Having been privately owned by the Robinson family since the late 1800s, Ni'ihau is generally off limits to anyone who isn't of Native Hawaiian descent and from the island, or the family members themselves. Recently the family opened up what may perhaps be the most intriguing and rewarding part of the island: the underwater world just off the coast. Being that the island and reefs around it are nearly completely untouched and preserved, the sea life is a busy and beautiful medley of fish, dolphins, monk seals, and shells.
Two boat tour companies offer a snorkeling trip to the island. Holo Holo Charters and Blue Dolphin Charters are the two lucky companies who have access to the area. Ni'ihau trips begin with an early morning cruise along the Na Pali Coast, (just 17 miles from Ni'ihau) before beginning the two and a half hour journey over the ocean and through the nearly 4,000 foot deep Kaulakahi Channel where whales like to laze about in season.
Monk seal on Ni`ihau — Photo courtesy of jade eckardt
Upon reaching the coast of Ni'ihau, you'll view Lehua Island and learn it's history. Just off the shore of Ni'ihau, the small island is actually an old volcano crater and also once belonged to the Robinsons. After coming to the conclusion that the "island" served no purpose other than accumulating an additional tax bill, the family turned the it over to the state of Hawaii, which owns it today.
Some of the best snorkeling in all of the islands can be found here, and the rainbow of sea animals from spiny lobsters to octopus to manta rays and everything else will leave you in awe - and is the reason why you must bring an underwater camera (disposable or digital).
Lehua Island in front of Ni`ihau — Photo courtesy of jade eckardt
On the way back to Kaua'i, you'll enjoy a couple of cocktails and a lunch buffet after about seven hours of exploring. A continental breakfast is also included.
Contact Holo Holo Charters at 808-335-0815 or Blue Dolphin Charters at 808-335-5553. Reservations should be made well in advance.