The islands that make up Hawaii are relatively young, at least geologically speaking, with the Big Island being estimated at only 300,000 to 400,000 years old. Because of this youthfulness, there are not a lot of rivers in Hawaii as streams have not had enough time to really carve down and create deeper navigable routes. The one exception to this general rule is Kauai (which is the oldest island at an estimated 5.1 million years of age) and one outfitter well-equipped to show you the best river kayaking Kauai has to offer is Alii Kayaks.
Alii Kayaks started as Smith’s Motorboat Service back in 1946 by Walter and Emily Smith. That early rendition of a Kauai tour group boasted just a basic rowboat with an outboard engine and a deep love for showing off Kauai’s beauty. And that was more than enough. People loved the Smith’s style and the business rapidly grew. Today, four generations, this is still a family operation and Alii Kayaks is one of several boating adventures offered by the umbrella Smith’s tourist group.
The kayak tours offered by Alii Kayaks are guided and take place on the Wailua River. When you arrive at the river site, your tour guide will have all the equipment ready for launch. Any parties without kayaking experience will get a quick paddling tutorial and some tips and tricks for the best time. Once you and your party are ready, it’s go time! Your guide will then lead the group on a stunning water-based journey through the tropical rainforests of Kauai.
Unlike some other outfitters we have profiled, Alii Kayaks only has one primary tour they promote via their website and other big booking sites. But where they lack in quantity, they make up in quality!
Secret Falls Kayak / Hike Tour
This guided tour starts with a two-mile paddle upstream through the slow-moving Wailua River. After its lazy twists and turns, your group will arrive at what’s called North Fork. The kayaks get tied up here and the paddle trip transforms into a hiking one. Across small streams and beneath tropical canopies, your Alii Kayaks guide will lead you to Secret Falls. This 120-foot waterfall is a stunning sight and the pool beneath it is the perfect place to cool off and appreciate a trip well-traveled.
From launch to return, this entire trip takes about four hours, and at a price of just $75 a person, that really is quite the deal for a half-day adventure! You get access to quality kayaks, an experienced guide, and a fantastic jungle adventure that ends at a true waterfall.
In addition to this primary tour, Alii Kayaks does have some less promoted water sports options. They have stand-up paddleboard rentals by the hour, day, and even week. They also offer some kayak-only tours, but it will depend upon the season and demand. Call to learn more.
-As with many tours in Hawaii, unanticipated rainstorms can sweep in the day of your booked event and cause a kayak tour with Alii Kayaks to be canceled. Because the Wailua River is fed by Mt. Waialeale, stormy conditions on the other side of the island can still change the river’s conditions enough to make kayaking not recommendable. So always call before you drive to your event and try to book a kayak tour early during your stay to give leeway should you need to reschedule.
-You should expect to hike across muddy and wet conditions on the Secret Falls tour. So for this, a quality pair of waterproof hiking shoes are highly recommended.
-Bug repellant is also a good idea. Mosquitoes overall are not bad in Kauai, but they are common among the river and waterways — especially after rainfall. If you have sensitive skin or tend to attract these pesky biters, bring a bottle of bug spray.