Hanging out in Hawaii

For a holiday full of action-packed thrills and spills, whisk the teenagers away to Hawaii’s stunning Kauai island — they’ll love you for it

Finding a destination where you can enjoy a family holiday with teenagers can be difficult. But Hawaii has plenty of sightseeing, eating, shopping and adventure to keep teenage kids off their iPhones (most of the time).

To many, Hawaii is Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor and shopping malls. Eight out of 10 visitors don’t even venture beyond Honolulu. But our teenagers agree that their recent visits to Kauai and the Big Island (also named Hawaii) were the highlights of their holiday.

Kauai is the least visited of Hawaii’s main islands, receiving less than 5% of tourists. Yet many of us would recognise Kauai because it’s been a location for so many Hollywood movies. Kauai boasts the Jurassic Park waterfall, the mountains of the King Kong remake, the jungle in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the planet Pandora from Avatar and even the battlefields of Vietnam in Tropic Thunder.

The best introduction to this spectacular area is a helicopter ride from Lihue. We take a one-hour flight withBlue Hawaiian Helicopters, a long-established company that has won numerous awards, and offers larger Eco-Star helicopters which afford excellent views, and pilots who are qualified tour guides.

Our teens pepper our pilot with questions through their radio headsets as we soar over extinct volcanoes, the sheer cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, towering waterfalls and Waimea Canyon (“Waimea means red water”, explains our pilot), where Captain Cook first landed.

We drive to the end of the road where huge waves are thundering onto Kee Beach, near Julia Roberts and Pierce Brosnan’s holiday homes. Free-range chickens strut about and we see trees that even teenagers want to climb as we walk the Na Pali track.

Back in Hanalei Bay for dinner, we search for Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Ben Stiller and Demi Moore who are regulars here. Hanalei Beach was the location for the movie South Pacific and the local speciality is ahi (tuna) with teriyaki sauce.

Kauai’s north shore boasts top hotels and spectacular golf courses, such as the Robert Trent Jr.-designed Prince, along the cliff tops above the ocean. Snorkel, kayak or surf here (if you’re experienced).

After a few days, we move south to an amazing condo at Poipu Shores, right on the water.

Fourteen-year-old Laura wakes us up one morning for breakfast on the balcony, and we watch a lone swimmer among a pod of about 50 spinner dolphins. We do the same ourselves on the Big Island a few days later, and it’s truly special.

We then head out for some zip-lining with Outfitters of Kauai at Kipu Ranch, a Hollywood moviemakers’ location. To get there, we’re taken on a leisurely kayak up Hule’ia River to where they have several heavy wire cables strung across a valley. Strapped into a harness, we’re clamped onto the wire one at a time to jump off a platform, then we soar above the forest canopy over to the other side. After single and tandem rides, then lunch, we tramp through the rainforest to the river, where Laura swings on the “cool as…” rope that Harrison Ford used in Indiana Jones.

We join another Outfitters excursion the next day for a pleasant, breezy 18km downhill bicycle ride down Waimea Canyon. That night, we have dinner while enjoying the ambience of The Grove Café from a wide verandah overlooking the former sugar plantation.

Back at Kipu Ranch the next day, we take off with Kipu Ranch Adventures. Driving ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), we negotiate a bush trail up steep slopes at the base of the mountain range, through flooded creeks and along the river. Sixteen-year-old Jordan says driving the quad bike is “awesome fun!”, while I take one of the creeks too enthusiastically, causing a wall of muddy red water to gush over us. One thing’s for sure — our teenagers will always remember their week’s adventure on Kauai, one of our best family holidays ever.

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Take Me There

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau has an excellent website (www.gohawaii.com) with useful information, contact details, and videos for activities and transport arrangments. We booked everything online, including our US visas and activities.

Suite 114, 3501 Rice St, Lihue, Kauai, tel: +1 (808) 245 5800

1775 Pe’e Rd, Poipu, Kauai, tel: +1 (808) 742 7700

2827A Poipu Rd, Poipu Beach, Kauai, tel: +1 (808) 742 9667

9400 Kaumualii Hwy, Waimea, Kauai, tel: +1 (808) 338 1625

Kipu Ranch, Kaumualii Hwy, Kauai, tel: +1 (808) 246 9288

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