In my last post, Tour Kauai via Helicopter as well as a recent summer post Outdoor Adventure Travel in Minneapolis, I have noticed that the mode of transportation you use and the speed of your travel dramatically affect your perspective of a place and experience. Through my helicopter ride on Kauai last week, I was able to view places inaccessible by car or boat. However, I was not up close and personal nor taking my time to truly smell, hear, taste, and experience some of Kauai’s beauty.
This week, I took the speed of traveling in Kauai to a paddle my paddle pace with the Wailua Kayak and Hike Adventure. Having passed the Wailua River by car and helicopter, I admired the valley’s beauty. Now, it was my opportunity in a small group to slowly explore the Wailua River, the only navigable in all of Hawaii. Plus as an extra bonus, I would be able to stretch my legs with a nature hike to a special lunch picnic at a waterfall and pool.
After meeting the group members, as the only single, I was given my own kayak, which meant that I would have more flexibility in the pace of the trip, but also, that I would be the only paddler. As a side note, the guide did offer to share his kayak with me so we would tandem, but I declined.
After some general instruction and local jokes, our guide, Jamie, suited us up for a perfect combination of kayaking, hiking, and swimming. From his explanation, I learned that Wailua means two rivers or two sources of water in Hawaiian. This stems from the fact that the river has two forks both coming from the Wai’ale’ale Crater on Kauai. I also knew that this particular locale on Kauai just so happens to be the wettest place on earth. I researched this after last summer in Juneau. I couldn’t believe that there was a wetter place on earth than the Ketchikan-Juneau corridor. Man, it’s wet up there.
The trip winded up the Wailua River. We passed other leisure and adventure seekers both in kayaks and paddleboards; however, it is by no means a busy river. There were a couple of tour boats that take visitors out to the Fern Grotto, a wonderful natural beauty and very popular wedding site, but the entirety of the trip was very pleasant, relaxing, and at an appropriate Hawaiian island pace.
After roughly an hour, we took a right to a smaller fork in the river and then through a tunnel of Hua trees (Sea Hibiscus) to our parking spot for our hiking portion of the trip and a picnic lunch at a waterfall and pool called Secret Falls.
During the hike, like all hikes in Kauai, the terrain was a bit challenging and wet. In general, the trail is moderately difficult, but with moist conditions the tree roots, leaves, and rocks that are present are definitely obstacles. I trod lightly and carefully. I brought extra hiking shoes with me that had great grips. It would be foolish and dangerous to do this hike in anything that wasn’t at least a tennis shoe, hiking trail shoe, or other waterproof shoes with great support and tread. However, with my cautious speed, I was able to notice the beautiful sea hibiscus flowers, walking trees with there multi-foot trucks, and the numerous awapuhi plants, made famous by Paul Mitchell and his shampoo, but discovered and brought to Hawaii by the Polynesians.
After a short hike, we climbed across slippery rocks to arrive at the top of a hill. By looking straight across and down, we saw Secret Falls, a 100-foot waterfall and pool. This was an ideal lunch and break from kayaking and hiking. I went straight for a dip in the pool to cool off. I jumped in with my shoes on as the bottom of the pool was rocky; plus, I needed to wash my tennis shoes. The water was a bit chilly, but a necessary refresher mid-day.
The picnic spot couldn’t have been pre-ordered better. It isn’t everyday that you can say that you ate fresh pineapple while being surrounded by a tropical waterfall and lush landscape. And, it fueled our hike back to the kayaks. The trip via kayak was a bit of a challenge. Although going down river, we were going against ocean winds. It was certainly hard work getting back to the Wailua Marina, but doable, making progress every stroke.
If you are in Kauai, you must kayak. The Wailua is a breathtaking river and valley. The combination of kayaking, hiking, and swimming a bit made it a total-encompassing half-day adventure and worth repeating. If you find yourself elsewhere, I would recommend trying different paces and modes of transportation. Just do it, to see how it changes your view of your destination and/or experience.
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Here’s to more good times and good stories.
**Sponsored tour provided by Viator.com, specializing in sightseeing tours and activities where you tour like a local, but still with the curiosity of a tourist.