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Hi Hawaii : Paddle Boarding Hanalei River

This week has been full of activities. Some physically demanding like the Na Pali Coast hike, some exciting like swimming alongside turtles (post to come) and some indescribable like the helicopter tour (again, post to come. I am a little behind). One of my most favourite, second to the helicopter tour, was the day we spent paddle boarding Hanalei River. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every moment we spent in the water, either being tossed around in waves or gazing underwater along the coral. Paddle boarding was different however. The only time I have paddle boarded in the past was on the lake by my house, and that was when I was much younger and back then I spent the majority of the time jumping in the water rather than paddling. Thus, this was a new experience in a different environment. So different, at moments it felt like I had been transported to the Amazon, no where near Kauai.

It was hot to begin with and when we started we had the sun directly on our backs. Thankfully, I soaked the back of my legs and already burnt back in sunscreen (SPF 70!!!) beforehand. I had nothing to worry about. It didn’t take long to get used to balancing on the board (if I kept my feet planted exactly where they were and didn’t move). Although I was the slowest of the pack, I enjoyed it. Usually when I kayak, my arms get tired quickly, but with paddle boarding, I never noticed my arms aching at all. Maybe that was why I was so slow, I wasn’t really putting any energy into it. Most of the time, I tried to catch up to the speedsters in front of me, but realized, I was always going to lag behind, so why even bother? With this attitude, the entire ride became more peaceful as I watched the action happening ahead and admired the inaction of the scenery surrounding me.

Every now and then, we set aside our pride and sat down on the boards. I liked it this way best because I paddled faster and didn’t have such a hard time keeping up. But I switched back and forth between standing and sitting because I didn’t want to look lazy if I sat the whole time. GOPR0208_233002473 (1)These pictures are snapshots from Holly’s GoPro. Early on in the week, right after the Na Pali Coast trail actually, my waterproof Nikon Coolpix quit working. I am so angry at that thing for even calling itself waterproof when water easily seeped through into the LCD screen and viewfinder, causing it to fail after being dunked under water a mere two times! I would’ve loved to have a camera during this ride to take shots of the view around me, or of the flowers I was collecting from the water and placing on my board, or to capture the crash my sister experienced on her kayak at the turning point. But like I stated in my New Year’s post, I want to live in the moment, and this was a perfect opportunity to try. Instead of worrying about what shots to get, I spent the entire time thinking and taking in every detail of that river as I paddled along. It’s nice not to worry about when you should take a picture or video in case you might miss something. But I also do like having visual representations of the memories I am making. Therefore, when I return home, I am getting a GoPro, which will be perfect for my SE Asia adventure.GOPR0208_011403882Back to the boarding. We didn’t see much of any wildlife, except a funny looking bird and a couple turtles when we got closer to the ocean (one popped up right beside me! incredible!) There isn’t much wildlife at all in Kauai because it is so secluded, but that didn’t mean I still wasn’t scared of an anaconda popping out of the green water. Along with barely any wildlife, there aren’t really a lot of bugs on the island either. We have seen a couple big spiders, and the occasional fly, but there aren’t mosquitos or other annoying flies to swat while paddling which made the ride peaceful and enjoyable.

On the way back, us weirdos hoped for rain. We thought it would be amazing to paddle board on the river in a down pour. Well, we got our wish and we were right, it was amazing. I felt so odd for smiling when the rain came down, but it truly was a great experience. It didn’t last long and the sun came out as we rounded the corner to head for the ocean, but it lasted long enough for me to stick my tongue out like a kid and catch a couple rain drops.

When we made it to the ocean, we took the paddle boards out to a few shallow waves and rode them in. We wish we would’ve made the trip to the ocean first instead of going in the other direction because we could’ve spent longer riding the waves, but we rode them for as long as we could and then paddled back to return the boards to the dock.

Because this activity was peaceful and not too physically demanding, I ranked it one of my favourite days of the week. I don’t know why I have such a hard time concluding my posts (I always had the same problem in college with essays), so I am just gunna sign off here and recommend this activity for anyone who visits Kauai. It was amazing.

Filed under: Hi Hawaii

About the Author

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I grew up in the middle of nowhere and now, everywhere is where I want to be. Storytelling is a passion of mine and as I travel from one place to the next, I want to share my awkward adventures and encounters. I love the ocean and the colour blue. Follow along and see the world with me from a "deer in the headlights" perspective.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience on the Hanalei River! We are going to Kauai in the spring and this is one of the activities that I am looking forward to doing.

    So you’re saying that even though the river looks like the Amazon River, there are no evil critters in the water to watch out for? So we can jump in the water if we get too hot and cool off before climbing back onto the board? That’s wonderful!

    I am originally from Florida (born and raised) and so I am used to having to think about alligators and cottonmouths in the rivers! While the rivers in the western US (I live in northern Nevada now) are free of dangerous creatures, the looks of the Hanalei River remind me more of Florida. I am glad to hear your enjoyed your trip so much! I will be reading more of your blog in the coming weeks. 🙂

    • Yes, that is the nicest thing about Kauai, whether it be hiking or paddle boarding, there are no snakes or other predators to worry about. I actually have a co-worker from Florida back here in Calgary who says that in Florida they joke about how you can’t swim in any natural body of water (too many things to fear). I think the only time I was ever afraid of wildlife was in the ocean because sometimes a huge turtle would pop up beneath me and I would instantly think it was a shark coming to eat me instead. Thank you for reading my blog Cindy and that is really exciting you are going to Kauai this spring. It was an amazing trip (I am home now), and probably the best vacation spot I have been to thus far!

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