Paddle Boarding the Hanalei River

Wide shot of a paddle board on the Hanalei River with mountains in the background

If you are visiting the north shore of Kauai, you must try paddle boarding the Hanalei River. It isn’t as difficult as it might look at first. We love to use Kayak Hanalei. They are located just at the entrance to Hanalei on the east side. They show you how to do it and launch you in a special channel in the river. Also check out our other paddles by clicking on the category Paddle Boarding.

From Kayak Hanalei you can go downstream towards the Hanalei Bay or upstream. Both are wonderful paddles but if we had to choose we’d pick upstream and the featured image of this post is facing upstream towards the mountains.


Upstream is good if you like jungle vegetation and a more close-in experience. You can go further upstream as well. You will get expert instruction at Kayak Hanalei (the first time we had never been paddle boarding). They are very patient and you start out standing up.

Don’t worry, they’ll also show you how to get down and stand back up too. And if you fall in, so what? It’s Hawaii! Just don’t drink the river water – blech!

Upstream you go downstream a bit on their man-made channel, then turn right. You travel along the highway that leads to Hanalei, basically backtracking where you came from. At the one-lane bridge you can keep going and you are in the midst of taro farms.

Keep going and the river narrows. This is where it gets fun. The vegetation starts closing in overhead and sometimes you have to move sticks around to keep going. Eventually you have to stop because the river is just a stream. But that’s a great place for lunch.


Keep going to the right from the man-made channel and you head towards the Hanalei Bay. Don’t worry – you won’t see any waves until the very very end. Do check for high surf, though. If the waves are up, go upstream.

In this direction you will pass some cool homes and see the other launch point for paddle boards. If you are brave enough (we haven’t been yet) you can go out on the bay itself. Only do that in calm weather, though.

What is paddle boarding like?

I’ll admit I was leery about paddle boarding. I don’t have great balance so I was afraid I could do it. So, it’s not that bad. Your legs will work to keep you up and paddle boarding on flat water is way easier than on the ocean. The trick is to keep facing forward and don’t change directions too quickly. Oh, and don’t hit anything in the water. You’ll go in for sure then.

You paddle by bending your knees slightly and set the paddle into the water on one side, drawing it past you, then keep paddling on that side. You’ll eventually start to change direction so move to paddle on the other side. If you want to turn, reverse your paddle direction and gently go from the back of the board to the front with the paddle on the side you want to go.

The Video By Air

Video by Water



  1. Don

    Comming to visit in January 11th 2023

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