Whenever I travel, especially to Hawaii, I always like to book at least one guided tour/excursion. While it's easy to explore much of the islands on your own, guided tours often offer access to areas of the island not open to or easily accessed by the public and the guides always have SO much knowledge about the history and culture that you wouldn't find elsewhere. After much research, the one activity that kept coming up on the "must do" lists for Kauai was mountain tubing - and now I understand why.
Kauai Backcountry Adventures offers the only tubing adventure on the island with exclusive access to the historic irrigation system of the former Lihue Plantation. This ditch and tunnel system was hand-dug in the 1870's and once irrigated hundreds of acres of sugar crops. The tunnels had been unused since sugar was taken out of production in 2000 until Kauai Backcountry Adventures began offering tours in 2003. On the trip you'll tube through the lush interior of the island and traverse through five different tunnels. The total time you spend in the water is around an hour.
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Upon arriving to the Kauai Backcountry facility (located between Kapa'a and Lihue) you'll sign a waiver and get the gear you'll need for your trip (helmet, headlamp and gloves). You will need to wear water-friendly shoes which they also have available for rent if you didn't pack your own. You'll want to wear a swimsuit as well as clothes you can get wet. We went in the winter and I wish I would have worn a drift long sleeve shirt over my bathing suit as the water can be a bit "refreshing." I would also suggest bringing towels, a change of dry clothes, sunscreen, and a waterproof phone case if you want to take your photos with you on the trip. They also have a photographer on site throughout the excursion with photos available for purchase online after your tour. Don't worry about leaving things in the car. You can bring all your bags with you as they provide dry storage at the start of the tunnels and safely transport all of your belongs to the exit point.
Getting to the launch point was an adventure in itself! You'll load in a van at the company's headquarters and take a 30 minute drive deep into the interior of the island. You'll cross through the heart of the Lihue Planation where your guides point out cattle and other wildlife as well as some leftover props from recent movies filmed on the island. You'll also make a stop at a lookout point with spectacular views of the mountains and Waialeale Crater. Mount Waialeale is one of the wettest spots in the world and the waters that originate at the top of the mountain are channeled through ditches and tunnels you'll soon be tubing through. This area of the island is only accessed via this tour so you'll get a photo-op that not many other see.
After arriving at the launch site you’ll undergo a short safety briefing and then grab a tube, strap on your helmet, and jump in the gently flowing waters to begin your float. You'll be in the water for around and hour from start to finish and travel through both open canals and five tunnels including one that is 80 feet underground. The current isn't fast flowing for most of the tour but be prepared for narrow tunnels and some bumping and spinning as you travel through them. If you end up feeling claustrophobic or don't want to continue they do offer an exit point after the first two tunnels. I was expecting the tunnels to be much smaller than they were from the warnings the guides were giving but most could fit two tubes side by side and all but two you could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
There are a couple areas with "waterfalls" that give you a slight rush as you drop down a few feet and a fern grotto that offers a gorgeous, lush backdrop. One of my other favorite parts was shining the headlamp on the tunnel ceilings and watching them sparkle - an awesome effect caused by the combination of a particular bacteria, water, and light. At the final tunnel you'll also get the chance to turn off your headlights and float in complete darkness underground while the guides share a ghost story with you. After you make it out of the last tunnel the final leg of your journey is more of a lazy river style and you are able to link up with your loved ones and enjoy a relaxing float until the end.
Once you're out of the water and have dried off you'll hop back in the vans and travel to a second site for a delicious picnic lunch. Overall, this was one of the coolest experiences we had on the island and I'm so glad we decided to book it. Our guides were AMAZING and may the trip so memorable. Kauai Backcountry offers multiple tour times throughout the day but it's one of the most popular activities and they do book up quick so be sure to give yourself at least a few weeks in advance to get the time you want.
I love creating detailed travel guides to ensure you get the most out of your time. On this blog I'll be sharing some of my past trips in hopes that it helps you plan your next adventure. Pack your suitcase you never know where I'll be heading next!
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