Duke’s Kayak Adventures offers just one tour, but they do it remarkably well. Their hallmark tour is a guided paddle up the Wailua River, followed by a short hike to Secret Falls. You’ll get a little bit of everything on this hike: easy paddling on smooth, flat water; a hike through a gorgeous, muddy Hawaiian forest; and a gorgeous, remote waterfall you can walk right under.
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into paradise just minutes after you start paddling. From the launch to the landing at the beginning of the hike, you’ll paddle five miles on the Wailua River, a meandering freshwater stream. There’s no current to fight as you go, just a lazy river paddle. Along the way, you’ll see loads of native flora along the stream’s edges, meet some of the birds that take up residence along the creek, and learn about the history of the Wailua Valley from one of Duke’s excellent guides.
A few hundred years ago, this valley was considered sacred and kapu (off-limits/taboo) for anyone except members of the Hawaiian royal family to enter. Many visitors come away saying they felt the sacred energy (called mana in the Hawaiian language) of the place while they were there, especially at Secret Falls!
After your 5-mile paddle upriver (which isn’t too challenging, thanks to the serene water), you’ll land your kayak and hike on a recently-installed boardwalk up to the waterfall. The boardwalk bypasses much of the mud that visitors used to experience along the way, but you’ll still get somewhat muddy before the day is over; part of the trail includes a stream crossing. Once you arrive, you’ll have the option of wading into the water at the base of the falls. Despite appearances, the water isn’t deep here, and you can easily stand on the bottom as the falls shower down on your head.
Unlike some of the Napali Coast kayak tours, this one is great for families; kids 6 and up are welcome, along with anyone in moderately good physical condition. You’ll want to pack along water and snacks–more than you think you’ll need. Duke’s supplies a dry bag along with your kayak, so you’ll have a dry place to stow your belongings. This is one place where you’ll definitely want a waterproof phone case or dry bag or a waterproof camera.
From booking to the day of your tour, expect a well-organized, professional tour service that does its job well. Guides consistently arrive on time, help with anything needed, and freely share their experience, knowledge, and stories they’ve gained while growing up in the Wailua Valley.
-Pack plenty of water, probably more than you think you need. Some visitors say they went through their 2-liter bottles of water by the time the trip was halfway over. You’ll be exerting yourself, and the Wailua Valley can be hot and humid, so plan accordingly.
-Pay close attention to Duke’s online “what to bring” guide. Sunscreen, a brimmed hat, and bug repellent can make the difference between a great next day or a sunburned and mosquito-bitten one.
-Don’t hesitate to ask your guide to take photos of you or your group at the falls!