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 about Costa Rica’s rainforest canopy tours, Outfitters Kauai co-founder Rick Haviland was inspired to build the Garden Isle’s first zipline on Kokee 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, and include a snack. As with all excursions, plan to tip your guides ($10–$20 per rider).
South Shore—A 2,500-foot swoop over the Waita Reservoir is the highlight of the eight-line course ($149) at Koloa Zipline, opened in 2012 (www.koloazipline.com; 877/707-7088 or 808/742-2894). For just $10 more, the harness option called Flyin’ Kauaian allows you to soar headfirst 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, in the Kauai ATV office behind the Old Koloa Town shops. Skyline Eco Adventures (www.zipline.com/kauai; 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 for eight zips, $100 for five (with 50% off for one child or teen for each paid adult, and 10% online discount for everyone else); check in at the office at Shops at Kukuiula, 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka St., Poipu.
East Side—Lush, 4,000-acre Kipu Ranch hosts the nine lines of Outfitters Kauai (www.outfitterskauai.com; 888/742-9887 or 808/742-9667), including suspension bridges, tandem lines, and a “zippel” (a zipline/rappelling combo) over picturesque streams and waterfalls. The scenery will be familiar from hit movies such as Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Descendants. The latest addition is Hawaii’s longest zipline, the 4,000-foot FlyLine, which also boasts the tallest launchpad at 50 feet high; you ride it prone like a superhero on tandem lines. At $50 for a 1-hour tour, the FlyLine is ideal for those on a budget or tight schedule. You can also try the FlyLine on the four-zip, 2½-hour AdrenaLine Kauai Zipline Tour ($129 adults, $119 ages 7 to 14), which starts with an 800-foot zipline and also includes an 1,800-foot tandem line and a zip that ends at a swimming hole. The 4½-hour New Treehouse Plus Tour adds the FlyLine to six different zips, with stories of Kauai and Kipu Ranch shared along the way ($149 adults, $139 children). Check in for these zips at the new visitor center, 230 Kipu Rd., Lihue. My favorite, the all-day Kipu Zipline Safari ($189 adults, $149 children 3 to 14), includes three ziplines (open to ages 7 and up), an easy 2-mile kayak on the Huleia River, a short hike, wagon ride, swimming, and lunch; for check-in and gear rentals, go to the Outfitters Kauai store, 2827 Poipu Rd., across from the fire station, in Poipu.
Kauai Backcountry Adventures (www.kauaibackcountry.com; 888/270-0555 or 800/245-2506) offers excursions through 17,000 acres of former sugarcane fields above Lihue. In addition to its unique tubing ride (see “Tubing”), 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; the 3-hour tour leaves at 9am and 1pm weekdays ($125). A 5-hour tour ($169) with a side trip to multitiered Halii Falls for a picnic and swim departs at 10am Wed and Fri. Check in at the office at 3-4131 Kuhio Hwy., Hanamaulu, between Hanamaulu Rd. and Laulima St.
Just Live! Zipline Tours (www.ziplinetourskauai.com; 808/482-1295) offers three ecology-focused, treetop tours ranging from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours ($79–$125). All glide over a multi-hued forest canopy, and the longest includes a 60-foot rock climbing wall and 100-foot rappelling tower. Check online for daily deals ($10–$15 discounts). Check-in at the Just Live! store in Harbor Mall, 3501 Rice St., Lihue, between Kalapaki Beach and Nawiliwili Harbor.
North Shore—If you just want to zip nine fast lines over a verdant valley, then take the 3 1/2-hour Zip Express ($139) offered by Princeville Ranch Adventures (www.princevilleranch.com; 888/955-7669 or 808/826-7669). 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 ($159, including picnic lunch). The company also pairs ziplines with its popular horseback rides ($149) and kayak/hike excursions ($159 adults, $99 ages 5–11). Note: The latter excursion, called 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.