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»focus on: adventure

kauai by sea

There are a few good routes to Kauai, and we decided to fly in directly to the capital, Lihue, rather than catch the 2S-minute ride on an island-hopper from Oahu, as many travelers do. Lihue has a quaint little airport, boasting pretty gardens and

a one-minute walk to your rental car, which is a grem starr for any mainland city dweller. A car is essential [or a holiday in the 50th state, since public transportation isn't extensive and the scenery really IS [he star, no matter which island you're on.

I'm a firm believer in saving the best for last, so when I

travel, I like to start off kind of mellow and work my way up to a big finale. But Kauai presents visitors with a real dilemma, as almost everything you're going to do could arguably be called the best. But for this milestone birthday jubilee journey, our plan

is to experience Kauai by air, sea and land - each perspective offering its own form of escape. So day one is all about the Na Pall Coast, the most recognizable and dramatic of all American coastlines (sorry folks from Oregon and Maine, but it's true). We board our roomy Blue Dolphin Charter catamaran and take seats near the bow As I grab us some coffee and muffins, I overhear Laurie asking a staffer about seasickness bags. Let the games begin, I think to myself.

know my passion for the BIg Island's Kona Fire Rock Pale

Ale? After consuming just enough food and beer to take the edge off, we strap on bright orange (hideousl) life preservers and join the snorkelers in the water. Scuba is an option for those certified divers who had announced their intentions upon boarding. Although I love to dive, I'm not about to leave a friend in the lurch. "Damn, I wish I had known about the diving," Laurie says to no one in particular. I shoot her a look. "You? Dive?" "Rick and I got certified on our honeymoon. I've been dying to do it again ever since." Her surprise inspires one of my own, as I mentally rearrange tomorrow's schedule.

That night we take the long way back to the hotel. and spend the better part of an hour driving three miles along a road so full of bumps and potholes, it makes me nostalgic for New York's Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. We hit the beach just In nme to watch the sun set fuchsia and orange over the Pacific. As the colors spread across the horizon and light up the palm trees behind us, we SIt m golden silence and soak up the aloha spirit that these islands are known for.

You don't come to Hawaii to sleep. It's chock-full of manmade and natural beauty and adventure, not to mention more than 1,300 species of indigenous flowering plants, And nor

But Kauai presents visitors with a real dilemma, as almost everything you're going to do could arguably be called the best.

Our cruise up the west coast starts off slow and easy, and, after the usual safety session, the flat green coastline starts to give way to low craggy hills where millenniums of lava flows have engraved a mottled black-and-gray pattern across the countryside. Vve overtake ambitious kayakers as we make our way up to the heart of the Na Pali coast. The jagged hills are an extraordinary Sight, rising 3,000 feet above sea level and towering over the boat. (We're not surprised to learn that "Na Pali" means "the Cliffs" in Hawaiian.) Like many of the best things in life, this 15-mlle stretch of overwhelming beauty is inaccessible except by sea or sky. You can't capture the spectacle with a 35mm point-and-shoot camera. It's too long and tall at the same time, and as you drink in the view, you realize it's

the juxtaposition of this endless coastline of towering wavy hills against the blue sky and water that make it so grand. Little caves and inlets are visible from the boat, but can only be reached by kayak. As the 100 or so passengers gawk and snap away, our captain informs us this coastline is the second most eroded in the world, after England's famed Dover Cliffs. Enjoy it while you can, he seems to be saymg. Nature, truly, is a harsh mistress.

Due to constantly rough water, you can't circumnavigate the island of Kauai. So before we reach the northwestern most point, we turn the boat around and cast anchor. Sandwiches, drinks and cookies make a welcome appearance, and Laurie shocks me by returning with two cold beers. How did she

probably since the Polynesians first arrived in outrigger canoes around 1200 AD has any visitor slept in past 6AM. Day two proves no exception. Diver-certification cards in tow, we trudge down to a waiting van and ingest a steady stream of Kona coffee in an attempt to regam consciousness. (Kona coffee is some of the finest in the world, and Juan Valdez can sue me if he wants to.) Now, certain hard-core scuba divers, especially softcoral aficionados, will tell you Hawaiian diving is bonng, but I maintain only boring people get bored. It's true there's not a lot of coral surrounding these relatively young islands (Kauai, the northernmost, IS also the oldest at 5 million years), but there are fantastic lava tubes and formations, giant boulders and swim-throughs, and some pretty, young, hard corals - but

the real attraction here is the fish. Since the Hawaiian Islands are the most remote land mass in the world, the marine life is unique, and a good 30 percent of Hawaii's 150 species of fish are indigenous to the island chain.

Snorkelers and divers are treated to seemingly countless variations of butterfly fish, angelfish, wrasse, and of course the larger and Halloween-colored species like triggers, tang and surgeonfish, just to name a few. Caribbean-oriented d.vers like us go nuts for these critters - not to mention the plenritude of turtles, dolphins and rays. One of the most fun sightings is the (unofficial) state fish, called hurnuhumukunukuapua'a, which roughly translates as "fish with the face of a pig."

Previous page: The Kalaau Volley, on the No Poll COCl5t, Kauai. Views like this one inspired James Michener to write the bestseller Hawaii . in 1959, where he wrote: "if Paradise consists solely of beauty, then these islands were the fairest paradise that man ever i;vaded ... ;' Riqhi, top to botrom: Hanakapia! Beach on the Na Pali Coast, Kauai. The beach was named for a mythiwl princess in Hawaiian folklore; travetqtrt Suzanne Gerber and her friend take off on one of the tamer passages of their journey - an ATV adventure.

>focus on: adventure

Even though Kauai is a small island (25 miles long by 33 miles at its widest point), and there's only one main perimeter road. It's not smooth, and Hawaiians are famously bad drivers. Bottom line: You don't get anywhere fast.

After a delightful two-tank dive, we're famished so a big lunch is in order. Seafood lovers are the best-feel here, as

every restaurant offers fresh fish and sea critters at each meal. Bur since this is also an agricultural island, even vegetarians always have enticing options from salads to creative pan-Asian dishes to 100 variations of poi (the local specialty made from the starchy taro plant). V>/e spend the afternoon at one of the island's 43 white-sand public beaches, trying to get a little sun so people will believe we actually left the mainland. With the glowing yellow sun blazmg above us and water temps in the high 70s, the ocean is irresistible and we splash around. We need to get in as much water as we can, as tomorrow begins the next portion of our trip.

kauai by land

I've always wanted to be the kind of person who could talk convincingly about dirt bikes and dune buggies. But the closest I've come is occasionally driving around fancy islands in a golf cart. So I leapt at the chance to do some serious off-road ATV'ing (ATV being code for all-terrain vehicle. Even I knew that)' \Ve're down south, in the verdant Poipu region, and our tour takes us along the southern. and western side - inland

from Na Pali. While waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, we do a little sightseeing in their gift shop and I pick a shirt I figure will be a hit back in New York; a little brown number that says DO SOMETHING DIRTY 1 should have taken that warning a little more seriously

The group, a mixed bag of urban hipsters, suburban families and one couple hell-bent on breaking every road rule, finally arrives and we're given our orientation. Who knew off-road riding was so complicated? Next we're handed large khaki coveralls, clunky rubber boots and hair-shellacking helmets.

I offer the key [0 Laurie, whose face has turned onion-white. "You drive," she says. "Scared of a little buggy, Scarecrow?" I tease. "Listen, you're the one who thinks she's a biker chick," she says. Discussion over. I hop in the driver's SIde NASCARstyle (that is to say, through the window), rev the pedal a few times and off we fly.

It's an incredible ride along bumpy trails in rugged, mountainous terrain. We don't realize how high we've climbed until we look over a cliff and in unison go, "Whoa!" The group breaks for lunch, and our fearless leader (later he sits under a 50-degree waterfall and drinks warm beer, so yeah, fearless

in my book) tells us about the glory days of sugar and banana plantations. Gone are the days of massive working plantations, however; today the remnants have been turned into rustic guest accommodations, in line with the fact that today, the biggest source of revenue on Kauai is tourism. We climb back into the

The brilliant natural hues afWaimea Canyon are constantly changing. Mark Twain is sotd to have called thi5 the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific."

»focus on: adventure

ATV, start cruising along, and suddenly we're coated in dust, Those crazy kids are weaving and passing everybody and kicking up a sand storm. We fall behind to dear our eyes, and we don't see their vehicle again till we make a hairpin turn and there they are: blown tire, stuck on a rock. Vv'e beep gleefully as we leave them in our sandy wake.

We bounce alongside stunning meadows with hilly backgrounds. Kauai has been

the setting for at least 60 films and TV shows, and has bodydoubled for Asia.jurassic Park and the African Savannah ~ all convincingly. We make one last Stop to take a head count. We get our to stretch and Laurie gives me a little shove, with her hand outstretched. "Keys," she says flatly, and I swear I see a glint of the devil in her blue eyes.

I have barely buckled my

seat belt when she puts pedal to metal and peels out. This must be how the last lap at Daytona feels. \\ie are almost literally airborne. Vv'e overtake the competition, including the bad kids who are now driving like Florida blue-hairs, while Laurie does her best Dale Earnhardt,Jr. imitation. I'm so proud of my girl; I'd be grinning ear to ear if I could do so without getting sand in

my teeth.

After we get back to the room and wash up ~ which requires the full shampoo-rinse-repeat cycle - we celebrate with a rnai tai at a fancy hotel bar. In fact,

I celebrate with a couple, since we've got a new deSignated driver for phase three.

On the last visit to Kauai, my Big Island friend and I spem a day hiking Waimea Canyon, which Mark Twain dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, a moniker so apt it has stuck for more than a century. I didn't need to hike it again, but I was keen to see it from a different perspective. There's only one

become canyons and suddenly we're heading straight into one! A minute later we're sailing over the coast, drinking

in the expanse of Na Pali that we could barely fathom as we sidled along it at 10 knots an hour. The bays are royal blue and the white caps gently lap onto the white sand.

Back on terra firma, we hand back our helmets (by now we've gotten used to helmet hair) and tip the pilot. As we head back to the car I tell Laurie that she's about to have her grand finale. "Land or air?" she asks 'A_ little of both," I tease.

going airborne, but landing on two feet

A few years ago, m Costa RIca, I drove for three hours to do a rainforest-canopy ride to support a local tribe working the ecotourism angle. But IS minutes from our destination, my companion got cold feet and turned the Jeep around. Today was my revenge, and Laurie was my victim.

Kauai Backcountry Adventures does a robust business pandering to adrenaline junkies. You can

go white-water rafting with them or, as we've chosen to do, you can zipline high above the rain forest. I'd heard of lO-year-olds doing this, so I figured Laurie could handle it. Of course, I also overheard what one of the white-

water-rafting guides told his busload of guests as they passed a cemetery, "Don't worry, there aren't any rafters buried in there,"

he calmly explained as the guests exhaled a collective sigh of relief. "Nope, that cemetery is for the zipliners."

On the vertigo-inducing ride straight up the mountain, our overly enthusiastic gUide begins his preliminary orientation speech, which makes it sound like we're in for the thrill of a lifetime. 1 can hardly wait. Even Laurie is perking up. And then we get to the first wire ~ a cable strung several hundred feet between

two poles, dangli.ng in mid-air 400 feet

This eco-frtendty adventure became popular in Costa Rica and only came to Hawaii about Jive years ago. Ziplines make it possible to experience lush jungles where access by foot is difficult. A half-day of zooming runs about $120 per person.

kauai by air

As just described, Kauai by land is cool, and water is definitely my element, bur without question, the most dramatic way to take in Kauai is from on high. It's the final perspective of our tnfecta; I've got tWO airborne modalities planned, and Laurie is going to hate one of them.

38 travclgirl

way grander than hiking, and that's to fly over it. The Jack Haner Helicopters company has been flying guests over the island for a couple of decades, so we felt they were a safe bet. Laurie felt cool just pulling on the headset and talking like a real pilot; imagine her dropped-jaw look for 90 straight minutes as we whirled and careened over some of the prettiest countryside in existence. Hills become mountains in seconds; mountains

above the tree line. People are gulping audibly. First we have

to acquaint ourselves with the safety get-up, which I dub Full Metal Groin. This involves the rigmarole of attaching metals and straps and buckles across your body every which way, finally fastening them near your vulnerable heart chakra, from which point we'll be strapped into the cable that will transport us over mountains and trees. Making a little triangle with his hands over his head and indicating the cable above It, our guide actually says, "Beware the 'Triangle of Death.' Hands that get in the way of the cable will bleed," he continues. I swear I could hear myself sweat.

I risk a glance at Laurie. For the first time in my life, I understand what a whiter shade of pale looks like. The blood has drained from her face and while I can't be certain, I believe she's shaking. "So who's first?!" asks the way-too-chipper guide. I feel nails digging into my arm, and they're not my own. Laurie turns to me and solemnly says, "I believe we've made a terrible mistake." And at that precise moment, our guide taps her on the shoulder and says, "Let's go!" and off they go.

Following directions as if her very life depends on It, which I'm sure she thinks is the case, and could certainly be, Laurie grabs the cable, runs down the short ramp, lifts her legs into

a ball and, lO seconds later, halfway down the cable, she lets out a yee-haw that could raise the dead. I'm not sure how to interpret that. I make my way to the front of the line, and as the guide straps me into the cable, I improvise a little prayer with the phrase "zipping through the valley of the shadow of

kauai 411

• The island is great to visit year-round, but summers and Christmas season are busiest. Airtemperatures are in the 70S and 80S, and while the water is swimmable most ofthe year, it's warmest from June to October. (It can dip down into the high 60S in winter.)

• Hawaii is part of the United States, so your money and cell phones work here. All the Hawaiian islands are 2 hours behind Pacific Time, except during Daylight Savings Time, when they're 3 hours behind (Hawaii doesn't observe DST).

death," and off I sail. I remember the instruction for turning around to face forward and see a lush canopy of life around me. I feel like a bird, and I feel totally safe. Exhilarating doesn't begin to capture the sensation of sailing 500 feet over the

earth at the speed ofJonathan livingston Seagull. The fear that gripped me Just five minutes ago has evaporated into thin air, ancl I land with a thud next to Laurie and another guide, who are applauding me wildly.

take-home lessons

On the flight home, Laurie and 1 order a glass of wine ancl settle in for a long ride. I don't remember what the movie was, bur I do recall we laughed a little too loudly and were definitely way too happy for people pretzeled into coach class for 10 long hours. We parted ways at the airport - she had a two-hour ride home in a different direction than my cab will take me, and we hug our good-byes. "Thanks for the adventure of a lifetime," she says. "You're welcome," I say, but remind her that she's the one who dug 111 deep and found the courage to do the seemingly undoable. "Next time you feel fear rising up inside you," 1 add, "remember ziplining. You've slayed the beast once, and you can do it anytime you want."

We hug one last time and start to walk away. She's looking at me funny and I sense there's something else she wants to tell me. I turn back and offer an inquisitive look. "Next year," she says, "let's go bungee-jumping in New Zealand I " Something tells me she's serious.


• English is spoken, but you should greet everyone with "Aloha" and say "Mahalo" for thank you. Dress is casual and men are required to wear Hawaiian shirts everywhere.

• To order a Kauai Travel Planner,

call 800.262.1400 or visit www.kauaidiscovery.com and find accommodations to fit every budget .

• American and United Airlines fly nonstop from los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland to Lihue. Most carriers fly to Oahu; Inter-island air is available through Hawaiian Airlines or Aloha Air.


Blue Dolphin Charters 808·335·5553 www.kauaiboah.com

Kauai ATV 808-742.2734 www.kauaiatv.com

Outfitters Kauai 808·742·9667 www.outfitterskauai.com

Capt. Andy's Sailing Adventures 808-335.6833


Kauai Backcountry Adventures 808.245·2506 www.kauaibackcountry.com

SeaSport Divers 808-742.9303 www.seasportdivers.com

Gay & Robinson (plantation) Tours 808-335-2824 www.gandrtours-kauai.com

Kauai Island Tours 808.245A777

Kayak Kauai 808.826.9844 www.kayakkauai.com

Jack Harter Helicopter 888.245·2001 www.helicopters-kauai.coma

,\V\v,"v.ll"avelgil-linc,coro. 39

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