Lihue Plantation Hanama‘ulu Ditch


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When researching our Hawaii trip, the mountain tubing eco-tour with Kauai Backcountry Adventures came highly recommended. The outfitter has leased the lands of the old Lihue Sugar Plantation in order to run tubing expeditions through the irrigation ditches that once carried water from the mountains to the cane fields.


Lihue Plantation was one of the oldest (founded in 1849) and best financed sugar plantations in Hawaii. One pound of sugar requires 500 gallons of water to be produced, so the plantation workers dug the irrigation ditches out by hand, tunneling through rock and mountainsides.

The Hanama‘ulu Ditch, the one used by Kauai Backcountry, was built in 1870. It served as the conduit from Mount Wai’ale’ale (the second wettest spot on the planet), carrying water four miles down the mountains to the fields. The plantation ceased operations in 2000. Today, the ditch system continues to provide water for cattle ranchers.


Steve Case, the founder of America Online, bought the plantation lands in 2001. Kauai Backcountry Adventures has exclusive access to the the irrigation ditches through an agreement with Case, so the only way to see this remote section of Kauai is with them.


Once we were outfitted with hard-hats, lanterns and life vests, we boarded the 4-wheel-drive vehicle for the trek up the mountain. On the way, our tour guides talked about the history of the plantation and provided instructions for the tubing.


Once there, they helped us into the water. In spots, the current was pretty brisk as the channel narrowed and we were whisked through tunnels. In others, it was a fun lazy-river ride through the jungle. At the end of our ride, we were treated to a picnic by the river.


Kauai Posts:

  • Wailua Falls
  • Lihue Plantation Hanama‘ulu Ditch
  • ʻŌpaekaʻa Falls
  • Wailua River State Park
  • Mount Waiʻaleʻale
  • Fuji Beach
  • Moloa’a Beach
  • Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
  • Kīlauea Lighthouse
  • Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
  • Wai’oli Hui’ia Church
  • Waimea Canyon State Park: Red Dirt Falls
  • Waimea Canyon State Park: Waimea Canyon Lookout
  • Waimea Canyon State Park: Waipo’o Falls
  • Kōkeʻe State Park: Kalalau Lookout
  • Kōkeʻe State Park: Pu’u O Kila Lookout
  • Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park
  • Hanapepe Swinging Bridge
  • Spouting Horn
  • Koloa Heritage Trail: Spouting Horn
  • Koloa Heritage Trail: Keoneloa Bay
  • Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park

Location: Hanamaulu, Kauai, Hawaii

Designation: Former Sugar Plantation

Date established/designated: circa 1870

Date of my visit: April 18, 2019


22 thoughts on “Lihue Plantation Hanama‘ulu Ditch

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