Have you seen the videos of Kauai mountain tubing online? If you’re curious about this fun adventure through the old sugar cane canals in Kauai, Keep reading for my review! I’ll share what to bring (and not bring) as well as my best tips for families.
This Kauai mountain tubing post was written by Hawaii travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
I’ve been curious about Kauai mountain tubing since I first heard about it years ago. When we had a chance to go with our 5-year-old, I was so excited to finally check it out!
If you’re looking for fun things to do on Kauai with kids, definitely add this Kauai tubing adventure to your list. Not sure if it’s right for your family? I’ll share my experience with you below!
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What is Kauai Mountain Tubing?
Kauai, Hawaii used to have tons of sugar cane mills. The last one closed up shop about ten years ago and there are no longer working sugar cane plantations in Hawaii.
In 2003, Kauai Backcountry Adventures saw an opportunity to provide eco-tours to families. They opened up the old irrigation canals of the historic Lihue Sugar Plantation.
The site is located near Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest spots on earth. In remote parts of the sugar cane plantation, canals were hand-dug by plantation workers all the way back in the 1870s.
Kauai Backcountry Adventures went in and renovated the area to make sure it would be great for eco-tours. They built staircases for guests to get in and out of the water. Picnic shelters and restrooms were added as well.
During the tour, you wear a headlamp as you float through 5 tunnels. The rest of the time, you casually float through open sugar cane canals and marvel at the beautiful Kauai scenery.
Kauai Backcountry Adventures provides the only tubing activity like this on the island! It’s perfect for people ages 5 and older who are in good physical health. Check the latest rates and availability.
What Do Kids Think of Kauai Mountain Tubing
I really like involving my kids in our vacation planning. We emphasize how everyone gets to take a turn choosing an adventure.
So, I showed him a Kauai Mountain Tubing video on Facebook to see if he’d be interested. He thought it looked pretty cool, so we decided to schedule it for the beginning of our trip.
He later told me that part of the appeal was that his 2-year-old brother wasn’t old enough to do it!
When we arrived at the Kauai Backcountry Adventures headquarters, he started to get a little nervous after seeing the promo video they had on their TV. It showed participants going down a “rapid” and I think that freaked him out.
But he stayed calm and chatted with the employees as they fitted him for a life jacket, gloves, and helmet.
He got a little tired on the van ride to the sugar cane canals. It’s a pretty windy and bumpy road (it’s on private property).
He was still a bit apprehensive as we listened to the training presentation. One of the instructors asked if he’d like to ride up front with him and my son jumped at the opportunity!
So, the instructor put our son in a kid-size inner tube and kept him off to the side as he loaded the rest of us into our inner tubes.
And that was basically the last time we saw him for the majority of the tubing adventure! That’s because our son stayed up front and my husband and I kept floating to the back of the group.
Every time an instructor or participant floated back, they’d report back that our son was having a great time!
Also, I noticed that our son was the only kid on this excursion. We went the week after mid-winter break and didn’t see many kids on vacation.
He even was the first person to go down the 3-foot “rapid” and thoroughly enjoyed it!
At the end of the tunnels, there’s a lazy-river-style section that takes everyone to the end point. That’s when we met back up with our son, who exclaimed, “this is the best day ever!” Check the latest rates and availability.
My Thoughts on Our Kauai Mountain Tubing Activity
Even though I’ve visited Kauai more than 30 times, this was my first opportunity to explore this area near Mount Waialeale.
I’ve never done a tour up there before and it was stunning! Every direction I looked provided an incredible view you just can’t get anywhere else on Kauai.
Part of the tour involves stopping at a scenic viewpoint on the private property and the view was unreal. It’s amazing to see parts of Kauai untouched by construction.
And the tubing itself was a total blast!
I’m not going to sugar-coat it: you’ll be floating in COLD WATER. In fact, it was running joke with the guides warn us not to use any F words (like frigid or freezing) or C words (like chilly or cold)!
They like to say the water is “refreshing” and “invigorating!”
But, after a while, I hardly noticed. I mean, even though I was in an inner tube, I really didn’t get all that wet. It was mostly just my feet and my booty!
And I’m not much for adventure. So, I had my share of thrills just turning on my head lamp to navigate the tunnels.
Actually, “navigate” is the wrong word. I really just floated and let the gentle flow of the water take me down the canal.
Every once in a while, I’d just have to push off the side of the irrigation ditch to get myself back down the center.
I had been worried that I’d feel claustrophobic inside the tunnels, but it was a non-issue. I was even fine turning of my headlamp when we went through the last tunnel. It’s somewhat of a tour tradition!
We were really impressed with the staff leading our adventure. La`i and Paul were fantastic and so sweet with our son. Paul even played a game of tag with our son during lunch!
And speaking of lunch, I was really happy with the Costco sandwich makings, Hawaiian chips, and cookies. It was just the right amount of food.
I’m usually not much of an eater on things like this but I really worked up an appetite with all the tubing!
After our picnic lunch, we got to ride back in an open air, all-terrain vehicle and it made me feel quite outdoorsy!
Our guide La`i shared lots of Kauai history during our ATV ride. Plus, he gave us recommendations of his favorite places to eat (and who has the best happy hour!), as well as a few lesser-known beaches and interesting hikes.
Overall, I highly recommend this Kauai activity to families with kids ages 5 and older looking for a bit of adventure.
It’s a unique experience that I’m looking forward to doing it again when our youngest is old enough! Check the latest rates and availability.
What to Bring on Your Kauai Mountain Tubing Adventure
Water Socks/Water Shoes
The rocks in the caves are very scratchy and you’ll want to protect your feet, so water shoes are a must.
Kauai Backcountry Adventures also offers Crocs to rent if you don’t bring your own waterproof shoes.
Since this is a water activity, you’ll need to wear a swimsuit or clothing that can get wet. I’d suggest wearing a rashguard to protect against the sun and rocks.
A Change of Clothes
After a full day at Kauai Backcountry Adventures, you’ll want dry clothes and shoes to change into. So, make sure to bring something comfortable to wear afterwards!
The company doesn’t provide towels, so you’ll need to bring your own. Borrow some from your hotel or bring along a few quick drying travel towels.
When you get to the tubing site, you’ll need to put all your belongings into tubs that will be transported to the pick-up area.
Bring a bag or backpack to keep your items sorted from everyone else’s stuff. You don’t want to lose your phone or car keys!
What NOT to Bring
Because of the water, don’t bother bringing fancy photography or video equipment. I even left my beloved gimbal in the dry tubs for fear of it falling into the water.
And be careful about your jewelry. Our guides told us that several people lose rings in the water every year when taking their gloves on and off.
Also, this tour is alcohol-free. You’ll have to finish your drinks before you get into the van.
6 Kauai Mountain Tubing Tips for Families
1. Wear a Wetsuit
The sugar cane canals are at the base of Mt. Waialeale and the water is very cold. I thought I’d be fine with just a rash guard, but my mom insisted I wear her neoprene wet suit.
I’m so happy I did because it kept me warm and comfortable in the frigid water and while it rained on us!
2. Don’t Forget the Sunscreen!
Make sure to apply sunscreen before you get into the water. It takes some time for the sunscreen to soak in.
My advice is to apply when you are sitting at the picnic tables inside the Kauai Backcountry Adventures office. That way, it can soak in on the van ride to the tubing location.
3. Be Prepared for Spinning
The only thing that surprised me about tubing was the spinning. Any time my inner tube hit the side of the canal or another inner tube, it would spin me around!
I heard a couple of other participants say they took Dramamine before they started. That might be a good option if you’re prone to motion-sickness. Or eating a ginger chew.
I didn’t feel sick, but definitely noticed the spinning.
4. Eat the Apple Bananas
If you haven’t tried a Kauai apple banana, they are my favorite type of banana (and I don’t usually like bananas).
There are baskets of them available after you check in. It’s a great way to fuel up before your tubing adventure!
5. Get a Waterproof Pouch for Your Phone
The only way you should bring your phone on this tubing adventure is if you have one of these waterproof phone pouches that float.
It’s really easy to drop your phone into the water while you’re floating, and then it would be lost.
We had to leave our phones in our backpacks and there were only a few times I wish I would have been able to take some photos.
Which leads me to my last tip…
6. Buy the Photos!
While I’m always a pusher of investing in quality photos on family vacations, I don’t usually buy the ones at attractions.
But I was really impressed with how many great photos the staff got of my family. And they even did a video!
You can see all the photos online any time after your tour. You can buy them individually or get the whole set for $40.
How to Book your Kauai Mountain Tubing Tour:
To sign up for this Kauai tubing adventure, click here.
Cost: $116 per person
Tour Length: About 3 hours
Tour Times: 8 AM, 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, Noon, 1 PM, and 2p PM
Restrictions: Kids must be at least 5 years old and 43 inches tall. Guests may not exceed 300 pounds. Not recommended for those with hip, knee, or back problems. Women in first trimester of pregnancy will need a doctor’s note to participate.
Location: Their main office is located at 3-4131 Kuhio Highway, Lihue Hawaii, 96766
Kauai Backcountry Adventures hosted our trip in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.