Hawaii dominates another list — U.S. adventure travel

Saturday, August 27, 2011

By Christine Strobel

U.S. News & World Report released its list of Best Adventure Vacations in the U.S. — included in the Top 7 were three Hawaiian Islands: Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island.

No surprise there, just wondered why the other three populated isles weren't included. (Guess you have to spread the love around the country a bit.)

Fact is, while Hawaii is lionized as a "get there and get on Hawaii time" destination, where relaxing is revered and the art of doing nothing elevated to a master craft, if you're looking for adventure, it's at every turn. And I don't just mean the food.

In the spirit of this list, here's a compendium of adventures on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. Have you done any of them? Tell us about it!

Kauai: Number 3

For astonishing natural beauty, the Garden Isle has no peer (though her sister islands do their best to keep up). Must-do adventures in this verdant wonderland:

Video: "Hanakapi'ai Falls [Kauai] in HD" by oahukamaaina

Kalalau Trail: Okay, hit the full 11-mile length of this adventurous trail along the famed sea cliffs of Kauai's Na Pali Coast if you must — and keep in mind, that's 11 miles one way — but if you're active and looking for something a little less aggressive, take the two-mile trail to Hanakapi'ai Beach for glorious vistas. Another two miles into the valley behind will bring you to Hanakapi'ai Falls. This is the seminal Kauai experience. (Photo: Hanakapi'ai Falls, Kauai. *bjo/Creative Commons.)

Hike into Waimea Canyon: Sure, anyone can see Waimea Canyon — and at a minimum, you must do that because the textures and colors are truly memorable; photos cannot do it justice. But hiking to the valley floor and back? Now that's an adventure. Take the Kukui Trail if you're fit enough to handle it.

Princeville Ranch: This family-owned business organizes fun adventure activities to help support and preserve the beautiful 2,500-acre ranch on Kauai's North Shore. Ziplining, kayaking, jungle hikes to a waterfall... it's like you're starring in one of those travel adventure commercials. Only it's real.

Backcountry Tubing: Where else but Kauai can you go inner-tubing down plantation-era water canals manually dug in the 1870s?

Maui: Number 4

Coming in right behind Kauai is the Valley Isle. The 10,000-foot Haleakala, which produces many of the valleys that gave the island its name, is the centerpiece of adventure on the island — but with its exceptional ocean playgrounds and waterfall-filled valleys, you'll be pressed to fit every adventure in. Don't miss these:

Video: Maui, HI: Waimoku Falls on Pipiwai Trail by trailspotting

Oheo Gulch: The Valley Isle is also the Waterfall Isle, so many are there to choose from. Take the long drive out to Oheo Gulch (aka, the Seven Sacred Pools, though that really is a misnomer) and walk the Pipiwai Trail for two spectacular falls: Makahiku and Waimoku. (Photo: Bamboo forest at the Pipiwai Trail. Brian/Creative Commons.)

Hike Haleakala: If you have decent tolerance for altitude, hiking through the "House of the Sun" is a must. As I noted in an earlier post, it's an otherworldly experience — and by that I mean you will truly feel transported to another planet. (Bring a jacket — it gets cold!)

Ziplining: Maui has in the last few years become the Hawaiian Island titan of ziplining — its dominant Haleakala and Kahalawai mountains make it the ideal location. The views alone will convince you that you should have done it years ago, the thrill of it will bring you back again. Check out any, or do all, of these: Kaanapali Skyline Adventures (West Maui), Haleakala Skyline Adventure and Piiholo Ranch Zipline.

Molokini: For all the time I've spent snorkeling and diving in Hawaii's waters, this sunken crescent crater is still the only place I've ever seen an octopus. Add to that multitudes of fish, rays, turtles and more blues than can be registered by the human eye. Unless you're a spectacular swimmer, you'll need to take a boat trip. Here's our budget option.

Hawaii: Number 7

Where else can you get up close to a lava-spewing volcano? This mystical island is like no place else on Earth, with 11 of 13 planetary subclimates represented, the largest sea mountains in the world and the universe within reach. Gear up for:

Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope time lapse by ZeitZuHandeln

Mauna Kea: Certainly visit the Onizuka Center for Astronomy (at 9,300 feet elevation, on the road to the summit) and enjoy the nightly stargazing program, available from 6-10 p.m. year-round. Peer into corners of the universe you can only see from a handful of locations around the globe. Brave the summit if the road isn't closed to see the magnificent array of the world's most powerful telescopes from Hawaii's tallest summit (13,796 feet), or go on a guided tour. Be sure to bring layers of clothes, it's cold in the upper elevations. (Photo: A nebula photographed from Mauna Kea Observatories by NASA.)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Walk across the desolation of the Kilauea Caldera, explore the rainforest, enjoy the views from the Puu Huluhulu cinder cone, check out the Jaggar Museum (with views of the activity at the Halemaumau Crater) and drive down to the coast to hike across old lava beds and, at night, see the hellish glow of the eruption at Puu Oo. Bring sturdy hiking shoes, snacks, water and a jacket — it gets cold here.

Waipio Valley: Two words: Hiilawe Falls. The nearly 2,000-foot cliffs that line this gorgeous valley and black-sand beach feature a waterfall more than 1,400-feet high — the tallest among the islands. Hike into the valley, or take a hiking tour or horseback ride.

Night Diving with Manta Rays: Anybody can snorkel. But seeing elegant mantas frolicking during their peak feeding time in the warm, clear waters off Keauhou Bay? That's kicking it up a notch. 3DHawaii offers a tour.

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