Ziplining in Kauai

What an overwhelming sense of freedom!

I have come to realize that my fear of heights is not really about the heights as much as it is about my utter lack of confidence that I won’t do something clumsy that causes me to plunge to my death. So, for example, if I have to stand on a precipice, my anxiety level goes through the roof. You couldn’t pay me enough to walk on a rope course at treetop level. I’m not at all comfortable on ladders. I know me. I am the poster child for physical ineptitude. The force (of gravity) is strong with this one.

On the other hand, if there are systems in place to prevent my stumbling off this mortal coil, preferably systems put in place by others, I’m just fine. When I was younger I loved to rock climb. I still love to rappel. I’d still be indoor skydiving if it weren’t for my back. I’m fine with flying, and with tall buildings. I hope to go up in a hot air balloon one of these days. And I absolutely love ziplining.

My first ziplining experience was in Alaska, and I blogged about it here. I learned a lot from that experience. If your fear of heights is related more to your personal potential for disaster, then it’s best to research how one gets to the zipline in question. In that case, I was forced, seven times, to walk across a wobbly rope bridge with slats that seemed like they were a mile apart. Crossing those bridges was a panic-inducing nightmare. After that, the zip lines were a piece of cake.

My second experience was in Vegas. I blogged about it here. Slotzilla is a zipline that gives you the option of either a standard zip or going headfirst while lying face down. It makes you feel like superman. It was really cool. But I’d have never agreed to do it without having first done my homework, which reassured me that the way you get to the zipline is via a nice sturdy elevator. Sign me up!

Another important thing to know, especially in countries where safety standards are a little lax, is what the set up is like in general. How often is their equipment inspected and maintained? And even more critical is knowing how you’ll be stopping once you’re on the zipline. I’ve heard horror stories about ziplining in certain countries where the harnesses were old and frayed, and where the stopping mechanism was a glove that they gave you so that you could grab the line itself while uttering a fervent prayer that you had the upper body strength to prevent yourself from plowing into a tree. No thank you. Definitely read the reviews and visit the website and ask questions if the FAQs don’t satisfy you.

That brings me to my favorite ziplining adventure of all. It was run by Kauai Backcountry Adventures, and they have stellar reviews and an excellent reputation. They drive you to the location, which is a valley in the midst of a 17,000 acre tract of land that included a former sugarcane plantation, and you take 7 ziplines (for a total of a little over a mile) back and forth across the valley, with a rainforest and a winding river below you. The highest line was 250 feet up. You walk on nice wide paths to sturdy wooden platforms that only require a few well built wooden steps up, and there you were, ready to fly.

There were almost as many guides on the trip as there were tourists, and I think I’d have crushed out on several of them if I had been single and 40 years younger. They told some really amazing stories on the way.  Our main guide was a young man named Damien, and we were so impressed by his ambition, confidence, intelligence, and potential. When I heard he hadn’t been to college, I recommended Warren Wilson College to him, because I think he would fit in there perfectly. I hope he looked into it. I’ve been trying for decades to get people into that school because it was the high point of my youth. No luck so far.

Backcountry’s equipment was in great shape, and based on the briefing they gave us, it was obvious that they take safety very seriously. There was even the zipline equivalent of a bunny slope. It was a short zipline that wasn’t very high off the ground. There were guides on both ends, and they were able to gauge how well you handled that line before going on to the other six. Still, I think they were a little surprised when I volunteered to go first.

I get emotional just thinking about the experience. I was flying above the most beautiful place I think I’ve ever been, and I had an overwhelming sense of freedom, and a feeling that everything was as it should be. I haven’t felt like that in a very long time. At one point we were even zipping in the warm Hawaiian rain. It was exhilarating.

At the end of the adventure, the guides took us to a gorgeous swimming hole complete with picnic shelters, and they provided us with a sort of “make your own sandwich” picnic. Some people went swimming, but we just enjoyed sitting at the table, talking to the guides, and watching the ubiquitous chickens wandering around looking for dropped food.

If you ever are lucky enough to go to Kauai, I highly recommend Kauai Backcountry Adventures. Here are some pictures and videos we took during our trip. Enjoy!

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!


Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

5 thoughts on “Ziplining in Kauai”

  1. It’s not fear of heights, it’s fear of the fall. Me, I just fear falling from any height due to these brittle bones. Before vertigo and osteoporosis, I loved heights. The higher, the happier my little thrill seeker heart. You remind me of a friend who climbed, rappelled and hang glided regularly, but freaked when she tried to parachute and refused to climb out on a narrow mountain ledge with me. She missed a gorgeous view. Today, I can’t do an amusement park ride lest it break my bones and let’s not speak of the vertigo effects. Thanks for the vicarious Hawaiian thrills. A zipline over an active volcano would probably be out of the question, but do you think they’d let me on this with my walker?
    If you go to for skywalk tickets, there’s zipline, helicopter and pontoon options as well, plus that gigantic hole is free to view. Sounds like a vicarious adventure I’m up for if you’re taking requests. 🙂

    1. I’ll definitely keep that in mind. I remember going to Notre Dame (way before it burned) with my sister, who was really into gargoyles. We climbed up the stairs, fin and dandy, but when we went out on the balcony and I discovered it was only as high as my knees? I was glued to the inside wall, having a panic attack, while she happily took photos. Don’t miss her.

  2. Ooohh… Gargoyles up close and personal. I’m envious.
    Off topic, but Ted just recommended this uplifting talk and I thought you could use the lift given how the Supreme Court is trying to put us all back into the dangerous dark ages. “My failed mission to find God — and what I found instead”
    I found this enlightened and lol humorous.

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