Travel: Hawaiin islands

Diana Balham explores new heights on a flying visit to the oldest of the Hawaiin islands.

When you’re travelling, you expect to move about a bit, but on a recent trip to Hawaii I had one hectic day that was so full of motion, it’s a wonder I didn’t need to sleep in a spin dryer just to keep up the momentum.

It started at 5am at Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, where I ran around my hotel room getting organised, then hauled my still-waking body into a taxi and watched the sun rise from a small plane bound for Kaua’i. Flying from Oahu to Kaua’i takes less time than the average commute, but it’s a great way to greet the new day. The tropical dawn is dramatic and full of colour – much like these islands themselves.

The highlight of my day on “the garden isle” was to be a ziplining tour, basically riding a bunch of flying foxes for grown-ups. But, for me, the part that had my pulse racing was hiring a car and driving it to the departure point. Lihue, Kaua’i’s second-biggest town, is a sleepy little spot with as much traffic as Balclutha on a busy Saturday, but it had been years since I’d driven on “the wrong side” and my sense of direction is inconsistent at best. In other words, I can basically get lost anywhere.

The Austrian Pinzgauer all-terrain vehicle.

Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures is only a short distance from the airport, but I visited a few towns that weren’t on the route before I found it. I parked my little budget Chevy and surrendered myself to the care of leaders Zac and Misty. Three couples and I were herded into an Austrian Pinzgauer – a six-wheel-drive military vehicle that had the right kind of hauling power to tow us, and our gear, up the steep slopes of this old sugar cane plantation to the start of our adventure. Right around here, Zac tells us, is the rainiest spot in the world. They once had 350 consecutive days of rain – nearly 12m in one year! But on this winter’s day it was hot and fine, and good for ziplining. We were fitted with helmets, heavy harnesses and carabiners and given a demo of how to do it. There’s really only one rule: Don’t put your hands anywhere near the pulley mechanism – unless you are trying for a disability pension.

Ziplining can be a leap of faith for those afraid of heights.

Today we would be doing seven lines of varying lengths that would zigzag us down to the valley floor. Misty clipped us on one by one, and we’d whizz above the rainforest on a wire. Zac’s job is to make sure we land gently – not like the flying foxes in kids’ playgrounds where you hit the tyres at the end and have to hang on for dear life, or be thrown off like a cowboy on a bucking bronco. Our group included two women – one in her sixties, who didn’t like heights, so flinging herself into a chasm held only by a few bits of metal would be challenging. But they, and everyone else, managed with lots of whooping, high fives and big grins.By number seven, we had zipped down to a lovely picnic spot by a river and I even swam in the refreshingly cold water after lunch. Flowing from the rainy mountains all around, this river never runs dry.

The flying fox sends you down at a rapid pace.

Back in my Chevy, I gingerly navigated myself to South Wailua and had another swim. It looked very much like a Kiwi beach, except for the gorgeous women Hula Hooping on the sand – they looked like beauty queens. Then it was back in the car, up in the air and another taxi ride to my hotel.

Two more trips took care of dinner (even here, nobody walks) and it was finally time to stop. I had walked, taxied, flown, driven, bumped around in a military transport vehicle, zipped, swum, driven, swum, flown again… what a trip!

Diana travelled courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Oceania and Air New Zealand.

Getting there: Air New Zealand flies to Honolulu three times a week from Auckland, with connections available from Air New Zealand’s domestic ports. Fares start from $586 for Seat one-way with Seat + Bag, The Works and Works Deluxe options available across Economy, Premium Economy (where available) and Business Class cabins. Visit for more details.

What to do: Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures offer river tubing and ziplining tours. Ziplining is $160 per person and includes lunch.Visit For Alamo Rent A Car, go to

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