The island of Kauai has an intense relationship with water… and not just because it is surrounded by it.
Water defines the island.
Every third car you see on the road has at least one surf board strapped to the roof and every other garage has a canoe parked inside.
As small as Kauai is (only 1.5 hrs to drive from the north to the south), average annual rainfall has massive variances: From less than 10 inches in some parts of the south to as much as 450 inches in the northern mountains.
The crazy huge amounts of rain in the north produce spectacular rainbows, lush foliage, and gushing waterfalls that turn into beautiful rivers.
What I’m really trying to say is that in order to truly experience Kauai, you have to experience it by water.
We surfed the waves early and often, but had yet to explore any of the rivers when we finally decided to paddle the Wailua River and then hike to the waterfall known as “Sacred Falls.”
Our Wailua Kayak Adventure
Starting in the early afternoon, and joined by our friends Josh and Caroline, we all entered our kayaks into the Wailua River. Led by our tour guide Koa, from Kayak Kauai, we were off to the races with one couple per kayak.
Caroline couldn’t hide her enthusiasm…
I am always at an advantage when kayaking with Meg. Besides her general, all-around, in-shapeness… she was also on the crew team in high school. This means that we FLY on the water. It also means I can sneak breaks when I’m in the rear of the kayak without the kayak losing speed or her even noticing…
We cruised with the current for about an hour and just marveled at the scenery. It was not very difficult imagining us trying to escape from rampaging dinosaurs as we floated past dense jungle overhangs and saw faraway fields laying across the sides of mountains.
After an hour of rhythmic paddling, we turned away from the main flow of the river and into a side stream. We paddled around fallen trees and navigated the shallow river bed until we reached the trail head.
Our hike to “Sacred Falls” had begun!
It was another 30 minutes before we reached the falls, but this definitely added to the mystery. The jungle was dense and we passed a lot of people leaving right before we reached the falls… which was perfect because we had it almost all to ourselves!
After large rain storms, the falls can be over 80 feet across, but only measured about 15 feet on the day we arrived. Over 100 feet tall, the water coming off of it felt like coarse sand by the time it hit our backs… a nice exfoliating rinse said Meg.
Josh is doing a good job pretending he is not getting DESTROYED by the falls, while I pathetically struggle next to him…
After 45 minutes of enjoying the JUST ABOVE FREEZING water, we turned around and hiked back to our kayaks and paddled up stream.
All-in, it was a great way to spend 4-5 hours and a perfect way to experience Kauai.
Tour Guide vs No Tour Guide
Do you need a tour guide to visit the Sacred Falls?
If you’re handy with a river map, you could probably navigate your way to the trail head and survive the hike to the falls and back.
The river that led to the trail was a stream that diverged from the main river and wound through the woods. There is NO WAY I would have made it there. Plus, the trail actually starts from across the river where you leave your kayak. You have to wade across the river and then scramble up a steep embankment of gnarled tree roots…
I know myself and there is no way I would have found the falls.
But for the adventurous of you out there confident in your navigation abilities, renting a kayak for two will cost you about $75 for the day.
If you want to hire a guide, the five hour tour with Kayak Kauai will cost you $85 per person and includes a nice lunch with beverages at the falls. Plus, if you get a guide as fun as Koa, you will get a lot of great inside stories about the island.
Josh obviously recommends the lunch…
Thanks to Kayak Kauai for providing us with a great day out on the water. All opinions, as always, are our own.