Kauai is one of the largest islands in Hawaii and is famous for its rugged landscapes, vast green mountains, and epic coastline featuring wonderful beaches ideal for kayaking.
Often referred to as the Garden Isle due to the amount of rainforest here, you’ll find plenty of things to do on this gorgeous island. This includes visiting Waimea Canyon State Park and searching for marine life at Poipu Beach Park.
One experience you don’t want to miss out on is a kayaking tour, as this offers a fantastic way to explore the island and get panoramic sights right from the ocean.
Each tour offers something unique as there are many kayaking tour companies around the island.
Where To Go Kayaking In Kauai
Kauai is a kayaking hotspot and there are plenty of awesome places for you to explore. Before we take a look at the tour options, let’s dive into the best areas to go kayaking in Kauai first.
Being the largest navigable river on the island makes the Wailua River a great spot for water activities. At 20 miles long, it takes you through one of a kind jungles and past impressive waterfalls so it offers a lot of scenery. The water here is typically pretty calm, and you don’t have to worry about rapids.
The Na Pali Coast is around 17 miles long and is one of the island’s most sacred and visited spots. Compared to the Wailua River, it can be quite demanding making it more suitable if you’re looking for an adventure and consider yourself a more advanced kayaker. Along the way, you’ll be treated to striking cliff faces, sea caves, and pristine beaches. You can find it on the northwest side of Kauai.
If you’re a fan of birdwatching and wildlife enthusiast, then Huleia River may be the perfect kayaking spot for you. The Huleia River runs through the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge which gives visitors a great chance of seeing rare birds along the way. The waters are relatively calm too so kayaking won’t require too much physical effort.
The Hanalei River offers the chance to kayak into the sea and head inland. Typically, you start from the pier in Hanalei Bay and then head upstream if you want to explore this part of Kauai. It’s another incredibly scenic area, so you’ll want to take your time and appreciate the views.
There’s also the Kalihiwai River found on the north shore of Kauai island. It offers calm paddling conditions without any fast currents. This makes it a family-friendly place and also a good paddle boarding spot if you’re more into that.
Best Kauai Kayaking Tours
1. Outfitters Kauai Hidden Valley Falls Kayak Adventure
Outfitters Kauai undeniably runs some of the best kayaking tours in Kauai and the Hidden Valley Falls Kayak adventure is one of the top choices. You walk around for 1.5 miles before kayaking for 60-90 minutes, along with some swimming in between.
This popular hiking and kayaking tour takes you through Huleia National Wildlife Refuge. You can witness epic landscapes like a gorgeous waterfall, spot some unique birds, and paddle within one of the filming spots for Jurassic Park!
It’s an easier alternative compared to the other tour listed down below as you won’t need to paddle back against the wind. Instead, you take a motorized canoe back to the starting point.
It’s the only tour in Hawaii that offers this easy option. Families with young children or older travelers (and anyone really) will find it quite suitable, assuming you can handle the hike.
2. Kayak Kauai Hanalei Blue Lagoon Paddle & Snorkel
If you want to add snorkeling to your itinerary, consider the Blue Lagoon Paddle & Snorkel by Kayak Kauai. In addition to kayaking, you get to spend around 4 hours birdwatching and snorkeling for a great all-rounded experience.
This family-friendly tour allows children over the age of 5 to participate as long as they’re accompanied by an adult. The whole family can enjoy the beauty of the Hanalei River and Bay as a group!
Not only can you spot amazing creatures like sea turtles and dolphins on this tour, but you’ll also get a glimpse of Makana Mountain. You also make a stop by Hanalei Bay beach.
One thing that we like about this kayak tour is that the knowledgeable guides teach visitors a little about the history and traditions of Kauai.
3. Napali Kayak
If you prefer to go sea kayaking, you’ll want to book with this tour company. Napali Kayak offers one and two day trips that allow you to paddle alongside the Na Pali coastline and see some of the deep valleys and waterfalls.
Participants need to be at least 14 years old for their day trips, and you’ll need to be fit enough to kayak for around 10-17 miles. Each tour varies by length so choose the most suitable one.
No matter what you decide, you’re treated to breathtaking views and might even spot some of Hawaii’s amazing marine life, like turtles and seals.
If you’re after an exhilarating experience, National Geographic once voted these tours to as the best adventures in the nation!
This is a challenging excursion, so while it may not be the best choice for families, it’s perfect for adventurous singles or couples looking for some thrills. You can read about my full experience kayaking the Na Pali coast with them.
4. Ali’i Kayaks
Ali’i Kayaks takes visitors on a trip to explore Secret Falls with their kayaking and hiking tour.
It lasts 5 hours and those aged 5+ can participate as long as they can keep up with the physical demands of navigating the Wailua River and hiking the trail. Luckily you can rely on an experienced and helpful guide to lead the way and keep you safe.
It consists of a 2-mile moderate hike, stream crossings, and a 4-mile kayaking trip. However, it’s not too challenging as first-time kayakers are welcome to try.
You paddle along the Wailua River and the trek takes you to the beautiful Uluwehi Falls, also known as Secret Falls. It’s one of the most famous waterfall spots on Kauai.
5. Outfitters Kauai Wailua Waterfall Kayak Tour
Outfitters Kauaui is another tour offered by Outfitters Kauai. This tour is suitable for all ages aside from children under 5. However, it requires relatively good fitness levels as you’ll need to walk for two miles first.
Afterward, you’ll kayak for around 60-90 minutes, and get to visit Wailua Waterfall. Being one of the most impressive waterfalls on the island, it’s one of the most unique attractions in all of Hawaii.
The scenery in the area is beautiful but be prepared to get muddy and wet, as the rainforest climate here means plenty of rain showers. So bring some proper clothing and good hiking shoes for this experience.
Lunch and drinks are included throughout the day with the tour, and there are usually two options available to choose from, either in the very early morning or close to the afternoon. Times do vary by season. We also included them in our list of Kauai zipline tours.
6. Kayak Wailua
The guided tour along the Wailua River lasts around 5 hours and is available for everyone. It’s also suitable for all skill levels, so you don’t need any previous kayaking experience which is always a bonus for complete beginners.
On this kayak tour, you get to hike some of Kauai’s hiking trails and swim below a beautiful waterfall in Secret Falls. Depending on the group or person you’re bringing along, you can choose from single, double, or triple kayaks in case you want to stay together.
Kayak Wailua offers six starting times so there is flexibility when it comes to planning out your day. These times range from 8 am to 1 pm, and you must check in at least 20 minutes early.
You can also get to learn all about the local history and legends as you paddle upstream. Based on our own experience, the Wailau River has still waters and wonderful views, making it an ideal place to visit.