Kauai, HI: Wailua River Paddle

Paddle 7 miles up the Wailua River to secret waterfalls, hidden swimming holes, and one of Kauai's best rope swings.

Start this 7-mile paddle at the Wailua Kayak & Canoe shop on Kuamoo Road. After launching your boat, paddle upstream through thick tropical vegetation and picture perfect views of Mount Waialeale. In 1.8 miles, dock your boat to explore the Kamokila Hawaiian Village, then continue up the south fork of the Wailua to Fern Grotto—a lush cave—and a hidden pool and rope swing (only accessible by boat). Take a dip, and then turn around and paddle back down the Wailua for .4 mile. Leave your boat on the river bank and hike to a majestic waterfall with small pools perfect for soaking. At the end of the day, retrace your steps back to the boat and glide down the river to your car.
-Mapped by Kari Bodnarchuk

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 11.3



Location: 22.046917, -159.337738

Launch your boat on the cement ramp adjacent to the picnic tables. Paddle upstream, past dense vegetation and mangrove trees, keeping the boat within 30 feet of the north (right) bank; fast moving river is relatively calm.


Location: 22.0441494, -159.3535309

Keep waterproof camera handy-the skyline periodically opens up and provides occasional views of Mount Waialeale (5,148 ft.) nearly 20 miles away. Watch for riverboats and coconut trees on the north bank.


Location: 22.0429993, -159.3601837

Dock your boat at the Kamokila Hawaiian Village (look for a thatched hut and outrigger canoe on the north bank). Kamokila offers tours of a re-created Hawaiian village with a courtyard dedicated to Hawaiian bowling and spear throwing. Next, return to boat and paddle south.


Location: 22.0416336, -159.3605652

Stay left @ fork. Paddle up the South Fork Wailua River; pass Wailua River State Park.


Location: 22.03685, -159.3626099

Paddle past Fern Grotto-a fern-covered cave-on the left. Continue several hundred feet to take a dip in a large swimming hole (with rope swing). Note: The dock is for commercial riverboats only. Next, paddle back to Waypoint 4, and turn left (east).


Location: 22.0417843, -159.3609314

Paddle through dense vegetation, then beach your kayak on the right bank 100 feet upstream. Next, head west on the path. In .3 mile, cross the North Fork Wailua River (use the yellow rope that runs across tributary as a stabilizer). Continue to hike northwest through the dense jungle and along a narrow embankment that is full of gnarled roots (watch your step).


Location: 22.0483799, -159.3695374

Continue rock hopping along the river bank and pass a cement tower with a water level marker.


Location: 22.0498524, -159.37146

Turn left; head away from the river, and climb up a short, steep, and often muddy embankment. At the top, cross a small stream and turn right, continuing on trail.


Location: 22.0495663, -159.3725433

Wailele Mae Huna Falls: This natural hidden waterfall is the centerpiece of a large volcanic amphitheater blanketed with lush vegetation. Lose track of time and swim in the main pool; finish with a long soak in one of several smaller man-made pools. Keep an eye out for wild roosters that roam the banks. To return to trailhead, retrace your steps to Waypoint 6; turn left, and paddle north up the river.


Location: 22.0496254, -159.3723755

Wailua River

Location: 22.0478287, -159.3497314

Docking the boats

Location: 22.0418129, -159.3608704