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When Christine Phillips of Discover Your World Travel in Tumwater, Wash., takes a trip, she likes to push the envelope. That explains why the island of Kauai is one of her favorite getaways for adventure tours.
“Kauai is such an amazing island and, since there is so much that you can’t explore on your own, an adventure tour is a perfect way to try something new and reach beyond personal boundaries,” Phillips said.
One look at the Kauai Visitors Bureau’s (KVB) marketing materials — which show people kayaking, ziplining, riding ATVs and the like — underscores the fact that Kauai stands ready to regale active clients. Its variety of tours encourages timid and courageous visitors alike to go out on the proverbial limb, said KVB’s executive director Sue Kanoho.
“Beyond our well-known helicopter and boat tours, Kauai continues to add experiences such as yoga on horseback with Princeville Ranch Adventures and a new zipline tour with Outfitters Kauai,” she said. “Depending on someone’s comfort level, they can be super adventurous and go ocean kayaking, or they can take it easy by paddling the Wailua River.”
Kanoho personally attested to the payback that comes with pushing the envelope. She admitted that she felt nervous before a tour with Kauai ATV, where visitors take four-wheel-drive, all-terrain vehicles to some of the island’s prettiest landscapes.
“I had never driven an ATV or motorcycle, and I wasn’t sure I could maneuver such a big machine,” said Kanoho. “But once I cleared the test run and realized I could keep all the controls working the right way, I had a great time. I was proud of myself that I made it through the whole tour and didn’t stall my ATV or get stranded.”
A tour highlight: driving through an old sugar cane tunnel she had never heard about before.
For Phillips, a zipline tour epitomizes the benefits of taking that leap of faith.
“Stepping or jumping off the platform feels totally against my nature,” Phillips said. “But once I just go for it, it’s exhilarating and always seems to be over way too soon. When I’m done, my smile is bigger, and I’m relaxed and re-energized.”
Princeville Ranch Adventures guide supervisor Stephanie Zufelt said her team uses patience and humor to help participants on the firm’s zipline tours.
“Not only are our guides entertaining, they also create a safe environment to confront your fears and test your nerves,” she said.
Challenges from soft to strenuous await clients at Outfitters Kauai, a source for stand-up paddleboarding, downhill biking, kayaking, hiking and ziplining tours; and Kauai Backcountry Adventures, offering ziplining and tubing. But clients wary of a group activity can book the services of Pure Kauai, a firm that personalizes each visitor adventure whether it’s a private surf lesson or a customized horseback ride.
“Largely undeveloped and surrounded by ocean, Kauai has a wonderful climate and land diversity providing a backdrop for some of the most scenic and thrilling adventures offered anywhere in the world,” said Pure Kauai founder Phil Jones. “Trying new things, overcoming fears and accepting challenges is always good for the soul, not to mention fun.”
When it comes to ocean tours, there’s nothing quite like summertime kayaking along the Na Pali coast, whose dramatic sea cliffs hug Kauai’s north shore. Kayak Kauai cofounder Micco Godinez likes to call it the “Mount Everest of sea kayaking,” and his firm’s 12-hour tour is comprised of 17 miles of rigorous paddling past fluted ridges, plunging waterfalls, sea arches and hanging valleys, with time out for lunch on a deserted shore.
“With sore muscles, our guests test their mettle along one of the more picturesque and challenging coastlines in the world,” said Godinez. “For most people, it is the highlight of their vacation — sometimes it’s even life-transforming.”
Ideally, agents looking to pre-book adventures for their clients can visit the island and experience some of the tours for themselves, said KVB’s Kanoho.
“That way, they know what is a good match for their clients and can make first-hand recommendations,” Kanoho said.
But for Pure Kauai’s Jones, there’s no better place to try new things than the island he calls home.
“I’ve never met anyone who didn’t feel thrilled after they caught their first wave or who wasn’t in awe of the expanse of the Na Pali coast,” Jones said. “Seeing the earth’s beauty and stepping out of your box is what life is all about.”