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Kahana Rainforest River Kayak

Honolulu County, Hawaii


Added by Chris Tachibana

Kahana River Rainforest and Kahana Bay are some of the best kayak experiences on Oahu.

Kahana Bay is the last public Ahupua’a on Oahu. The Ahupua’a is the traditional Hawaiian land division system. Each Ahupua’a contains a cross section of the island so that each slice of land meets the needs of the inhabitants by containing all resource zones necessary for subsistence. Typically, an Ahupua’a extends from the top of the mountains to the ocean (from mauka to makai) and includes everything for the local population to sustain themselves from the koa wood in the mountains to the ono in the sea and everything in between. As it is owned by the state and deemed a “cultural living park,” the Ahupua’a O Kahana is one of the last places on the island to be completely void of commercial development.

Because Kahana Valley is one of the wettest valleys on Oahu, the picturesque mountains boasts lush greenery and a rainforest river that empties into Kahana Bay. The thick foliage has an Amazonian jungle-like feel without the dangers of anacondas or piranhas. When kayaking up the river, visitors will be surrounded on all sides by the magnificent landscape. The native Hawaiian forestry is sure to provide a spectacular backdrop for the serene kayaking experience. While you explore the rain forests of Oahu’s Windward Coast, if you are attentive you will often see wetland birds in the trees and schools of fish rippling under the water.

Under ideal conditions in the summer (from around the end of May to the beginning of September), visitors can kayak from the beach access all the way to the Kahana river (about 1 mile), then up the river (about another 1 mile), and then back for a total of 4 to 5 miles of paddling. This route is better suited for more experienced paddlers. It is a favorite route for seasoned adventure seekers and takes about 3 hours total if you go at a consistent pace. Be sure to have water and snacks on-hand for the trip.

During the winter months, always check for forecasted weather conditions. Flash flooding can occur – adventure responsibly.

The Kahana Rainforest River’s location is hands down, the best Oahu kayak tour experience if you’re looking for epic green scenery or have kids that will be joining you on the trip as well. You start out nestled in a valley between two arms of land that stretch out into the ocean to form a sheltered bay. You will be surrounded by green-clad mountains and a scenic landscape: ocean, beach, mountains, and rainforest come together to create a lush, tropical tapestry of colors and textures. You can paddle up the calm river where you will be immersed in the tranquil Hawaiian greenery. The beginning part of the route is family-friendly and great for beginners. As you proceed deeper into the rainforest and into the valley, the river becomes narrower and navigating the turns may become more of a challenge. You can decide to turn around and head back to the beach, depending on your individual comfort level.

For the more adventurous sort, there are plenty of rope swings all along the way where the water is deep enough for a refreshing swim. This scenic valley is culturally and historically significant, so please show respect to the local community and do not do anything that may seem offensive. The locals living there would appreciate it if you keep the noise level down. Needless to say, it is imperative that the site is left in the same condition you found it in.

If you have your own gear, great! If not these guys are on it!

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Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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