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Born and raised in Sierra Madre, Calif., Susannah Tomlin was bitten by the adventure travel bug at an early age. Each summer, her family camped up and down the U.S. West Coast from Seattle to Baja California, exploring compelling locales together. When her own kids were out of school, she expanded her horizons to farther-flung destinations, including foreign countries.
“I was always fascinated by how different each place was, from the people and environment to the culture and food,” she said. “My dream job started when I joined TravelStore five years ago.”
Based in Pasadena, Calif., Tomlin was particularly exhilarated when she visited Kauai, for which she’s now a master specialist. Here, she shares thoughts on crafting a Kauai adventure vacation.
Why is Kauai so conducive to adventure travel?Kauai encompasses about 552 square miles, but less than 5 percent is developed, and 90 percent is inaccessible by roads. That opens the door to a lot of thrilling experiences.
Kauai is rich in dramatic mountains and waterfalls, quaint small towns and ohana (family). It has no high-rises. In fact, you can’t build anything on the island that is taller than a mature coconut tree.
What are some of your favorite Kauai adventures?It’s great to begin a Kauai vacation with a helicopter tour. It provides a wonderful overview of the many places to explore.
At Princeville Ranch, you can go on a horseback ride and hike through a rainforest to an 80-foot-high waterfall, where you can go for a dip. The ranch also offers ziplining over treetops and lush valleys, which really gets the adrenaline going.
Kauai Backcountry Adventures has exclusive access to the irrigation system of the former Lihue Plantation, where it runs a tubing tour. It’s exciting to float through the ditch and tunnels built more than a century ago as guides share history as well as their fun sense of humor.
What are a few lesser-known Kauai activities that would appeal to adventure seekers?I recommend Kokee State Park, which is full of beautiful hiking trails and spectacular views.
There are many options for kayaking, whether you glide on the Hanalei River past coconut groves and fruit trees or go on a more strenuous paddling tour along the Napali Coast. Around the island, there are plenty of hidden-away beaches, so clients should bring their snorkel gear and beach towels on all their daily activities.
Are you seeing a rise in clients who are asking for adventure travel?Yes, definitely. Due to hectic work schedules, there’s a growing desire to create precious moments with family. Sharing a vacation adventure is highly memorable. The family comes home feeling like they’ve done something meaningful together. Kauai is perfect for celebrating cherished time with ohana.
What advice do you have for clients heading to Kauai who are interested in an adventurous vacation?Try a bit of everything and anything, but be safe and ask questions if unsure. Of course, it’s best to plan ahead. There are advantages to working with a travel specialist.