Opaeka’a Falls ©Robert Rekward
Explore the Wailua River & Waterfalls on the Royal Coconut Coast
The Wailua River is the largest navigable river in all of Hawaii. Numerous rivers and streams, all stemming from the crater of Mount Wai’ale’ale at Kauai’s center, feed this significant waterway. Drive up river, into the interior and you will find glorious views of mountains and waterfalls, with the Wailua River below. Head to Wailua Falls, on Maalo Road (Hwy. 583) to see these twin falls plunge almost 100 feet to the bottom. Or head up Hwy 580 on Kuamoo Road to the scenic overlook of Opaeka’a Falls, which means “rolling shrimp,” named because of the freshwater shrimp that used to be prevalent in the stream. Continue past the Opaeka’a Falls overlook and you will venture into a typical Kauai neighborhood. If you drive past the houses and streets you will find another hidden gem, the Keahua Forestry Arboretum. This is a treat for nature-lovers, showcasing plenty of monkey-pod, eucalyptus and mango trees with a beautiful stream passing through. There are many trails in the area and the stream has accessible pools to take a dip.
Wailua River State Park hosts very significant places in Hawaiian culture and history. The entire area along this river was once reserved only for royalty. Now, you can experience the river by kayak or boat tour. Venturing up the Wailua River, you can explore the Fern Grotto, a lava rock grotto, embedded with tropical ferns and served by Smith’s River Boat Tours. If you choose to kayak there is a place to dock your kayaks and take a short hike to a secret waterfall. Or, take a guided kayak tour up a northern tributary that includes a hike to the spectacular Uluwehi Falls (Secret Falls).
On the Wailua River, you can also see the legendary birthplace for ancient nobles of Kauai, called Holoholok’u. There are two large, smooth birthstones, which were actually used to support the mother during child birth. It was mandatory that all the kings of Kauai be born here; King Kaumualii was one of the many chiefs born on the Birthstones. Royalty from neighbor islands would travel here to give birth at the birthstones of Holoholok’u. The Bell Stone still remains, a reddish stone that makes a unique sound when struck. This historical landmark, used in ancient times by a kahuna, or priests, announced the birth of royalty.
Across the street from an overlook is access to Kamaokila Hawaiian Village, located on the way up to Opaekaa Falls. This site is an authentic recreation of ancient Hawaiian life. Once home to the last king of Kauai, the area now showcases Hawaiian communal lifestyles.
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National Geographic Winner! Family friendly Hawaiian Swim Hole & Sacred Falls Tours from our Wailua River Marina on the water location. Paddle & Snorkel Hanalei River & Bay. Summer Na Pali by sea kayak. Island-wide Hiking Tours. SUP Rentals & Lessons. Camping Outfitter: Gear + Storage + Na Pali Parking & Trail Shuttle. Vacation Rentals.
During the two mile river journey, you’ll hear songs and stories of ancient Hawaii — like the King’s Highway, sacred Mount Kapu, and the First Hau Tree. In addition, guests enjoy learning the hula during a lesson provided by a young hula dancer. Everyone gets into the act during the river cruise!