A kayak trip on Kauai’s Hanalei River is a peaceful and adventurous way to experience the island’s scenic natural wonders. The Hanalei River flows 15.7 miles from the eastern slopes of Mt. Waialeale until it reaches Hanalei Bay at Black Pot Beach Park.
The watershed for the river encompasses an area with the highest recorded rainfall on the planet. Though the river plunges 3500 feet from its headwaters at higher elevations, the last several miles of the river are flat, calm and peaceful (except during heavy rains).
After the bridge is the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge and the Hanalei Taro Fields. Ohiki Road runs alongside this section.
This last section runs past the taro fields in the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge and under the famed one-lane Hanalei Bridge. From the bridge, the Hanalei River runs alongside Hwy 560 towards Hanalei before turning towards the ocean at the Blue Dolphin restaurant. Kayak Hanalei is located behind the Blue Dolphin restaurant, and that is where we started.
The perfect place to start your voyage on the Hanalei River is at Kayak Hanalei. At Kayak Hanalei you can easily rent a kayak or SUP and launch from their private dock into the calm and gentle waters of the Hanalei River.
A voyage up the river takes you underneath the famous Hanalei Bridge and into the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, a wondrous place teeming with native birds and greenery.
On our most recent voyage, we traveled downstream to the mouth of the Hanalei River at Hanalei Bay. It was a beautiful, calm and sunny day on the river. We brought along our Kauai Surf Co. 40L waterproof backpack in case it rained, or our kayak tipped over!
There is a slight current when headed downstream, providing a gentle assist. The waters are almost always calm on the river and this is a trip that most beginners and those with little kayaking experience can accomplish. The trip down the river to Hanalei Bay takes about 30 minutes.
The river is relatively shallow but deep enough for kayaks, SUPs and jet skis. Sometimes you can see a very famous surfer on a jet ski who lives on the river.
The river voyage ends at the mouth of the Hanalei River at Hanalei Bay. Black Pot Beach Park is to the left, out front is Hanalei Bay, and to your right is Hanalei River Ridge. If you are a more experienced kayaker you can venture farther out to the area around the Hanalei Pier.
The return trip back up the river, despite the current, is no problem. To make it easier, stay out of the middle of the river where the current is stronger. Expect about 45 minutes for the return trip to Kayak Hanalei.
The following photos from our kayak trip on the Hanalei River were taken with a GoPro Hero 7 Black camera.
The water is not too deep along the way. In some places you can touch the bottom with your paddle. It takes about 45 minutes to paddle to the Hanalei Bridge from Kayak Hanalei.
This section of the river runs alongside Hwy 560. The riverbanks limit lines of sight along this stretch, leaving the river all to itself in the channel. The river was calm and peaceful on this voyage, as it is on most days.
Approaching the mouth of the Hanalei River at Hanalei Bay.
Black Pot Beach Park
To the right is Hanalei River Ridge. There is a very small beach with rocks below the ridge and near the mouth.
Hanalei’s mountains feature prominently on the horizon on the trip back up the river.
On a side note, there is also a hike you can go on in this river. The Hanalei River Jungle Hike trail is located at the end of Ohiki Road. It’s a seldom-used, overgrown trail in the dense underbrush of the upper Hanalei River area. Unfortunately, the trail is in a prohibited area. A yellow gate on your left very near the end of the road when traveling up Ohiki Road marks the trailhead. A sign on the gate states the area is “government property, no trespassing, dumping, camping, violators will be prosecuted”.
There are only a few public mentions of the trail. Mostly, the trail is used by local hunters. We do not recommend this trail due to the no trespassing signage.