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Known as the Forbidden Island, Niʻihau is mostly untouched by outsiders, creating a microcosm of Hawaiian history and culture. Just 17 miles (27 kilometers) off the coast of Kauai, the island’s fewer than 200 residents speak Hawaiian and live without cars, electricity, and modern amenities.
Throughout the centuries, Niʻihau’s picturesque beaches, valleys, and mountains have remained largely unexplored. The Sinclair/Robinson family bought the island in 1863 for $10,000, promising the ruler at the time, King Kamehameha IV, that they would preserve the island’s culture. The family upholds its promise to this day, restricting outside access and safeguarding the island’s way of life.
The closest visitors can get to the island is on a boat tour or helicopter flight. Boats make the crossing from Kauai to the coast of Niʻihau, where you can snorkel or scuba dive in the crystal clear water and observe the island’s mysterious shores from a respectful distance. Helicopters depart Kauai and soar over Niʻihau, with some even landing (with owner permission) on a secluded beach far from the island’s inhabitants.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Save money by booking a joint tour of both the Na Pali Coast and Niʻihau.
- The crossing from Kauai to Niʻihau can be rough, so maybe rethink a boat tour if you get seasick.
How to Get There
The only way to see Niʻihau is on a boat or helicopter tour. The island is off-limits to independent travelers, so don’t attempt to go on your own.
When to Get There
Tours to the island run year-round and offer a pleasant escape from Kauai’s crowds (especially during the high seasons).
Where to Go if You Can’t Visit Niʻihau
Restrictions can make it difficult to visit the Forbidden Island; however, numerous more accessible locations off the coast of Kauai offer similar sightseeing opportunities. One option is a boat tour along Kauai’s iconic Na Pali Coast, known for its pristine snorkeling, stunning coastlines, and postcard-perfect beaches.
Address: Kauai, Hawaii, USA
2 Tours and Activities to Experience Niihau
Waimea Canyon is one of the most scenic corners of Kaua’i, and with this downhill bike ride, you’ll be treated to a bird’s-eye view over the dramatic landscape as you coast down to Kekaha Beach to catch the sunset. Explore the canyon with a guide to avoid getting lost, and learn about the island’s history and lore as you take in the sweeping views over three state parks.
Uncover the ancient legends and dramatic landscapes of the Na Pali Coast and the ‘Forbidden Island’ of Ni’ihau on this sailing and snorkeling adventure. Cruise alongside the towering emerald spires and remote beaches of Kauai’s breathtaking, rugged shore in a state-of-the-art catamaran, and snorkel among native marine life in the reefs just off Ni’ihau’s mysterious shores. Hear tales of Hawaiian history and mythology from the friendly crew, and enjoy a delicious buffet lunch onboard.
Taking safety measures
Hand sanitizer available to travelers and staff
Regularly sanitized high-traffic areas
Gear/equipment sanitized between use
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What's the best way to experience Niihau?