The 10 Best Kauai Boat Tours

Set sail on these excursions to explore the beauty of the Garden Island by sea.

U.S. News & World Report

The 10 Best Kauai Boat Tours

Best Kauai Boat Tours

Explore the Wailua River and its surrounding landscape by water and land during Kayak Adventures' outing.Getty Images

Note: Some tour providers on this list may have ceased operations due to COVID-19. 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 10 boat tours as the best available after analyzing both traveler and expert opinion.

Kayak Adventures – Kayak Adventures

Paddle your way through the Wailua River on this approximately five-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 depart daily, except Sunday, at 7:45 and 8:45 a.m. Tickets cost approximately $85 for adults and $65 for children, who must be at least 5 years old to participate. Kayak Adventures also offers afternoon tours.

Holo Holo Charters – Napali Sunset Cruise

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 full hot buffet dinner, as well as mai tais, beer and wine. Tourgoers describe the crew as exceptional, the views fabulous and say the food is delicious. Tickets start at $139 for participants 13 and older and $119 for ages 5 to 12. Children younger than 5 are not allowed on the cruise. Tours depart daily, 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 & Scuba Tour

Discover the Napali coast and the island of Niihau on this 7 1/2-hour tour, which also offers a chance to snorkel or scuba dive off Niihau's coast. The trip also includes a buffet lunch along with unlimited beer, wine and mai tais. 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 $235 for adults 18 years and older, $210 for ages 12 to 17 and $180 for ages 5 to 11. Children younger than 5 are not permitted on the tour, and scuba diving costs extra. Blue Dolphin runs a few other snorkel and scuba cruises as well as a whale watching trip.

Kauai Sea Tours – Napali Coast Raft Adventure

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 enter into 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 continental breakfast, buffet 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 7:15 a.m. year-round, and additional tours at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. are offered from April through September. Tickets start at $145 for ages 13 and older and $115 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 cruises on traditional boats.

Na Pali Coast Tours – West Side Sight See Tour

On this three-hour tour, travelers depart from the west side of Kauai to see the Napali coast, as well as wildlife like dolphins, whales, sea turtles and more. Wear a swimsuit or clothes that can get wet as you'll likely need to wade into waist-deep water and climb a ladder to board the boat. Travelers offer kudos for the crew and love the views on the cruise. Tickets cost approximately $135 per person, and tours depart at 1:30 p.m. Children younger than 4 are not permitted. Na Pali Coast Tours also operates a few snorkel tours, among other options.

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

Capt. Andy's – Classic Napali 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 earn about the area's history. Travelers enjoy the views and wildlife spotted on this cruise. They are also complimentary of the food. Tickets cost approximately $165 for adults and $125 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 March, 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 $75 for ages 18 and older, $70 for teens and $55 for youths ages 5 to 12. Children must be at least 5 years old to join the cruise. Tours depart daily at 3:45 p.m. and last approximately 2 1/2 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 tours departing in the morning at 8 a.m. or in the afternoon at 1:30 p.m. Tickets cost approximately $190 for adults ages 13 and older and $130 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 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. Tours depart at 7 a.m. year-round and 12:30 p.m. seasonally. Tickets cost approximately $195 for ages 12 and older and $175 for ages 6 to 12. Children must be at least 6 years old to join the tour. Blue Ocean also operates seasonal whale watching tours.

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. There's 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 bottled water. Tour-takers say guides are friendly and knowledgeable, and particularly enjoy the river portion of the trip. Tickets start at $105 for ages 13 and older and $95 for children ages to 5 to 12. Children must be at least 5 years old to participate. Tours are offered daily starting at 9 a.m. Kayak Kaua'I also offers kayaking trips on the Waliua River, among other tours.

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