Kayaking the Wailua River to Secret Falls (that aren’t so secret)

On day four of our awesome trip to Kaua’i, we decided to kayak and hike to the Secret Falls. Originally, we planned to see the Nā Pali coast, but since it was too windy, we had to change our plans. So we grabbed our swimsuits and sunscreen and headed to the river, which is on the east side of the island.

There are numerous rental agencies in this area, from which you can rent kayaks or stand up paddle boards (SUPs), but we went with Wailua Kayak and Canoe. The service was less than desirable, but the proximity to the river made it worth it, since we didn’t have to load and unload anything. We simply took the kayak on little wheels and walked them to the ramp. After we got them in the water, we simply rolled the wheels back and were on our way.

Me with the kayak

The kayaking takes about 45 minutes and is actually easier on the way there than on the way back because of the wind, but the river itself hardly moves. On both the way up and the way down, you stay on the east side of the river, since ferries come by every now and then, hosting hoards of tourists wanting to see falls and the fern grotto, which is apparently super pretty but was something we didn’t get the chance to see. The ferries, while a bit loud, aren’t frequent enough to completely disturb the beauty of the place around you and it is easy to enjoy all the beautiful scenery. The river takes you to a fork, in which you stay left and continue all the way up until you see a sand bar full of kayaks. Here is where you drop your kayak or SUP and begin the hiking portion. I would take a picture of your kayak’s number, since there are so many there.

Only a small portion of all the kayaks

Once you’ve hoisted your kayak onto shore, the trail begins! Through the first part, there is tons of tall grasses (almost feels like a maze!) and a relatively dry trail. Depending on the time of day, you might cross paths with people leaving. Some may offer you a walking stick and if you aren’t completely sure-footed, you should take it! The trail will get progressively more slippery as you travel farther.

After the grass, there is a river to cross. The water is neither deep nor strong, but it’s a good idea to hang onto the rope anyway. On our way back, we slipped and almost lost all of our phones, so be careful!

The path takes you alongside the river, which allows for excellent views! At some places it is wide enough for two people side by side, but in others, it is pretty thin and requires some patience. Most of the hike is pretty level, with only a few uphill spots at the end. One review we read before going was saying that this is not a hike to take your grandma on, but we took ours and she did totally fine. Another thing they tell you is to stop avoiding the mud and just go for it, which is fantastic advice. If you keep trying to stay out, it is even more slippery and you are almost guaranteed to fall. That being said, pack sandals you can wash, rather than tennis shoes.

Our legs after wallowing through the trail.

The closer you get to the falls, the more beautiful the scenery is. As you continue by the river, lots of little water falls and big trees become more and more common. There are two more spots where you have to go through water, but these were warmly welcomed because it gave opportunity for us to wash our legs off. Sometimes, the guides and tour groups stop here, but if you give it enough time, there are opportunities for gorgeous photos.

One of the smaller waterfalls

Even though the trek there is pretty, the grand finale is easily Secret Falls. After a brief uphill climb, the trees will open up to a massive waterfall that has a little area to swim in. There will be people gathered around here but there is plenty of space to take photos and enjoy the waters. If you are on your own schedule, here would be a great place for a picnic (remember pack it in, pack it out!) and enjoy the views. If you are lucky, one of the guides brought his ukulele and was playing some tunes, which created a magical atmosphere. Luckily, there are no helicopter tours here, so you may enjoy the nature without any distracting noise.

Secret Falls

Hiking back down isn’t much different from hiking up; just make sure not to slip on the mud. Make sure to hand off your walking stick if you grabbed one and enjoy the wilderness around you as you go. This hike and kayak sessions was one of my favorite things we did while in Kaua’i and would be fun for people of most ages and physical abilities (if you are ok with falling in mud, you are good!). It offered splendid views of the “garden island” and its natural beauty and is something I will never forget!

All of us after the hike

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