Tubing, or Not Tubing?
On hot, humid afternoons back in the early days of Hawaii’s sugar cane plantations, the local kids knew how to cool off and have fun: Just grab an inner tube and, making sure the guards didn’t see you, jump into the wide network of irrigation canals that watered the fields. Kids of all ages can now enjoy this thrill as Kauai Backcountry Adventures (see below) takes tubers through the dark, watery tunnels and inclined flumes that were built by hand in the 1800s—a true engineering marvel—to channel the cool, clear water running off Mt. Waialeale.
The adventure begins at Kauai Backcountry’s offices, just a few minutes from Lihue Airport on Highway 56. From there, visitors are taken by four-wheel-drive vehicle to Lihue Plantation’s headwaters. Mountain Tubing tours last about 3 hours and, because there is a limit to the number of tubers on each tour, reservations are strongly suggested. The cost of $100 per tuber may seem prohibitive, but that figure includes your inner tube, headlamps (for seeing in the tunnels), protective gloves, and a picnic lunch at tour’s end. Tubers should bring water-friendly shoes with a strap (no flip-flops), towels, sunscreen, and a dry change of clothes.
You might also want to bring a waterproof camera, because the mountain scenery from this 17,000-acre (6,880-hectare) plantation is stunning, and the fern-lined canals are a lovely sight. You’ll have a chance at an overlook stop to peer into the immense volcanic crater of Mount Waialeale. Headlamps flickering in the long, dark tunnels—one of which is almost a mile (1.6km) long—are an eerie thrill. The canal route takes tubers through the lush fields and forests of this 19th-century plantation, most of which are off-limits to visitors. And if that’s not enough, Kauai Backcountry also has a zipline tour through their property for some above-ground fun. —ML
Kauai Backcountry Adventures ( 888/270-0555 or 808/245-2506; www.kauaibackcountry.com).
When to Go: Year-round.
$$$ Kiahuna Plantation Resort, 2253 Poipu Rd. ( 800/OUTRIGGER [688-7444] or 808/742-6411; www.outrigger.com). $$ Hanalei Surf Board House, 5459 Weke Rd. ( 808/826-9825; www.hanaleisurfboardhouse.com).