Cruise Ship Passengers
We find that Princeville Ranch Zip and Dip works best for our cruise clients for the afternoon of day one in port, as long as you plan to rent a car and do some exploring on your own. Princeville Ranch is on the north shore of Kauai and you definitely need a rental car (the drive is about an hour). It is a beautiful drive and the tour is well worth the effort. The Kipu Ranch 3 hour Zipline Trek can also be done on the afternoon of day 1 and requires a drive of about 30 minutes from the port to the check-in location.
A few years ago no one had ever heard of zipping … now it is the hottest activity on Kauai! All the lines on Kauai zipline tours have been engineered and constructed to the highest standards meeting requirements set by ACCT (the Association for Challenge Course Technology). This is actually one of the SAFER things you will do on vacation. You are more likely to get hurt loading luggage into your rental car or hanging out at your resort’s swimming pool!
There are four zip line courses to choose from on Kauai … let’s see if we can help you sort them out!
The first two are more alike than they are different. The lines have varying lengths, some of which are SOOOOO long I just can’t figure out how they were able to string them up in the first place! (did they use a helicopter?) Both Princeville Ranch and Kauai Backcountry have courses that have multiple lines and you do each line once. Every line is a little different, but all are tightly strung from pole to pole, and each requires a little instruction about what to expect. The guides say things like “the wind is in your face on this one so you need to get a running start” or “this landing has a steep incline … as soon as your feet hit the ground keep running hard.” These lines move along at a pretty fast pace but not so fast that you can’t enjoy the scenery around you. There is a little hiking in between lines.
Princeville Ranch has 9 lines that cross back and forth over gullies (actually one line is so long that it feels like you are crossing an entire VALLEY). Their brand new King Kong line is 1200 feet long and it is a TWIN line, which means two people zip side by side at the same time. They also have one gnarly (ie. fun) suspension bridge that you need to clip onto for safety when you cross. Kauai Backcountry has 7 lines and instead of crossing valleys you start up high on a mountain and work your way down to the bottom. Both tours involve swimming, but Princeville Ranch gets the edge here as their swimming hole has a waterfall and is really pretty. If you are debating between these two zip lines, we recommend doing the one that is closer to your resort. If you are staying on the north shore definitely do Princeville Ranch. If you are central or south shore do Kauai Backcountry. HOWEVER, if you are going to do the tubing adventure then I’d recommend going up to the north shore and doing Princeville Ranch zipline for a change of scenery.
The third course is the Treetops Zipline, which has similar lines to the first two although this course is just a tad shorter in length. But on this tour instead of starting and ending on the ground you find yourself high in the trees during the entire experience. For those who are a little afraid of heights and the concept of zipping is a bit of a challenge to start with, you’d be better off with Princeville Ranch or Kauai Backcountry. If heights don’t bother you, it’s actually quite cool to be up in the air during the whole tour. You can actually feel the trees swaying a bit in the wind! On this course you are clipped in for safety the entire time, not just when you are zipping. And there is no walking from line to line as the next zip starts at the same tree where the previous one ended.
The zipline experience at Kipu Falls is the most different from the other courses … they now have six lines. The first line is more like the ones at Princeville Ranch Adventures and Kauai Backcountry Adventures and each person zips on this line twice on their zipline treks. The second line is almost a vertical rappel … and then the third and fourth lines are identical and side-by-side. These lines are strung with quite a bit of slack and there is a significant vertical drop. The first few seconds almost feel like a bungee jump and then the line kicks in and grabs your weight. Speeds attained on this line are faster, and they encourage you to turn yourself upside down if you like … once you’ve gained control of yourself about halfway through the zip. My wife hit her butt on the platform when she took off the first time … they stress that you really need to take a huge step off the platform when you start out. To my amazement the second time my wife took off she started off backwards and intentionally turned herself upside down (she’s the upside down person in the photo above). The 3 hour tour ends at this point, but for even more zipping action the 5 hour tour adds on an 800′ line, a monstrous 1800′ line and then a swimming hole with a short but fun “water zip” which you can repeat several times.
Kipu Zipline is the best choice for families with younger kids. They have a minimum age of 7 to zip, and they are the only zipline tour to offer a reduced rate for kids. Children must also fit safely in the harness. Occasionally a child who is small for their age may be old enough to zip, but the guide may determine that they aren’t large enough for the harnesses. The decision on whether a child is big enough is a safety issue and is up to the guide’s discretion.
The Treetops Zipline is also kid friendly with a minimum age of 9 and a minimum weight of 65 pounds. Princeville Ranch has a minimum ages of 10 and Kauai Backcountry requires children to be 12 years old. The minimum weight at Princeville Ranch is 80 pounds. The minimum weight is 100 pounds with Kauai Backcountry – which makes them a bit difficult for younger teens and even some really skinny adults!
Princeville Ranch allows you to take off backwards on some lines, and they will also let you spin (the guide will “wind you up” a few times before you start out) if that sounds like fun! Treetops Zipline also allows you to take off backwards on some lines. They don’t allow you to invert yourself on their lines. Kauai Backcountry is the strictest of the three … they don’t let you turn upside down and discourage you turning backwards while you zip. This is due to the length of their lines.
A word about observers. It is not possible for observers to go along with Princeville Ranch and Kauai Backcountry … they start from remote locations and once you begin the tour you have to zip to the get to the next trail or zip. An observer can go along on the Kipu Zipline Trek, but they pay the same rate as guests who do all the ziplines. The only zipline that allows people to watch and does not charge is the Treetops Tour because the course is located right where you park your car, so it is easy for observers to look up and watch.
A word about the length of these tours … while there are published times regarding how long each tour takes to complete, these lengths are based upon average duration of a fully booked tour. If your tour has active people who hike fast and don’t hesitate when they zip, the tour can be a little shorter in duration, especially if your tour isn’t full. If your tour is full and there are a few people who move slowly, the tour may take a bit longer than the published duration.
Zipping is FUN … and it is addictive! If you have time and your budget allows, you might even decide to do two zipline tours during your vacation. Really … it’s that much fun! I talked with a client recently who did THREE zipline tours during one vacation. We have clients who have told us that they are making their vacation destination plans based upon the availability of zipline tours … if there are no zipline tours to do, they’ll go somewhere that does have them! If you decide to do more than one zipline tour, we would suggest either Princeville Ranch or Kauai Backcountry for one tour, and either Treetops or Kipu Zipline for the other.
If you are having problems deciding, call our office toll-free at 1.877.678.7333 and we’ll help you sort things out and help you make a decision.