It was our final day in Kauai and the entire island was at our disposal. And yet, instead of exploring a rainforest or snorkeling with some turtles, Cindy and I were laying in our hotel room, motionless. We were recovering from our hike along the Nā Pali Coast the day before, a 12-mile trek that left us burnt and sore. We had no motivation to get up and do anything. But eventually, Cindy began to comment about how much of a waste the day was becoming and so I took to the internet, looking for a tour or activity to salvage our rest-day.
I am not one for formal tours. I'm quite a cheapskate, actually, and don't like to pay for experiences I can muddle through myself. But with my wife's desperation and displeasure, I decided to bite the bullet and book a "Nā Pali Coast and Sunset Cruise". Being lugged around and wined-and-dined on a boat felt like the easiest way to still enjoy the island and yet relax. And so with a booking confirmation email and some leftover sunscreen, we were off towards the port.
We arrived in the small town of Eleele, the westernmost port on Kauai. Stretching up from the docks, the main strip of town is full of several different charter companies, each promising the best cruise experience. Nestled among the competing businesses, we found our tour company and parked. They made us sign a bunch of waivers for safety, obviously, but we also had to agree to a "no refund" clause in the event that the boat had to turn back for poor weather. They were very clear on this point because, unfortunately, the weather wasn't looking that great. The captain pledged to try his best to get us to the Nā Pali Coast, but threatened that it may be necessary to turn back.
As much as we wanted to see the coast, we were really just in it to relax, so we signed up. We were soon escorted from the charter's headquarters to the docks. After a brief safety lesson, we were off.
We weren't even 10 minutes out to sea when the captain came on the loudspeaker and announced that he saw a whale. "Keep your eyes peeled, people!" We could see bursts of mist on the horizon and the boat inched forward. Before you know it, we had a pretty good view of some whales!
Wow! Whale watching is easy, we thought! Feeling as though we got our fill, we sat back and let the boat's crew come around and serve us some beers and sodas. The boat cut its way through increasingly choppy water, pulling around the western cliffs of Kauai.
The weather was worsening. Even though blue skies were overhead, the water was becoming increasingly choppy and unpleasant. In addition, we could see ominous clouds in the distance. It was at that moment, on the precipice of the Nā Pali Coast, that the captain made the call: "We got to turn around folks."
He gave us a few minutes to grab our distant photos of the darkened wilderness. We felt a sense of mild disappointment but could tell that it was the right call.
And so, we turned around. As if to help us move on from our disappointment, the whales came back and started to put on quite a show!
All of us tourists were glued to the side of the boat, looking through our viewfinders intently out to sea, hoping to catch more whales, when I felt a drop overhead. Then another. And then another. It was at that moment that the sky opened up and it began to pour on us!
The boat hardly had enough "under-cover" spaces to protect all of us from the rain. I was absolutely soaked but the warm weather kept me from feeling too uncomfortable. It was a bit of a nuisance, and yet remarkably silly. It reiterated that turning around was the right thing to do. And additionally, it led to the greatest show thus far: whales and rainbows.
With the rain gone, the ocean began to calm. The boat began to rock less and all restrictions from moving about the vessel were lifted. We enjoyed the prepared dinner (which tasted way better than any pre-cooked food on a moving ship ever has a right to) and then made our way to the front of the boat for some photos.
At this point, the captain began to stage the boat. Sure, we didn't make it to the Nā Pali Coast, but this was a "Nā Pali Coast and Sunset Cruise". We could still manage to see a sunset! The sun was already low in the horizon; at this point it was just a waiting game.
Even as clouds moved in and blocked the true sunset, it was an absolutely stunning view. If anything, they expanded upon the vastness of the ocean and added to an already amazing vista.
This cruise was far unlike anything we normally do when traveling. I normally puff out my chest and balk at the cost of these things, instead preferring to drive around to 10 free things. But I got to really say, we had a fantastic time. Moving forward, I will try to plan experiences like this on every trip. It doesn't hurt to get taken care of every now and then.
For more photos of our time on this cruise, as well as plenty of more whale shots, check out the gallery below!: