Photos: Hawaiian paradise

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  1. Waimea Canyon, Kauai

    Kalalau Valley, on Kauai's west side, is more than 3,000 feet deep and provides stunning panoramic views. Waimea is nicknamed "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." (John Borthwick / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii

    Men row their Hawaiian outrigger canoe towards Waikiki beach, with Diamond Head in the background. Outrigger canoes are now used for recreation purposes and to ride the waves, but in times past they were the main means of transportation between the Hawaiian Islands. (Mike Nelson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The tranquil waters of Oahu

    Hanauma Bay is one of the finest stretches of beach in the world. (Eric L Wheater / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Surfer's paradise

    Australian Luke Egan competes on Oahu's North Shore, one of the best places in Hawaii to ride the big waves. (AFP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Water colors

    A school of manini fish pass over a coral reef at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Donald Miralle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Wailua Falls

    The beautiful 83-foot tiered Wailua Falls is an easily accessible, must-see waterfall on the island of Kauai. Wailua Falls was first made famous when it was featured in the television show, "Fantasy Island." (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Emerald peaks

    The iconic, towering emerald peaks of the 1,200-foot Iao Needle, stand out in Maui's Iao Valley State Park. (Adina Tovy Amsel / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Historic reminder

    The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, marks the resting place of many of the battleship's 1,177 crew members who lost their lives during the Attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 by the Japanese. The memorial is the "ground zero" of World War II. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Aloha!

    Hula dancers welcome the sailing crew of a Hokule'a, a canoe, into Kailua Bay. (Ronen Zilberman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The heart of Hawaii

    The sun sets on Honolulu, Oahu's capital and Hawaii's largest, most populous city. (Robert Y. Ono / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Polynesian heat

    Brandon OFueo Maneafaiga, 23, of Waianae, Hawaii balances two flaming knifes during the 13th Annual World Fireknife Championship at the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Laie, Hawaii. (Lucy Pemoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Explosive attraction

    People watch from a viewing area as an explosion takes place on Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, in Pahoa, Hawaii. Legend says the volcano goddess Pele dug fire pits as she traveled from island to island looking for a home with her brothers and sisters. She finally settled at Kilauea's summit, where she lives at Halemaumau crater. (Leigh Hilbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Forces of nature

    The Dragon's Teeth are bizarre lava formations eroded by wind and salt spray at Makalua-puna Point. (Karl Lehmann / Lonely Planet) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Heaven on Earth

    Astronomy observatories are seen on the peak of the snow-covered, Mauna Kea mountain near Hilo, Hawaii. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano. (Tim Wright / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. On the way to Sainthood

    Tourists walk through a cemetery past the grave, left, of Father Damien at Kalawao, Hawaii. After cancer patient Audrey Toguchi prayed to Father Damien, known for helping leprosy patients in Hawaii, to help her, and her cancer went away, Pope Benedict XVI approved the case in July 2008 as Damien's second miracle, opening the way for the 19th century Belgian priest to be declared a saint. (Eric Risberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Cool colors

    Rainbow eucalyptus (Mindanao Gum) trees grow in Keanae, Maui. Once a year, these magnificent trees shed their bark and take on the colors of the rainbow. (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Magic Sands

    An aerial view of La'aloa Beach Park or Magic Sands beach in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The beach is called Magic Sands because when rough surf hits, all of the sand is emptied off the beach and temporarily moved out to sea. (Brian Powers / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 4/24/2006 4:58:45 PM ET 2006-04-24T20:58:45

My idea of adventure in Hawaii is renting a convertible or lolling in a chaise longue. Taking short hikes along the beach is also acceptable. Helicopter tours? Kayaking? These are beyond my comfort zone. So how did I end up ziplining over a 150-foot-deep ravine on Kauai?

Ziplining is 2006’s hottest activity for adrenaline-seeking travelers. It combines the thrill of soaring through the air with the aesthetic pleasures of a bird’s-eye view. It does not involve, say, lounge chairs.

But my husband, Patrick, and I were facing the challenge of a vacation with teenagers. Parents are always looking for ways to bond with their children, but those can get hard to find as kids develop their own interests. We thought Kauai would cater to adventurous souls like our 13-year-old, Caitlin, and to leisure lovers like me and our other daughter, 15-year-old Sara.

Kauai visitors tend to be loyal either to the north, which includes the lush region around Hanalei and Princeville, or to the drier, sunnier south, around Po‘ipu Beach Park. We chose Po‘ipu because I had long fantasized about splurging on the Grand Hyatt Resort there.

With its palms and pools, the Grand Hyatt is a successful tropical fantasy, and the girls both gave it a thumbs-up. They loved the amusement park scale of the pools. The beach in front of the hotel is a little rough for swimming, but we enjoyed combing the lava rock for crabs and pieces of coral. For snorkeling and swimming, we could head to Po‘ipu Beach Park, just down the road.

No trip with teenage daughters is complete without shopping expeditions. By day three, we were on the hunt. They found swimsuits at Poipu Shopping Village, and bargain souvenirs for friends at the Whalers General Store. Our favorite discovery was Spouting Horn, which sends up spectacular sprays of surf as vendors sell jewelry nearby (we found good prices on earrings).

Only one rule: Don't hang upside down
Still, by day five of our week’s vacation spent swimming, shopping, eating, and lounging, even I was ready for something away from Po‘ipu. The concierge at the hotel gave me the brochure for a zipline adventure at Princeville Ranch on the north shore. Caitlin, of course, was enthusiastic. Sara, of course, was not. Inspired by my younger daughter, I was game.

When Caitlin and I checked in for the Zip Express, we met our nine fellow, nervous zip adventurers, all first-timers. There were honeymooning couples and another family with a teen. Our affable guides appeared: Kimo, who had grown up in Hanalei, and Susanna, from Vermont, who worked as a part-time guide to stay in shape. We loaded onto trucks for a 15-minute trip out to the ranch.

Our first zipline was the “bunny slope, only 25 feet above the ground,” as Kimo said, to get us all acquainted with the feeling of gliding down the cable. He showed us how to put on a harness and a lightweight helmet, and demonstrated how he would clip the harness to the cable suspended over the ravine. Then each of us was supposed to walk along a platform, slowly, until our feet dangled and our weight did the rest of the work to carry us off to the other side of the valley, about 200 feet away.

Kimo told us the only rule was don’t hang upside down — as if any of us would try it. When they asked for a volunteer to go first, my daughter raised her hand fast. I watched her calmly step off the platform and sail easily to the other side. Then it was my turn. With Caitlin watching me, I walked out on the platform as nonchalantly as possible. I felt the cable tighten and then I was gliding forward, suddenly suspended in the air. Although I was scared, the feeling was exhilarating. In seconds I reached the end of the zip, then I scrambled up the other side of the ravine. I wanted to do it again.

The zip course has eight lines in all, and each one is progressively more challenging. The longest is 740 feet, which gives you plenty of time to look down at the dense jungle canopy 150 feet below you.

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By the end of our three hours, Caitlin and I were pros, taking one hand off the cable and even tucking into a ball to go faster.

That afternoon, we recounted our adventure together for Patrick and Sara. I was proud to hear Caitlin tell her sister: “Mom was actually pretty good.”

Something new, something to remember, something we could do together: Now that’s my kind of adventure.

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