What is Mountain Tubing, and Where Can You Do it in Hawaii?

Tubing is a recreational activity wherein an individual rides on top of an inner tube (an inflatable ring that forms the interior of some tires, inflated with a valve system instead of the casing of the tire) either on water, snow, or through the air. The tubes are also called “donuts” or “biscuits” because of their shapes. Water tubing is the most popular kind of tubing activity in Hawaii because of the many beaches the state has. But this does not mean that mountain tubing is not done in Hawaii. In this article, we will be covering two sites where mountain tubing is popular among locals and tourists.

How does it work?

 kids water tubing

There are two kinds of tubing. One is the towed tubing, and the second is free-floating. Towed tubing takes place in a large body of water such as a lake or a river. Tubers or those who facilitate the tube riding chain their tubes to a powered watercraft such as a motorboat or a personal watercraft, water scooter, or jet ski. The watercraft then towed riders through the water.

In free-floating, the tubes of the rider do not need to be tethered or chained to their tubes. The current allows the tubes to be carried in a waterway.

Mountain Tubing Vs. Water Tubing

The main difference between mountain and water tubing is that water tubing is done in a larger part of water, like a river or ocean. While mountain tubing still goes through waterways, its sceneries often include irrigation sceneries and mountainsides. Water tubing is the most popular kind of tubing done in Hawaii because: (a) of the wide availability of water in the state, and (b) since most mountainside area is part of beaches that falls under water tubing category.  

Where to do mountain tubing in Hawaii

We have to take note that although there are a lot of mountainside places in Hawaii with some rivers and streams, not all of them do mountain tubing activities simply because the activity is not suitable in the area or the area itself is privately owned, or perhaps because mountain tubing is not something that is tried yet. The two spots that are mentioned below is where mountain tubing is prevalent. 

1. Lihue Plantation Lands

Lihue Plantation Lands is the only mountain tubing site in Kauai and probably the only suggested mountain tubing area in the whole state because of the presence of lifeguards and tourist guides. It goes through a waterway and allows riders to see and witness canals, tunnels, and flumes that were once part of an irrigation plantation. Kauai island offers mountain tubing and encourages tourists to access the island’s tropical interior.

Upon arriving at their base camp, the local staff will load up on four-wheel drive-off-road vehicles to give tourists a tour through Lihue Plantation lands. Walking through the rainforest, the local staff will then give tourists knowledge about the history of the rainforest itself, the foliage, and the animals that made it its habitat.

The journey will then lead to Lihue Plantation’s 100-year-old irrigation system where tourists can expect the water tubes. The series of canals and tunnels from Hanamaulu ditch system was intended to bring water from the waterfalls and streams of Mt. Wai’ale’ale to deliver irrigation for the large sugar cane fields in and around Lihu’e. The sugar plantation has been closed down, but the incredible waterways are still around and have adopted a new life as one of the most exceptional water adventures in Kauai.

Gentle water currents provide a fun and relaxing ride through valleys and tunnels that lead to breathtaking views of remote and beautiful locations. The tubing adventure will give you a glimpse of a century-old industry that helps to shape the Hawaii of today. The tubing tour in Kauai includes helmets, headlamps, gloves, tubes, and a tasty lunch and water.

The mountain tubing adventure can take up to 3 hours, so the local staff makes sure that the weather condition is safe before pushing the mountain tubing adventure. Children 5 years under are not allowed to take the ride. The minimum height must be 43 inches tall. 

2. Kaukonahua Stream, Oahu

The stream is not actually made to be tubed so there are no lifeguards or any other safety features available in the area. Going into the location means that tourists should make sure that they must carry their own tubing equipment that they need as there will be no equipment-renting accessible.

Before getting into the tubing activity in the lazy stream, the starting point is at the start of the Schofield Waikane Trail, which then leads to the North fork of the Kaukonahua Stream. In the clockwise direction of the trail is the Wahiawa hills Loop Trail which will also lead to the river upstream where tourists can start tubing. 

Schofield Waikane Trail will take up to 5 to 6 hours of multiple rope sections, stream crossings, rock hopping, and a little bit of swimming hike. One important thing to remember before doing the mountain tubing in this are is to make sure that the stream is not dry or with too much water to avoid flooding. In order to make sure that the day you have chosen to do mountain tubing is perfect is to check the water gauge system of the United States Geological Survey (an agency of the US that studies its landscape, natural resources, and natural hazards) as they give accurate readings of the water level and discharge. 

A 5 cubic feet per second rate is a good indicator that the stream will be flowing and will get some fast-moving water along the way. Although the stream is a risky adventure, locals and tourists seem to love doing mountain tubing in the stream. 

How to be comfortable in a tubing adventure

speed boat dragging two people in tube

  • Wear something you are comfortable getting wet with. Although tubing adventures gives out life vests for safety and can secure your clothes from getting wet, it does not guarantee that the clothes below will not get wet. You can get with especially with splash coming from other tubes or when passing through a strong current of water.
  • Wear water-friendly shoes and make sure that they fit with your feet and are not easily loose.
  • Bring a towel and extra clothes to change into later.
  • Put sunscreen or a bug repellent, especially in a mountain tubing adventure.

Thoughts

Mountain tubing is another fun and unique experience tourists can enjoy on the island of Hawaii. Although there are only a few known mountain tubing sites in the area, locals and tourists can definitely find a way to do and experiment mountain tubing in areas where there are streams. The only ultimate reminder for mountain tubing activities is to be extra careful as waters can be full of surprises.