Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Tue October 06 2015

Opinion Home | Far-Sighted Field Notes

  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | October 6, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    Tubing Through Tunnels in Kauai

    Tubing Through Tunnels in Kauai

    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

    Kauai is called the “Garden Isle” for good reason. One of the major islands in the Hawaii archipelago, it is covered with lush vegetation and exotic flowers from almost every viewpoint. But Kauai is also topographically diverse. The island boasts canyons, beaches and sweeping mountains.

    You have to experience all of these aspects to really get the complete picture of Kauai and one of the most adventurous ways to acquire this complete perspective is to go on a journey up into the mountains, where one can tube through ancient irrigation tunnels.

    I love mountains and being in the water, so tubing sounded like a fun, if slightly scary excursion to try. I glimpsed tall peaks looming over every place I visited on the island and figured mountain tubing would be a much easier way to see them up close instead of hiking them.

    Kauai Backcountry features the only mountain tubing experience on the scenic grounds of the former Lihue Plantation. I not only gained upfront views of Kauai's majestic mountains, I witnessed the expertise of the complex irrigation system of tunnels and flumes hand dug over a century ago. That's what I call an adventure.

    Our group jumped into a four-wheel drive jeep and headed through the verdant grounds to the mountains. The vistas and valleys are spectacular and we stopped several times just to absorb it all. You really get a sense of connecting with nature.

    After a muddy trek through the highlands, the tubing begins with the tour guide outfitting passengers in headlamps, gloves and tubes. Believe it or not, the trickiest part of the adventure was learning how to feel for the headlamp switch with thick gloves on. You need the lamp in the dark tunnels and I did not want to be floating around in pitch-black caverns so I spent extra time perfecting my light switching technique.

    I also brought my own water shoes, which turned out to be a good idea because the area is one of the wettest places in the world and it gets really muddy.

    The tunnels looked like narrow streams, wide enough for two tubes to float down easily. It was fascinating to see such a complex system that was actually man made. To me, the tunnels looked like natural pools connected to the mountainous landscape and not a 19th century irrigation system. I guess that’s why they still exist — the construction is meticulous. 

    One experience I didn't count on was how frigid the water would be, which I discovered at the very start of the trip. My booty felt like a Popsicle as I hopped into a ditch and on top of the tube.

    We then floated through tunnels until we came to a cave, where we were instructed to turn on our headlamps. It was eerie and exciting bobbing around in the dark with glimpses of cave walls and markings left by workers who built the system in 1870, which offered a great historical backdrop.

    I felt like such a pro that I never worried about my headlamp not working but I have to admit, I would not want to be in the total dark in that cave!

    Afterwards, a simple picnic lunch is served in a picturesque valley. It's a three-hour tour that really serves up an engaging view of Kauai nature and history. 

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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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