January 21, 2014
The range of water-based activities on Kauai run the gamut from a serene upriver paddleboard jaunt to the thrill of a high-horsepowered zodiac or a gruelling 16-mile kayak odyssey.
If you’re thinking of booking a holiday in Kauai, you’ve probably already read about the stunning 4,000-foot cliffs and backcountry hiking along the Napali Coast. What most don’t get to see are the sea caves that form at the bottom of these cliffs, which are entirely inaccessible by land. You’ve essentially got two options””both of which should be achieved with knowledgeable guides. A sea kayak will surely test your stamina (as well as sea worthiness) while a Zodiac (rubber, inflated raft powered by twin engines) is the most exciting, exhilarating ride you’re ever likely to find.
Once inside the caves, which are no small feat to enter – sea walls consist of razor sharp reef and rock – tranquil “rooms” with varying degrees of filtered light offer a truly serene contrast to your pre-arrival jaunt. Waiahuakua Sea Cave is the largest, with a big payoff inside (spoiler alert: there’s an underground waterfall). Napali Riders, Outfitters Kauai and Captain Andy’s Sailing Adventures, will all take you there.
Those who wish for a slightly more tranquil, civilized excursion can sail the 17-miles west of Kauai to Niihau, the smallest of Hawaii’s inhabited islands, which is off-limits to anyone but its 200 Native Hawaiian residents. However, various charter boats will take you to the waters offshore, which teem with marine life such as green sea turtles, dolphins, and a colourful collection of fish. You can snorkel at various reefs along the way, and more than likely find a vessel that offers a tasty onboard BBQ lunch or sunset cocktails. Holo Holo Charters is one such option.
Anyone seeking something a little less wavey can head inland, up the Wailua River, which snakes 20 miles into the island’s interior and passes numerous historic sites. On the slow, easy paddle you’ll view remnants of an ancient heiau (temple) that dates to 1000 AD, former plots inhabited by the ruling Kings and Queens of Kauai (up until 1820s), and even a rock wall and pond built by menehune (tiny, mischievous and mythical men that can be likened to Hawaii’s version of the leprechaun). Regardless, guides (such as Wailua River Guides) will have no shortage of legend and lore to share on this low-key adventure.
If you’re wondering what the long, paddled vessels with a seemingly tied-on float or arm (called the “˜ama’) are, those are outrigger canoes. Various people participate in regular outrigger canoe clubs, be they competitive, channel-traversing feats of strength, or simply an opportunity for after-work conditioning. The ties to ancient Polynesian voyagers provide a friendly link for those who reside in the islands today, regardless of their roots. Many hotels and resorts offer an outrigger experience – check with your concierge for one nearby.
Header photo: Kayaking on the aquamarine waters of Kauai © Dana Edmunds for Hawaii Tourism Authority
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Written by Brian Berusch