Ultimate Guide to Kayaking In Kauai, Hawaii

The welcoming atmosphere, amazing landscapes and awesome beaches make Hawaii a favorite vacation destination. Also, Kauai, one of its oldest islands with the most navigable rivers, has become one of the best places to enjoy kayaking. Explore this article to learn more about kayaking in Kauai.

Top 5 Places to Enjoy Kayaking in Kauai, Hawaii

Kayaking is one of the favorite pastimes in Kauai. The Hawaiian Island, also called Garden Island, houses several beautiful bays, a coastline and many slow-moving rivers. As a result, Kayaking through these rivers is one of the best ways to explore the lovely island.

Its small size and short rivers with little rapids make it generally safe for beginning kayakers. As you enjoy recreational kayaking and garner the health benefits of kayaking, you can also enjoy more adventurous kayaking. The Napali coast has challenging waters, perfect for advanced kayakers.

To get the best Kauai kayaking adventure, here are some top locations for you:

  1. Wailua River
  2. ​Hanalei River
  3. ​Napali Coast
  4. ​Kalihiwai River
  5. ​Huleia River

1. Wailua River

The Wailua River is located about 15 minutes north of Lihue on the Eastside of Kauai. Also, It is the largest navigable river in Kauai, Hawaii. Furthermore, the 20-mile-long river flows from the 5,148-foot Mount Waialeale, feeding two popular waterfalls – Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls.

Its waters are very calm, making it a favorite destination for kayaking. Paddling along this serene river allows visitors to explore its dense rainforest and also visit several magnificent sites like:

  • The Nounou Mountain(sleeping giant) which looks like a person lying on its back. 
  • The Wailua falls; a top romantic destination and popular wedding venue.
  • The Secret Falls (Uluwehi Falls), where visitors can take a dip and stand under the waterfall. 
  • The Fern Grotto, a natural cave in the lava rock covered by ferns and only accessible by kayaks or boats.

The Wailua River is your best bet for a fun kayaking exploration. 

2. Hanalei River

Located on the North coast of Kauai Island, the 16-mile river is one of the top places to kayak. Furthermore, the Hanalei River is bordered by scenic landscapes which paddlers can enjoy. In addition, visitors can launch their kayaks at Hanalei bay, one of the largest bays on Kauai.

The bay offers lovely greenery, enchanting waters and white sand beaches. As you paddle along, you will be greeted by the popular Mount Makana. In fact, it is known for its association with several Hawaiian traditions like the Flame-throwing Festival. 

This route leads you further to the National Wildlife Refuge. Furthermore, this is a habitat for a wide range of endangered water birds. Hanalei River and bay is packed with all you need to enjoy recreational kayaking.

3. Napali River

Napali River is one of the top locations for kayaking in Kauai. Equally important, the river is known for stunning emerald cliffs, waterfalls and sea caves. As a result, Kayakers can explore the sea caves, enjoy the waterfalls, get of glimpse of the cliff folds and spot several sea creatures like dolphins and seals.

The Napali water is not ideal for kayakers. Advanced kayakers can enjoy a grand adventure navigating its waves. Beginners can still paddle this river in the summer as the waves and currents are calmer. 

Kayaking in the Napali river is one of the most adventurous things in Kauai. Get your kayaking gear ready and prepare for an adventure.

4. Kalihiwai River

Located on the north shore of Kauai, Kalihiwai is a small river with beautiful scenery. In addition, the river offers visitors an opportunity to explore and relax, with kayaking being one of the popular water activities on the river. 

Kayakers enjoy paddling through the tropical forests leading to the Kalihiwai Falls. Besides, the lovely waterfall sits on a private property on the Princeville Ranch. You can only enjoy this view when you join a tour group.

Another interesting site to visit on the river is the Kilauea volcano. Visitors get a glimpse of the volcano from the coasts as it can be dangerous to kayak past it. Kalihiwai River is perfect for anyone wishing to enjoy a day in the water and explore its lush landscapes.

5. Huleia River

This Huleia river is popular as the filming site for major movies like Jurassic Park and The Lost World. It is a small river with calm waters flowing through a beautiful rainforest. The scenery makes kayaking through the water fun and relaxing.

Located in Nawiliwili, the Huleia river leads you through the famous Menehune Fish Ponds, an amazing spot for birdwatching. Legend says that this natural wonder was built overnight by the natives. 

Enjoy a fun kayaking trip on the river as you paddle through spectacular views and catch of glimpse of the amazing wildlife.

Top Kayaking Tours in Kauai, Hawaii

If you want to enjoy kayaking here, you should go with a tour guide. These tour groups help to lead visitors through these amazing views. In addition, certain locations are restricted to solo explorers. 

Here are some tour guides available in Kauai:

1. Napali Kayak

Napali Kayak is a touring company formed by longtime guides. The company offers a 17-mile sea-kayaking along the Napali coast from April to October. As it can be difficult transporting your kayaks, Napali Kayaks also provides kayaks with dry bags, seatback and extra paddles. 

Opening days: Monday – Saturday.

Location: 5-5075 Kuhio Hwy., next to Postcards Café, Hanalei, Hawaii, 96714

Prices: From $225

2. Wailua Kayak & Canoe

Situated right on the Wailua river, they offer kayak rentals and guided waterfall tours. They are a Native Hawaiian-owned and operated Company. 

Opening Days: Monday – Saturday

Location: 162 Wailua Rd., Kapaa, Hawaii, 96746.


  • Single kayak – $50
  • Double kayak – $90
  • Guided tours from – $75.

3. Kayak Kauai

Kayaking in Kauai began with this company. They offer guided tours on the Wailua River, and sea kayak tours in Hanalei Bay and Napali Coast. The company also offers camping trips on the Napali Coast. 

For rentals, it provides the necessary gear for a successful trip. 

Opening Days: Tuesdays, Thursdays, & Saturdays. 

Location: Wailua Marina, 3-5971 Kuhio Hwy., Wailua (Kauai County), Hawaii, 96746. 


  • River tours – (from) $85
  • Sea tours – (from) $240 
  • Kayak rentals – (from) $95 per day.

4. Outfitters Kauai

Outfitter Kauai offers sea kayaking tours along the Napali Coast in the summer and the South Shore in the winter. They also offer river kayak tours on the Huleia and Wailua rivers all-year-round. Their specialty is the Kipu Safari.

This tour includes an all-day kayaking trip starting on the Huleia River. Visitors are offered:

  • A wagon ride through a working cattle ranch,
  • Two “zips” across the rain-forest canopy
  • A rope swing over a swimming hole and
  • A picnic lunch by a private waterfall.

The trip ends with a ride on a motorized double-hull canoe. 

Opening Days: Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Location: 2827-A Poipu Rd., Poipu, Hawaii, 96756. 

Prices: Kipu Safari – $189

5. Alli Kayaks

Alli Kayaks offers visitors a 4-mile kayak tour through the Wailua River. The tour starts with padding 2 miles upstream of Wailua River and then hiking 1.5-mile through the lush rainforest. Visitors get to learn about the local forest and its amazing plants like the local flora fauna. The hike ends at the Uluwehi falls.

Opening Days: Monday – Saturday 

Location: 180 Wailua Road, Kappa, HI 96746. 

Prices: from $65 per person


Kauai is a perfect destination for kayakers of all skill levels. Whether you want to explore the Island on a solo trip or join a tour company, make sure to visit these top spots. Don’t forget to familiarise yourself with Kauai kayaking laws before venturing out. Enjoy your trip!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is kayaking safe in Kauai?

Kayaking in Kauai is generally safe. Apart from the Napali River, other rivers are short with soft waves. Beginners will have no problem navigating through the waters. 

Can you kayak the Wailua River on your own?

Yes, the water is relatively safe for solo kayaking. Due to its calm waters and simple course, the Wailua River is a great area for beginning kayakers to explore independently.

Can you swim in Kauai waterfalls?

Yes, you can swim in the waterfalls. Kauai Island is home to about 11 fantastic waterfalls like the Secret Falls, Opaekaa Falls and others. This makes it a great place for waterfall swimming.

What is the best time to visit Kauai?

The best time to visit Kauai is in the early month of April and May, during spring. The weather is perfect, and there are few visitors. Visitors can also find good rates at this time.

Do you have to wear a life jacket on a kayak in Kauai?

According to Hawaii Kayaking Laws, all vessels must have a wearable USCG-approved PFD for each person. It must be the proper size, in serviceable condition and easily accessible.