Paddle Boarding Kauai: 9 Best Places to Go on Kauai Vacation

Paddle Boarding Kauai: 9 Best Places to Go on Kauai Vacation

Kauai's diverse waterways offer paddle boarding enthusiasts a variety of unique and memorable stand up paddle board kauai experiences. From the historical and serene Wailua River to the calm and scenic waters of Anini Beach Park, each location provides its own distinct charm and challenges. Kalapaki Beach combines resort amenities with placid waters perfect for beginners, while more adventurous paddlers can explore the waves beyond the protected shores. If you are thinking of starting your paddle boarding Kauai session but don’t know where and how, read this article!

1. Wailua River

This Hawaii’s only navigable river, had once been the home of Kauai royalty. The name “Wailua” means "two waters" aptly describing the river’s confluence with the ocean. The Wailua River is a bustling spot for various water activities like paddle boarding, kayaking, boating, and jet skiing.

Wailua River

Image Source: Unsplash

Exploring the river by stand up paddle board Kauai reveals hidden treasures such as a grotto and waterfall accessible via a short hike from the riverbank. Along the way, paddlers can enjoy views of tropical forests and the Sleeping Giant, a mountain ridge resembling a giant lying on its back.

  • Types of water: Calm, flat water in most sections.
  • Type of winds: Variable winds can affect stability.
  • Skill levels: Beginner to intermediate; currents can pick up in some areas.
  • Launch points: Wailua River State Park Marina, Former Kamokila Hawaiian Village
  • Amenities: Kayak/SUP rentals, picnic areas, restrooms, coffee shops, parking lots
  • Unique features: Scenic views, waterfalls, abundant plant and animal life

2. Anini Beach Park

No paddle boarding Kauai itinerary is complete without a visit to this place. Anini Beach Park on Hawaii’s north shore boasts the longest stretch of coral reef in the state. This also creates a year-round haven for stand-up paddle boarding. This calm, lake-like expanse of water has tropical reef fish, sea cucumbers, eels, seahorses, eagle rays, and green sea turtles.

The protected area near the shore provides a perfect spot for beginners to learn and practice paddle boarding in calmer waters. Paddlers can venture up to a half-mile to sea but should be cautious of strong currents near the reef's edge. However, trade winds can create choppy conditions, so be sure to check the wind forecast before heading out.

  • Types of water: Calm near shore for beginners, waves further out for experienced paddlers
  • Type of winds: Challenge as trade winds can create choppy conditions
  • Skill levels: Beginner to experienced (consider wind conditions)
  • Launch points: Launch your paddle board directly from the beach itself. No need for docks or designated launching areas
  • Amenities: Lifeguards (during peak season), restrooms, showers, picnic tables
  • Unique features: Protected snorkeling area for calm paddling (outside the reef)

3. Kalapaki Beach

If you're seeking a paddle boarding Kauai adventure, make your way to Kalapaki Beach, one of the most renowned paddle boarding spots in the world. Kalapaki Beach at Kauai Marriott Resort offers a peaceful retreat with easy access to food, drinks, and other amenities. The beach has calm waters and a sandy shoreline, perfect for relaxing.

Kalapaki Beach

It's also a good paddle boarding Kauai spot, but be careful in the surf. To get there, you can park in the rear lot at Kauai Marriott Resort (GPS coordinates 21.961135, -159.348405), which is a 10 to 15-minute drive from Kauai SUP.

  • Types of water: Ideal, calm and protected waters
  • Type of winds: Light and variable winds
  • Skill levels: Beginner, perfect for learning and leisurely paddling
  • Launch points: Nawiliwili Beach Park, 3-5000 Kuhio Hwy, Lihue, HI 96766
  • Amenities: Beach rentals (kayak rentals, stand-up paddle board rentals, surfboard rentals, boat tours). After your paddle session, you can easily access souvenir shops, convenience stores, restaurants, parking lots, and famous hotels like The Kauai Marriott Resort nearby
  • Unique features: Calm waters and convenient amenities for beginners. The northeast section of the bay has some of the calmest waters on Kauai due to the granite jetties protecting its sandy and grassy beach.

4. Hanalei Bay

If you head a bit further North, you'll come across the delightful town of paddle boarding kauai Hanalei. The town has a relaxed hippie vibe that is very calming. Hanalei Bay Beach became famous through the folk song "Puff The Magic Dragon" in the 1960s. It was thought to be about smoking marijuana, but the songwriter Peter Yarrow said it was inspired by a poem about a dragon and the “innocence of childhood lost”. Despite this, some still believe a dragon lives among the beautiful sea cliffs of Hanalei and that the mountains around the bay look like a sleeping dragon.

Hanalei Bay

Image Source: Unsplash

Hanalei Bay offers breathtaking scenery with dynamic waves for experienced paddlers seeking a challenge. Beginners or those preferring calmer waters should consider Kalapaki Beach. If you need a paddle board rental Hanalei Kauai, let’s contact Hanalei Surf Schools or Hanalei Surfboards Rental for more detailed information.

  • Types of water: Not ideal for beginners, open bay with waves

    Type of winds: Variable winds can affect paddling

  • Skill levels: Intermediate to experienced, ocean experience required

  • Launch points: Launching through waves can be challenging. But you can launch at Hanalei Beach Park: 5-516 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714 or Black Pot Beach Park: Weke Rd, Hanalei, HI 96714.

  • Amenities: There are many cute shops, cafes, and great places to relax, people-watch, and try delicious food from the food trucks.

5. Hanalei River

This paddle boarding Kauai spot is a natural wonder that welcomes visitors to explore one of the island's most enchanting spots. The Hanalei River flows through a leafy tropical rainforest and meets Hanalei Bay. The river usually has calm waters, perfect for relaxing paddle sessions. Many locals paddle up and down the river for exercise. Unlike other rivers, its journey starts high in the wettest spot on Earth, Mount Waialeale, and plunges rapidly to the ocean. This creates a stunning contrast: paddlers can experience both the serene beauty of the emerald-green valley and the excitement of navigating the faster currents closer to the coast.

  • Types of water: River, freshwater
  • Type of winds: Potential for variable winds, especially near the rivermouth
  • Skill levels: Suitable for beginner to intermediate paddlers
  • Launch points: Launch further upstream at Hanalei Canoe Club: 5-520 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714 or Hanalei Pavilion: 5-523 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714, Jay Smith Park: Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714 (Look for the bridge crossing the Hanalei River).
  • Amenities: At the river's mouth in Hanalei, there is a small boat ramp for launching your board and a shop for renting stand-up paddle boards and kayaks.
  • Unique features: Scenic river setting, potential for wildlife sightings

6. Secret Falls

For a more unique blend of paddle boarding Kauai and hiking experiences, head to the Secret Falls, a hidden gem near Wailua River. Secret Falls is a stunning 120-foot tall waterfall, only reachable by traveling up the Wailua River and then paddling through a rainforest. We assume the experience is absolutely worth it and will make for an amazing day. The roundtrip adventure takes between 3.5 and 6 hours to complete. It doesn’t go to the paddle for Secret Falls. Instead, it branches off to the left at the fork in the river and goes to the Fern Grotto.

The rainforest hike allows you to truly connect with Kauai's lush flora and fauna. Witness vibrant plant life and potentially encounter native birds and insects. The final destination is a cool, inviting pool at the base of Secret Falls. Take a refreshing dip and soak in the beauty of your accomplishment.

  • Types of water: Calm, protected waters in a lagoon
  • Type of winds: Limited wind within the lagoon
  • Skill levels: Beginner—perfect for learning and leisurely paddling
  • Launch points: Launch points for kayaking are at Wailua River State Park Marina (1320 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746) and Former Kamokila Hawaiian Village (288 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746).
  • Amenities: Kayak and paddle boarding Kauai rentals, restaurants on-site
  • Unique features: Not easily accessible by car since Secret Falls requires a combination of kayaking and hiking.

7. Kamokila Hawaiian Village

When you paddle up the river, you'll pass an authentic Kamokila Hawaiian Village on the right, just before you reach the 2-mile mark before the fork in the river. It's a great place to take a break on your way down or back. You can take a cultural tour of the 4-acre property where King Kaumauli’i, the last reigning king of Kauai, once lived. The paddle boarding Kauai village tours are available from 9 am to 9 pm and cost $5 in cash only.

Kamokila Hawaiian Village

Kamokila Hawaiian Village offers a unique blend of traditional thatched-roof buildings and a calm lagoon, perfect for a relaxed paddle board experience. You can paddle along the village’s main canals, admire the culture and nature, and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

  • Types of water: Ocean, saltwater
  • Type of winds: Potential for trade winds, waves, and surf conditions
  • Skill levels: Suitable for beginner to intermediate paddlers, depending on conditions
  • Launch points: The most common paddle boarding Kauai launch point is behind the hut.
  • Amenities: Parking, restrooms, cultural exhibits, and activities
  • Unique features: Cultural village setting, potential for educational experiences

8. Fern Grotto

Guided paddling tours only go to Secret Falls. On a self-guided tour with your own or rented SUP, you can turn right at the river fork after Secret Falls to reach Fern Grotto. It adds about 10 minutes to the trip. You tie your board to exposed tree roots, walk up the path to Fern Grotto, and get a nice view, although it may not be as astonishing as expected.

Furthermore, you can experience the beauty of Fern Grotto by taking a guided boat tour. These tours offer a unique way to see the grotto and learn about its cultural significance.

  • Types of water: River, freshwater
  • Type of winds: Potential for variable winds
  • Skill levels: Suitable for intermediate paddlers
  • Launch points: The Grotto itself is a small opening accessible only by boat through a narrow passage. Paddle boards wouldn't be able to fit through the opening.
  • Amenities: Wailua River State Park Marina (1320 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746) and other marinas or boat tour operators, restrooms, parking, and maybe even a gift shop or snack bar on-site.
  • Unique features: Scenic Grotto setting, potential for paddle boarding Kauai or swimming

9. Swimming Hole

If you decide to paddle an additional 10 minutes upstream from the Fern Grotto, you will reach an area known as the swimming hole. We found this area to be quite underwhelming and it did not resemble a typical swimming hole in the slightest.

Swimming Hole

Image Source: Unsplash

The water here appeared to have a significant amount of runoff from nearby farms (we even spotted cows grazing by the river), which, in our opinion, made the water unsuitable for swimming.

It took us approximately 15 minutes to paddle to the end of that channel. However, at a certain point, the paddle boarding Kauai river becomes too rocky and the water levels drop too much, making it impossible to continue paddling.

  • Types of water: Unlike the ocean surrounding Kauai, most swimming holes on the island are fed by freshwater sources, creating distinct water types compared to saltwater.
  • Type of winds: Lighter winds are best for calm paddling or floating. Keep in mind occasional gusts, especially when inflating your inflatable SUP or relaxing on the water. Stronger trade winds are common in summer on Kauai, even in sheltered swimming areas.
  • Skill levels: Beginner-friendly, intermediate and advanced.
  • Launch points: Public Access Points nearby public parks, Wailua River Heritage Park (4700 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746), and shoreline entry.
  • Amenities: Parking, basic restrooms nearby parks or recreation areas, kayak or paddle board rentals.
  • Unique features: Kauai's swimming holes offer a unique escape. Paddle through lush valleys or forests on freshwater havens, enjoying a serene alternative to the island's popular beaches.

Tips for Having a Wonderful Kauai Paddle Boarding Trip!

If you bring your inflatable SUP to have a great paddle boarding Kauai vacation, here are some tips to help you:

Tips for Having a Wonderful Kauai Paddle Boarding Trip!

  • Bring a towel to clean and dry your board.
  • Rinse your board with fresh water from an outdoor beach shower before packing up to head home.
  • Research your paddle trips before you go. The weather in Kauai changes often, so check the hourly forecast and tides for the day.
  • Bring a waterproof camera to take pictures of the turtles, fish, rainforests, and mountains you'll see during your paddle trips.
  • Note that it's not safe to stand up paddle around the famous Napali Coast most of the year. Consider a boat tour instead. You can also hike along the Kalalau Trail to see the coast or take a boat or plane tour. A sunset dinner boat tour around the Napali Coast is a fantastic way to end your trip! Highly recommended.

Kauai Paddle Board Rentals

Exploring Kauai by paddle board is a must-do activity, but stand up paddle board rental kauai might not be ideal for your entire trip. While Kauai SUP offers fantastic rentals with everything you need for a safe and fun adventure, consider purchasing your own high-quality stand up paddle board from iROCKER.

Kauai Paddle Board Rentals

Owning your own paddle board allows you the flexibility to explore at your own pace throughout your Kauai vacation. iROCKER has a variety of boards to meet your needs for an amazing Kauai experience.

Book Your Kauai Paddling Journey!

Hope the blog above has provided you with all the information you need about paddle boarding Kauai. Kauai is a wonderful destination for paddle boarding enthusiasts. You should definitely try it at least once during your paddle boarding adventure. Every smile will make all the effort of coming here worth it.

Book Your Kauai Paddling Journey!

If you want to discover more about your Kauai Paddle Adventure, plan your dream outing with the Blue Adventures App by iROCKER. Find paddle boarding spots, directions, weather, wind, tide, and reviews–all at your fingertips!

Related Tags