Wailua River Kauai | Go Hawaii

Wailua River


Wailua River Kauaʻi

What: Kauaʻi’s largest navigable river
Where: About 15 minutes north of Līhuʻe, on Kauaʻi’s East Side

The tranquil Wailua River weaves by gorgeous waterfalls and lush, jungle landscapes along the island’s East Side. Kauaʻi has the only navigable rivers in Hawaiʻi, and the Wailua River is the largest.

The 20-mile long river, that once wove through the settings of seven different heiau (temples), flows from the 5,148-foot Mount Waiʻaleʻale in the center of the island. The Wailua River feeds two popular and accessible waterfalls: ʻŌpaekaʻa Falls and Wailua Falls. The scenic river itself can be explored by kayak, SUP or outrigger canoe, and a boat tour is also available. Open-air boats also offer guided tours of the Fern Grotto, a natural lava rock cave sheltered by draping ferns. This romantic area is a popular wedding venue. Also look for the Nounou Mountains (Sleeping Giant), a formation on a mountain ridge between Wailua and Kapaʻa that looks like a human figure lying on its back.

You can also see the river by car. Take Kuamoʻo Road (Hwy. 580), which goes inland along the north side of the river from Kūhiō Highway (Hwy. 56). You'll want to take in the special and sacred landmarks along the way, including heiau (temples), historical sites, ʻŌpaekaʻa Falls and the Keāhua Arboretum.