Being the oldest inhabited island in the Hawaiian Island chain has given Kaua’i the distinction of being the only Hawaiian Island with navigable rivers. Kaua’i has had more time for wind and water erosion to deepen and widen cracks into streams and streams into rivers. Rivers are navigable but given Kaua’i is a small island the rivers are rather short in length, with no rapids and perfect for Kayakers of all levels, even beginners.
In addition to navigable rivers Kaua’i also has beautiful coastline for advanced paddlers along the Napali Coastline (best done in the summer months when the seas are at their calmest). National Geographic Adventure has ranked kayaking Napali Coast second on its list of America’s Best 100 adventures for two years in a row, second only to the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Tours run May through September, ocean conditions permitting, during winter months sea kayaking tours operate on the South Shore, still beautiful but not as dramatic as the Napali Coastline.
There are several kayak tour and kayak rental companies on Kaua’i but if you are traveling to Kaua’i during peak summer and holiday seasons, making your reservations at least a couple of weeks is suggested. For the most part the tour operators are open year round, most offer tours Monday through Saturday, very limited are available on Sunday. Regardless of the tour you book you will need to take your swimsuit,sunscreen, a hat, bug repellant (some of the kayak tours also include tours on private lands), water shoes (sport sandals,aqaua socks or old tennis shoes) and motion sickness tablets if you are sea kayaking. Tour operators offer tours on the Hule’ia, Wailua and Hanalei Rivers with guided tours that also combine hikes to waterfalls, explore famous movie sites and the Hule’ia National Wildlife Refuge. Tours that operate on the Hanalei River (designated an American Heritage River) pass by Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge and many taro farms, the Hanalei River ends at Hanalei Bay as an estuary.
The majority of the tour companies use two person sit-on-top style kayaks, so you share the work with someone so be sure you sharpen your communication skills, because the nickname for two person canoes on the river is “divorce boats”. In addition many of the tour companies offer alternative adventure tours such as zipline, down hill cycling and standup paddle boarding and even swimming at the base of a remote waterfall.
If you just want to kayak on your own, then I suggest the Hanalei River, I feel the most scenic seen from the kayak, no trails to hike but the most convenient of all is there is a kayak rental company right on the river, no having to haul kayaks on top of your car. Be sure and check water conditions at www.kauaiexplorer.com before you head out.
Several of my favorite Kayak Tour Operators on Kaua’i:
Outfitters Kaua’i – 2827A Poipu Road-Poipu Beach, Kaua’i 96756 (808) 742-9667
Kayak Kaua’i – 1 mile past Hanalei Bridge, Hanalei Hi 96714 (808) 826-9844 / second location on Kuhio Highway in Kapaa for Wailua River Tours
Napali Kayak 5-5075 Kuhio Hwy – (Next to Postcards Cafe) Hanalei, HI 96714 (808) 826-6900 – focuses on sea kayaking