The Wailua River Cruise & The Fern Grotto

The Wailua River Cruise & The Fern Grotto

Almost everyone knows you can take a cruise to Hawaii. Less well known is the cruise that goes into Hawaii.

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For such a cruise, head to the island of Kauai where you’ll find Hawaii’s only navigable river, the Wailua. Your cruise starts near the Pacific at the docks of Smith’s Tours between the towns of Kapaa and Lihue. The journey inland along the Wailua is gorgeous, green and lush. The boat captain narrates the way, relaying factoids about the flora and fauna. Though you’d be forgiven for tuning out everything except the stunning view of Mount Kapu in the distance.

The Wailua meanders all the way up to Mt. Wai’ale’ale (famous for being the single wettest spot on earth). Your cruise, though, will follow the river only as far as the Fern Grotto. Here you’ll disembark your boat to see the half-cave covered in ferns growing upside-down. There is thick jungle here, and multitudes of colorful plants. Were it to have fairies it would be exactly like FernGully.

After a stay at the grotto it is time for the boat ride back. For better or for worse, the cruise provides hula dancing entertainment on the return journey. A few musicians play while a dancer does her thing. Then comes the audience participation part. Spot Cool Stuff is a curmudgeon when it comes to such things, but being peer pressured into doing a bad hula dance seems to be a right of passage for tourists to Hawaii. And, anyway, our fellow boatmates seemed to enjoy it so you may too.

The whole cruise takes about 1 1/2 hours. Most people wait for sunny weather to go on the cruise but we think it is a good rainy day activity too—the boat is covered and the grotto is nearly covered, the foliage is so thick there. Cruises leave daily at 9:30, 10:00 and 11:30am, 1:30 2:00 and 3:30pm.

Where To Stay: There are several bed & breakfasts in Kapaa, the Hale Lani being the best among them.

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