How to Kayak in Kauai: From Tropical Rivers to Cliffside Coasts

Kayak Kauai
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > How to Kayak in Kauai: From Tropical Rivers to Cliffside Coasts

We paddled near and far to find the best places to Kayak in Kauai. Here’s what we discovered…

River Kayaking in Kauai

Kauai has the only navigable rivers in Hawaii, and kayaking is one of the best ways to see the island’s unique lush scenery. Another great thing about these rivers is that they are extremely calm, so kayaking through them is perfect for a relaxed vacation. 

Wailua River

Paddling down a winding river in search of a secluded waterfall sounds like something from the movies. But on the north shore of Kauai, this dreamy Hollywood scene becomes reality on the Wailua River. 

Kauai’s most popular kayaking route takes you about two miles upstream on the Wailua River, followed by a half-mile hike to Secret Falls. Guided tours will offer the ultimate experience, but you can also rent kayaks and go at your own pace. Rental companies will either launch directly on the river or provide the necessary equipment to strap the kayaks to your car. 

The Wailua River is on Kauai’s eastern coast, just a few minutes north of Lihue. 

Hule’ia River

Outfitters Kauai offers an exclusive guided kayak adventure up the Hule’ia River, taking you through scenery featured in Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The route takes you by a traditional Hawaiian fish pond and near a wildlife refuge, so this will be great for nature enthusiasts. 

Huleia River’s access is near Lihue. 

Hanalei River

Hanalei River is one of the best places for a self-guided kayak adventure, though you can go with a group here too. The waters are peaceful, and you get a lot of varied scenery, like taro patches and tall green mountains. 

Kayak kauai hanalei river

Hanalei River feeds into beautiful Hanalei Bay on the north shore, so if the water is calm you can continue your adventure into some of the ocean as well. 

Kalihiwai River

Kalihiwai River is another stream where you can kayak, though you can’t make it to the waterfalls legally – it’s on private ranch property. Though Kahiliwai is beautiful by any measure, we prefer to kayak on Kauai’s other rivers for their good distances and scenery. 

Ocean Kayaking in Kauai

If you prefer salt water and big adventures, then ocean kayaking might be your better option. But where should you plan to paddle on the Garden Isle? Here are a few of the top spots. 

Na Pali Coast Kauai Kayaking

Kauai’s Na Pali Coast is a wonder to see. Miles of untouched mountain terrain, lush and green and looming over the Pacific Ocean. And one of the best ways to see it is by Kayak. You’ll definitely want to do this trip with a guided tour, as you want to make sure conditions are right and you have an experienced team with you. But you don’t have to kayak the full 17 miles of Na Pali coastline. Various adventures will take you for a short trek, an overnight camping adventure, or something in between. 


From the south shore of Kauai, you can enjoy a kayak adventure tailored to you. When waters are calm, you can rent a kayak for a self-guided experience or book your place on a guided tour. If you’re lucky, you could see spinner dolphins, sea turtles, and flying fish. 

Anini Beach

Anini Beach will likely have the best kayaking conditions on Kauai’s north shore. This protected stretch of coastline is great for seeing fish through the clear water, sunbathing onboard your kayak, or paddling for exercise. 

Our Advice If You Plan to Kayak in Kauai

Kauai is one of the best places to kayak. From its pristine rivers to its glistening coastlines, there are miles and miles to explore. 

We always recommend going with a guide, as they’ll help keep you as safe as possible while providing incredible insight into your surroundings. 

Want to book your own Kayak tour of Kauai? Our travel agents at Hawaii Aloha Travel can help you choose which spot will work best for your vacation while connecting you with the best rentals or tours out there. 

So stretch out those paddling arms, put on some sunscreen, and get ready for an awesome adventure on Kauai.