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Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) in Kauai on the Hule’ia River

Please only travel when it’s safe to do so.

The warm sun on our backs.

The still waters sprinkled with scarlet sea hibiscus blossoms. 

The slight wobble of our bodies (knowing we were exercising our core).

It sure felt good standing up tall on our boards, quietly doing SUP in Kauai along the Hule’ia River!

Stand-up paddle boarding in Kauai, Hawaii

SUP in Kauai

We thought our Kauai SUP tour with Outfitters Kauai – stand-up paddle boarding along a Kauai river – would be more like the brochure said: “Paddle. Smile. Splash!

But no, it was easy to remain upright and paddle on the tranquil river, where no waves could knock us off balance.

No one in our group fell off their boards on their own – though horseplay came naturally on the river, and several family members had fun trying to push each other off.

Paddle boarding in Kauai

Standup paddle boarding in Kauai

There are many cool things to do in Kauai – and lots of good reasons to visit the garden island.

The fact that Kauai has the only navigable rivers in Hawaii is one of them.

The Hule’ia River is one of the best places to stand-up paddle board in Kauai.

And this Kauai SUP adventure is the only one of its kind on the island.

Stand-up paddleboarding in Kauai

We first started with a SUP lesson at the Hule’ia River entrance near Nawiliwili Harbor by the cruise ship pier.

Then, outfitted with drybags containing our lunches (strapped to our boards), we set off.

We knelt at first to avoid falling off at the river entrance, where the water is shallow and the bottom muddy.

This also allowed us to gain confidence on our boards. Pretty soon all of us (mostly first-timer SUPers) were able to paddle standing up.

Standup paddle boarding Kauai

The two-mile paddle down the river took us into the unspoiled interior, with mesmerizing views  of the lush surrounding Hapu’pu Mountains.

The paddling was easy-going and unhurried, and we occasionally slid into the brackish water to cool off.

All too soon, we stepped from our boards onto the river bank.

The dry bags had shoulder straps, which we now used as backpacks for our two-mile round-trip hike along a jungle trail.

Then after lunch and a cooling swim in a freshwater swimming hole, we were ferried back down the river in a motorized Hawaiian-style outrigger canoe (towing the SUP boards behind us).

We had earned the right to trade “stand up” for “sit down” and rest.

Paddle boarding in Kauai

Paddleboarding in Kauai tour:

For more information and to book this Kauai stand-up paddleboarding tour, see Outfitter Kauai’s website.

Experience more of Hawaii!

Read our posts on:

Kauai’s gardens | The Allerton and McBryde botanical gardens of Kaui are beautiful and whimsical! (Jacqueline Kennedy loved visiting the Allerton estate).

Hawaiian fruit | There’s nothing fresher than the fruit in Hawaii. Bite into these 25 delicious fruits! (Rambutan, anyone?)

Where to stay in Kauai | Check out these 9 top Kauai resorts, from a boutique adult getaway to a grand and gracious resort.

Photo credits: 3 Outfitters Kauai

About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, luxury hotel reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Wednesday 24th of January 2018

Aloha Janice and George, really enjoy your writing style and glad to hear you enjoyed your SUP tour! Kauai is a stunning place and the views from the deck of a paddle board are absolutely breathtaking...

Janice and George

Wednesday 24th of January 2018

We really enjoyed it! Paddling a still, warm river is a nice change of scene from sometimes-choppy ocean waters. And Kauai is a gorgeous Hawaiian island...


Monday 2nd of September 2013

Now THAT is the place I want to learn to paddleboard. Gorgeous!

Janice and George

Monday 2nd of September 2013

Yes, the river is so calm that it's perfect for learning how to SUP...

The GypsyNesters

Monday 26th of August 2013

Two things we so want to do! Stand up paddleboard and go to Hawaii, one of only two states Veronica hasn't been to yet. Of course Alaska is the other.

Janice and George

Monday 26th of August 2013

So ironic - Hawaii and Alaska are the 2 states we visit most (no doubt because they're on the west coast where we live). You'll just have to get yourselves to Hawaii! But don't rush around all the islands - good to savor 1 or 2, and return later to experience another :-).


Monday 19th of August 2013

Wow that photo is incredible, what a shot with the rainbow! I've paddleboarded a bunch of places, but never Hawaii...yet!

Janice and George

Monday 19th of August 2013

Then you'll just have to go :-). You can also SUP on the ocean - so the river makes for a nice contrast.

Irene S. Levine

Monday 12th of August 2013

Looks like so much fun~