Kayaking in Hanalei

Just one day after plantation tubing, the group and I headed right back out for some all-day kayaking. This time, we didn't have a scheduled time or any guides. We wanted to go out, explore, and move along at our own pace. One of our tubing guides, Kalana, actually recommended the Hanalei River. Its calm waters allow for an easy paddle, which was perfect for the members of our group who weren't very experienced nor quite ready to handle sea-kayaking. We spent a few hours out on the water, enjoying the sunshine and scenery!

When you drive into the small town of Hanalei, Kayak Kaua'i will be one of the first establishments you notice. It's marked by a wooden sign, and the teal exterior is easily recognizable. This rental & lessons business was founded by two brothers in 1984. Chino & Micco Godinez were born in Cuba, but raised in Puerto Rico. They have extensive experience in paddling, camping, hiking, and surfing, and they're also very familiar with Kaua'i's peaks, valleys, rivers, and coastlines. As a matter of fact, the two brothers have even paddled the entire length of the Hawaiian chain, going from the Big Island to Kaua'i & Ni'ihau. If you want to spend a considerable amount of time kayaking, I would suggest coming to Kayak Kaua'i. Basic Singles are only $29, and Basic Doubles are $54. All rentals, which also include stand up paddle boards, are for 24 hours. You can go on your merry way without a worry in the world. Or, in the event that you finish up at Hanalei quicker than you expected, spend the rest of your kayaks' rental time at a different river, such as Wailua River. Kayak Kaua'i has racks conveniently available for transportation on your car rooftop.

Photo Courtesy of Talking Story
Renting was as easy as paying and signing the waiver forms. We also rented a resealable dry-bag to put towels, wallets, etc. inside. (Oh...and DON'T FORGET YOUR WATERPROOF CAMERA! I learned my lesson after tubing.) Then, we picked up our life jackets/oars and walked over to the dock only yards away. The staff member there helps you launch your kayak into the creek that leads to the actual river. It's as simple as sitting in the kayak and letting him push you down into the inlet. As long as there isn't a long line, the creek is a nice practice stretch for you and your paddling partner. Get on the same page as far as rhythm goes. (These tandem kayaks aren't called "divorce boats" for nothing! LOL)

The Hanalei River is perfectly calm. This is why it's perfect for non-guided travelers, as well as any members in your group who have little-to-no experience! Alternatively, braving the Na Pali coastline and that ocean surf is much more difficult. I was paired with Uncle Alex and Auntie Jocelyn's son, Alexi. As we were the youngest and most experienced, I'm glad it worked out that way. We had no problems whatsoever paddling together, all day.

In fact, we got so far ahead of our parents that we had to stop a couple of times to wait up for them. We'd paddle over to a shady tree and use rope on our kayak to tie down. The best part was being able to just sunbathe and dip my legs & feet in the water. It was a hot day, so the brisk river was the perfect temperature to keep cool.

We decided to head upstream first, instead of towards the ocean, so the first mile of our journey ran alongside the highway. Road noise was practically non-existent, though, and we weren't distracted in the least. After the one-lane Hanalei Bridge, the highway was a non-factor. It was just you and the foliage.

The banks of the river were lined with tall grass, flowering trees, and palm trees. I even spotted a turtle perched on some driftwood! We passed the taro fields, as well. While there's no where to dock, get out, and hike around, you're immersed in gorgeous views from start to finish.

Here's another photo of Alexi and me waiting on our parents. ;) The mountains in the background might not seem like much through the lens of a disposable Kodak, but in reality, they towered majestically all around us. Everywhere you looked, it was deep, jewel-toned blues and greens.

The farther we went, the more narrow and shallow the river got. Sometimes, fallen trees would be partially submerged in the middle of the river. We had some fun navigating past the protruding branches. Before we turned around, we anchored under a large tree to take some photos, indulge in the terrain, and of course, SWIM! Afterwards, we returned to the dock to take a lunch break.

We walked into the main town to grab a bite to eat. I was actually starving, so a lunch plate absolutely hit the spot. The classic, Hawaiian lunch plate always has a couple scoops of rice, a couple scoops of macaroni salad, and the meat of your choice. I had a mini-plate of teriyaki steak to go with my garlic shrimp. With a can of Aloha Maid Pass-O-Guava, it was the perfect mid-day meal. (Those mountains! I couldn't get enough of the view of those mountains!)

We returned to the dock after leisurely walking back from town. This time, we were going to paddle in the opposite direction, towards the bay. We passed small cottages and anchored motorboats on the way out to Hanalei Bay. One larger house actually had a huge flatscreen set up in their lanai (outdoor patio)...Dream home alert!

When we finally reached the bay, once again, the views did not disappoint...Sailboats floating near the shoreline, the old Hanalei Pier, and the prestigious peaks...This beautiful setting is known for its roles in films like the time-honored South Pacific and critically-acclaimed The Descendents.

Next, we cruised a little farther out and stopped just short of the St. Regis Princeville Resort. Tucked underneath a tree, we actually napped, just talked, and then went for another swim. Looking out at the ocean was the only way to end the day, so we headed back out on the kayaks, lingered in the bay, and watched one of the famous "Bali Hai" sunsets. Although we'd all been paddling for the last few hours, each of us were as relaxed as ever. This moment was the big payoff at the end of a long day. If you ever make your way out to the North Shore, rent yourself a kayak, row down Hanalei River, and end the day on the bay! Worth every penny and then some.