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borderkauai imagesWailua River

Wailua River, Kauai

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Quick Facts

  • Name: Wailua River
  • Where: About 15 minutes north of Lihue, on Kauai’s East Side
  • What: One of Kauai’s most popular navigable rivers

East Side

The tranquil Wailua River weaves by gorgeous waterfalls and lush, jungle landscapes along the island’s East Side. Kauai has the only navigable rivers in Hawaii, and the Wailua River is one of the most popular.

The 20-mile long river, that once wove through the settings of seven different heiau (temples), flows from the 5,148-foot Mount Waialeale in the center of the island. The Wailua River features two popular and accessible waterfalls: Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls. The scenic river itself can be explored by kayak 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 Kapaa that looks like a human figure lying on its back.

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