What to See at Kauai’s Fern Grotto

What to See at Kauai’s Fern Grotto

Kauai is Hawaii’s Garden Isle. When you take the Fern Grotto tour, you will understand why the island gets that name. The Fern Grotto highlights the lush landscape that has made Kauai a destination location,

What is the Fern Grotto?

Fern Grotto Cave Kauai
Overhanging flora at the cave entrance

The Fern Grotto is a recessed cave nestled along the banks of Kauai’s Wailua River. The Grotto is a sacred site for the Hawaiian people for hundreds of years. Here young couples married, hoping the the fecund and beautiful site would bring a blessing to their union.

The Fern Grotto has been a highly sought tourist destination for a number of years. Back in the day, you were able to hike into the grotto itself.

However, in recent years damage to the outer walls of the grotto have raised concerns of collapse. Today, visitors can walk to the grotto, but are unable to enter the cave.

About the Fern Grotto Tour

Wailua River State Park
Sign for the Fern Grotto

You can visit the Fern Grotto by booking a tour with the Smith’s Wailua River Cruise. Your tour begins at the base of the Wailua River, next to the Smith’s Family Luau and Garden.

You may book a tour for the river cruise, or you can book a tour for the cruise and the luau too. The tours run Monday through Friday.

There are no weekend tour because the State of Hawaii has restricted commercial vehicle traffic on the river during Saturdays and Sundays.

Current tour admission is $30 for adults and $15 for children.

What You’ll See and Do on the Tour

Boat for Fern Grotto
Onboard the boat that moves you up the Wailua River

Once on board the rear engine covered boat, you will make your way up the mouth of the river into the mountains of Kauai. The slow two mile journey takes about twenty minutes.

During the trip up the river, you will learn some history of the Wailua River valley and the Ali’i (Hawaiian Royal Families) who made the river valley their home.

Also during the trip, you experience local music and dance provided by onboard musicians and dancers. You even will get to dance the Hukilau hula if you desire.

Onboard entertainment
Musicians play and sign familiar Hawaiian music during your boat tour.

At the conclusion of the trip up river, you will unload from the boat and walk a short distance to the Fern Grotto. The path is paved. There are some uneven spots along the way. The path leads you around some well known Hawaiian plants and flowers. You likely will hear the calls of several island birds.

The path culminates at a fenced area to view the Fern Grotto. You will hear a little of the history of the Grotto and it’s importance to the Hawaiian people. In total, you will spend about 15 minutes at the location before returning on the circular path to your boat for it’s return trip to the river’s mouth.

What We Thought

Fern Grotto Vegetation
Vegetation along the Fern Grotto walking path

I have heard different opinions about the Fern Grotto tour. Some have said it is a must-do when on island. Some people argue the Grotto is not impressively beautiful. They claimed it sounded grander than it was in person.

I’m sure value and beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. And, yes, there are many locations on Kauai that are grander and potentially more beautiful. However, the Fern Grotto does have a special place in Kauai’s history, and is probably worth a trip at least once.

There are many places on island to hear Hawaiian music and see or learn hula. You will likely learn the Hukilau at any number of places and events on island. That does mean that the music and hula elements of the tour can seem unnecessary filler. However, if it is the only time you get to experience those things while on island, it will be fresh and meaningful for you.

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All photos and content are by Family Well Traveled and use of photos or content without permission will result in legal action.

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