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Revealing the Secret Wonders of Kaua'i

Breathtaking! Stunning! Awesome! Gorgeous! These are the superlatives expressed by people seeing the Garden Isle of Kaua'i from the air. Kaua'i is blessed with wild, untouched natural beauty unlike anywhere else on earth and much of it is completely inaccessible except by air. Flying tours provide panoramic views of the island's visual treasures, among them, Manawaipuna Falls, one of the locations of Jurassic Park, the countless cascading falls of Wai'ale'ale Crater and the famous Nš Pali coast, with its verdant, razor-thin cliffs.

There are a number of ways to embark on one of these exciting sightseeing excursions. Helicopters are the most common method and there are several companies on the island with flights departing from Hanapepe, Lihu'e and Princeville. Never take a flight less than an hour in length, because the trip will feel rushed. Some helicopters have noise-canceling headphones with music piped in and narration from the pilot. Some have opening windows so photographers may take pictures without glare. Four and six-passenger helicopters are available.

Flights from Lihu'e typically start out over the Kaua'i Marriott, cross over Nawiliwili Harbor, and the Menehune Fish Pond. According to legend the pond was built overnight by the Menehune (little people) who inhabited Kaua'i before the Polynesians arrived. The helicopters then pass along Ha'upu Mountain Range, heading inland and westward over Hanapepe Valley, Olokele and Waimea Canyon. The incredible remote valleys of the Na Pali coast come into view next, and then Hanalei Valley, Mt. Wai'ale'ale and the "Blue Hole." Some companies will arrange custom tours or photo charters to specific sites. Flights departing from Princeville soar over the Hanalei Valley, the Nš Pali coast and Waimea Canyon. All tours are operated on a weather-permitting basis.

If helicopters aren't your thing, a more traditional way to sightsee by air is by small plane. These tours are 45 minutes to one hour long and cover the entire island of Kaua'i. Also available are private charter biplanes, departing from Lihu'e, which allow customized flights. These planes are built to emulate aircraft from the 1930s and 1940s, but with modern modifications for safety and comfort. Standard, pre-designed sightseeing flights of the island from 30 minutes to one hour long are also available.

For those who have dreamed of being able to fly, there is the Ultralight "Trike." It is as close to real flying (as in, "I'm a bird!") as you're ever going to get. Combine the thrill of this open-air, wind-in-your-hair ride with the spectacular scenery and you've got an experience better than any dream. The craft is stable, safer than hang-gliding, and powered by an engine. The Ultralights take off and land on regular runways and there are parachutes onboard for safety. If you've seen the movie Fly Away Home, it's the contraption Jeff Daniels flies to lead a flock of orphaned Canada geese home. For incredible images of Kaua'i taken from the vantage point of an Ultralight, check out the video, Extreme Kaua'i, available at http://www.bestbookshawaii.com.

One of the main reasons visitors choose the island of Kaua'i as their vacation destination is its incomparable physical beauty. Having traveled this far, no one should miss the opportunity of beholding paradise from the air.