By Diane Ako
Most of this day was spent zipping and dipping in the jungles, with a tour company called Princeville Ranch Adventures. They also offer a kayaking tour, but we chose their most popular, called the Zip n' Dip. "This tour offers the most zips on Kauai and the ultimate zip called King Kong! A combination of 9 exciting zip lines, a suspension bridge and an hour at a deep hidden swimming hole, where you’ll enjoy a picnic, swimming, jumping and floating on inner tubes. It’s the experience of a lifetime!" gushes the website description.
I've heard about ziplining and was curious to try it for myself. This was my first chance to do so, since there are none on Oahu. It was fun!
We checked in at 9 a.m., and were met by ridiculously good-looking tour guides Jason and Laura, who kept us safe and entertained the entire half-day we were with them. Twelve of us (the tour max) jumped into trucks and drove through some cow pastures to arrive at the top of the mountain.
There, the guides gave us a lesson in how to zipline, and got us started. There really wasn't much to it- just run off the platform and trust that the cables will hold you. The first one, named Manini, is only 25 feet above the ground. It's a good test to see if you can handle it. You're clipped to a half-inch galvanized aircraft cable that can support thousands of pounds, and just for safety sake, no riders can be more than 280 pounds anyway.
A few people - those afraid of heights - clung on to the lanyard for dear life at first, but by the end, it seemed everyone was literally hanging loose. The lines have fun names like Ironwood, Okole Hau, and Pau Hana, and the longest run (also the only double zipline), King Kong, was 660 feet.
Most of the rides lasted half a minute, at a speed of about 30 miles per hour. You could go faster if you balled yourself up to decrease wind resistance. Sometimes I had to do that or I wouldn't make it to the end, and then I would have slid back into the middle and a guide would have had to retrieve me. Not that I would have minded dangling there and appreciating the awesome view over the trees.
What I remember most about ziplining was the speed. Thirty mph doesn't seem like a lot, because you're usually doing that in a car. When you're just flying along like a bird, 30 feels pretty fast. As I think about the first four runs, I only remember a blur of green and the joy of controlled hurtling. I had to remember to look around on the last few runs to take in the view, which again, is so spectacular.
Near the end, we stopped for lunch by a pool, which we could also swim in, had the weather been warmer. Hey, it's not just me. We had east coasters on the tour who were also reluctant to get wet, and you'd think 70 degrees would be nothing compared to the winter they've been getting. The inner tubes went unused for our group.
The guides handle a couple tours a day, and the company ends up taking out about 75 people a day in the slow season (now). In the summer, that doubles.
The tour is four and a half hours, so I was expecting a massive hike. However, it's not really a hike, it's mostly spent waiting in line to zip. You therefore don't have to be intimidated by what sounds like the potential for a lot of exercise. You will be literally flying high, and likely, loving it.
THE NORTH SHORE
After the ziplining, we decided to drive to the end of the road, to Ke'e Beach. It's been years since we've been up here on a leisurely personal jaunt, so it was fun to revisit some sights.
There are two caves along the road that everyone stops to look at. One is Maniniholo Dry Cave, which goes back about 300 yards. Bring a flashlight if you remember, so you can better peer at the cave walls. It's just cool to be wandering around a cave.
The other one we visited is Waiakanaloa Wet Cave, at the end of the road just before Ke'e Beach. This cave is filled with algae and too creepy to want to swim in (because you can't see the floor), even if there wasn't a no swimming sign due to leptospirosis. There are guppies in the shallow, and the water is cold. I've read that scuba divers explored it 100 yards in and reported no sign of life. Just stand there and enjoy the view.
We then returned to the hotel to do... nothing! We took a nap and watched TV, which in and of itself felt like a real treat to do in the middle of the day.
But then, the resort was kind enough to send a bottle of champagne and chocolates, so we obliged by getting tipsy, eating chocolates, and enjoying the ocean view. I so appreciate that I actually got to talk to my husband, or just sit in silence next to him and listen to the waves crash, and not have to look around every five minutes to make sure someone is staying out of trouble. Total decadence.
You can also reach me at Diane@DianeAko.com