When I first moved to Hawaii, my boyfriend and I took a friend to the Big Island, and naturally, we wanted show her everything we love about our island home. That meant trying to find something a little “off-the-grid,” so she would have some good stories to take back with her.

After a bit of research, we decided to take her “fluming,” which is the term most people use to describe a trip down the water-tunnels that used to bring much-needed water to Big Island crops. And, what a ride it was! We had a blast shooting-down the flume in our boat and looking at all the amazing scenery.

people in a kayak in an irrigation ditch

Photo: Flumin' Kohala

When you flume da ditch in Kohala on the Big Island, guests ride in kayaks down a series of old irrigation ditches.

Fast-foward 20 years, and you can still find flume rides in Hawaii, specifically on the Big Island and Kauai. Here’s a look at two we found and a quick tutorial on each:

  • Flumin’ Kohala in Hawi offers a unique and exclusive adventure deep in the historically rich and verdant mountains of Kohala. There you will explore the much storied Kohala Ditch, a 110 year old system of hand-wrought tunnels, elevated flumes, and concrete channels that once supplied millions of gallons of fresh water to the vast sugar cane plantations of Kohala. On a leisurely kayak float through 3 miles of the system, you will have the rare opportunity to access lush private lands, streams, waterfalls and other natural and man-made wonders kapu (forbidden) to all except guests of Flumin’ Kahala. Like most flume rides in Hawaii, the excursion lasts three hours.  This flume adventure costs $135 for adults, $75 for children (5-11). Make sure you bring your river shoes because you will most likely get wet. And, DON’T go if you have fear of dark, confined spaces!

Note: The adventure was temporarily closed due to damage sustained after the Big Island earthquake in October, 2016, but has since re-opened.


  • Kauai Backcountry Adventures has exclusive access to the historic irrigation system of the former Lihue Plantation. The ditch and tunnel system that once irrigated vast sugar crops had been unused since sugar was taken out of production in 2000. But, in January 2003, Kauai Backcountry opened a section for exclusive tubing tours. This water system runs through some of the most beautiful and remote land on the island. It includes spectacular views of the mountains and Waialeale Crater. The waters which originate near the top of Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest spots in the world, are channeled through ditches and tunnels hand-dug by plantation workers over a century ago. This is the only tubing activity of this type on Kauai. Another thing that makes Kauai Backcountry Adventures one of the best flume rides in Hawaii? It’s the only eco-tour company with access to these 17,000 acres of former plantation lands. The trip lasts approximately three hours and costs $106 per person.
people riding in tubes through down ditches

Photo: Kauai Backcountry Adventures

If you participate in the Kauai Backcountry Adventures flume ride, you'll ride in a tube through irrigation ditches. Make sure you keep safety in mind at all times by knowing how to swim and knowing what to do if you flip over. All riders must be comfortable in water.

If you’re REALLY feeling adventurous, pair your Kauai Backcountry Adventures tubing excursion with a Kauai Zip Line Adventure, and you can experience the Kauai backcountry beauty from the water and the sky. Now, that’s an adventure!

One of my fondest memories of being a newcomer in Hawaii was flumin’ da ditch on the Big Island, and I’ve wanted to try it again (this time with my family) ever since. So, we plan to take the Kauai Backcountry Adventure flume ride when we visit in July or December. Stay tuned!


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