Return to Hawaii…The Big Island: Let’s Do the Ditch!

Ocean view at end of the road near Kohala

Ocean view at end of the road near Kohala

During our stay on the big Island, we were invited to participate in a “Kohala Ditch Adventure” on the northern tip of the island that contains many ranches and lush rain forest  foliage. We would float 2.5 miles down an old irrigation ditch on inflatable kayaks. We’d seen the ads for the tour and it looked intriguing so we jumped at the chance.

Kayaks in the Kohala Flume Ditch

Kayaks in the Kohala Flume Ditch

The Kohala Ditch is an irrigation canal system that was built at the turn of the previous century in order to provide a consistent water supply to the ranch country in the northern part of the Big Island.

We met our guides at their offices near the town of Kohala. After a brief talk about what we’d be doing, we were loaded into a large six-wheeled Pinzgauers. We drove to the end of the road for an incredible view down to the sea (this also happens to be where the opening sequence to Jurassic Park was filmed). Then we drove up a dirt road to the drop-off point for the beginning of our ditch cruise. All along the drive and subsequent tour, our native guides told us interesting facts about the island and the history of the building of the flume ditch as well as pointed out interesting flora and fauna.

Pinzgauer loaded with kayaks

Pinzgauer loaded with kayaks

After a short walk across a flume, we were ready to load up the kayaks, each carrying 3 people. Getting into the kayaks was a little tricky, although it was made easier by the fact that the water is only a few feet deep so you won’t get too wet if you fall in. Armed with paddles, headlamps, and cameras, we headed off down the ditch. Paddling was not required because the kayaks descended the ditch on their own – the paddles were used to keep the kayaks from hitting the sides of the flume.

Kayak heading into a tunnel

Kayak heading into a tunnel

The ditch flowed through 10 earth tunnels, some several hundred feet long, and over water flumes. We used the headlamps to spot interesting notes carved in the stone inside the tunnels by the builders. At times, we turned off the headlamps and enjoyed the complete silence and darkness of the tunnels. Along the way, we stopped to look down on beautiful waterfalls. We saw cinnamon trees and other fauna and floated right under the zipline set up in the area. We spotted small fish and shrimp in the water and were graced by a native bird of some kind flying low in the ditch (probably fishing) and then right over our heads.

Stop on the ditch tour to view waterfalls below

Stop on the ditch tour to view waterfalls below

A couple of hours later we arrived at the departure point. We unloaded from the kayaks and were met by staff who had refreshing drinks and snacks ready for us. They loaded the kayaks on the top of 6-passenger ATVs and we headed back to the cars.

End of the ditch tour

End of the ditch tour

It’s hard to explain just how much fun this excursion was. It was relaxing, informative, and exciting, all rolled into one adventure. The staff and guides of Kohala Ditch Adventures were absolutely amazing. What a treat!

Our ditch adventure piqued our appetites so we headed into Kohala and had brunch at Bamboo Restaurant. Several people on the island had recommended the food and cocktails at Bamboo Restaurant so we had to try it out. The food and drinks did not disappoint. Bamboo invented the Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) Margarita, Lili Mojito and Lili-tini. Several of us tried the yummy Lilikoi Margarita but I thought I’d be different and I had the Lili Mojito – honestly, I think the Mojito was much tastier than the Margarita. If you go, you must try the Chicken Sate Pot Stickers – to die for! All of the meals were outstanding. It’s a shame that none of us had room for dessert because they looked absolutely delicious!

What a great day on the Big Island!

To view a video of our adventure on the Kohala Ditch, click here.

 

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About Mike

I have a passion for adventure travel that began in 1989 with my first overseas trip: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Having never been to a foreign country, Africa felt like being on another planet; I knew then and there I was hooked on travel. Since that time, I have visited all seven continents and dozens of countries. I’m using the experience I’ve gained in planning my own trips to help my clients plan their own adventures through my adventure travel company (http://www.offtrailtravel.com). After working as a firefighter for the US Forest Service in California and Wyoming for three years, I moved to Durango, Colorado where I graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in accounting. After graduation I moved to the Denver area where I worked in a Big Eight accounting firm to obtain my CPA license; soon afterward I began a career as an auditor with the Colorado Department of Education. My background in accounting helped me develop detailed-oriented skills that have been extremely useful in researching and planning my own travel over the years. I think this provides a unique asset to my clients in putting together their adventure travel plans. I currently live in Golden, Colorado with my wife Valerie, who shares my love of adventure travel. I’m an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club where I lead trips for club members and have taught ski lessons in their Telemark Ski School. I enjoy skiing, mountain hiking, trail running, photography, and astronomy. I take any opportunity I can get to explore new places, whether it’s on the other side of the world or just down the road.
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