HANALEI —Sea kayaking off the Na Pali Coast, pioneered by Kayak Kaua’i in
1985, has been ranked one of America’s top adventures.
A reader poll
conducted by National Geographic Adventure Magazine rated Na Pali Coast
kayaking number 2, just behind top-rated Grand Canyon river rafting. A Kayak
Kaua’i tour appeared on the cover of the magazine’s April issue.
national recognition, said Chino Godinez. “At the same time, it is
Kayak Kaua’i owners Chino and Micco Godinez
have always appreciated the beauty of the Na Pali Coast. The tours, Chino said,
offer a doorway to a sea kayaking adventure that is unmatched anywhere else in
Commercial sea tours are conducted in flat water conditions in
the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Baja, Calif. The Na Pali Coast tour is
different because the water conditions can be unpredictable, with waters calm
in the morning and churning and rambunctious in the afternoon, Chino said.
“We call it graduation when they come to Kaua’i and do the Na Pali
Scenic vistas, unspoiled beauty and the influence of the Hawaiian
culture serve to enhance the trip for visitors, he added.
what they have experienced. A diary kept by the company contains comments like
these: “Wow!” “This is the most adventurous activity that I have encountered.”
“It was epic.”
The tours are conducted almost daily from May to October,
when the water along the North Shore is flat and gentle. Kayakers are
outfitted, are given food and use two-seat fiberglass boats with rudders.
They launch in the morning from Ha’ena and reach Polihale State Beach Park
before dusk. They are then driven back to the Kayak Kaua’i office in Hanalei
For individual ocean trips, kayakers are outfitted with plastic
boats, some with rudders, camping equipment and tents, Godinez said.
the summer months, kayaks also are used for snorkeling outings to Hanalei
From October to May, Kayak Kaua’i shifts its operation to the South
Shore, where the water is calmer. Kayaks also are rented all year long for
river trips, Godinez said.
Sixteen years ago, the Godinez brothers started
their business with 12 rubber sea kayaks.
Commercial sea kayaking tours
had potential on Molokai and the Godinez brothers thought the concept could
work on Kaua’i.
During the first year of their business, the brothers
found out otherwise.
“It was hard to sell the idea of kayaking,” Chino
To support their fledging business, the brothers worked as waiters
and as fence menders.
They came up against a number of obstacles. For
example, they found that the rubber boats floated easily down the coast, but
paddlers found it nearly impossible to get back to Ha’ena, the starting point
of the tour.
The rubber boats sat up high on the water and caught the
winds, slowing their progress over the water.
The Godinez brothers decided
to run the tours all the way to Polihale State Beach Park. From there ,the
paddlers were brought back to Hanalei.
The brothers upgraded their
equipment and bought plastic boats, which sat lower to the water line and
floated over the water with more ease.
Today, the company boasts a fleet
of 150 single-and-double seat plastic kayaks. Eighteen two-seat fiberglass
boats are used for the ocean tours.
In addition to the Na Pali Coast guided
tours, Kaua’i Kayak will outfit those who want to paddle down the coast by
themselves or those with permits to camp at coastline beaches.
customers would be equipped with a plastic boat, camping equipment and
Kayak Kaua’i has a good safety record, but two years ago, the
company almost lost a kayaker, Chino said.
Two visitors were outfitted for
an excursion and went down the coast. They got separated, with one returning to
The other man had abandoned his boat and was miles from shore, Chino
“He thought he was Johnny Weismuller and could swim back to shore
faster than he could paddle a kayak,” Chino said. “He didn’t have any common
sense. Once you get in the water, the possibility of hypothermia is big time.”
Luckily for the man, someone aboard a charter boat spotted him before
dusk, and he was picked up and brought back to shore.
To avoid future
problems, the company will require individual kayakers be accompanied by a
company guide. The exception would be those who have paddled down the coast
with the company in the past.
The Godinez brothers got into kayaking for
They were born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico. Growing up,
the brothers participated in outdoor sports, including surfing and
Twenty-five years ago, in the early 20s, they embraced the notion
of sailing around the world.
That idea fell by the way, but the spirit of
adventure did not.
In the late 1970s, the brothers bought two Kleppers,
collapsible boats made in Germany, for a kayak trip from Seattle to Skagway,
Alaska, a distance of 1,100 miles.
They had never paddled before, but they
wanted to follow the path naturalist John Muir took in his travels through the
Pacific Northwest in the 1800s.
The Godinez used a copy of Muir’s diary as
“Muir had done it and, so it was up to us to follow,” Chino
They stopped at coastline towns for supplies and rest, completing the
trip in five months. It was a trip, Chino said, he will remember the rest of
“Raising kids and family is at another level, ” he said. “But the
greatest adventure of my life was paddling from Seattle to Skagway.”
During the trip, the Godinez brothers planned their future in the kayaking
Godinez said kayaking along the Na Pali Coast has helped him
maintain a zeal for kayaking.
“Some people say being in the Grand Canyon
is like being next to God. Being along the Na Pali Coast is like being close to