Kauai's Fern Grotto Coming Back To Life

Kamika Smith
Kamika Smith
Steve Thompson
Steve Thompson

(KAUAI) KHNL - Kauai's Fern Grotto is not only a popular destination for millions of visitors, it's a place where thousands have tied the knot.

But the scenic spot was shutdown last year and is just now starting to come to life again.

It's a scenic journey on Kauai's Wailua River. The same journey Smith Motor Boats have taken for the past 60 years, traveling up and down Hawaii's only navigable river.

Along the way, they entertain visitors. And share the cultural importance of this river. "Alongside the river there is a lot of history, the royal family used to live in the Wailua river valley area." says Kamika Smith, of Smith's Motor Boats.

But the highlight of the journey is a stop at the Fern Grotto. A spectacular natural cave formation full of lush scenery.

But all of this changed a year ago, after nearly 40 days of downpours.

"The floods came and the flooding river destroyed the docks and water dislodged rocks." says Steve Thompson with the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Those falling rocks also ruined the state's multi-million dollar facelift for the Fern Grotto.

Before the rock falls and heavy rains hit, the state had just installed new ramps and walkways, ones that were destroyed by the floods and falls.

And the danger of more falling rocks forced the closure of this popular attraction.

Without the Fern Grotto, business disappeared for these river boat tours.

"During the closure, we took 70,000 less people than the year before, so that hurt." says Smith.

Today, plants grow in once flooded areas, loose boulders have been scaled back and safety netting installed to keep future rock falls away.

"It took almost a year to rebuild the park to open it up again." adds Thompson.

The state hopes to have the Fern Grotto completely restored by summer, but the partial opening of the park means many are once again, falling in love with this Kauai treasure.

While the Fern Grotto is open again, there are some changes to the area. In addition to having wheelchair compliant ramps, visitors are no longer able to go "into" the Grotto, and must view this Hawaii landmark from a nearby observation deck.