Ocean kayaking in Kauai, Hawai’i… What a way to make memories that will last a lifetime! This memorable adventure is accessible to even beginners and families when you follow the kayaking tips below from our expert guides at Ali’i Kayaks. Or join us on an adventure when you book a guided kayak tour down the Wailua River. It’s the perfect way to practice your newly acquired kayaking skills before heading out to sea!

River Kayaking Tips for Beginners

If this is your first kayaking adventure, it’s a good idea to start with something easy rather than diving right into the ocean or even exploring a sea cave. The Wailua River is a gentle, class-zero river that’s perfect for a first-time kayaking experience. Another important tip for those kayaking in Hawai’i for the first time is to not try to see everything at once. Limit your first trip to segments of a couple of miles or so with good breaks in between.

Essential Gear and Equipment

A PFD (personal flotation device — AKA life jacket) for everyone is essential. It should fit snugly without restricting the paddler’s mobility, so double-check the fit on children. Bring a change of clothing in a waterproof bag in case of dunking, and don’t forget sun protection (sunscreen, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, UV-protective clothing). Also, bring plenty of water so no one is tempted to drink water from a river or sea.

Basic Paddling Techniques

Before getting into a kayak, get to know your paddle. Have someone show you how to hold the paddle and where to place your hands. 

There are three steps to each stroke of the paddle when kayaking. Those steps are the wind-up, power, and release steps. During the wind-up, you’ll place the blade in the water near your feet. You’ll then pull the paddle through the water toward your hip for the power stroke. Finally, pull the paddle out of the water as it is released, and repeat the steps on the other side of the kayak.

To turn the kayak, use a sweep stroke by slowly rotating your torso, which will cause the paddle to make an arch shape in the water and allow the kayak to turn. The process is repeated on the other side if necessary to complete the turn. The sweep stroke takes more force to execute, so make the arch shape as wide and long as you can.

Note: When paddling a kayak, it’s important to keep your back straight for optimal balance and control. You should be sitting up tall with your shoulders back and your knees slightly bent.

Safety Precautions

Follow these kayaking tips to ensure your safety during your kayaking adventures.

Always wear your life jacket

A life jacket is essential for paddlers kayaking in Hawai’i — particularly for young or inexperienced kayakers. After all, accidents can happen to even the most expert paddlers and you wouldn’t want a family member to end up in the water without one.

Stay together

It’s important to stay close to your group, both for safety reasons and because paddling is more fun when you’re with other people. Besides, you won’t want to miss a word that your passionate and highly knowledgeable guide is saying!

Watch out for wildlife

Hawai’i is home to abundant wildlife, from exotic birds to sea turtles to elusive monk seals. It’s important to steer clear of the wildlife for both their safety and yours. Our guides will point out the wildlife you’ll see during your tour while making sure everyone remains a safe distance apart.

Make sure you can handle the adventure

If you’re pregnant or just had surgery, have a bad back or bad knee, or are a child younger than 5, you may need to sit out an ocean-going kayaking adventure. Even a river kayaking tour may be too much for your body to handle.

Book a Tour with Ali’i Kayaks for an Unforgettable Experience in Hawai’i

Exploring Hawai’i’s enchanted seas by kayak is the ultimate way to experience the Aloha State. Get ready for your ocean adventure by practicing your kayak skills during a tour of the historically and culturally significant Wailua River and a visit to spectacular Secret Falls. Contact Ali’i Kayaks to book your next great Hawaiian adventure today!