The 5 Best Kauai Kayak Tours [2024 Reviews]

By now, we pretty much all know that Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. While each island is stunning, Kauai is perhaps known for being a step ahead of the rest when it comes to natural beauty and dramatic scenery.

Known as “the Garden Island” by many, it’s best seen by both air and water. We highly recommend taking a kayak tour if you want to really immerse yourself in a different way.

We’ve taken on the “challenging” part ourselves, to answer the question: what are the best kayak tours in Kauai? We know you’re eager to read all about them, so let’s dive right in!

Be sure to see our reviews of NaPali Coast Boat Tours, Kauai Luaus and Kauai Helicopter Tours.

Best Kayak Tours in Kauai

Guided Kayak Adventure on the Wailua RiverHanalei Bay Kayak & Snorkel TourWailua River Kayak and Sacred Fall Hike Adventure
editors choice
Departure:4-484 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa5-5070A, Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei3-5971 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa
Start:7:45 AM, 8:45 AM8:00 AM7:45 AM
Duration:6 hours5 hours5 hours
Includes:Ocean Zest Kayaks, PFD (Life jackets), Water Resistant Dry Bag, State-Certified Guides, Small Day CoolersLunch, use of snorkeling equipment, water-resistant dry bags, snacks, bottled water, double/tandem kayaks required (single kayaks provided for odd numbered groups)State-certified guides, lunch, snacks Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), double sit on top kayak, water-resistant bags, walking sticks, provide cold filtered water at store location

Tour Information & Booking

Tour Information & Booking

Tour Information & Booking

Quick Answer: The 5 Best Rated Kauai Kayak Tours For 2024

  1. Guided Kayak Adventure on the Wailua River
  2. Hanalei Bay Kayak & Snorkel Tour
  3. Wailua River Kayak and Sacred Fall Hike Adventure
  4. Hidden Valley Falls Kayak and Kauai Hike Adventure
  5. Wailua River and Secret Falls Kayak and Hiking Tour on Kauai

Kauai Kayak Tour Reviews

1. Guided Kayak Adventure on the Wailua River

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Departure: 4-484 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa
  • Departure Time: 7:45 AM, 8:45 AM
  • Includes: Ocean Zest Kayaks, PFD (Life jackets), Water Resistant Dry Bag, State-Certified Guides, Small Day Coolers

How does adventuring around Kauai while hearing insight into the history of the land from a native Hawaiian sound? It’s always a great time when fun and education go hand-in-hand, and that’s exactly what you get with our first tour.

The Guided Kayak Adventure on the Wailua River Tour is perfect for travelers young and old, who just want to experience a different side of Hawaii.

This 6-hour tour starts early in the morning, where you’ll meet your guide at the launch point near the Wailua River. At this point, they’ll provide everyone with a kayak, paddle, and life vest while offering a safety briefing so the group is all on the same page.

Should you need to store any personal items, you can use a dry bag that they provide to keep them safe.

As you start paddling around, following your guide, you’ll learn all about the surrounding scenery. Deep green jungles, impressive volcanic peaks, and even traditional village huts are just some of the interesting things you’ll see along the way.

As you pass the Kamokila Village, your guide will tell you all about the native Hawaiians’ history and how they used the river for over a thousand years.

Paddling can get tiring, so take a break to check out the rain forest up close and personal with a hike to the Ulewehi Waterfall! Standing over 100 feet tall, you’ll be able to get some of the best views from the nearby cliffs.

If you want to cool off, you can even recharge with a dip in a refreshing jungle pool before heading back to your kayak.

More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience

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2. Hanalei Bay Kayak & Snorkel Tour

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Departure: 5-5070A, Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei
  • Departure Time: 8:00 AM
  • Includes: Lunch, use of snorkeling equipment, water-resistant dry bags, snacks, bottled water, double/tandem kayaks required (single kayaks provided for odd numbered groups)

If the last tour sounded like fun, but you’d like a little more of an in-depth water experience we have just the ticket. The Hanalei Bay is the largest on the north shore of Kauai, known for its peaceful ambience and picturesque views.

With the Hanalei Bay Kayak & Snorkel Tour, you’ll get to know it literally from the inside, out! This 5-hour tour starts out at 8 am, so you’ll have enough time to grab breakfast or coffee beforehand.

Once you meet your guide and the rest of your group, you’ll receive a safety briefing and have any questions answered about using the kayaking and snorkeling equipment. Then, you’ll take off into the river from their private dock and follow your guide safely downstream.

As you paddle along, appreciate the rich greenery all around you. You’ll even be able to see some Hawaiian Green Seat Turtles and learn all about these beautiful local animals and their importance to local culture.

You’ll then get out at a beautiful beach and take a breather before donning snorkeling gear (you can bring your own or be fitted to a full set) to check out everything under the surface of this picture-perfect bay.

Your guide will share all kinds of fun facts, anecdotes, and even more sophisticated reef ecology/facts. They’ll point out what to look out for regarding all sea life and answer any further inquiries you may have.

Afterward, you’ll all get to relax with a full deli-style lunch and talk about this amazing experience!

More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience

3. Wailua River Kayak and Sacred Fall Hike Adventure

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Departure: 3-5971 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa
  • Departure Time: 7:45 AM
  • Includes: State-certified guides, lunch, snacks Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), double sit on top kayak, water-resistant bags, walking sticks, provide cold filtered water at store location

Take a trip into the center of the rainforest, past waterfalls, and trace the steps of legendary Polynesians who created a colorful history full of stories. This next tour is one of the most popular, including everything you need for a morning full of fun and learning.

The Wailua River Kayak and Sacred Fall Hike Adventure is exciting, educational, and one you’re sure to want to repeat!  Starting at 7:45 am, this 5-hour tour will have you back around lunchtime, so you have plenty of time to do other activities in the afternoon.

Once you arrive, your state-certified guide will ensure everyone has proper equipment at the ready. The guides are all local to the area and very well-versed in its history and culture.

The Wailua River is sacred to the natives, and you’ll have the chance to pass by 7 ancient temple sites as you paddle downstream. The kayaking is easy enough that people of just about any activity level can partake. However, you can also choose to do a tandem kayak trip with a partner, which can make it even more fun!

You’ll then have some time to rest your arms and stretch your legs by hiking through a tropical forest to a towering waterfall. As you explore the depths of this serene location, listen to the birds chirping and the sound of the water in the distance.

The native flora and fauna are endless, and your guide will point out specific species, offering educational commentary along the way. After all that effort, you’ll be provided with a delicious picnic lunch while soaking in all the natural beauty.

More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience

4. Hidden Valley Falls Kayak and Kauai Hike Adventure

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 3.5 hours
  • Departure: 2494 Niumalu Rd, Lihue
  • Departure Time: 9:30 AM
  • Includes: Deluxe two-person kayak, cold bottled water, local taxes

Perhaps you’re on the search for a tour that isn’t quite as long, yet still offers the opportunity to explore Kauai’s enchanting natural beauty. Venture by secluded pools, thundering waterfalls, calm-water jungle streams, and more.

The Hidden Valley Falls Kayak and Kauai Hike Adventure is unmatched if you’re looking to bring along the entire family!  Lasting 3.5 hours and starting at 9:30 am, it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule and won’t wear you out like some of the other tours can.

This makes it great for little ones, or those who want something more relaxing. With a deluxe 2-person kayak as your means of transportation for the morning, it’s much easier to paddle when you’re sharing the task with another person.

Once you meet with your professional guide, you’ll be outfitted with all safety equipment and given a briefing. Set off into the Hule’ia National Wildlife Refuge, offering a secure habitat for endangered Hawaiian water birds.

Next to it is the Alekoko Fishpond, which is an absolutely fascinating archaeological site displaying the aquaculture techniques of ancient Hawaiians.

As you explore, enjoy breathtaking views of the striking Haupu mountain range which is not only impressively tall but has many interesting stories behind it. Your guide will point out the 2000-foot shield volcano that towers over the river below.

After your kayaking, start off on a 1.5-mile walk through a beautiful rainforest. Your destination is Hidden Falls, but along the way you’ll see plenty of gorgeous sites while learning about the Blockbuster movies filmed here and the history of the inhabitants from long ago.

Enjoy some refreshing beverages and tasty snacks before heading back in a double-hulled, powered canoe.

More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience

5. Wailua River and Secret Falls Kayak and Hiking Tour on Kauai

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Departure: 4-361 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa
  • Departure Time: 7:00 AM, 12:45 PM
  • Includes: Professional guide, all activities, all taxes, fees and handling charges, use of backpack style dry bag

If you’re interested in learning about Hawaii’s wildlife, history, legends, and more, you’re in the right place. The Wailua River and Secret Falls Kayak and Hiking Tour on Kauai offers all that, and more!

You’ll be able to see parts of Kauai that few tourists get to see, with a local guide to show you all the hidden gems! This tour does involve quite a bit of physical activity, but if you’re okay with easy-to-moderate hiking and paddling, you’ll be just fine.

Start off by meeting your guide, where they’ll give you and your party a paddling lesson and ensure everyone feels confident before starting on the adventure.

Head down ethereal waterways through the middle of the lush greenery and colossal mountains as you listen to your guide’s interesting stories.

They’ll not only share their personal anecdotes, but plenty of info about the local flora and fauna, Hawaiian history, supernatural happenings, and other cool stuff! Stretch those legs with a tranquil nature walk on your way to Secret Falls.

Breathe in the cool air, take photos of the waterfalls, animals, and unique plants as your guide leads the way.  One of the highlights of the hike is seeing and learning some of the royal Hawaiian monarchy along with their family who lived here.

There are plenty of opportunities for photos, and you’ll also get to take a dip in a cool pool after all that hiking! Seeing the Secret Waterfall alone is worth it, but the entire experience is fantastic from the very beginning.

More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience

Your Guide to Vacationing in Kauai

When planning any vacation, it is important to know the details about where you are going so that you are well-prepared. Figuring things out last minute, or when you actually arrive, can mean disaster for your trip and that’s the last thing you need. Here is some valuable information about Kauai that may make planning your vacation easier.

Best Kayak Tours in Kauai


Getting Around in Kauai

If you plan on seeing more of the island than just the immediate area around the resort you are staying at and a few select tours or attractions, you may want to plan on renting a vehicle. However, if your hotel or resort is centrally located around an area with a lot of the attractions you wish to visit, you will probably want to save the money on the rental car and just use a taxi or even rent a scooter or other cheaper methods of travel.

Staying Safe in Kauai

Kauai has relatively low crime rates and is generally considered a safe place to travel. However, as with any tourist destination, you always want to take precautions when traveling to protect yourself. It’s important not to show off flashy jewelry or expensive cameras. Always have your identification on you in case you are injured or sick and need to get medical help. And always keep your wits about you – don’t drink too much so you can keep your bearings at all times.

Because Kauai is an island, there are a lot of beaches to swim and many Na Pali boat tours. Don’t swim on secluded beaches unless you are familiar with the tides. When swimming at popular beaches, always be aware of lifeguards and obey their rules and instructions. When on Kauai snorkel tours, your captain and crew will brief you with safety instructions and it is important to follow these at all times.

Traveling in the time of Covid

Like many other destinations worldwide, tours and visitor attractions in Kauai have adopted special procedures.

Wearing a mask in mandatory in many locations. You will be expected to supply your own mask and wear it when you enter public buildings.

Keep your distance from other visitors who are not in your family group or bubble. You will be expected to keep your distance inside minibuses and other vehicles and when seated in restaurants.

At the time of writing, the State of Hawaii welcomes visitors but requires pre-travel testing for Covid-19. You can obtain the most up-to-date information directly from the State of Hawaii Portal.

Eco-Tourism and Sustainability in Kauai

The Hawaiian Archipelago offers many areas of outstanding natural beauty and protected wildlife areas you can explore. In order to maintain this wonderful place for future generations, many of the local tour companies operate eco-friendly tours.

When considering the tours we review on the World Travel Guides website, note that there are often eco-friendly options that empower you to become a more sustainable traveler. This is especially true around the islands of Hawaii. Take care of our world and it will take care of our children.

Communicating in Kauai

English is the official language of Hawaii. However, Hawaii is home to many cultures and you will probably run into both locals and tourists that speak many other languages. Pidgin English is the local language of Kauai. You can also hear Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and Portuguese. Native Hawaiians appreciate Hawaiian words and locations being pronounced correctly so if you don’t know how to say something, it is best to ask. A local guide can help you as well.

What to Pack When Vacationing in Kauai

The atmosphere is very casual in Kauai. You can wear shorts even when dining at a restaurant but if you are wearing a swimsuit, be sure to wear a coverup or shirt over it. Many people wear slippers even to dine out at a restaurant as it is part of the customary “dress code” of the island; however, some places may require close toed shoes. If you are coming from one of the many Kauai snorkel tours, you will want to make sure you are covered up appropriately with an Aloha shirt or cover up as well as dry shorts and slippers or shoes.

Interesting Facts About Kauai

The highest point on the Kauai island is Kawaikini Peak and the whole island is only 552 square miles. This makes it a relatively small island. Its state bird is the Nene and the “island color” is purple. The state flower that represents Kauai is the Mokihana which can be found abundantly in the tropical forests that cover most of the island.

Get Ready to Have Fun in Kauai!

Kauai is one of those places that must be seen and experienced to really appreciate. Its beauty is unique and cannot be surpassed except by other Hawaii locations which offer similar beauty but always different. You cannot see the stunning cliffs or unique tropical forests unique to this island anywhere else.

So, pack your bags and get ready to enjoy a whole new world at your resort, on beautiful beaches, and of course, on your Kauai snorkel tours!

Kauai Things To Do

Kauai is an island paradise with many things to do. We will cover a few of them here:

Kayaking: The Wailua River is a beautiful and easy kayak paddle. There are quite a few guided kayak tours available that combine a hike to the famous “Sacred Falls”

Helicopter Ride: A great way to take in the Garden Island is from the air with a helicopter tour. You will get to see many areas of the island that you can’t see any other way because they are off limits.

Luau: The traditional Polynesian luau is a great way to not only have a great meal with entertainment but also learn about the Hawaiian culture.

Zipline: Going ziplining through the treetops is not only a great adrenaline rush but an awesome way to see the flora and wildlife in the treetops that you would never get to see!

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The Guided Kayak Adventure on the Wailua River is our Editor's Choice for the best Kauai kayaking tour

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Robert Baker

Robert is a content writer and editor at World Guides to Travel where he shares his love for the great outdoors. He also writes in-depth travel blogs for other websites around the world. Robert is passionate about the environment and uses his writing to educate people about the advantages and importance of sustainable living. Robert enjoys creative writing. In 2009, his children’s novel Sally Hemings & the Good Associates won the Children’s Fiction section of the You Write On Book of the Year Award.
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