Wailua River & Uluwehi Falls (Secret Falls)

Wailua River & Uluwehi Falls (Secret Falls)

Suitable for:
Active travellers, nature lovers, couples
Insider tip or tourist spot?
Rather unknown and little going on
Insider Tip
Time needed:
4 hours
Optimal arrival time:
08:30 o' clock
Suitable for:
Active travellers, nature lovers, couples
Insider tip or tourist spot?
Rather unknown and little going on
Insider Tip
Time needed:
4 hours
Optimal arrival time:
08:30 o' clock

Profile of the hike

Distance total:
4,15 Kilometer
Distance uphill
0,74 Kilometer
Distance downhill
1,04 Kilometer
Altitude meters uphill
67 Meter
Altitude meters downhill
- 67 Meter

Wailua River & Uluwehi Falls (Secret Falls) - description

The Wailuā River is a river on the island of Kauai. It rises at Mount Waiʻaleʻale and is the only navigable river in Hawaii. However, there are mainly kayaks that can be found there.

The 32-kilometre-long river, which once flowed past seven different Heiau (temples), has its origin in the centre of the island on Mount Waialeale, which is over 1,500 meters high. The Wailua River includes two popular waterfalls: Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls. You can explore the scenic river by kayak, SUP board or boat. Boat tours are also available. In addition to that, there are guided trips to Fern Grotto, a cave made of natural lava rock. This romantic area is also a popular spot for weddings. You can also see the Nounou Mountains, a mountain range between Wailua and Kapaa that resembles a human figure lying on its back and is therefore called the Sleeping Giant.

You can also see the river from your car. To do so, follow Kuamoo Road (Hwy. 580) coming from Kuhio Highway (Hwy. 56) along the north bank of the river inland. 

In 1946, a Hawaiian named Walter Smith Sr. came up with the idea of offering boat trips on the Wailua River. It all started with a borrowed motor and a small rowboat. He took interested tourists along the beautiful scenery to a huge grotto covered with ferns (Fern Grotto).

The company became a success story and today, almost 70 years later, the boat business is run by the fourth generation of descendants. The small rowing boat turned into large professional open-air boats and the fern-covered grotto in the heart of the Wailua Marina State Parksis one of the most popular destinations for Kauai tourists today.

The tour is still run by Smith's today. The whole trip takes about 1.5 hours and costs 20$ for adults and 10$ for children. Boats depart daily at 9:30 am, 11:00 am, 2:00 pm or 3:30 pm.

To be honest, you have to like the cheesy factor of the boat trip. On the "Journey of Songs and Legends", there is hula dancing, romantic singing and ancient Hawaiian stories. So it's much nicer to rent a kayak to explore the river and waterfalls by yourself.

What we say

I am a big fan of self-exploration. You have more time, are not bound and can discover and linger in your own way. I have already done this kayak tour twice because it is so beautiful. You can rent a kayak at "Kamokila Hawaiian Village" for 35$ and explore the river on your own. After 30 minutes of paddling, you will reach a small forest with a dock, from where you can hike about 45 minutes to Uluwehi Falls (also known as Secret Falls). It is recommended to bring hiking sandals. The path follows through beautiful nature along the Wailua River and you also have to cross the river (there are ropes for assistance). The waterfalls are beautiful (but often well visited). You can also take a bath in the pool of the waterfalls. If you like wakeboarding, you should treat yourself to expensive fun (100$ for 30 minutes) in the evening sun around 4:00 pm. A pleasure of the unforgettable kind.
Our checklist & tips:
  • Exploring the Wailua River on your own
  • Rent kayaks at "Kamokila Hawaiian Village"
  • Start early to avoid big tourist crowds
  • The earlier the start the more time you have at Uluwehi Falls.
  • Visit the village, which was the setting for the Hollywood movie "Outbreak" with Dustin Hoffman
  • Bring hiking sandals, a picnic and water
  • Wakeboarding on the Wailua River

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Map and contact data

Kamokila Village, Unnamed Road, Kapaa, HI 96746
Longitude: -159.3608606395049
Latitude: 22.042853982269186

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