The Rambling Writer Visits Kauai: Ziplines, Dinosaurs, and Sacred Sites

Waiting for the wildfire smoke to clear for more of our Pacific Northwest rambles, I’ll pick up my recent globetrotting threads — back to Kauai for aerial thrills and some history.

In previous posts, I mentioned that Thor was celebrating his retirement after 40 years as Professor of Paleontology and Geology, and he picked Kauai as a new island to explore. He’s still teaching his online Dinosaurs course, so the island where they’ve filmed most of the “Jurassic Park” movies seemed like a great idea. We visited several attractions where scenes from the films were shot, including the hillside above Koloa Ziplines on the south side of the island.

Thor picked Koloa Ziplines because they had the best ratings, and the longest cable on the final ride. Our native guides, Cody and Pono, were fantastic — fun but clearly competent and safety-oriented, as well as easy on the eye. They explained that the final long cable (out of 8 total ziplines) had to be put in place by a helicopter, and the pilot had sworn he’d never do that trick again.

Thor had chosen this activity to challenge his fear of heights, and you can see by his grin that he got over it very quickly. We are now both addicted to the rush of flying high in the air through jungle foliage or above fields. I don’t have a photo of my favorite position, lying prone and flying as “Wonder Woman,” but I highly recommend it! Below is my first launch, when they advise  breaking in with the sitting position.

One of our guides would go first to wait at the landing ramps with the “catch” rope to slow us down for an easy glide in.

After landing, we climbed off the towers, made short hikes through the landscape to the next tower, and zipped again. What a rush! We can’t wait to go back and do it all again.

In my next installment, I’ll take you with us to the Allerton Botanical Garden for some amazing tropical blossoms and foliage (and another site from “Jurassic Park”). Here is a preview of a strange purple flower we saw from one of the zipline towers. Can anyone identify it?

Hot and dusty after being packed into an open-air truck for the ride back to the office over dirt roads, we were ready for a swim at lovely Poipu Beach. These endangered Monk Seals were taking a nap on the busy beach, safely protected and oblivious to the people swimming and walking around them.

We stopped in Poipu at Prince Kuhio Park to see the remaining stone footings of a heiau. In my limited understanding, a heiau is a lava-stone platform that served as temple footings, or places to treat the ill, or platforms for sacrifices of war prisoners or people who had violated rules. For instance, it was kapu (forbidden) for a commoner to let his or her shadow cross that of a royal. It was also kapu to over-fish areas, thus guarding precious resources.

Some of the upright lava stones were “dressed” with necklaces or small added stones, clearly to honor the spirit of the place. Outsiders are asked not to step onto the heiau.

The park honors Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, who would have been the last king on Kauai if Hawai’i had not been annexed to the U.S. Instead, he was the Hawai’ian congressional delebate for 10 terms, and a champion for native culture. The park also includes the foundations of his home overlooking the shore, and a fish pond (these historic ponds were common on the island, as a way to preserve food sources).

As Thor noted, wearing his geologist hat, all the rocks in the Hawai’ian islands are forms of lava, so not offering much variation. The geology interest comes from the tectonic movement and volcanic activity that formed the islands, with subsequent stages of weathering, as discussed in my earlier post about hiking Kauai’s Waimea Canyon.

Near Poipu, we stopped at another historic site, the Kaneiolouma Complex, still in the process of restoring the stone footings of habitations, taro fields, irrigation channels, fish ponds, and shrines. The spot is marked by these four totem figures that functioned astronomically.

When I spotted these figures from the road, I thought for a moment I was back in New Zealand, where I had seen similar carvings. And this interpretive sign confirmed the connection of Pacific locations where cultures built heiau type sacred platforms.

Of course, the Hawai’ian islands were colonized by Polynesians using their amazing navigational skills and bringing many of the plants and animals that made up the “first wave” of introduced species. (There are hardly any actually-native species here, as we’ll learn at the botanical garden on our visit.)

The descendants of the Polynesians in Hawaii have faced many obstacles in preserving and recovering their cultural heritage, as natives on the mainland have also experienced. At these sites, visitors are welcome to come and learn about their traditions, and asked to show respect. During our brief visit to the island, Thor and I found nothing but friendliness from natives who seemed happy to share knowledge and the spirit of Aloha — encompassing love, peace, and compassion.


You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here every Saturday. Sara’s latest novel from Book View Cafe is available in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Chanticleer Global Thriller Grand Prize and the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara has recently returned from a research trip in Greece and is back at work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect. Sign up for her quarterly email newsletter




The Rambling Writer Visits Kauai: Ziplines, Dinosaurs, and Sacred Sites — 10 Comments

    • I hope you get to try it, Sherwood. In our group, we had everyone from young girls to their grandmother, who was very nervous at first. And she ended up loving it, too.

  1. My last zip line was flying superman style for half a mile over the trees and valley below. I still laugh when I think about it.

  2. We were there for the last three weeks in April, staying in Poipu. It was lovely. We did not go ziplining, but did spend a lot of time on the beach.

    • Were you there before the terrible storm and floods? We were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t visit beautiful sites on the damaged/closed roads of the north shore, but will return!

  3. It looks fascinating! Unfortunately, I don’t have a fear of heights — I have a fear of falling. Roller coasters, high diving, cliffs, mountain climbing and ziplining are completely out for me.

    Planes I don’t mind, but there is something substantial under me in those.