The tubing tour here on Kaua’i was never all that high on my “must experience” list. I’d heard about it, but never thought about actually doing it until family came to visit this year and I was trying to find fun, local activities to do with my grandson. Floating in a giant inner tube through old irrigation channels looked like it might have just the right amount of excitement for a seven year-old.
I ended up having so much fun that I now can’t recommend the tour enough, and keep telling Brett and YaYu they should do it before we leave the island.
The tour takes place on what was the former Lihue Sugar Plantation, now privately owned by Steve Case who, like the owners of the Kipu Ranch, has agreed to keep the land undeveloped. The irrigation channels and tunnels were dug in the late 19th century by Chinese laborers to supply necessay water daily to the thirsty cane (over a million gallons a day). The tunnels were hand dug through rock with laborers digging from each side and meeting in the middle. They are still considered an engineering marvel for their size and length – some even curve in the middle. The first people to float the channels did it in a kayak, and flipped over while traversing one of the tunnels, losing their light and having no way to know how long the tunnel was. It gets very dark inside the tunnels so I can only imagine how unnerving that experience was.
Participants on the tours are provided with a helmet, lamp and gloves at check-in, then driven over to the starting point, with a couple of stops along the way to check out some spectacular views that are otherwise hidden from the public, including Mt. Wai’ale’ale’s Blue Hole and its Weeping Wall of waterfalls. At the float starting point, after receiving a safety briefing and instructions, guests climb on to their tubes and once everyone has boarded the group is released to float. Helmet lights are needed for going through the tunnels, and the gloves prove their worth over and over when the tubes drift too close to the sides and riders have to push off from rocks or mud on the sides of the channels or tunnels.
The current through the channel can move swiftly at times, but usually the pace is leisurely. The two biggest challenges are going over a three-foot “waterfall” and keeping from getting wedged together with others’ tubes inside the tunnels. The entire ride though is fun and relaxing, and takes a little over an hour to complete (2.5 miles), with the entire tour from start to finish taking around three hours. The guides moved among us throughout the tour and even provided live ukulele music and Hawaiian songs as we floated along! At the end of the tour we were treated to deli sandwiches, chips, and cookies and then driven back to the tour office.
Tubing tours can be booked through Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures. They offer several tours each day (which fill up fast, rain or shine); all are suitable for children aged five and above. Tour price is $110 per person; there is no price discount for children.