Take a gentle adventure to the heart of Kauai along the only navigable river in Hawaii.

One of the most sacred and ancient locations on Kauai is the Wailua River Valley located on the East side of the island. In pre Captain Cook days alii (a lee eee) or royalty lived among the lush tropical rainforest along the Wailua river. Ancient temples remain; foundations of river rock sit atop the valley where human sacrifice and births took place. Inside the rainforest, luaus were performed for royalty and distinguished guests; remains of these primal sites are scattered along the riverside.

The only navigable river in Hawaii, Wailua meaning two bodies of water coming together flowing to one outlet, is about 120 feet wide. We decided to take my 80-year-old parents down the gentle river on a Smith’s riverboat; the hour and twenty minute tour culminates in a view of the Fern Grotto.

As we chugged along, gentle breezes flowing in from the open windows, we were entertained with songs and legend. Our experienced boat captain navigated the two mile journey and kept us laughing as we swayed to the melodic sounds of the ukulele. At the landing we walked a short distance on paved sidewalks with hand railings through the canopied rainforest. Tropical flowers lined the path and a sense of adventure was in the air.

Grotto simply means cave and as we approached the hollow a stream trickled down from on high, sunlight making the water droplets sparkle. Once a powerful waterfall, sugar plantations perted the water. The cavern once flourished with ferns growing upside down but in 1992 hurricane Iniki uprooted every one of them. What we saw was 28 years of regrowth.

Songs of old resounded through the grotto as our hosts sang an ancient wedding song. Haunting voices echoed and we were touched even though we didn’t know what they were saying. Kisses rippled through the crowd as laughter and applause signaled the time for departure.

Standing in rows, we followed our guides instruction and laughed at our antics as we tried to dance the hula. Then, the real hula girls came out and gave us a heartfelt show; we pulled into the dock as the last strums of the ukulele faded.


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