For Kauai visitors looking to explore more than just the grounds of their resort or to take in sights beyond the striking seascape from the nearest beachfront bar, Outfitters Kauai offers activities developed with adventurers of all ages in mind.
"We set out to design programs that all different kinds of people could enjoy," said owner Rick Haviland, who founded Outfitters Kauai with his wife in 1988.
"We really liked the idea of creating an unforgettable vacation experience, where families build memories sharing in an activity that everybody did together and enjoyed in their own way," he added. "And it's a real common thing for us to have groups where there's grandma and grandpa, mom, dad and the kids all on the same tour and everybody's having a great time."
Slow but steady
Beginning with a simple bicycle and kayak rental business in Poipu, the Havilands later expanded their operation to include a guided sea kayaking tour of Kauai's south shore. Over the years a variety of new trips were tried, and the operation slowly expanded. Today, the leisure adventure company offers clients seven tours that include both full- and half-day trips loaded with options.
"One of the building blocks of our company is that people will regularly do more than one activity with us," Haviland said. "So travel agents can come to us and we can provide their clients with kayaking, zipline [or] biking tours that have hiking components.
"They can get a lot of business taken care of by calling us, and we can help them fix their people up with a whole lot of fun things to do."
The full-day, 15-mile sea kayaking voyage, offered from May to September along Kauai's Na Pali coastline, is one of Outfitters' most demanding excursions. Recommended for those in reasonably good shape, the trip follows the summer season's prevalent ocean breezes and currents along one of Hawaii's most stunning stretches of largely undisturbed natural beauty.
"Some of the best views of the Na Pali coast are those you get from the water," Haviland said. "You get an incredible look at the towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls and all kinds of sea caves and green valleys. It's just a breathtaking experience."
Kauai's fall, winter and springtime swells make Na Pali coast kayaking virtually impossible, so Outfitters moves its sea kayaking treks to the island's south shore from October until May. A shorter kayak trip, the eight-mile paddle, leaves a lot of time to get out and explore secluded beaches and do a little snorkeling.
Kauai wildlife on view
Sea life sightings are virtually assured and spinner dolphins, green sea turtles and even Hawaiian monk seals all make frequent appearances. Humpback whales join the show from December to April.
River kayaking is another popular Outfitters activity option. Tours of both the Wailua and Huleia rivers are offered and include short hiking components along with the chance to get out and swim in waterfall pools.
Here the paddling is a bit less strenuous, as both trips follow the current and the return trip, for both clients and kayaks, is taken care of by a motorized boat.
In addition to all of the remarkable natural beauty, Haviland said each Outfitters tour comes complete with an experienced guide.
"People show up wanting to know more about what they're looking at," Haviland said. "They want to know about their surroundings, they want to know about the natural history of the island, everything from the geology and volcanic origins to identifying plants, native and otherwise."
Haviland noted that many of the areas Outfitters operates in prominently feature Hawaiian folklore and legend. "They're great stories, and we feel it's really appropriate to help people learn about the island and appreciate the island."
Thanks to a use agreement with the folks at Kipu Ranch and the Grove Farmland Co., Outfitters has access to some of Kauai's most beautiful forestlands, and in 2002 Haviland worked with the landowners to develop the island's first zipline course through a stretch of those isolated properties.
"We have a slot canyon that we navigate through with the zipline, and there are all sorts of bridges and suspension bridges," Haviland said. "We also have a 'zapelle' that we developed that combines zipline with rappelling.
"It's just a really fun, beautiful way to see a pretty part of Kauai that previously was closed to the general public."
And the Havilands haven't forgotten their bicycling roots. Visitors can rent a range of biking equipment from the company, including cruisers, road bikes, mountain bikes and bike racks for those looking to transport gear via car. The company's main shop in Poipu is also located near a couple of trails that clients "can do right out of the shop."
Outfitters also provides a brochure complete with a trail map and tons of natural, historical and cultural background information.
Clients looking to ride as part of a group can sign up for the guided tour down from Waimea Canyon's 3,600-foot rim that meanders its way through a collection of remarkable vistas.
"We coast all the way down to sea level on smooth, winding paved roads," Haviland explained. "And really the concept of the ride is that it's kind of like taking a nature walk but on a bike. It's not designed to be wild and crazy at all. It's definitely low-speed."
Haviland said Outfitters has struggled a bit through the current economic decline, as many Kauai businesses have, but there may well be a gentle rise in the company's not-so-distant future.
"We've really noticed that people have cut back on traveling," he said. "But it's been OK for us.
"We've been able to keep things going and keep people working and keep the bills paid, and it seems like things are starting to get better," he added. "We've definitely noticed a pickup, and June has been strong for us. So I'm feeling encouraged."
Full- and half-day tour prices begin at $98 for adults and $78 for children.