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Paddling Kauai's Worst Kept Secret

No wonder they call it the "garden island."

The flora and fauna seem to sprout from every damp area imaginable - which is just about everywhere on this rainy jungle in the middle of the pacific. 


If you're not only a fan of the ocean, but lush greenery as well, you'll find yourself at home on the beautiful island of Kauai - home to one of the wettest (and most beautiful) places on earth, and geologically the oldest of the main Hawaiian islands. 


My buddy Heather and I met on the beach, to assemble our pair of Oru kayaks.  Unzipping the kayak packs we thankfully found all the contents still inside (you never know how TSA will treat your gear, especially when they encounter these strange pieces of luggage).

It's amazing how much extra stuff you can store inside the boats while disassembled, which makes for much easier portage through airports. I like to check as little as possible -  and when traveling with the Oru Kayak Pack I'm able to store all the extra gear (paddle, PFD, snorkels, dive fins, and other miscellaneous water gear) folded in the boats, rather than packing it into extra luggage.

As a fan of paddling for recreation AND transportation - I've been dreaming of pointing a human powered boat up this wide, gentle river I had once explored on my first trip to Kauai. 




Heading upriver from the base of the Wailua, you don't have to fight hard to traverse the gentle current.  Surrounded by lush foliage and beautiful mountains, you'll immediately lose yourself in the beauty of the island. The Wailua is the only navigable river on Kauai - so it's a great option for spending time in fresh water after beach time - being covered in sun, sand, and salt! After about 45 minutes of paddling upstream, and some simple route finding, you're able to pull out your boat and secure it on the beach. Next destination, is one you have to access by foot: 'Secret falls'.



A short 35 minute hike with a couple water crossings (pay special mind if the water level is high - old ropes strewn across the river for guidance provides a false sense of security) leads you upriver through a maze of trees to your final destination, Uluwehi Falls, dubbed 'secret falls'.  



You quickly forget all the times you slipped on muddy rocks, once you arrive at the base of the hundred-foot waterfall cascading down, leaving misty rainbows suspended midair.  The pool below the falls is perfect for a swim, rinsing off the face-sweat from the hike in.  You'll also enjoy the hilarity of hearing wild roosters 'cock-a-doodle-doo' as you bathe in the fresh stream - in most of Hawaii wild chickens roam free. 

This trail is certainly no secret, but it is a fairly secluded destination you can only reach by hiking a muddy, root strewn trail. And if you're lucky, and you time your visit properly, you can potentially have the whole place to yourself! Most of the kayakers that reach this spot have rented their boats from a local outfitter - so the beauty in having your own boat is being able to paddle at whatever time you choose, rather than being stuck planning your trip within their hours of operation. 

 


Plan on around spending 4-5 hours total, depending on the amount of time you'd like to explore outlying areas. The 'fern grotto' is worth a visit, along with a couple cliff jumping areas that you can find if you continue paddling upriver. Keep in mind on your return paddle, you'll be going against afternoon tradewinds, so if you hug the rivers edge you'll find a wind shadow to hide in as you paddle back.  Wear closed toe shoes, bring plenty of water & snacks!

And as always - practice 'leave no trace', observe all local cultural traditions, and don't forget to slow it down a little.