Hawaii’s popular Wailua River closed tours on weekends
Kayaking and hiking the Wailua River, one of Kauai’s most popular adventures, is now available only on weekdays. With Sundays already restricted, the state took away Saturdays for commercial tours in November.
Kauai’s only navigable river, the Wailua River, is known for its appearances in Fantasy Island, Outbreak, Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park. Five-hour guided tours take groups kayaking up the river to a trailhead where visitors can hike to Uluwehi Falls.
Tour operators were given less than two weeks’ notice of the change in November and immediately lost thousands of dollars in revenue from reservations they had to cancel. One vendor estimates there will be a 17% to 20% loss going forward.
“There was no discussion. It was just shoved down our throats like we were little kids. And we are companies,” Micco Godinez told SFGATE. “There were no submissions. We could have talked and timed a bit better instead of right after COVID and just before Christmas.”
Godinez founded Kayak Kauai in 1984 with his brother Chino. The company offers kayaking and snorkeling adventures on the Wailua River and the Napali Coast. They were the first to launch the Wailua kayak tours as an adventure to a “secret” waterfall.
Since then, the competition has grown and the waterfall is no longer a secret. There are now 11 companies licensed to offer commercial kayaking activities on the Wailua River and one water ski company. The overcrowding has caused damage to the trail, disruption to archaeological sites and a sea of kayaks on the water.
“When we get to the North Fork, it’s like a marina. It’s wall-to-wall kayaks, and imagine you have to figure out where to land and then the trail is overwhelmed,” Godinez said. He compares the foot traffic on the trail to Oahu‘s Diamond Head, where you have to wait for the crowds ahead or come down before you can continue.