The most fun we had (in my humble opinion) on any excursion during our entire trip was visiting the Lihue Plantation, an old sugar plantation on Kauai.
I know you’re thinking: what is so fun about visiting an old sugar plantation unless it is now a rum factory? Alas no rum–what we did was float down part of the irrigation system on tubes.
A little bit of history on the Lihue Plantation: construction started on the irrigation system in 1856 with the Rice Ditch (created by William Harrison Rice). It wasn’t quite what they needed it to be, so in 1870 the Hanama‘ulu Ditch was built–by hand (well, and shovels, sledge hammers, etc!). It is said that it took up to 1,000 workers at one time to build each section of the ditch and it took two years to finish all the sections. All in all, the Lihue Plantation’s water system is made up of 51 miles of ditches! You can read more about it here.
We booked our tubing tour with Kauai Backcountry Adventures, who would be guiding us down part of the Hanama‘ulu Ditch. After checking in, we were weighed (yep….weighed! I probably should have had less malasadas for breakfast!!). After weigh-in, we were handed hard hats, headlamps, and gloves. We were then herded into large vans (nicer than the ones in Ka Lae) and we drove down some tiny backroads until we reached a clearing where we were dumped out and watched helplessly as the vans drove away.
Just as we were about to panic that we had been abandoned in some Hawaiian Lord of the Flies experiment, we were greeted by a younger version of The Rock (that would be Dwayne Johnson, not Rockefeller Plaza or Alcatraz), who explained the rules:
- Stay in your tube
- If you’re having issues, let one of the guides know
- Stick together as a group
- Do NOT say the water is cold
We were then given a series of directional code words and what they meant, which were mostly for when we were in the tunnels and couldn’t see.
Everyone in the group (about 20 in total) agreed to all the rules and dutifully practiced our code words while we lined up and proceeded down a little ramp where the younger version of The Rock would select a tube for us and help us into it.
April was the first in our group, who declared the water to be refreshing. Although she is from Minnesota and the fact that the water was in liquid form meant that it wasn’t the c-word.
I walked up and–with all the grace of a hippopotamus learning ballet–managed to get into my tube aaaaand HOLYFUCKINGSHIT the water is uh, uh, brisk/refreshing/invigorating/bracing. I sounded a little like Rainman with a thesaurus, but I did not say the c-word (yay me!).
I can’t quite remember what the punishment for saying the c-word was, but when someone who looks like the younger version of The Rock tells you not to do something, you listen!
However as I floated by the younger version of The Rock, he noticed that I couldn’t get comfortable, so he called me over. After a couple of seconds of watching me struggle to paddle back to him, he walked over and towed me back to the shore. All of this time, mind you, no one else has gotten in the water and were all watching us. He very politely and quietly whispers, “I think you need a slightly bigger tube.” At which point, I start laughing hysterically.
Christi, who was next in line, had a worried look on her face “what’s wrong? what’s wrong?”
Through the laughter I roared “my ass is too big!!”
The younger version of The Rock looked slightly mortified and said “I didn’t say that! I just think a different tube would be more comfortable.”
And he was right, of course…but I couldn’t stop giggling.
Once everyone was in their tube, we set off–stopping periodically to let the stragglers catch up to the group.
The irrigation system had a current moving fast enough to keep pushing us along, but not so fast that we felt like we were in white water rapids. Along the way we came to 4 different tunnels. At each tunnel entrance we’d turn on our lights, which afforded us to see things nearby our tube, but little else.
We laughed, we floated, we got to know other people in our group, and along the way saw some spectacular views. Once we were finished navigating our section of the irrigation ditch, we had a picnic lunch and were offered up in sacrifice to the mosquitos.
All too soon, we found ourselves back in the van navigating the windy roads back to Lihue. It was so much fun! And if you find yourself on the island of Kauai, tubing should be on top of your Things To Do List–just don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray!
For more information or to book your tubing adventure, click here: Kauai Backcountry Adventure.