Kayaking and hiking Kauai’s Wailua Riverby: Chris Bailey
posted: Mon Nov 01, 2010 at 02:50 PM
It’s morning on Kauai. The water fronting the Wailua Marina is as smooth as glass. Suddenly, a fleet of kayaks drops in, breaking the water’s surface in a series of splashes and ripples. The neon yellow and orange boats bob and bounce off one another, a colorful logjam.
One of these kayaks will be my ride for the day. I’m headed two-and-a-half miles up the Wailua River, before hiking another mile into the heart of the Wailua Valley. My destination: Uluwehi Falls, also known as Secret Falls, a spectacular 112-foot-tall cascade fed by Mount Waialeale, the wettest spot on Earth.
I’m with an outfit called Kayak Wailua, which offers the expedition to Uluwehi Falls several times a day. Owner Pete Fisher keeps his company a family business, sharing tour duties with his wife and three children. Leading my tour was Fisher’s youngest son, Nate, who—with his lean, tanned frame and mop of shaggy hair—is Kaua‘i personified.
Before we depart, Nate gives my tour group a crash course on equipment and safety procedures. It’s standard protocol as guests’ kayaking experiences vary.
We’re ready to go. A few paddle strokes send my boat careening into the Wailua River’s main channel. Nate corrals the group onto the river’s right side, avoiding the motorboats, tour boats, jet skis and other kayak tours that frequent Wailua’s waters. Strict regulations have helped prevent overcrowding, but the river remains a busy place.
Signs of other watercraft soon disappear as we continue upstream, replaced by pristine vistas of Kauai’s dense forests, grass thickets and green-topped hills. The river branches in two directions. Nate motions the group to go right, along the river’s northern fork. The once-expansive river quickly tapers, with some sections no more than a couple of kayak lengths across. Negotiating my boat through, I’m careful not to scrape against branches that jut out into the narrow lane.
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