tickets cost approximately $190 for adults ages 13 and older and $160 for children ages 9 to 12. Passengers must be 9 years old to ride. The company offers a variety of tours of the Napali coast in boats of all sizes.

Blue Ocean Adventure Tours – Napali Coast + Beach Landing Adventure

You’ll explore the Napali coast from the water and glide past waterfalls and through sea caves, spotting dolphins, whales and sea turtles along the way on this six-hour raft tour. The cruise also includes a stop for snorkeling at the secluded Nualolo Kai beach, a buffet lunch and a nature stroll through an ancient Hawaiian fishing village – a highlight for travelers. Reviewers gush about the scenery and say the crew creates a safe, fun and memorable experience. Tours depart at 7 a.m. year-round and 1 p.m. seasonally. Tickets cost approximately $215 for participants ages 12 and older and $190 for children between the ages of 6 and 12. Children must be at least 6 years old to join the tour. Blue Ocean also operates scenic catamaran tours and private outings.

Kayak Kaua’i – Hanalei Blue Lagoon Paddle & Snorkel

Spend four hours kayaking in the ocean and rivers in and around Hanalei Bay on this scenic adventure. Throughout the trip, you’ll take intermittent breaks from the kayak to explore the reefs and beaches, providing ample opportunity to collect shells and bird-watch, all while looking for dolphins and sea turtles. The tour also includes a deli lunch with juice and seltzer water. Tour-takers say guides are friendly and knowledgeable, and particularly enjoy the river portion of the trip, calling it relaxing. Tickets start at $120 per person. Children must be at least 5 years old. Tours are offered Monday through Saturday starting at 8 a.m. Kayak Kaua’i also offers kayaking trips on the Waliua River, among other tours.

Kauai Zodiac Tourz – Kauai’s South Island Boat Snorkel Tour

Kauai’s south shore promises stunning reefs, calm waters and a variety of marine life, making it an ideal snorkeling spot. On this three-hour tour, you’ll travel by rigid-hulled inflatable boat to remote snorkeling locations, passing the famous Spouting Horn blowhole along the way. If weather permits, you’ll also visit Kipu Kai, which is only accessible by boat and boasts some of the island’s best snorkeling. Tourgoers report encountering lots of fish and green sea turtles, and describe the crew as informative, friendly and attentive. Departure times vary throughout the year, but there is generally a morning tour and an afternoon tour every day. Tickets start at $125 for participants ages 13 and older and $105 for children ages 5 to 12. The company also offers a popular two-hour guided snorkeling tour that takes place from the shore, meaning no boat ride is required.

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