Adventure sports in Kauai, Hawaii

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You've signed the release forms, cinched yourself into a full-body harness, strapped on the tactical helmet and jostled out to the rugged Kauai jungle in the back of a six-wheel, all-terrain Pinzgauer.

You've mounted the platform, peered down your chest to watch the guide snap your tandem pulley to the cable, heard the click of metal as the carabiner marries your harness to the pulley.

You note that the cable you'll be riding is no bigger around than your thumb. A wide river valley, 200 feet deep, yawns at your feet.

It's time. Time to take that heart-stopping step into the thin air between you and the river, and in the next instant bless the solid tug that means the rigging has caught your fall and is zipping you at 30 or 35 mph, 940 feet across the void to the other side.

Now!

You!

Scream!

And when you're done with that, thrill to the wind on your face, the hollow-metal hum of your pulley racing along the cable, your oneness with the sky - this is how birds must feel! - and, in the distance, a view of foliage-draped, cloud-capped Mt. Waialeale that no scenic overlook can match.

Just as you're starting to like all of this, you come in for a landing on the opposite platform, into the care of another guide who unhooks you and directs you to the next run.

You're zip lining, Kauai style.

Don't fret. If the fledgling sport of zip lining is too far out of your comfort zone, this 555-square-mile Hawaiian island offers plenty of other active pursuits.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

The roll call: River and sea kayaking, mountain hiking, downhill and coastal biking, snorkeling from ship or shore, climbing walls, waterfall swims, helicopter flights, ATV outings, catamaran sails, surfing and horseback riding.

For some Kauai outings, all you need are a sturdy pair of hiking boots and a good trail map, or snorkel gear and some local advice, or the inclination to rent a bicycle or a surf board and just see where they take you.

But for more extreme adventures, you need to call in the troops, who not only have the equipment, the expertise and the facilities to get you going but also know how to pack a serious picnic.

WHAT TO EXPECT

It rains a lot on Kauai, which is why the place is so lush. Tours go out rain or shine. Local conditions can change hour to hour, so some activities, such as waterfall swims, are never guaranteed; it might be too dangerous. Trips are canceled only when the weather overall is deemed hazardous.

All tours have minimum age restrictions - many also require participants to wear closed-toe footwear. Be sure to check with your operator for specific guidelines.

ZIP LINING

Basically, you're jumping off a cliff without a parachute. Great for confronting trust/fear issues - even ones you didn't know you had - and finally satisfying your flight fantasies.

Several companies on Kauai offer zip-line runs combined with other activities such as swinging bridges or waterfall swims. Each will take you into its own little slice of Kauai's backcountry, which is a treat in itself.

They provide: Trained guides, all equipment.

Safety check: All zip-line courses operate under the standards of the Association for Challenge Course Technology.

You must: Meet age, height and weight requirements. Wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes with tread (no clogs or slip-ons); dress for the harness in T-shirt and long shorts or full-length pants; tie your hair back if it's long enough to get in your eyes.

Optional: Wearing a swimsuit under your clothing; packing a rain poncho.

You bring: Water, sunscreen, insect repellent, camera, towel.

Duration: 2 to 41/2 hours

Cost: $79-$145

Forget it if: You're pregnant or have had recent injury or surgery to feet, ankles, knees, hips or back.

Contact: Just Live (808-482-1295, just live.org), Kauai Backcountry Adventures (808-245-2506, kauaibackcountry.com ), Outfitters Kauai (888-742-9887, outfitterskauai.com ), Princeville Ranch Adventures (888-955-7669, adventureskauai.com )

MOUNTAIN TUBING

This pleasant float approaches Kauai's scenery inside and out, with participants bobbing downstream in colorful, industrial-strength inner tubes.

They provide: Tubes, gloves, helmets with head lamps.

You must: Meet age and weight requirements. Wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes with tread. Full-length pants highly recommended.

Optional: Wearing a swimsuit under your clothing.

You bring: Sunscreen, insect repellent, towel, change of clothes.

Duration: 3 to 31/2 hours, including lunch and round-trip drive.

Cost: $100

Forget it if: You have claustrophobia or are afraid of the dark.

Contact: Kauai Backcountry Adventures (808-245-2506, kauaibackcountry.com )

ATV TOURS

You know those famous Red Dirt T-shirts? You'll be making your own with every mud-caked splatter. Movie-set scenery? There's that, too. ATV tours on Kauai offer various routes - some with waterfall stops - on private property and a menu of vehicles.

They provide: Leader-guides, all necessary equipment; refreshments on shorter tours, picnic lunch on longer tours. Ask about rental clothing.

Safety check: Vehicle instruction is part of the package.

You must: Meet age and/or consent requirements and have a valid photo ID to drive. Meet age, weight and relationship-to-driver requirements to be a passenger. Wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes with tread and full-length pants.

You bring: Water, sunscreen, insect repellent, camera; swimsuit, aqua shoes and towel if you take one of the waterfall tours.

Duration: 3 to 4 hours

Cost: $100-$175, depending on whether you're a driver or a passenger.

Forget it if: You're pregnant or have back problems.

Contact: Kauai ATV Tours (877-707-7088, kauaiatv.com), Kipu Ranch Adventures (808-246-9288, kiputours.com )

SAILING, SNORKELING

You haven't experienced all Kauai has to offer unless you take to the ocean. Catamarans go out for snorkeling or sunset dinner sails along the Na Pali Coast, and a couple even venture into the waters off the island of Niihau. Expeditions by inflatable rafts (Zodiacs) explore the Na Pali Coast's sea caves and come ashore on the beaches, when conditions permit. Some outfitters have guided snorkeling from shore, and one offers "snuba," a cross between snorkeling and scuba.

They provide: Snorkel, mask, fins.

You must: Meet age and fitness requirements.

You bring: Sunscreen, insect repellent, swimsuit, aqua shoes, towel, change of dry clothes. Take some pills if you are prone to motion sickness.

Duration: 2 to 7 hours

Cost: $69-$196

Forget the zodiac if: You're pregnant or have back problems.

Contact: Aloha Kauai Tours (800-452-1113, alohakauaitours.com ), Blue Dolphin Charters (877-511-1311, kauaiboats.com ), Capt. Andy's Sailing Adventures & Raft Expeditions (800-535-0830, napali.com ), Catamaran Kahanu (808-645-6176, catamarankahanu.com ), Holo Holo Charters (800-848-6130, holoholocharters.com ), Kauai Sea Tours (800-733-7997, kauaiseatours.com ), Kauai Z Tourz (888-998-6879, ztourz.com ), Na Pali Explorer (877-335-9909, napali-explorer.com ), Snuba Tours of Kauai (808-823-8912, snubakauai.com )

GUIDED HIKING

On Kauai, there's no such thing as "just a hike." Guided outings will, at the very least, include local cultural wisdom and ecological discussions. Some visit waterfalls or beaches.

They provide: Guides

You must: Meet fitness requirements and wear hiking boots, sneakers or trail shoes.

Optional: Wearing a swimsuit under your clothing.

You bring: Water, sunscreen, insect repellent, camera, hat, rain poncho, towel.

Duration: 2 to 10 hours

Cost: $80-$168

Contact: Aloha Kauai Tours (800-452-1113, alohakauaitours.com ), Kauai Nature Tours (888-233-8365, kauainaturetours.com ), Kayak Kauai (800-437-3507, kayakkauai.com), Princeville Ranch Adventures (888-955-7669, adventureskauai.com )

DOWNHILL BIKING

No one visits Kauai without visiting the dramatic sea-cliff Kalalau Lookout in Kokee State Park or viewing Waimea Canyon. This organized tour runs 12 miles from cliff to canyon to coast, downhill on paved roads.

They provide: Cruising bikes with wide saddles and high-rise handlebars.

You must: Meet age and weight requirements. Wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes with tread and dress in layers for various climate zones.

You bring: Windbreaker, sunscreen, insect repellent.

Duration: 4 hours

Cost: $78-$98

Contact: Outfitters Kauai (888-742-9887, outfitterskauai.com )

HORSEBACK RIDES

Just when you've started to think you're in pretty good shape, along comes a saddle to prove you wrong. Kauai's dramatic scenery can be counted on to keep you distracted long enough to finish the ride, and some routes are further sweetened with waterfall swims or beachcombing.

They provide: Horse, tack and guide.

You must: Meet age and weight requirements. Wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes with tread. Full-length pants are highly recommended.

Optional: Wearing a swimsuit under your clothing.

You bring: Water, sunscreen, insect repellent, camera, towel.

Duration: 11/2 to 8 hours

Cost: $80-$390

Contact: CJM Country Stables (808-742-6096, cjmstables.com ), Esprit De Corps Riding Academy (808-822-4688, kauaihorses.com ), Princeville Ranch Stables (808-826-6777, princevilleranch.com ), Silver Falls Ranch (808-828-6718, silverfallsranch.com )

KAYAKING

Kauai boasts the state's only navigable rivers. After a hike and a swim, there's the ocean. Putting paddle to saltwater on Kauai can come as easy as a dip around a resort bay or as challenging as a daylong course along the south shore or the Na Pali Coast.

They provide: Kayaks with dry bags.

You must: Meet age and weight requirements and wear hiking/aqua shoes.

You bring: Sunscreen, insect repellent, swimsuit, towel, change of dry clothes.

Duration: 3 to 8 hours

Cost: $60-$225

Contact Alii Kayaks (877-246-2544, aliikayaks.com ), Kayak Hanalei (808-826-1881, kayakhanalei.com ), Kayak Kauai (800-437-3507, kayakkauai.com ), Outfitters Kauai (888-742-9887, outfitterskauai.com ), Princeville Ranch Adventures (888-955- 7669, adventureskauai.com ), True Blue and Island Adventures (808-246-6333, kauaifun.com ), Wailua River Guides (808-821-2800, wailuariverguides.com )

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