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On an African safari, travelers marvel at animals in their natural habitat. On Kauai's new Rum Safari, clients encounter less formidable wildlife, but they get to sip island cocktails and enjoy an insider’s exploration of a full-fledged working plantation in Hawaii.
Based at Kilohana — an estate dating back to 1896 and a visitor attraction for more than 30 years — the innovative Rum Safari officially launched Sept. 2. It’s operated by Kauai Safaris, the brainchild of Nick Atkins.
“A good friend of mine runs a similar tour in California called Malibu Wine Safaris,” Atkins said. “We thought it would be fun to do a spinoff on Kauai using island-made rum, and things evolved from there.”
The location makes perfect sense, since Kauai’s own Koloa Rum — which distills rum from Hawaiian sugarcane — has a tasting room and retail store at Kilohana.
The two-hour Rum Safari transports clients in an open-air truck with tiered, comfortable, padded seats that are situated high enough so that everyone gets a great view. One guide does the driving while the other faces the guests and keeps the narration intimate and lively.
The four-wheel drive vehicle ambles around Kilohana’s vast groves, forests and fields, providing a fascinating, up-close look at the prolific 104 acres. As the truck rolls past rows of fruit trees, guides point out crowd-pleasers such as lychees, papayas and mandarin oranges, as well as crops that guests might have never heard of — let alone seen at their source — including acerola cherries, longans and rambutans.
The vehicle then pulls up to a boardwalk, where clients take a short stroll to the Jungle Bungalow. Set beneath a canopy of old-growth monkeypod and mango trees, the lovely wooden structure is surrounded by blossoming ginger. For about 30 minutes, clients gather in the covered pavilion for a tasting of four types of rums along with mai tais, while the murmur of a stream and the songs of birds create a serene soundtrack.
Back on the rig, guests drive through stands of hardwood trees and learn about native and non-native plants. Although no two safaris are alike, pigs, goats, cows and donkeys may wander up for a free handout of corn, which clients can toss from the truck.
Next up is a stop at Loi Lanai, an alfresco pavilion rising above one of Kilohana’s taro ponds. In this peaceful spot, coconut trees are reflected in the water, and native Hawaiian stilts stand at attention on their long legs, searching for insects. For a half-hour or so, staffers concoct and serve destination-specific drinks that use fruits and herbs grown on the plantation.
Looking ahead, Atkins hopes to expand Kauai Safaris to include a Beer Safari that showcases locally brewed ales, as well as a Family Safari featuring fresh juices and shave ice.
Ultimately, what makes the experience special is its diversity, he says.
“Our guests really get a feeling for what Kauai has to offer, all in one tour,” Atkins said. “They enjoy farm-to-glass cocktails, exotic fruit, native Hawaiian trees, papaya and banana farms, taro patches, wild pigs and a walk through a tropical forest — all without getting their feet dirty.”
Tours cost $55 per person and take place three times per day.
The Details Kauai Safariswww.kauaisafaris.com