From the epic cliffs of the Napali Coast to the jaw-dropping, panoramic views of Waimea Canyon, Kauai is the place to go for thrill-seeking visitors.
During my recent visit to the island, I had the opportunity to experience several adrenaline-pumping excursions. Here are some of the highlights: Kipu Ranch Adventures off-road tour
Get down and dirty on this three-hour scenic tour through the lush, rugged terrain of Kipu Ranch. After a quick driving lesson by Kipu Ranch's enthusiastic, friendly tour guides, guests gear up with helmets, goggles and bandanas and take to the rocky, red dirt roads in four-seat, all-wheel-drive buggies.
It's a surreal excursion, as guests explore a virtually untouched and diverse landscape, some of which they've probably seen in the movies (most famously "Jurassic Park"). The most incredible vista is reached after ascending from the tropical Huleia Valley (bring bug repellent!) to Mount Haupu. From here guests can soak in an unobstructed view of the landlocked Kipu Kai beach.
Tip: Be sure to wear closed-toe water shoes, as one of the activities on the tour is swinging on the Indiana Jones Rope Swing straight into the refreshing Huleia River.
The tour, for ages 7 and up, costs $135 for adults, $89 for ages 7 to 17. See https://kiputours.com
.CJM Country Stables horseback ride
Visitors seeking a more sedate way to explore the island will appreciate moseying across dunes and along the secluded beaches of Kauai's south shore on horseback on a Mahaleapu Beach Ride with CJM Country Stables.
At the ranch, I partnered with my horse, Champ, and we began our tour along brilliant blue shores through fields of green made only more impressive by its mountainous backdrop and on lesser-traveled trails on the coastline. Our cowboy guide was filled with facts about the Mahaleapu area and made our afternoon ride a fantastic one.
Rides are $110 per person. See www.cjmstables.com
.Island Helicopters Jurassic Falls tour
As our copter took to the skies, it wasn't music from "Jurassic Park" that played in my headset but the James Bond theme, which added an unprecedented amount of coolness to an already larger-than-life experience.
Zooming through the breathtaking scenery, we caught glimpses of full rainbows, countless waterfalls in the distance, rock formations of Waimea Canyon and endless views of the jagged Napali Coast and its accompanying bright blue ocean waters.
Island Helicopters Kauai is the only tour company that gives guests the chance to actually land at Manawaiopuna Falls, the 400-foot-tall cascades made famous in "Jurassic Park."
The tour costs $275 per person. See www.islandhelicopters.com
Outfitters Kauai’s AdrenaLine Kauai Zipline Course includes the Kauai FlyLine, Hawaii’s longest zipline at over three-quarters of a mile.
Outfitters Kauai zipline
Outfitters Kauai's AdrenaLine Kauai Zipline Course is 2.5 hours of heart-pounding exhilaration. The first ride, an 800-foot single zipline, was the most anxiety-inducing. But once I had it under my belt, I was ready to tackle the next lines, which I soon found out only get crazier.
Next were the 1,800-foot tandem lines, for which riders are buckled in and have the option to go full-on Spider-Man (flipped upside down) while racing a buddy. This part of the course is famous for its center-dismount zipline, as it offers the longest airtime of any line on Kauai. Midway though the action, riders enjoy a nice cool-off session on their WaterZip, a line that lets them plunge into a natural lava rock swimming hole lined with white ginger.
The grand finale is a flight on the Kauai FlyLine, Hawaii's longest zipline at over three-quarters of a mile. Riders are hooked up belly-down, headfirst and fly superhero-style, reaching speeds of 60 mph before finally getting back to the ground-level landing zone.
The zipline costs $118 per adult, $108 for ages 7 to 14. See https://outfitterskauai.com.
Capt. Andy's snorkeling tour
For those interested in exploration and the cool sea breeze, get onboard Capt. Andy's custom, 65-foot Star Class luxury catamaran for the Star Napali Snorkel BBQ Sail.
Sitting at the front of the catamaran is quite an experience. As we watched the wild, natural landscape of the Napali Coast fly by (think long stretches of isolated beaches, caves and coves and outrageous mountain spires), dolphins raced in the wake of the boat, providing us an up-close and personal look.
Once we reached a calm locale, we all were invited to snorkel in the warm, crystal-clear waters of the Pacific. The adventure is complete with a hearty barbecue lunch, offering burgers and hot dogs, wine and beer and more.
The Star Napali Snorkel BBQ Sail is $169 per adult, $119 for ages 3 to 12. See www.napali.com.