Travel Blog #71 – Tubing The Ditch On Kauai

Jan 3, 2022 | Activity Information

Kauai Backcountry Adventures offers an inner-tubing tour in the mountains of Kauai. This tour is an action pact inner tube tour, with a historical twist.

When we checked in at the Kauai Backcountry Tours office in Hanama’ulu. After check in, we walked around the headquarters and checked out some of the informational plaques that were mounted on the walls. The plaques detailed the history of the ditches that the tubing tour goes through. The ditches were constructed during the sugar cane days of Hawaii in the early 1900’s. These ditches were some of the first pieces of major infrastructure that were installed on Kauai by the European settlers. The gravity fed aqueduct system of Kauai is an engineering marvel, even by the engineering standards of today. The system meanders through lush jungle valleys and even tunnels through entire mountains at points to maintain the consistency of the mellow downhill slope that is essential to the flow of the entirely pump-less, gravity fed system. After we were done looking around the headquarters, our guide assembled the group to issue our equipment and go over some details of the trips itinerary.

We were issued helmets with headlamps on them so we could see in the dark going through the tunnels on our route. After our group was done getting fitted with helmets, we moved out to the front of the building where our other guide was waiting with a 6 wheeled military transport vehicle. The transport vehicle that had a trailer attached to the back of it that was loaded with giant inner tubes. We boarded the vehicle and began making our way up the hill towards our drop off point high up on the mountain.

Our guides pointed out where different films were shot on the ranch lands and jungles that bordered the road. The war films “Tropic Thunder” and “The Thin Red Line” were filmed in these fields. Also, the early 1990’s Stephen Spielberg dinosaur classic “Jurrasic Park” had some scenes that were filmed here too. We stopped along the way at a scenic point where to took pictures and admired the views of the lush interior of Kauai.

Once we made it to our drop in point, our guides went over some last minute instructions before we began our journey down the man made stream. Right before we began our journey I remember wondering how cold it was going to be. I was pleasantly surprised to find our that while the water in the stream was colder then the ocean, it was not nearly as some chilling as the freshwater streams on Maui.

Our group leisurely pin balled its way down the ditch, enjoying the views of the jungle along the way. Our guide told us something was really helpful, he said:

“Today you cannot say sorry if you run into anyone”.
This really helped to set a playful tone for the tour. Within about 2 minutes of being on the river the whole group was using their inner tubes like giant bumper boats, bouncing off the walls as well as the other members of the group.

We went through some sections where the current was faster then it was in others, but I think that the most exciting part of the tour was when we got to go through the tunnels. These tunnels were created when the methods of construction were still very primitive. They would have a team of workers tunnel towards each other from opposite sides of the mountain. Most of the time they were very good at lining the tunnels up so both of them met in the middle. However, there were some tunnels where they didn’t meet in the center as planned and had to change course midway through the construction. This resulted in tunnels that ended up with an “S” shape to them. We went through one such tunnel. It was quite a thrill to bounce our way around the corners in the dark while we were floating in the giant inner-tubes.

At the end of our trip I think it was safe to say that we all had a good time. Everyone of all ages seemed to be smiling and I couldn’t help but think to myself that I wanted to do this trip again. I think I will save it for next time some of my family from the mainland comes to visit, I know a few of them that would really enjoy this tour.