The Best Wailua River Kayak Tour: The Ultimate Guide

The best kayak tour is on the Wailua River in Kauai, Hawaii. This tour is a leisurely paddle down the river to see all of the beauty that Kauai has to offer. You’ll get to paddle through banyan tree root systems, bird watching, and see amazing waterfalls. Whether you’re an experienced kayaker or this is your first time on the water, this tour has something for everyone.

The Wailua River in Kauai is known for its leisurely pace and beautiful scenery. The best way to experience it is by kayak with a guide who knows the history of the land and can share stories about the cultural significance of some of these natural sites.

Best Wailua River kayak tour

Kayaking up the Wailua River would take us to a hiking trail that led to a 100 to the 150-foot waterfall (still unclear on exactly how tall it actually was). So when we went to our “island orientation” session on our first day, we jumped at the chance to sign up.

The scenery was honestly gorgeous. We rowed up the part of the river where they filmed the plane-taking-off scene in Indiana Jones and where a part of Jurassic Park was done as well. Since we were the only ones on the river that early in the morning, we got to relax and take everything.

What is the Best Wailua River kayak tour

The area we visited was right in the city of Wailua, which has beaches, farms, roads, and lots of hotel stays. The river is a natural river running through it, so there are rapids and sandy beaches. If you are on a guided tour, it’s most likely you’ll paddle in a catamaran. Catamarans can be found at many of the local beaches. Don’t be alarmed when you find that you have to rent your own kayak and paddle it yourself.

Before you start, the tour guide will show you how to roll, use your paddle, and paddle your way upriver. If you get a chance, try to hit this paddling spot, especially during a rainstorm when the water is way calmer. You might even catch a few sea turtles.

The Experience

The first lesson we learned was how to use the kayak. Once we learned how to get in and out without capsizing, we were more than ready to go. Once we got out at the part of the river that was being used as the final scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, we were completely surrounded by white limestone cliffs.

We had to ascend a little bit before we could continue and so we went upstream since the right-hand-hand side of the current was stronger than the left-hand side. Our “guide” was great and did not make us take too many breaks. He ensured that we could use our hands and would help steer in tricky places.

To get to the waterfall, the guides at Nai’a Kayaks strapped us on harnesses that were locked onto the kayaks.

Safety Tips

How to prepare for the trip

Know the size of the kayak. The ones we chose were the Sycora 300 ($1530) and the Power Tumi 300-Y ($1000), both with decent sizes but not huge. They’re also lightweight so they’ll feel much better than your full-on Northwave boat.

We did take the time to throw a wetsuit on at least. Because Maui’s water can be very warm. It’s warmest in the upper parts of the river. Luckily we weren’t planning on staying there long.

See the water you want to be in on the map. When you are leaving the track and heading into the river, look at the map to see which parts of the river you are kayaking in.

Check out the tide tables to be sure your tour doesn’t go out before or after low tide.

Equipment you need for the trip

1 paddle

2 life vest

3 dry bag that you don’t want to get wet

4 camera that can take pictures underwater

4 towel

5 flashlight


We went to walk up a set of stairs to get to the end of the pier and then rowed about a mile and a half to a beautiful beach that was filled with banana trees. We sat and enjoyed our morning coffee before getting ready for our kayaking adventure.

Once we were ready to head out we put on our life vests and left the campground. We had to walk a few hundred yards up the beach where the kayak tour company had their kayaks set up. The boats are pretty fancy with two seats in the front and a bench that reclines and a double seat in the back. There are no pedals on these things, so you just steer by using the oar.

How to do research on your own before booking a tour

We started by researching the number of days our tour was for, and how long it actually took us to travel the trip. The weather report for that day and time (on our official guide’s website). The only downfall about this tour was that we didn’t get to see a real waterfall, but as it turns out, the swimming hole they were to take us to in between the waterfall and hiking trail wasn’t a good time for us. So we had to rely on pictures for that bit of the tour.

Meeting our tour guide for the tour:

This would be the only tour where we didn’t talk to our guide beforehand about the route. Our guide we didn’t even talk to until after we had our first swim.

Final thoughts

We had our own private balcony that looked out on the Wailua River, and the staff was super nice and welcoming. We met a few interesting people and made a bunch of new friends while we were there. I highly recommend availing the opportunity to spend a few days on Maui.

We also loved spending time in the Coconut Grove part of the Wailua River where the paddleboards are. We especially liked a nearby coffee shop that served locally grown organic coffee and delicious coffee drinks. It was the perfect spot to relax and grab a fresh organic breakfast on the go.

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