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Wailua Riverboat Tour and Fern Grotto, Kauai

The Wailua River valley is where many motion pictures have been filmed including the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Outbreak and many others. The best way to see the valley is by riverboat and both Smith's and the Wai'ale'ale Boat Tours offer trips down the river to the famous Fern Grotto. In fact, the only way to get to the Fern Grotto is up the Wailua River, by boat. In ancient times, only people of Hawaiian royalty were permitted to go to the Grotto. Now anyone can experience one of the most lush, densely vegetated examples of a tropical paradise, festooned with draping ferns. It's official status is now that of a "state park".
The Fern Grotto is a popular place for weddings and the traditional "Hawaiian Wedding Song" is commonly part of the ceremony.

The River Boat Local Culture and Songs


We begin our journey down the Wailua river on this comfortable, open and airy barge, designed for maximum viewing of the gorgeous scenery that lies ahead.


As we cruise down the river, our guide tells us about the history of the area, local culture, the movies made on Kauai and all about what famous people own the expensive homes along the river. You can see a few of them on top of the cliff. Enlarge the picture and you'll see them even better.

Cruising Down the River Approaching the Fern Grotto


As we continue past Kauai's lush greenery, our hosts entertain us with some Hawaiian favorites sung in their native language.


We disembark and walk towards the Fern Grotto cave, visible in the distance. The leaves on all of the plants in Kauai are strikingly large, compared to what one sees on the mainland US.

The Fern Grotto The Surprise


Here is the Grotto, draped in ferns. The cave does not go back very far, but a crowd of us were able to congregate within it for a "special surprise" our guides had planned for us.


Four musicians serenade us with a lovely rendition of the "Hawaiian Wedding Song", in both English and Hawaiian. Many people choose to marry at the Grotto each year and and this wedding song is typically part of the ceremony.

Kauai's Lush Greenery Columnar Basalts


Just an example of the absolutely gorgeous scenery on Kauai, the oldest of the 8 common Hawaiian Islands. Amazing what millions of years of weathering and erosion can do!


A little background geology:
The rock that the fern grotto cave is set into is volcanic basalt. As basalt cools, a series of polygonal "columns" form in the hardening lava flow, due to atomic arrangement within the lava. These columns are referred to as "columnar basalts" and the process is called "columnar jointing". These columns can be seen in the photograph above.

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FYI: Movies and TV Shows Shot on the Island of Kauai

Six Days and Seven Nights
Jurassic Park
Raiders of the Lost Ark
King Kong (1976 version)
Star Wars (scenes)
South Pacific
Blue Hawaii
Fantasy Island

Take a Wailua River Boat Tour

Plan a Fern Grotto Hawaiian Wedding

"A delightful trip from Nawiliwili Harbor through the town of Lihue takes you to the mouth of the Wailua River, former home of Hawaii's royalty and the supposed landing site of Tahiti's first migrants. Here you will board a riverboat for a relaxing trip up to the Fern Grotto. A short walk through dense foliage brings you into the grotto. Taking advantage of this natural amphitheater and its excellent acoustics, a Hawaiian chorus will serenade you with the beautiful "Hawaiian Wedding Song." This song is performed in honor of the many weddings that take place in the romantic, secluded grotto. On the return from Wailua River, you'll pass through a pretty coconut grove to Opaekaa Falls and the Holoholoku Temple."


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