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Kayaking Wailua

San Francisco...
Level Contributor
174 posts
5 reviews
4 helpful votes
Kayaking Wailua

Looking at Yelp, there seems to be a variety of options for doing the Wailua/Secrete Fall Kayak.

A. There are several companies with good Yelp ratings, ranging from $85/person to $85/couple that do guided tours.

B. There also seems to be places where you can rent Kayak on your own right on the river, and do it self-guided. Assuming finding the fall isn't difficult?!

What are the best options? Pros/Cons, etc.? Any good recommendations for options A and B above?

Wailua, Hawaii
Level Contributor
336 posts
40 reviews
22 helpful votes
1. Re: Kayaking Wailua

My preference is the unguided tour. I saw a couple of reviews that talk about the trail being hard to find, but I did not find that to be the case at all. Going unguided, you can do both the fern grotto and Secret Falls at your own pace. Here are a couple of rules and tips about the river.

1) When kayaking up river, you will be on the north or right side of the river, coming back down river, you will stay to the same side, north, which is now on your left. This allows for boats to pass on the south side without being disturbed by the Kayak.

2) It is much easier and takes less time to travel upriver than downriver, as the winds will slow your return. Allow more time and energy to return than to go up.

3) If you are not in relatively good shape, take a double kayak so that you can share the paddling, especially if starting from the mouth of the river, as opposed to starting from Kamokila Village. This is NOT a hard trip unless you are in really bad shape.

4) When setting ashore at the Fern Grotta, do not use the docks. They are used for the commercial Smith's Landing boat tours to the Fern Grotta. Go past the docks, and tie off to a tree on the bank.

5) The trick to finding the turn off to Secret Falls, (and it isn't hard), is to remember to turn right after you pass the Kamokila Village landing. There are only two turn offs to the right, and if you miss it, don't fret, the second one is very short and dead ends in a bunch of tree's only a few hundred yards from the turn. The second turn is across from the Fern Grotta. Generally, I do the Fern Grotta first, and then take the second tributary to the left on the way back down river to get to Secret Falls.

6) It is very obvious where to tie off the Kayak when hiking to Secret Falls. While it looks daunting to try to find the right trail, it really isn't. Once you tie off your Kayak, face 180 degrees from the river, with the river immediately to your back. The trail can be found by heading to about the 2:00 oclock position, if you can imagine a clock face laid out before you. If that's too confusing, you can wait til someone else comes or goes, or just do a quick search of your immediate surroundings, there isn't anywhere else to go, except to the trail. You will find it!

Hope this helps, Good Luck! & ENJOY!

Edited: 3:50 pm, May 10, 2015
San Francisco...
Level Contributor
174 posts
5 reviews
4 helpful votes
2. Re: Kayaking Wailua

David, amazing response. Thanks for taking the time!

Now, can you tell me my best options for renting Kayak's. I'd prefer not having to put it up on my car's roof!

Thanks.

Wailua
Level Contributor
1,958 posts
1 review
6 helpful votes
3. Re: Kayaking Wailua

I agree with everything except "Going unguided, you can do both the fern grotto and Secret Falls at your own pace." It used to be that rental kayaks were not allowed at the Fern Grotto due to state park concession rules. I had not heard that this had changed, but I'd love to hear if it has.

Bayonne, New Jersey
Level Contributor
1,513 posts
27 reviews
22 helpful votes
4. Re: Kayaking Wailua

You can rent it at the mouth of the river where you will park or at the hawaiian villiage and you will have a much shorter paddle . I found it very difficult to paddle upstream so my preferance would be to rent it at the hawaiian villiage .

Wailua, Hawaii
Level Contributor
336 posts
40 reviews
22 helpful votes
5. Re: Kayaking Wailua

Kauai Hiker,

ok.. so I love a good research project.

I have looked all over the net, and I can't find anything to support or oppose the concept of Kayaking to the Fern Grotta. There are many companies that advertise kayaking to the Fern Grotto, but none that I have found indicate anything regarding the parking issue. What I have been told personally by Smith's Landing employee's is that they don't want the Kayak tied up to the actual landing, but that kayaker's are more than welcome to tie off at land, and visit the Fern Grotto.

I have done this many times, and have never had a problem.

David

salt lake city
Level Contributor
241 posts
25 reviews
7 helpful votes
6. Re: Kayaking Wailua

What was the name of the company, from the "Hawaiian village" to rent a double kayak for the river? How does one get to the village? I am very interested in going unguided up the river, but need to rent a kayak. Thanks.

Wailua, Hawaii
Level Contributor
336 posts
40 reviews
22 helpful votes
7. Re: Kayaking Wailua

Kamokila Hawaiian Village -

web url is www.villagekauai.com

Kayak's start @ $35.00, not sure what a double would run... that's unguided for the day. Turn up the hill, away from the ocean, on Kuamoo Rd. Go 2 miles to Opaeka' falls. There is a drive on the left side of the road, just past the overlook. Follow the road down into the village.

Note: I am pretty certain that kayaks are cheaper at the mouth of the river. Pretty sure they are about $25.00. It will add about a 1/2 hour to the trip up, and about 45 minutes to the trip back vs. starting at the village. They offer unguided as well.

Edited: 10:44 pm, May 14, 2015
Wailua
Level Contributor
1,958 posts
1 review
6 helpful votes
8. Re: Kayaking Wailua

They changed the kayak rental concession license in the Wailua River State Park about 8-10 years ago, and I attended some meetings where this was explained. My understanding was that any kayaks under the concession (so either guided or unguided) were prohibited from landing at the fern grotto. The change was only about the number of kayaks and concessionaires, the no-grotto rule seemed to be in place before and after the changes. There were also rules such as no kayak rentals on Sunday. I remember renting an unguided kayak with visiting family around that time and receiving a map showing access to the waterfall trail on the north fork, and some sort of X on the fern grotto.

The idea at the time was twofold (and this is my interpretation):

- Give the Smith's boats an exclusive concession to the fern grotto, whether expressly or de facto.

- Avoid problems at the fern grotto docks, which are made only for the Smith's boats and not for kayakers. If all kayaks were allowed there, you can imagine one or two badly docked kayaks blocking the barges every day.

Like I said, these were old rules and maybe they've changed. Or maybe it just became common practice and kayaks are docked out of the way and so Smith's doesn't care. For the kayak renters to advertise the grotto, I would think the regulations must've changed--otherwise they are seriously breaking their concession license.

Note that everything I've mentioned here applies to rental kayaks originating at the Wailua Marina or public launching ramp on the north side of the river. There is some controversy over whether the Kamokila village which has it's own private dock ought to be allowed to rent out kayaks without a concession and it's rules--so that is a gray area. And finally, these rules do not apply to private kayaks, which also includes the kayaks that belong to condos for the use of their guests. As long as private kayaks stay out of the way of boats, including the boat dock at the grotto, they can go anywhere anytime on the river. This is why all kayaks should tie up on the roots or trees next to the cement docks at the grotto landing.

All this is regulated by the DLNR through the division of State Parks, so you'd have to call and enquire with them about the current rules and regulations. If you find anything, please share the details here.

P.S. Just because you do something many times and don't have a problem doesn't mean you should encourage an activity that you don't know to be sanctioned, especially on the Internet. That how things become a problem and then closed by authorities.

Edited: 8:12 pm, May 15, 2015
Wailua, Hawaii
Level Contributor
336 posts
40 reviews
22 helpful votes
9. Re: Kayaking Wailua

KauaiHiker,

I completely agree with the P.S. I'll make sure we get accurate information for our tourists here! I have always used private kayaks, personally... and would never have anticipated this type of problem for the tourists. I've been living here for 6 years, and never heard that until you mentioned it here... so Thanks!.

Wailua, Hawaii
Level Contributor
336 posts
40 reviews
22 helpful votes
10. Re: Kayaking Wailua

All,

I just verified with the Kauai District Office, DLNR State Parks division (boating division deferred question to State Parks Division), that all private and public kayaks, guided and/or unguided can tie off to the right side of the Smith's Boat Docks, and tour the Fern Grotta.