Rollin' Rollin' down the (Hanalei) River

I’ll never forget my first visit to Disneyland.

Oddly enough, the cruise down the “Jungle Land” faux river so many years ago made an indelible impression on my young mind. The memories of meandering down the waterways cloaked in thick tropical foliage (and the fear I felt when toothy alligators popped into view in the murky waters) remain vivid to this day.

 © Joanne DiBona

© Joanne DiBona

So it was no wonder that all the excitement and sense of adventure returned in full force the moment I stepped into a kayak with Tony to explore the Hanalei River. This was the real thing, sans the alligators of course.

 © Joanne DiBona

© Joanne DiBona

We maneuvered along the calm river, reveling in the lush tropical vegetation that spread its beauty along the river’s shores. Hibiscus flowers bobbed in the water, adding a romantic touch that seemed almost staged, but was of course just Nature’s way of embellishing the entire experience, as it is wont to do on this magical isle.

Gliding past taro fields and under the picturesque Hanalei wooden bridge, we rowed in unison until we reached an area so lush with vegetation that it made navigation difficult. Reluctantly, we decided to start back—and were surprised to note that we had already been on the river for over two hours!

The return trip, with the current in our favor, took half the time. We docked at the river’s mouth and savored our picnic lunch while watching the activity on majestic Hanalei Bay, which many of us will remember as the backdrop to many scenes in the movie South Pacific

 © Joanne DiBona

© Joanne DiBona

Although neither of us are experienced kayakers, we decided to make our way through the small channel linking the river to the bay for a kayak adventure in Hanalei Bay itself. The ocean was very calm and we felt like kids as we paddled our way around this glorious harbor, which we shared with stand-up paddlers, fellow kayakers, and surfers who managed to catch the waves for a dramatic ride towards the shore.

A most thrilling moment came when a curious sea turtle popped his head up right next to our kayak. He inspected us for several minutes until he decided to venture into other territories, but not without leaving us with a truly “wow” experience.

We rented our kayak at Hawaiian Surfing Adventures in Hanalei, a very professional company with a very accommodating staff that not only provides a variety of rentals, but also offers surfing and stand up paddling lessons. Kayak rentals for two are $50 per day.