Wailua River Kayak Trip: The Ultimate Guide to Your Day on the River

September 13, 2018

It’s an escape to the past, as the original Wailua River was the home of the first Hawaiians almost 1500 years ago.

One of the most unique things you can do in Kauai is kayak the Wailua River. Kauai is the only Hawaiian island with navigable rivers, and the Wailua is the most popular one to explore. The tranquil Wailua River weaves by gorgeous waterfalls and lush, jungle landscapes. It’s also an incredible modern-day look at the beauty, and preservation, of this natural treasure.

Interested in learning more about a Wailua River kayak adventure? Follow along as I guide you through my excursion with Rainbow Kayak Tours, one of the premier outfitters for the Wailua River.

Entrance to the Rainbow Kayak Tours headquarters.

Where to Go

The location of Rainbow Kayak Tours, at 440 Aleka Loop, is a nondescript shopping mall. You might think you're lost, but circle around the parking lot and look for the kayaks and shuttles--a sure sign you're in the right place.

close up of Wailua River Rainbow Kayak Tour Bus on a cloudy day with palm trees in background in Kauaʻi, Hawaii, USATime to Hit the Road

After waking up extra early for my 7:15am check-in time at Rainbow Kayak Tours, I was feeling less than bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed. However, I was eager to start the day and was happy to hear the shuttle ride from the shop to the kayak put-in-place was a short one.

Pick a kayak, any kayak!

Solo or Tandem Options

At Rainbow Kayak Tours you can choose to kayak solo or as a team.  Just be sure to let your choice be known at the time of reservation so they can bring the correct number of kayaks to the banks of the Wailua River.

woman in kayak in the Wailua River Kayak Tour in Kauaʻi, Hawaii, USAStart Your Kayak Trip

The start of the Wailua River kayak tour is rather leisurely, especially if you kayak tandem-style. I paddled past historical Heiaus (hallowed shrines), the ancient village of Kamokila, and under the canopy of swaying palm trees and other vegetation. It. Was. Beautiful.

Before I knew it, I had paddled past North Fork and the famous Fern Grotto and was on my way to Secret Falls.

people kayaking through the river on the Wailua River Kayak Tour in Kauaʻi, Hawaii, USABefore I knew it, I had paddled past North Fork and the famous Fern Grotto and was on my way to Secret Falls.

Time to drop off the kayak at the Secret Falls trailhead and hike into the Kauai rainforest.

Rainforest Hike & Waterfall Excursion

Part of the Wailua River Kayak experience is hiking through the natural Kauai rainforests, discovering and learning about the floral and fauna around you from your trusty guide, and, of course, splashing into the Secret Falls Waterfall.

tour group walking through tall forest on Wailua River Kayak Tour in Kauaʻi, Hawaii, USAThe hike through the Kauai rainforest is a moderate one, but I cannot stress enough to bring proper shoes. The path can be rather slippery (I had flip-flops on so I ended up going barefoot most of the time). Bring some water shoes or comfortable sneakers.

group of people standing around a tour guide in a forest at Wailua River Kayak Tour in Kauaʻi, Hawaii, USAAs I hiked through the rainforest, the extremely knowledgeable Rainbow Kayak tour guide shared his expertise regarding local flora and fauna. At one point, he pointed out edible plants that I volunteered to try. It was surprisingly good!

Lunch is served.

The Wailua River kayak experience includes a fresh lunch, served on the banks of the Secret Falls Waterfall.

woman standing under Secret Falls on Wailua River Kayak Tour in Kauaʻi, Hawaii, USAIt's hard to beat playing in a Kauai waterfall! Secret Falls is an enchanting waterfall descending 80 feet into a natural pool surround by rocks and vegetation. To avoid the crowds from Wailua River kayak tours, be sure to book the early morning tour. The afternoon tours are notorious for being busier which means you won't have as much solo time underneath this amazing natural feature.

After frolicking in the waterfall and enjoying a delicious lunch under a warm Hawaiian sun, I hiked back to my kayak with my group. From there, we paddled along the same route in which we came.

A Kayak Trip to Remember

I found the Wailua River kayak tour to be one of my favorite activities on Kauai. I felt like I got to experience the natural side of Hawaii, but in a trusted, guided atmosphere. Plus, I got to swim under a Hawaii waterfall, which is kind of the best thing ever. It's hard not to give this tour two enthusiastic thumbs up!

Add the Wailua River kayak tour from Rainbow Kayak to your Hawaii itinerary to see why this Kauai activity is one of the best.

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