Of course, Kauai has multiple great options for your dream beach vacation. If you leave the island without getting your toes in the sand and admiring the ocean (as well as the iconic Na Pali Coast), you did something wrong. But, Kauai also has some beautiful rivers that should not be overlooked. These offer fun water activities and a great way to get a closer look at the island’s lush flora and fauna.
While some rivers do offer boat tours, paddling down them on your own is much more memorable! Luckily, paddleboarding and kayaking are easy to learn for the whole family – something to keep in mind if you start getting discouraged with surf lessons at the beach!
Top two options for river explorations in Kauai:
Located on the north side of the island, this river is a great place to get used to kayaking or paddleboarding. You can enjoy the gorgeous scenery and lush plant life while getting somewhat of an arm workout battling the current going upstream, then glide back down after a short visit at the wildlife refuge. And if you still have some energy, going into Hanalei Bay is also a must, with amazing views. You may even see sea turtles!
Plan for about three hours if only paddling the river. Double that if you want to go explore the bay and beach.
This scenic river is located on the east side of the island, north of Lydgate State Park. It is one of the most popular because you have the option of stopping at a small island and continuing on foot to ‘Secret Falls’ (otherwise known as Uluwehi Waterfalls) – a short, but worthwhile hike! Fern Grotto and the swimming hole are other popular stops. Just watch for boats and make sure to park your kayak or board in the designated areas.
Plan for about four to six hours for this adventure, or more if you want extra time to explore at the multiple stops.
Other Helpful Tips for Exploring Kauai’s Rivers:
- Plan on a day rate of about $50 per person for most kayak and paddleboard rentals. To save some money, you could consider renting a double kayak if going with another person.
- Bring or rent a dry bag if it isn’t included in your tour price. This is a great place to store car and hotel keys, phones, cameras, snacks, dry clothes , and towels.
- Don’t forget sunscreen and bug spray!
- Some tour operators won’t be able to transport your kayak or paddleboard rental for you. Make sure you enquire about this first and confirm that your vehicle can indeed transfer the watercrafts if needed.
- Keep to the sides of the river and always leave a safe distance between you and boats.
Want more tips for fun activities in Kauai? Check out our local’s guide to Kauai for our favorites.