When we travel, I am always researching the most local and authentic experiences and excursions offered at the destination. Mountain tubing kept coming up again and again about something unforgettable to do in Kauai.
It was also hotly debated whether it was worth the expense. We decided to bite the bullet and find out for ourselves. This Kauai mountain tubing tour by Backcountry Adventures goes rain or shine, and we booked it 3 months early as it sells out frequently. They have a great cancellation policy, so it’s worth it to book in advance.
What To Bring Mountain Tubing
We arrived at their warehouse office at 8:30 AM for the 9 am tour. A smiling employee checked us in, and we were outfitted with gloves and helmets with headlamps. We also had come prepared with swimsuits, water shoes, coverups, sunscreen, bug spray, quick dry towels, go-pro, ball caps, and BF’s iPhone on a waterproof lanyard.
We checked out photos of the trip route and relaxed while the rest of the group arrived.
Is Mountain Tubing Family Friendly?
One of the things that is different from other tours we have done on Kauai was how inclusive it is to families and people of all ages. Mountain tubing is a great family-friendly activity for anyone thinking of doing it with kids. There were several children, couples, and even an elderly woman traveling solo that we got to know quite well.
Backcountry Adventures Mountain Tubing
Your adventure starts off when you’re loaded onto an open-air safari-style bus. The ride to the first stop is about 30 minutes. Seth, one of our guides, gave us an introduction and debrief about Backcountry Adventures on the way. Did I mention it was raining? I mean, like really pouring.
Buckets and buckets of rain created rivers on the roads that we splashed through with gigantic tires. It was February, and Kauai had been showing us what the rainy season was all about with flash flooding the last few days.
You get to pass through beautiful plantation land with herds of cattle and horses grazing. You can even see feral piglets. The first stop is quite a photo opportunity taken by the guides in front of Mount Wai’ale’ale. The mountain was masked in cloud cover when we got there, and you could just make out her many waterfalls.
After this, you load onto the bus again and continue the bumpy ride to the start of the launch. The rain was not letting up. When we arrived at the launch, our bags/gear were safely packed for when we returned and then we stepped out ready to go tubing.
It was cold standing in the rain and I was shivering, waiting to get into my tube. We got safety directions from another guide named Patrick. We practiced turning our lights on and off, and then Patrick explained that we would be going through five tunnels, the last one in complete darkness.
They also explain what communication will be like on the river, which pretty much seems to be like a game of telephone. We needed to communicate things like butts up, heads down, elbows and knees in, and lights on and off. They started to line us up and had several different size tubes for different heights. My BF is tall and so he had the largest tube.
When you’re all together in the water, the tubing journey begins and you pass under a rope into the moving current of the ditch. Despite the rain, we twirled and bumped and laughed. The water was moving fast due to the rain the last few days and the banks had small streams flowing down. This can cause you to get separated from your party, play bumper boats with the walls of the ditch and have a lot of fun.
The irrigation tunnels are amazing. Each one is unique, and they were more rustic and longer than I expected. The first one had algae on the ceiling that glowed like fool’s gold when you passed the flashlight over it.
The tunnels actually were warmer than the rain, so a relief at times. By this time, we were all soaking wet and fine anyway. They would group us again together from time to time, so nobody ever fell behind. There is an area called the waterslide that was amazingly fun with the continuing fast current. They launched us one by one down it into a tunnel. I was sent spinning and whirling and couldn’t stop giggling. Smiles lit up the faces of everybody around me.
In total, there were three guides on the tour and they worked hard to make sure we were safe. They told us the water levels were higher than some had seen before. About 2/3 of the way through the tour, several Apple watches began shrieking with flash flood warnings.
As we were already well along on the tour, there was nowhere to get off at this point and we continued along. Something that could’ve been slightly scary was handled so well by our crew, and you could tell they were keeping an eagle eye on us and ensuring our safety.
The last tunnel we did was in complete darkness. It was the smoothest of all of the tunnels so safer to enter this way. This was in honor of the original expedition guides that had to complete their journey in total darkness when their inflatable canoe didn’t survive on the first try through. It was a complete sensory experience and quite a treat.
The last leg of the experience was the lazy river. I joked with everyone (you make close friends on this adventure) that the minute we got out of the water the sun was going to come out. Sure enough, there it was and it felt glorious.
We started to exit the water just as a new bus started coming up the drive to unload new passengers. Because of the flash floods, the rest of the tours were canceled for the day, and that bus had to turn around. I saw the disappointment on some of those people’s faces and was happy that we got to go tubing in Kauai.
We also created a video of our mountain tubing adventure which you can see down below. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel!
The Backcountry Adventures staff was incredible! They were funny, gracious, had great attitudes, and always made us feel safe and taken care of.
On the way back, Seth amused us with stories and gave recommendations on local suggestions for things that he loved on Kauai. They told us that the usual picnic spot (last stop) would not be where we were stopping for picnic lunch because of the weather, and we would be having lunch back at the warehouse. We passed two cars that were flooded out on the road to get to our adventure and there was a river raging through the road now.
Upon arrival back, they provided delicious sandwiches, chips, and snacks, and we traded stories and smiles with our fellow comrades and tried to dry off, despite the rain that started pouring again outside. The food was plentiful and many went back for seconds.
All of the guides have a Venmo account in which they can receive tips, and they accept cash as well. Venmo ended up being the way that we took care of so many great people that showed us fantastic hospitality on the island. Please tip your guides, as they rely on your generosity to make a living, and add so much to the experience.
Even though we didn’t have the perfect day, tubing in Kauai was an amazing experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was incredibly memorable, and I’m sure it would be completely different on a sunny or calmer day. I can’t wait to go back.
This article was written by Liza Sterletske. You can find more of her videos on Youtube covering tours to go and places to explore in Kauai.