When it comes to waterfalls on Kauai that you must visit, the 100-foot Uluwehi Falls, nicknamed Secret Falls by locals, is one of Kauai’s most popular secrets. However, getting to the falls is not such a secret, if you know how and where to go. We make it easy for you, with a description of how to get there, what you will see and information on the tour company we recommend for a trek to Uluwehi Falls.
Nestled in the heart of Wailua on the east side of Kauai, Uluwehi Falls belongs to one of the stream systems that feed directly into the Wailua River from Mount Waialeale, the wettest spot on Kauai. The waterfall gracefully cascades from 100 feet into a small pool of water, before flowing into a meandering stream that eventually connects to the Wailua River. The only way to get to Uluwehi Falls is by a journey up the Wailua River, mainly by kayak unless you know someone with a small boat. Wailua River is one of the most scenic in all of Kauai, with distant views of Nounou Mountain (aka Sleeping Giant) and the Fern Grotto.
To get the most out of your adventure to Uluwehi Falls, we recommend going with Outfitters Kauai for a guided kayak tour. They have the best kayaks for paddling up Wailua River – including comfortable padded high back backrests and their quality paddles (it does make a difference.) Once you are comfortable in your kayak, the ruddered kayak makes it easy to steer and maintain control while your guide tells you stories and shows you points of interest, such as the Kamokila Hawaiian Village and Fern Grotto, during the approximately 45 minute paddle up the river. After several miles of paddling, the wide part of the river forks into a less wide part. You will keep to the less wide river stream which leads you to a landing area for your kayak.
Next, it is time for a 20-minute hike through the tropical rainforest to the waterfall. The trail is mostly flat and does not require hiking up high elevations. Wearing the right footwear for this part of the trek will save your fun, and it is important to make sure it is footwear that can get muddy and wet, but also provides good tread for hiking in different conditions. Definitely not a good time to break in a brand new pair of sneakers, unless you want a Kauai red dirt stain on your shoes as souvenir. Water socks or sport sandals with heel straps are a good option. Also, don’t forget to bring bug spray to avoid being bit my Kauai’s rarest insect, the mosquito.
With so much strenuous activity, you must be thinking when and how do you eat? Outfitters Kauai provides a delicious lunch of either a Turkey Watercress Wrap or a Mediterranean Veggie Wrap, pasta salad and a chocolate chip cookie, and cold drinks are available throughout the trip. The best part is that you get to enjoy your lunch while gazing in awe at Uluwehi Falls and maybe even take a quick dip in the refreshing pond too.
Should you decide to rent a kayak and make the trip yourself, knowing current weather conditions is a must before visiting any Kauai river or stream. Often times, even when it’s beautiful and sunny on Kauai, there is a chance of heavy rain in the mountains. Uluwehi Falls can go from a light sprinkling mist to a heavy gushing downpour in a matter of minutes. Consult local weather forecasts and don’t forget to secure your kayak before you get to the hiking portion of your trip.
Here are a few more tips when kayaking to Uluwehi Falls:
- If you do find yourself in a situation where the stream level has swelled and is flowing rapidly, do not attempt to cross the stream. Get to higher ground and wait for the water to subside
- Kayaking is a strenuous sport and you should be in reasonably good physical condition. The river can get quite windy at times and a paddle upwind, against the flow of current can be very challenging
- Tour boats and other boats are constantly running up and down Wailua River. To stay out of the way, stick to the right side of the river going up and down. This side of the river is also more sheltered from wind
- Don’t forget sunscreen and/or bug spray
- Remember to bring a hat, sunglasses with a neck strap and a waterproof camera
Add Uluwehi Falls to your Kauai adventure bucket list and see why the secret is too jaw-dropping and majestic to keep to yourself.