Planning a trip to Kauai and thinking about a waterfall hike? Consider Secret Falls Kauai!
One of the most popular excursions in Kauai (on par with boat tours of the Na Pali Coast or helicopter tours over Kauai) is a guided kayak plus hiking tour to Secret Falls.
The Secret Falls kayak tour in Kauai is a super fun half-day adventure for moderately active visitors to the island, and it’s also a relatively less expensive excursion if you are visiting Kauai on a budget.
Secret Falls is actually one of the most-visited waterfalls in Kauai, so it’s not much of a secret. Officially Uluwehi Falls, this waterfall is located in the Wailua River Basin on the east side of Kauai.
Visiting Uluwehi Falls is one of the top things to do in Wailua River State Park.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know to enjoy the Secret Falls kayak tour, which includes kayaking the Wailua River and hiking through lush rainforest. The journey is as exciting as the destination!
Hey, by the way! Visiting Kauai? The only way to get a real feel for the rugged beauty of this incredible island is through a helicopter tour! Check out the five highest rated Kauai helicopter tours for 2024!
And now, let’s get started with our guide to the Secret Falls kayak plus hike!
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Just looking for the best Secret Falls kayak and hike tour? This highly-rated tour is our top choice, with two start times (7 a.m. and 12.45 p.m.) and a 5-star rating with 900+ reviews.
>> Check pricing and availability on this Secret Falls tour now!
What to Expect on the Secret Falls Kayak + Hike in Kauai
The most common way to visit Secret Falls in Kauai is on a guided kayak + hike tour. And at the end of the hike, if conditions permit, you can even cool off with a swim under the waterfall if you choose!
Your excursion begins with a paddle up the scenic Wailua River, the largest navigable river in Kauai (and, indeed, in all of Hawaii). The river is fringed with lush rainforest on both banks, and you may see water birds as you paddle.
Since the kayak tour is guided, you’ll be accompanied by an experienced guide and receive a paddling lesson at the start, helpful if you are a kayaking novice, along with information on water safety.
The paddle is about 2 miles each way, and should take you about 45 minutes each way.
Once you secure your kayak at the end of the paddle, you will follow your guide on an exciting hike through the rainforest. The vegetation is incredibly lush, with every shade of green you can imagine, and every size of leaf.
The hike is about one mile each way, with an elevation gain of about 500 feet. It’s a low moderate hike when conditions are dry.
But if it has rained recently (a more than likely occurrence in east Kauai, especially in the winter months), the trail becomes super muddy and slick in places, making it more of a moderately challenging route.
There is a river crossing involved, and one of the advantages of a guided excursion is that your guide will know when it’s safe to cross.
Secret Falls plunges about 120 feet over a cliff into a lovely deep and large plunge pool below. Framed by lush green vegetation, Secret Falls makes for a great photo subject!
When conditions are right (as assessed by your guide), you can cool off from your paddle and hike with a nice swim in the cool waters beneath the waterfall.
For active visitors to Kauai, the Secret Falls kayaking and hiking tour is undoubtedly a highlight. We have done it twice now and enjoyed it both times!
Secret Falls Kauai Kayak + Hike Guided Tour
There are several outfitters that lead excursions to Secret Falls in Kauai. We’ve taken a couple of tours so far and found both to be quality excursions.
We like to book our tours on Viator, because you have the flexibility to pay close to your tour date, and most tours can be canceled up to 24 or 48 hours prior to the tour date.
This is very helpful because you can make the final determination to go or not based on weather closer to your activity date!
Top-Rated Secret Falls Kayak Tours
This highly-rated Secret Falls kayak tour lasts 5 hours. You will receive a paddling lesson at the start of the tour and be accompanied by an experienced guide.
The tour includes the kayak and other necessary equipment, as well as a backpack-style dry bag to keep your belongings from getting wet as you paddle or hike. It does not include drinking water, so be sure to bring your own.
There are two options for start time: 7 a.m., if you are an early riser, and 12.45 p.m. if you prefer an afternoon paddle and hike. We love the river early in the day and it’s also less windy in the morning.
Lunch is not included with this tour, but Kailua Town has several nice casual eateries that are perfect for an early lunch. Our favorite is Nalu Health Bar & Cafe. You can also get your lunch to go, to enjoy at the falls!
The tour starts and ends at 4-361 Kuhio Highway. You should be able to find parking nearby.
Check in is 30 minutes prior to the tour start time.
Kids 6 and older, accompanied by an adult, can join this tour.
We took the early morning option on this tour on one of our first trips to Kauai and thought it was very well managed. Currently, the tour has a 5-star rating on Viator with 900+ reviews.
Here’s what a recent participant had to say:
“This tour was a highlight of our visit to Kauai. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable about the island plants, animals, and birds. Plus, he was very funny and relatable for kids. The kayaking was gorgeous–2 miles each way was not strenuous. The hiking was also quite flat but very muddy so wear good shoes that can get wet. Everything about the tour was fun–good conversation, beautiful views, and one of the most stunningly beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Assume about 5 hours for the trip. We will return!“
— Eleanor (read more reviews)
It’s a popular tour that tends to sell out so book as soon as you know your date.
This well-reviewed Secret Falls tour lasts about 6 hours. There is only one start time offered, 7.45 a.m.
On this tour, you will be accompanied by an experienced guide, state certified for lifeguard, CPR, and first aid safety.
The tour includes all kayaking equipment, including double sit on top Ocean Zest kayaks, life jackets, water-resistant dry bags, and day coolers to store your light lunch.
Snacks and bottled water are also included, but you have to bring your own lunch if you’d like to eat at Uluwehi Falls.
The tour kiosk is located under the water tower in the Coconut Marketplace at 4-484 Kuhio Hwy. This is the start and end point for the tour.
Kids 5 and older, accompanied by an adult, are permitted on this tour, and the maximum number of participants is limited to 12 for a personalized experience.
As you paddle the placid Wailua River, take in the beautiful scenery, and look for the traditional huts of Kamokila Village. Hear about the ancient Hawaiians who once lived around the Wailua River.
This tour currently has a 5-star rating on Viator with over 900 reviews.
Here’s a recent review:
“Absolutely incredible day! From start to finish our guide Nathan was friendly, informative and kind. The kayaking and hike was the perfect length of time to feel like you got the experience without feeling overwhelmed. The falls were breathtaking and our guide made sure everyone got the pictures they wanted. Highly recommend to everyone.“
— David (read more reviews)
This Secret Falls Kayak Hike in Kauai lasts about 5 hours. One start time is offered, 10 a.m., perfect if you are driving from the north shore or you like a leisurely start to your day.
The tour includes the kayak, backrests, personal flotation devices, and paddles, and is led by an experienced guide familiar with the area.
Kids 5 and older accompanied by an adult are allowed on the tour, which has a maximum of 12 participants.
You’ll meet your guide in the parking lot at 180 Wailua Rd. Kapaa, HI 96746. Check-in is 30 minutes prior to the tour start time.
Lunch is not included, so bring your own. Also bring an adequate supply of drinking water.
This tour also has a 5-star rating on Viator, with close to 600 reviews.
Here is a review from a recent tour participant:
“The hike and seeing the falls was the highlight of the trip. Hearing about the flora, fauna, cultural significance, and customs from the guide was great. As promised, it was wet. Footwear with an aggressive tread is recommended for the muddy spots. Definitely worth doing.“
— Gregory (read more reviews)
What to Bring on Your Secret Falls Kayak + Hike Tour
The trail to Secret Falls features uneven terrain. It can also be very muddy and slick after rains, and there is a river crossing involved. Please do not show up in crocs or flip-flops!
Sandals that dry quick, have good tread, and strap securely to your feet are a great choice, as are sneakers you don’t mind getting wet. Water shoes may not offer enough of a grip, especially for the river crossing.
Bathing suit and towel
One of the best aspects of the Secret Falls excursion is the ability to swim in the waterfall plunge pool.
If you want the opportunity to swim under the falls, be sure to wear your swimsuit under your clothes, and bring a light absorbent towel to dry off after your swim. Check out this super absorbent yet light towel on Amazon!
The Secret Falls kayak and hike is an outdoor activity in exposed conditions. Sun protection is a must.
Change of clothing
At the end of the excursion, you’ll be grateful for a change of clothes before you get into your car. It’s very likely your clothes will be wet and mud-stained after your Secret Falls hike.
Snacks and drinking water
Unless you choose a tour that includes drinking water and snacks, be sure to bring you own, to stay fueled and hydrated.
Tips for Your Secret Falls Kauai Visit
Assess if this activity is right for you before you go
The Secret Falls hike is easier if you have some paddling experience, although novice paddlers receive instruction at the start of the tour and most beginners get the hang of it very quickly. Plus, the river is quite placid, making it easier to paddle.
If you are traveling with younger kids (age 6-9), you’ll want to assess if they will be able to hike a couple of miles on uneven terrain in potentially muddy and slick conditions.
Older visitors will likewise want to make sure they are physically fit enough to hike in these conditions, where the potential for a fall in the mud exists. There’s also a stream crossing to maneuver.
Choose a morning tour for lower crowds on the hike…
The Secret Falls kayak and hike excursion is one of the most popular things to do in Kauai.
Unless you choose an early morning start time, expect the trail and the plunge pool at the falls to be very crowded on most days. If you start early, you will likely have a much more secluded experience at least on the way to the falls.
…And calmer conditions on the river
The wind tends to kick up in the afternoons.
While paddling up the river to the falls is easy because you will be traveling with the breeze, the return paddle will be a little more challenging.
Earlier in the day, conditions usually tend to be calm, making the paddle easier in both directions.
Use ziploc bags to protect phones and cameras
Your tour operator will likely offer a water-resistant day bag to store your belongings while you paddle and hike, but even so, unless your phone and camera (and any other expensive device) is waterproof, encase them in protective covering to keep them dry.
Choose a dry spell for this activity if your itinerary allows
When it rains (and it rains often on Kauai!), the trail to Secret Falls gets muddy and slippery. Plus, the waterfall can become a torrent and the plunge pool muddy.
If your itinerary allows, plan this excursion for a day when it has not rained recently.
Waterfalls can be exciting, but safety is paramount. Always carefully assess conditions on the day of your visit.
- Heed all warning signs.
- Remember that flash flooding can occur with very little or no warning, even if it isn’t raining or stormy where you are.
- Waterfalls, streams, and other water bodies may not be safe for swimming. The water may not be safe to drink.
- Rocks, logs, and other debris may tumble over waterfalls into plunge pools or streams below.
- Always stay on designated trails. Expect muddy and slippery conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions: Secret Falls Kauai Kayak +Hike
Can you visit Secret Falls independently?
Yes, you can rent a kayak and paddle on your own to the point where the trail begins, hike to Uluwehi Falls and back, and then paddle back to the Wailua marina on your own.
Most visitors choose a guided tour to be able to follow a local guide. While kayaking, you have to be aware of the possibility for flash flooding, windy conditions on the river, motor boats that also cruise the waterway, and debris and low-hanging vegetation that may be on the river en route.
Also make sure kayak rentals are available on the date you plan to visit. Call ahead and reserve your rental to be sure you’ll have a kayak on the day of your trip.
Also know that flash floods can make the river crossing on the hike dangerous at times. Do not venture into the water if the level is too high.
Are Wailua Falls and Secret Falls the same?
Wailua Falls is a double cascade in Wailua River State Park that you view from a roadside lookout. Secret Falls, also known an Uluwehi Falls, is also located in the Wailua River Basin, but accessed via a kayak trip on the river and a hike.
Is Secret Falls worth it?
If you enjoy swimming in waterfalls, then you will love the Secret Falls kayaking and hiking excursion. The paddle on the Wailua River is picturesque and the hike through the rainforest exhilarating. Overall, it’s one of the top experiences in Kauai for active visitors!
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