Kauai apparently has Costa Rica to thank for its profusion of ziplines, the metal cable-and-pulley systems that allow harness-wearing riders to “zip” over valleys, forests, and other beautiful but inaccessible areas. After reading a “National Geographic” article about Costa Rica’s rainforest canopy tours, Outfitters Kauai co-founder Rick Haviland was inspired to build the Garden Isle’s first zipline, on Kipu Ranch, in 2003. Others soon followed, with ever longer, higher, and faster options. It may seem like a splurge, but keep in mind that ziplines not only offer an exhilarating rush and breathtaking views, they also help keep the verdant landscape gloriously undeveloped.
Be sure to book ahead, especially for families or groups—because of the time spent on harness safety checks, tour sizes are limited—and read the fine print about height, age, and/or weight restrictions. Tours usually go out rain or shine, except in the most severe weather.
South Shore--Opened in 2012, Koloa Zipline (www.koloazipline.com; tel. 877/707-7088 or 808/742-2894) has an eight-line course ($176) in Koloa that includes a 2,500-foot zip—Kauai’s longest—over the Waita Reservoir. For just $10 more, the Flyin Kau’ian harness option allows you to fly like a superhero over most of the lines on the 3 1/2- to 4-hour tour. Check in at the office at 3477-A Weliweli Rd., Koloa, behind the Old Koloa Town shops. Kauai’s newest course, Skyline Eco Adventures (www.zipline.com; tel. 888/864-6947 or 808/878-8400) opened its eight-line course above Poipu in 2013 and shares a different legend of Kauai for each of the progressively longer, faster lines on the 2 1/2- to 3-hour tour. The cost is $140 (with a 10-percent online discount); check in at the office at Shops at Kukuiula, 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka St., Koloa.
East Side--Outfitters Kauai (www.outfitterskauai.com; tel. 888/742-9887 or 808/742-9667) updated its original zipline course on 4,000-acre Kipu Ranch in 2012; the nine-line course includes suspension bridges, tandem lines, and a “zippel” (a zipline/rappelling combo) over picturesque streams and waterfalls. The full-length, 6-hour course, called Zipline Trek Nui Nui Loa, costs $163 for adults and $142 for children 7 to 14; the six-line, 4-hour Lele Eono option is $116 for adults and $106 for children 7 to 14. My favorite, the all-day Kipu Zipline Safari ($186 adults, $146 children), includes two of the course’s longest ziplines and a water zipline over a swimming hole, plus kayaking the Huleia River, hiking, swimming, and lunch. Check in at the Poipu office, 2827 Poipu Rd., Koloa, across from the fire station, or at the Outfitters Kayak Shack in Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor at Wilcox and Niumalu roads, Lihue.
Kauai Backcountry Adventures (www.kauaibackcountry.com; tel. 888/270-0555 or 800/245-2506) is the only outfitter with excursions through 17,000 acres of former sugarcane plantation land above Lihue. In addition to its unique tubing ride, the company has a seven-line zip course leading from the lush mountainside to a bamboo grove, where you can take a dip in a swimming hole (book the 10am tour for the warmest swimming weather). The 3-hour tour costs $130 (check online for $99 special), with check-in at KBA’s office at 3-4131 Kuhio Hwy. (Hwy. 56), Hanamaulu, between Hanamaulu Road and Laulima Street.
The ecology-focused Just Live! Zipline Tours (www.ziplinetourskauai.com; tel. 808/482-1295) offers three tours ranging from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours ($79–$125). All glide over forest canopy in multiple shades of green, and the longest includes a 60-foot rock climbing wall and 100-foot rappelling tower. The online-only Early Bird Special offers $20 to $30 off tours with 7 and 7:45am check-ins, held at the office/outdoor gear store in Anchor Cove Shopping Center, 3416 Rice St., Lihue, between the Kauai Marriott Resort and Nawiliwili Harbor.
North Shore--Princeville Ranch Adventures (www.princevilleranch.com; tel. 888/955-7669 or 808/826-7669) If you just want to zip the nine lines over this verdant valley, the 3 1/2-hour Zip Express Tour ($125) is for you, but it would be a shame, particularly in summer, to miss the chance to swim in a waterfall pool offered by the 4 1/2-hour Zip N’ Dip ($145, including picnic lunch). The company also pairs ziplines with its popular horseback rides and kayak/hike excursions (3 and 4 1/2 hours, respectively; $145). Note: The latter Jungle Valley Adventure is unique in that it allows children as young as 5 and weighing as little as 50 pounds to zip on the two 400-foot-plus lines included on the tour.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.