Wondering what to do in Kauai with kids? Keep scrolling to read my full review on sugar cane canal tubing on Kauai with my family. Plus, get my Kauai tubing discount!
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Have you seen the awesome videos of Kauai mountain tubing that are over Facebook and YouTube?
It’s where people are able to float down old sugar cane canals on inner-tubes through rock tunnels at the foot of Mt. Waialeale, one of the wettest places on Earth.
I’ve been curious about tubing in Kauai since I first heard about it when it opened years ago.
However, I am not really an “adventure traveler” and I have always worried it would be too extreme for me. I do not usually do anything outdoorsy or strenuous. And I am not actually into most water activities.
But, I thought it would be one of the Kauai adventures that my family would be excited about, so we tried it.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Kauai, this Kauai sugar cane tubing adventure always comes up.
Keep scrolling to read my honest review of mountain tubing on Kauai and why I think it’s one of the top things to do in Kauai with kids.
Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Kauai Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.
Hawaii Tubing FAQs
Kauai sugar plantation tubing is one of the most popular Hawaii tubing tours. It’s located up in the Kauai mountains. There’s also the Flumin Kohala Ditch, but it’s currently closed (as of April 2021) due to damage. You can also float down mountain streams on the other islands on your own.
We think so! It’s a great way to access places on Kauai that are on private property. Plus, the Kauai river tubing is pretty gentle and relaxing. We love that it’s an adventure the whole family can do, including grandparents. And it’s a great way to see one of the best hidden gems in Hawaii!
You’ll definitely want to wear water shoes, a rashguard, sunscreen, sunglasses, and maybe even a sun hat. And don’t forget a dry change of clothes for after the tour.
What is Kauai Cave Tubing?
The island of Kauai used to have a lot of sugar cane mills. The last one closed up shop a long time ago and there aren’t any working sugar cane plantations in Hawaii.
In 2003, Kauai Backcountry Adventures saw an opportunity to launch Eco-tours to families wanting to explore the former Lihue Plantation at a unique way: through their historic irrigation system!
These sugar cane canals were hand-dug in the 1870s and operate through the remote areas near Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest places on Earth.
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. And they added picnic shelters and restrooms.
During the tour, you’ll wear a headlamp because you float through 5 Kauai tunnels. The remainder of the time, you’ll casually float through open sugar cane canals and marvel at the lovely Kauai scenery.
If you’re looking for awesome Kauai activities for families, this is one of the best activities in Kauai. It’s perfect for people ages 5 and older who are in good physical health. Check latest rates and availability.
Mountain Tubing in Kauai with a 5 Year Old
I love involving my kids in our vacation planning. We emphasize how everyone gets to take a turn choosing an adventure to do at some point during our trip.
So, I showed my 5 year old son one of the Kauai Mountain Tubing videos on Facebook to see if he would be interested. He thought it seemed interesting, so we decided to schedule it at the start of our trip to Kauai.
He later told me that part of the appeal was that his two year old brother was not old enough to do it!
When we arrived to the Kauai Backcountry Adventures headquarters, he began to feel a little nervous after seeing the promo video. It showed participants going down a “rapid” that part made him feel worried.
However, he stayed calm and chatted with the staff members as they fitted him to get a life jacket, gloves, and helmet.
Then we hopped into the van to take us to the launch point. My son got a bit tired on the van ride into the sugar cane canals. It’s a fairly windy and bumpy road through private land.
He was still a bit apprehensive as we listened to the practice presentation. So, one of the leaders asked if he’d like to ride up alongside him and my son jumped at the chance!
I should mention that my son is very friendly and loves attention.
So, the instructor put our son in a kid-size inner tube and kept him off to the side while he loaded the rest of us into our inner tubes.
And that was basically the last time we saw our son for the vast majority of the Kauai tube ride. See, our son stayed up front with the instructor while my husband and I kept drifting to the rear of the group.
Thankfully, each time an instructor or participant floated back, they would report back that our son was having a great time!
I must also mention that our son was the only kid on this excursion. We went in the off-season and didn’t see many children on vacation.
He even was the first person to go down the 3-foot “rapid” and thoroughly enjoyed it!
When we hopped out of the water, our son proclaimed that it was the “best day ever!” Check recent prices and more information.
What I Thought About This Kauai Backcountry Tubing Adventure
Though I’ve traveled to Kauai for the past 25 years, this was my first opportunity to really explore this area near Mount Waialeale.
I’ve never explored this area before and now I’m kicking myself for not signing up for one of these Kauai tours sooner. This is hands down one of the best things to do in Lihue!
It was stunning! In every direction I looked, there was an incredible view you just can’t get anyplace else on Kauai.
Part of the tour entails stopping at a scenic viewpoint on the private property and the view was unreal. It’s amazing to see parts of Kauai that are truly unspoiled.
And the tubing through the mountains of Kauai itself was a total blast! It’s one of the best adventurous things to do in Kauai.
I’m not likely to sugar-coat it; the water is C-O-L-D. Actually, it became a running joke because the guides warned us not to use any F words (such as freezing or frigid ) or C words (such as chilly or cold!)
They like to state the water is “refreshing” and “invigorating!”
However, after awhile, I barely noticed. I mean, though I was in an inner tube on this Kauai canal float, I truly did not get all that wet. It was mostly just my toes and my bum!
Like I mentioned previously, I’m not much for adventure. So, I had my share of thrills just turning on my head lamp to navigate the Kauai tunnels.
In fact, “navigate” is the incorrect word. I really just floated and allowed the water take me down the canal. And every once in awhile, I would push off the side of the Kauai irrigation ditch to get myself to float down the center.
I was worried that I would feel claustrophobic inside the tunnels, But it turned out to be a non-issue. Surprisingly, I was even fine turning off my head lamp to experience the final tunnel.
We were impressed with all the staff leading our experience. La`i and Paul were fantastic and sweet with our son.
Paul even played an intense game of tag with our son during lunch!
And speaking of lunch, I really enjoyed the selection of Costco sandwich makings, Hawaiian chips, and cookies. It was just the ideal amount of food.
I am usually not much of an eater but I actually worked up an appetite with this Kauai Hawaii tubing!
After lunch, we rode back into an open air, all-terrain vehicle and it made me feel quite outdoorsy!
Our guide La`i gave us recommendations of his favorite places to eat (and which ones have the best happy hour). Plus, he shared lesser known beaches, interesting hikes, and plenty of Kauai history.
I’d definitely suggest this Kauai activity to families with children ages 5 or for multi-generational travel. I am looking forward to doing it again when our youngest is old enough!
It’s really no wonder why this is one of the top things to do in Kauai, Hawaii. Find Kauai tubing discounts here.
What to Bring your Kauai Mountain Tubing Experience:
Kauai Backcountry Adventures offers Crocs to borrow if you don’t bring your personal water shoes.
Since this is a water activity, you’ll need to put on a swimsuit or clothing that can get wet. I would suggest wearing a rashguard to protect against sunlight as well as the rocks.
You’ll also need dry clothing to change into afterwards.
They don’t provide towels, so you’ll have to bring your own. Borrow some from the hotel or bring along a fast drying travel towel.
We were fine sharing two towels between the 3 people.
When you get into the Kauai tube launch site, you’ll need to put all your belongings into plastic tubs which are going to be transported to the pickup area.
Bring a bag or backpack to keep your items sorted out of everybody else’s stuff. You don’t need to lose your phone or keys!
What NOT to bring:
Due to the water, don’t bother bringing fancy video or photography gear. I even left my cherished Osmo Pocket in the dry tubs for fear of it slipping to 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.
Additionally, this tour is alcohol-free. You are going to have to finish your drinks before you get into the van.
Kauai Mountain Tubing Tips for Families
CHECK THE WEATHER
While this is a water activity and it may seem silly about worrying about rain, this is much more enjoyable on sunny days.
Check the weather on Kauai to avoid super overcast days. That way, you’ll be able to appreciate the view even more.
WEAR A WETSUIT
The sugar cane canals are at the base of Mt. Waialeale and the water is C-O-L-D. I thought I would be fine with just a rash guard, but my mom insisted that I put on her tight neoprene wet suit top.
I’m so happy I did since it kept me warm and comfortable from the freezing water and whether it rained on us.
DON’T FORGET THE SUNSCREEN!
My advice is to apply it when you are sitting in the picnic tables inside the Kauai Backcountry Adventures office. This way, it can soak in on the van trip to the tubing location.
BE PREPARED FOR SPINNING
The one thing that really surprised me about tubing on Kauai was the spinning. Anytime my inner tube hit the side of this canal or another inner tube, I would start spinning.
I heard a couple of different participants state they took Dramamine before they started. That had not occurred to me, but might be a fantastic alternative if you’re prone to motion-sickness. Or eat a ginger chew.
I didn’t feel sick, but definitely noticed the spinning.
TRY THE APPLE BANANAS
If you haven’t attempted a Kauai apple banana, then they are my favorite type of banana (and I do not usually like bananas.)
There are baskets of these accessible once you check in. It’s a terrific way to fuel up a bit!
GET A WATERPROOF POUCH FOR YOUR PHONE
The only way you should bring your mobile on this tubing adventure is if you have one of these waterproof pouches for your phone.
It’s quite simple to drop your phone into the water as you are drifting and it might be missing.
So, we left our phones inside our backpacks and there were only a few times I wish I’d have been able to shoot some photographs.
Which leads me to my last tip…
BUY THE PHOTOS
While I’m always a pusher of investing in quality photos on family vacations, I do not typically buy the ones at attractions.
However, I was really impressed with how many fantastic photographs the team got of my family. And they even did a video!
You may see all the pictures online anytime after your tour and can purchase them individually or get the entire set for $40.
How to Reserve your Kauai Mountain Tubing Tour:
To sign up for this Kauai tube experience, click here.
Tour Length: About 3 hours
Tour Times: 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am, Noon, 1pm, and 2pm
Limits: Kids must be at least 5 years old and 43 inches tall. Guests may not exceed 300 lbs. Maybe not recommended for those with knee, hip, or back problems. Women in first trimester of pregnancy may need a physician’s note to participate.
Location: Their main office is located at 3-4131 Kuhio Highway, Lihue Hawaii, 96766
Kauai Backcountry Adventures hosted our excursion in exchange for an honest review. All comments are my own.