Overcoming the fear of heights on a zipline

Posted: November 16, 2009 by Nathan Kam in Adventure, Hawaiian Islands, Maui, Maui, On The Job, Random Raves & Rants, Travel
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When our zipline guides George and Luke joked about it being Joe’s (pictured above) third day up on the mountain strapping guests into their harnesses and sending them flying high through the West Maui mountains, it only made our group of 10 first time zippers that much more anxious. The additional jokes about how the trees below will soften the fall in the unlikely event of an accident only compounded the butterflies in my stomach. But truth be told, we were safe and in good hands and “greenhorn” Joe was an excellent guide. By the time the group reached the third zipline, my butterflies and fear of heights had vanished. Adrenaline had kicked in. This was also the case for the rest of the group.

Let’s get a couple things out of the way. I’m not the biggest fan of heights and I’ve never ziplined before. Kelly and her family did the ziplines at Kapalua Adventures earlier this year and had a lot of fun. So my visit to check out a new client Skyline Eco Adventures on Maui a couple weeks ago was one of great excitement and fear. I’d been told by owner Danny Boren and others that their line was one of the more “adventurous” ones on the island. “What the heck did that mean?” I thought to myself. I soon found out after committing to do both of Skyline’s courses – eight zips in Kaanapali in the morning, followed by five zips up on Haleakala in the afternoon – for a total of 13 incredible zipline crossings in one day. Here’s a few photos I took at both courses and a video highlighting some of the fun we had.

As they say, go hard or go home, so I made the most my time on Maui. The three-hour Kaanapali Skyline Adventure course winds its way down Mount Kahalawai over verdant valleys at a leisurely pace with spectacular views of West Maui and Lanai. This would prove to be a great way to start the day. The eight ziplines progressively get longer and faster starting at about 350 feet and ending at over 1,100 feet. But the most exciting and unexpected thing about the experience was the harness system Skyline uses. You’re literally strapped in at you waist and given the freedom to control how you twist and turn down the line by steering with the carabiner.


No two zips are alike…I went down a few straight, sideways, and backwards…which added to the thrill and excitement. The entire group had a great time and gave the tour 20 thumbs up. I documented my Kaanapali adventure on Twitter with commentary and photos which you can find here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

With my adrenaline still going, I jumped in my rental car and booked it up to the Hakeakala Skyline Tour for another five zips just after noon. This tour was much shorter at one and a half hours and featured a much tighter course in cooler mountain conditions. If you’ve been upcountry on Haleakala, you know the air is much crisper up there. The lines aren’t nearly as long as the Kaanapali course with the longest at just over 750 feet, but the thrill and excitement was just as intense. About a dozen of us took to the course. For most it was their first time. For a handful they had come back to do it again with friends.


The first four lines prepare you for what was my favorite zipline of the day…the fifth and final run that you saw in the video above. Talk about WOW! Perched high above the final destination, this line featured quite a drop and a boomerang effect for extra excitement. You go pretty fast on this line too (someone said up to 50 miles a hour). As the ladies rushed off the platform, some of the men in the group (including yours truly) had a sudden rush of butterflies in our stomachs again. But when all was said and done, we all made it, enjoyed it, and left wanting more! Again, I documented this Haleakala adventure on Twitter here, here, here, here, here, and here.

So there you go. If you want to overcome your fear of heights while enjoying some serious adventure, consider a zipline tour. It worked for me. Hawaii’s got plenty of them on Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii’s Big Island. They’re all different in their own way so be sure to do your research before you book. Some have you seated in a swing type seat going straight down the line, while others give you the freedom to maneuver around. Whatever you chose, be sure to bring your camera and take lots of photos. The views are priceless.

And before saying aloha, I leave you with some helpful zipline tips from my friend Sheila Beal who authors the GoVisitHawaii.com blog. She had the opportunity to zip on Kauai and provides some great reminders about being in Hawaii’s great outdoors.

Happy ziplining!


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  1. Jad Smith says:

    Hawaii is god’s gift to the people who loves adventure. I visits Hawaii once a year. and I visit Maui especially for Zipline.


  2. Great photos! I love hearing stories about how people stepped out of the box to do something outrageous. I took a zip line tour too, in Costa Rica. So much fun!!!


  3. Damon says:

    I have held off in mentioning this… I’m doing the Big Island Zipline tour tomorrow…

    This will be exciting. I’m glad Hawaii is looking into more and more eco friendly adventures.

  4. Melissa says:

    Very cool! I did this in South Africa earlier this year (Tsitsikamma) and it was scary & fun at the same time. Now you can rappel off a building!

  5. Kateri says:

    you have to come do the one on Kauai now!

  6. Keahi Pelayo says:

    I will be on Maui during Thanksgiving and will check it out.

  7. Sheila says:

    Hi Nathan,

    You really kicked your fear’s butt! 🙂 Way to go!

    Thanks for the shout out!

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