We Tried Floating the Big Island of Hawaii Kohala Flume, Here's How it Went

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

In doing my Big Island trip research on Pinterest, I stumbled across pictures of this place in Kohala where people have turned an old flume system into a water slide. The only down side is that there aren't any clear directions to get there, and you are trespassing on private property to get there.

A majority of the Kohala forest on the northern part of the Big Island is private property (which makes me so interested in all the beauty that is hidden on these properties). Not only did I stumble across that flume waterslide, but I also stumbled across these beautiful waterfall images that are also on private property. Most of these amazing sites are only accessible by tour groups that have the permits to take you there (and are very expensive).

Like the rule breaker I am not, I decided to try and find a more legal way to get into the Kohala forest and check out a flume irrigation system. I stumbled across the tour group: Flumin' Kohala. Keep in mind, tickets for this are not cheap. We paid over $135 per person to do this, however, it is a once in a lifetime tour. There are many factors that go in to being able to float this and one of those is water level. If there has been a huge rainfall or lack of rainfall, you can't go.

What is the Kohala Ditch?

The Kohala ditch are hand blasted rock tunnels that were blasted over 100 years ago. The Ditch was able to bring water to the area of Kohala, which is located on the north side of the island. There were hundreds of Japanese men that worked on this ditch, which created an irrigation system for everyone in the area.

What are Flumes?

The flumes are the bridge systems that connected the thousand foot rock tunnels together and kept the water flowing.

There isn't a ton of information online about what to really expect on this tour, but here is how it went from my perspective:

The Adventure

From Kona, you will drive about an hour to the town of Hawi where you will find a quaint town (where you should spend some time after the tour). Be prepared for this tour. You need to bring:

  • A Towel (or two)

  • Sandals with an ankle strap or water shoes

  • A full change of clothes

You will load up in a van and take an off road adventure through someone's property to the start of the kayak tour. The road was so bumpy I was surprised the van could make it (and they make this drive multiple times per day!

I was surprised how narrow the ditch was! It is enough for narrow inflatable kayaks to fit. The front and back people are given paddles to steer and to bounce off the sides of the wall. Your guides will give you some in depth history of the tunnels and the flumes. It was all very interesting!

A majority of the time you will be floating through the tunnels. This is where you start to get wet. There are constant drips coming from the tunnel ceilings, which are manageable..at first.

We were the middle boat of 3 and up ahead heard the boat in the front scream! As we got closer, we heard the RUSHING sounds of what sounded like a waterfall. Since the ditches were so narrow, we had no choice but to go right through it. We were SOAKED…and I didn’t have a full change of clothes with me.

The waterfall was in the beginning of the tour so I hoped to dry off by the end. As we would exit tunnels and go through the flumes, the rain started to pour. Keep in mind, Kohala is the wettest part of the Big Island so not only were we getting drenched inside the tunnels, we were now getting drenched outside the tunnels!

I LOVED this tour after I accepted that I was just going to get drenched! Be ready to get wet, duck back in your kayak more than once to avoid hitting your head on the tunnel ceilings and flume rafters, and enjoy the ride!

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