Jungle Valley Adventure at Princeville Ranch

Since the movie The Descendants came out, the idyllic beach town of Hanalei on the North Shore of Kauai has been the 'it' spot to visit. This is according to Bill, a condo broker I met at the Java Hut coffee shop in Hanalei, and according to Bill, getting access to the type of property George Clooney's character, Matt King, might have grown up with seems to be the number one item on many visitor's itinerary. Hence per his suggestion, we booked a Jungle Adventure Tour at the otherwise private (and inaccessible) Princeville Ranch.

What: Established in 1831, the 2500 acre property is presently owned by the Carswell Family and located on the North Shore of Kauai about 3 miles before the town of Hanalei. Today the ranch offers a mix of adventure tours including horseback riding, zip-lining, hiking and kayaking. Our tour included a healthy dose of hiking, kayaking and zip-lining with six people total ranging from 6 years to 50.

Details: The tour started auspiciously with a short drive in an old, 6-wheel Austrian military vehicle, which dropped us off a short distance away from the check-in spot. There we headed out on a beautiful up-country hike to a small creek where we kayaked a short ways to another trailhead. We continued hiking to the zip-line course, which included two medium length rides that traverse a small canyon where a waterfall flows into a swimming hole. After the high-flying, we made our way down to the swimming hole for a dip, some cliff jumping and a picnic. Following the relaxing lunch, we hiked back to the kayaks, paddled our way to the starting trail and hiked back to the adventure mobile for the quick ride home. Round-trip took about 4.5 hours.

Learned: Our adventure was less about thrill seeking (though the zip-lining was quite a thrill) and more about a pleasant journey through a beautiful mauka landscape filled with fascinating links back to Hawaiian history. Our guides, Justin and Keola, native Kauaiians and true lovers of the outdoors, shared their local knowledge of the flora and fauna while weaving in interesting local and historical notes. We sampled two types of wild guava (invasive species), the tips of sword ferns (tastes like pistachio nuts) and ohelo berries (also called hairy berries). We conditioned our hair with wild growing awapuhi sap (you can find it in some shampoos) and learned about the many uses of soft fur of the tree ferns (including gauze for wounds and the lining for baby’s cribs).

Other points of interest included: The purple flowers (used on salads and tasted like mushrooms), sarsaparilla root (smells like rootbeer), wild pig trails and evidence of them rooting around.

The next day, we hiked the Kalalau Trail and armed with what we learned on our adventure became impromptu trail guides for dozens of interested hikers.

Cost: Starts at $145 per person.