Why You Need to take a Wailua River Kayak Tour (And Who to Do it With)

girls in waterfall pool sacred falls wailua river kauai

I thought about the ocean a lot before visiting Kauai. I certainly dreamed about the hiking. However, what I had not anticipated, was the rivers. Think lush rain forests surrounding water made a sparkling emerald by the minerals in the soil that led to cascading waterfalls. That’s what we found on the Wailua River kayak tour. Paddling the wide, serene waterway, hiking through the lush jungle, and swimming beneath Kauai’s Secret Falls…now THIS was paradise.

There are brief moments in our travels that we attach ourselves to like some part of our identity is in them. Kauai had more of these moments than my molecules could handle–moments like touring the Napali coastline or eating my way through the island–but maybe none so more than this one. The moment when I scrambled behind these sacred falls, screaming and laughing and kissing the wall just as I was told to. When I scraped my knees and tried in vain to pull the hair from my face that the pounding water had plastered to my skin. When our guide, Kathleen, paid spiritual reverence to the falls. These are the moments we live for, the reasons why we travel.

Choosing a Wailua River Kayak Tour

wailua river kauai hawaii
The creek we hiked along after leaving the Wailua River

There are several choices for tours but when we realized that Wailua Kayak Adventures is family owned and operated we went with them. Our guide’s name was Kathleen, and I knew almost immediately that I loved her. After she lovingly acknowledged the ever-present chickens of Kauai with tenderness, speaking to them softly and giving them bits of popcorn, I was all in. Up until that point, I had only heard people speak of the chickens with irritation Yes, my soft animal-loving heart was instantly enamored with this woman.

*Note this post was NOT sponsored by the tour company and we are making no revenue from recommending them. They were just a great company and we wanted to promote them.

Wailua River Kayak Tour Details

Tour Company Wailua Kayak Adventure
Tour Times 7 AM or 1 PM
Duration 4-6 Hours
Cost $60/Adult
Included Guide, Snacks, Kayaks & Paddles

We paired up and paddled out, upriver 2.5 miles to start. The River is wide and swift, but the current is steady and manageable. It is not overly challenging–nothing like kayaking in Milford Sound–but by the end of the day my shoulders were hurting. The tour started at 1 PM, and we set off into the blazing afternoon sun as a group of 6.

The first paddle up river takes roughly an hour or two. The day we went was gorgeous weather, sunny and a bit breezy to offset the heat. The route is pretty straight forward and people do go without a group, though there were a couple of turns that made having a guide handy. Plus, Kathleen was really knowledgable about the water we were on the importance of the waterfalls.

Hiking to the Secret Falls

We landed our kayaks at a muddy bank to embark on the hike to the falls. It’s easy to spot, we were far from the only tour group out there. Once labeled the “Secret Falls”, nowadays, the waterfall up Wailua River is visited endlessly by tour groups and individual kayakers. It’s gorgeous and totally worth the experience, but don’t come here looking for solitude. You’re not stumbling into a hidden waterfall, you’re going to a tourist attraction.

The hike is less than a mile and not particularly challenging, but slogging through the mud and multiple river crossings makes it a slow–and especially fun–journey. I passed folks of all shapes, sizes, and ages working their way towards the falls. This is open to hikers of all levels.

In spite of the people all competing for the space, the Secret Falls are truly spectacular. At 160 feet high, the waterfall is at once powerful and serene. According to Kathleen, the water here is sacred, and you must kiss the wall behind the falls for blessings.

Paddling Back

The 2.5 mile paddle back to our starting point was a bit easier. Maybe because my friend and I switched spots in the kayak, or maybe because we were headed down river this time. We paddled slowly, enjoying the scenery and taking in the water color as it shifted with the now setting sun.

Towards the end, Kathleen drifted into one of her deep thought moments that we’d quickly learned to embrace. We were chatting about romance, about life and love. I’m not sure how we bonded so quickly, I’ll leave it to the fact that Kathleen was just the kind of person you wanted to know and to listen to. She had that magnetic charge that some people do, filled with wisdom and kindness.

“We are beings of love,” she said mystically, “we are not meant to carry the burden of life alone.”

Indeed, Kathleen, we are not. So grateful to have sacred waterfalls, each other, and people like you to help lighten the load.

Just some best friends hanging in a Sacred waterfall

What to Bring on the Tour :

  • Compact Towel
  • Hiking Sandals
  • Natural Sunscreen & Bug Spray
  • Camera
  • Wear waterproof clothes and a bathing suit that are also comfortable to hike in

See the full packing list we use for hot weather destinations here.

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Alicia is a freelance writer, bartender, and the MLT wife! She loves running, beaches, and tiny animals.


  1. Leigh
    August 12, 2019 / 1:53 PM

    Cool – I’m just starting to plan my October trip to Kauai so I’ll definitely put this one on the list!

    • Joe & Alicia
      August 12, 2019 / 2:08 PM

      Ah you’ll love it! Let us know what you think 🙂

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