Kayaking Kauai; Kayak Wailua

There are so many activities to choose from on the adventure island of Kauai, in the air, land or water, it can be difficult to decide which to do during your visit!

We have been lucky enough to visit Kauai a few times, and have had the privilege of viewing the island from a helicopter (you can read about that adventure here), from a catamaran at sea, and of course from the many incredible hiking trails around the island.  But I had yet to see the island from the viewpoint of the beautiful Wailua River, the largest navigable river on Kauai.   So on our most recent trip, after a bit of research, we booked our places, grabbed our paddles, and off we went!

Kayak Wailua, Haleilio Rd, Kapa’a

I’ve linked the website for Kayak Wailua above.  They’re a family run business, with excellent reviews on TripAdvisor.  There are quite a few kayak companies, and I’m sure they are all good, but I’ve only used this one so far and I would highly recommend them!

They have kayaks available from single to triple.  We were given a larger one due to my 6’4″ kayaking partner – so he was a lot more comfortable.  Top tip: I would definitely choose the luxury back rest when you book!  It’s only $5 extra and made the journey very comfortable. 

I was feeling a little nervous as a first time kayaker, and wasn’t sure what to expect.  My husband has kayaked a lot, so I wasn’t too worried, but I had no idea how difficult the paddling would be or how stable the vessel was going to be on the water!

I didn’t need to worry, as the Kayak Wailua guides are really friendly, relaxed, and immediately put you at ease.

First things first – you will read this on the website, but I would definitely recommend using the old running shoes provided at the check-in area.  You will be wading in the river and across streams, and the hike to the waterfall is very muddy.  I would only bring your own shoes if you were intending to throw them out anyway!  Yes, the shoes provided are wet and full of mud, but they’re going to get wet again very soon anyway.

Although life jackets aren’t compulsory (except for kids), I chose to have one as I’m not a strong swimmer.  If you’re happy in the water you probably don’t need one.  I was actually glad of it on the return journey as it gave me an extra layer when it got cooler on the water.

You’ll also be given a dry bag for your lunch etc.  Then after a quick orientation and demonstration of the correct paddle technique, you’ll be driven down to the marina with the kayaks to start your adventure.  We had 12 people on our tour, including our guide, Andrew.

I really enjoyed it as soon as we got on the water.  I was in the front of the kayak, so I didn’t have to worry about steering (that was my husband’s job), and could concentrate on practicing my paddle technique – such as it is!  I could also stop paddling every so often and let him take over :).  I was taking the advice from the guides and my kayak companion to go slowly and not use more effort than I needed to.  One you get in a rhythm, it’s actually very relaxing, and I felt like a true adventurer, gliding along the river, seeing Kauai from a unique new angle.

The river is level with the ocean, known as a tidal basin, which means the water is calm and free of currents.

once we arrived at the trailhead, around 2 miles upstream, we steered the kayaks towards the bank and, with the help of our guide, got them all out of the water.

The hike itself is very muddy.  At the beginning, it’s easier to navigate around the worst parts, but this gets more difficult as you go along.  Some people were just wading through the mud, rather than trying to go around the edges and possibly slipping anyway.  Our guide, Andrew, did the whole hike barefoot.  Not something I would enjoy, but each to their own!  There are also a lot of other tour groups using the trail at any one time, so it’s necessary to stop and wait every so often to let them by.

There are around 3 stream crossings on the way to the waterfall.  The first has a guide rope at arm height.  None of the water crossings are too deep, they’re just a bit tricky in parts.

The first stream crossing!

There are a couple of steep inclines along the way, which are made more difficult because of the mud, but as long as you take it slowly, the hike should be fine for anyone with a basic level of fitness.

Once you arrive at the beautiful Secret Falls (Uluwehi Falls), you’ll have time to swim, eat  lunch and explore the area before re-tracing your steps back to the kayaks.  There were plenty of people swimming at the base of the falls, but it looked too cold for me!

Exploring Uluwehi falls 

The walk back seemed more slippery, perhaps because threre are more descents, and everyone was getting tired! Back at the kayaks and there’s a relaxing paddle downstream back to the marina, where the guides will help you get the kayak back onto the bank.  Then they’re loaded back onto the trailer for the trip back to the reception area.

There is a shower facility on site, as well as a basic toilet and a hose for yourself and your shoes!

There are several tours each day with Kayak Wailua. We did the 12pm one, and arrived back I think around 5:30pm.

Heading back downstream (and attempting to pose while not crashing into the riverbank!)

Overall, this was a really enjoyable tour, and one of the best we’ve done on Kauai.   I’ll definitely be doing more kayaking on our next visit!

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Safe travels and Mahalo!


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