By Ann Nelson
If you’re looking for a rugged, exciting, and new adventure and want to be in a place that takes your breath away, go to Kauai. If you’re looking for adventure and beauty in the same place, go to Kauai! My best friend and I wanted to go on an adventure trip, and decided on Kauai because of its rainforests, reefs, enormous cliffs and canyons. We wanted to explore the wild jungle trails, snorkel in the razor-sharp reefs, and squeal with delight as we flew through the air, harnessed to a zip line. It was time to bring back our playful spirits.
Stepping off the plane was like stepping into paradise. Kauai was created from one massive volcano about five million years ago. The weather on the island ranges from the wettest place on earth, in the center of the island where it rains 444 inches a year, to desert-like conditions on the west side. Kauai, nicknamed the Garden Island, is the oldest and greenest of all the islands. The island offers 50 miles of dazzling, white sandy beaches. It takes about two hours to drive around the island.
The air was balmy and fresh as we drove from the airport to our first stop, Resort Quest Kauai Beach at Makaiwa. This beachfront hotel is centrally located, and a bargain to boot. Every 4th night is free and includes a 2-for-1 luau dinner and show with a 4-night minimum stay. We did go to the luau the first night. What a colorful exciting event. The next morning began with a glorious beachfront walk in back of the hotel, and a scrumptious breakfast buffet downstairs at the Voyager Grille.
It was important for us to plan our trip ahead of time because there is so much to do in Kauai. We decided that our first adventure would be to float down an old irrigation ditch in a big tire with Back Country Adventures. The ditch traversed through Lihue’s old sugar cane plantation, through tunnels and flumes. Fields of color and beauty surrounded us as we gently glided down this old tropical waterway. We arrived at a sparkling, tropical lake for lunch and a quick, refreshing swim. It was hard to leave this quiet, lovely spot, but I knew many more special places were in store.
Our second night was spent at Kiahuna Plantation and Beach Bungalows. These resort condos are situated at Poipu Beach, and located on 35 acres of landscaped lawns and tropical gardens. All the comforts of home are here, including a fully-equipped kitchen. We decided not to use the kitchen that night and headed out to Keoki’s Paradise for dinner. The restaurant is well known for fabulous seafood, and is reasonably priced. We called it an early evening. It was not necessary to set an alarm clock here. After a perfect night’s sleep, I woke up to the heavenly sound of hundreds of happy birds chirping and singing away with their private serenade.
We felt giddy about waking up so early to go on a sunrise downhill bike ride from Waimea Canyon to the coast. I chuckled to myself when we arrived at Outfitters Kauai, and discovered it was mandatory to take a bike test before being driven to the top of the rim. I was a little nervous after our guide told us there were a handful of hopeful participants that had actually failed the bike test. I was bound and determined not to be one of them.
I held my head with pride after passing, and couldn’t wait to get to the top so
I could speed back down. Before we headed down, we stopped at the Waimea Canyon
overlook, a 3,000-foot-deep gorge that shows off all the colors and texture of a
rich tapestry. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Riding
down the hill was simply thrilling and represented the true definition of all
play and no work!
The afternoon was low key and relaxing. We visited the Kauai Plantation, and had lunch outside on the expansive wrap-around porch at Gaylords, an exquisite English Tutor estate. The estate had belonged to large sugarcane developers, Gaylord and Ethel Wilcox. After lunch we hopped on the train for a Plantation Railway tour. The train rolls past acres of sugar, pineapple, and coffee fields during the 45-minute tour. It’s a great way to get a true sense of what this place must have been like during sugar’s golden era, over 75 years ago.
There were a few more adventures we had planned for our trip. One was to spend a few hours riding “mud-bugs,” an all-terrain vehicle. With some trepidation, we climbed into them with me in the driver’s seat. We had no idea where the road would lead us. To our delight, we traversed across canyons, through the jungle, and drove through a half-mile dark tunnel that was formerly used by the sugarcane companies. It is a good thing our “mud-bug” was equipped with headlights. After a leisurely lunch and refreshing swim in a little lake, we headed back feeling great about our new little venture.
Our trip wouldn’t have been complete without experiencing a Zip line. Flying through the air while being tied to a harness attached to a long strong cable 150 feet above the ground is a simple way to explain Zip lining. Zip N Dip Expedition at Princeville Ranch Adventures set up a perfect way to explore the untouched tropical settings of the backcountry. As I approached the platform of the first zip line, my pulse was racing. After my feet could no longer cling to the platform, I was propelled through the air as if I were weightless! After I had the first zip line crossing under my belt, I truly relaxed and enjoyed the thrill of the other seven.
Every inch of Kauai is enchanting, especially the Na Pali Coast. One of the best ways to witness this incredible feat of nature is from the vantage point of a boat. We set sail on a 65-foot, power catamaran and arrived at our destination in about an hour. The memories and photographs from this magical place will last for a lifetime. The price of the trip with Na Pali Sunset Sail and Holo Holo Charters includes a gourmet buffet dinner, Mai Tais, beer, wine, champagne and soft drinks. Sipping champagne while snapping photos of the 4,000-foot cliffs that rise abruptly out of the Pacific is another moment that I will treasure forever.
Our last night was spent at The Princeville Resort. There’s nothing quite like
the view of Hanalei Bay from the resort. It is simply one of the most stunning
places on earth. This resort is a destination in itself. The morning starts with
an ocean-front gourmet breakfast at Cafe
Hanalei. The night begins sipping a tropical cocktail on the terrace and
watching the graceful sunset over Hanalei Bay. The awe-inspiring beauty of
Kauai will be etched in my memory and in all my senses for some time to
come. It is a trip I will always remember.
Ann Nelson is a freelance writer presently residing in San Diego.
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