How far is the zipline from my hotel? Is there transportation available? Why is this tour more expensive than that other tour? I was given the opportunity to experience all three of Oahu’s zipline parks last month and here are some of the things I learned.
There is no wrong answer when it comes to which zipline experience to choose. All three zipline parks offer something unique and should be considered as you weigh the pros and cons. To answer one question right off the bat, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, transportation has not been offered at any of the parks. The easiest way to access each park is by rental car. Other options will be discussed in this article, so read on to learn more about transportation options.
The three parks that I visited were: Coral Crater Adventure Park (located in Kapolei on the West side of Oahu), the North Shore Zipline at Keana Farms (located in Kahuku on the North Shore), and the Jurassic Zipline (located in beautiful Ka’a’awa on the windward side).
Coral Crater gets the nod for being the best value, the best for first timers, and the easiest to access without a rental car. Its location is also perfect for those staying in Ko Olina, as it’s less than a 15-minute drive away! With pricing starting at $99.99/person (three-line tour), it’s by far the best value. I was lucky enough to experience the six-line tour, which took around two hours to complete.
When I visited, I did not have a rental car, so I decided to take an Uber. The trip took around 40 minutes from my hotel in Waikiki and cost $47 to get there as well as $51 for the return trip. The park gave me the advice to schedule my return trip to make sure a driver would be available, which worked out beautifully.
Furthermore, there is a lot going on at this park in addition to ziplining. I wish we had the time to ride the ATVs, which we saw kicking up dirt along the way. It looked like quite an adrenaline rush to speed around in them! There is also a crazy “Adventure Tower”, which has an aerial obstacle course in the style of American Ninja Warrior and a massive climbing wall. In addition the park had a bunch of pet chickens, a BBQ area, giant tortoises, and even pigs running around! When we were done with our zipline tour, we were able to get cold drinks in the gift shop and eat some amazing Mexican food at a food truck in the parking lot.
My biggest takeaway from my experience at Coral Crater was how knowledgeable and friendly the guides were. They even made my wife, who is deathly afraid of heights, comfortable enough to step off the first platform. The way they empathized with her (as she was clearly getting anxious during the briefing) was amazing! I’d recommend this experience for all those who are trying to step out of their comfort zone and want to do so without spending upwards of $200/person.
The following day, we rented a car to visit what’s advertised as “Oahu’s Longest Zipline”. This zipline on the North Shore is located very close to the original Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, which we experienced right before our 1:30pm check-in for our 2:00pm tour. To my wife’s relief, she would not be joining me on the tour, as there was only availability for one.
We were greeted by three guides, who explained that one guide would be doing the “sending” while the other two would handle the “braking”. There are eight ziplines on the North Shore course and each is actually a dual line, meaning that you can zipline side by side and race against a partner! After walking over to the first and shortest zipline, the guides take you to the start of the main course on a couple of ATVs, which was a blast! It was definitely a perk to get the bonus ATV ride as part of the zipline tour.
The longest zipline certainly lived up to the hype. At over half a mile long, it gives you time to really enjoy the experience of soaring through the air while taking in the sweeping coastal views and bird’s eye view of the organic farm below. The mountain views were pretty amazing as well! There were some unique features along the way, like wobbly bridges and even an “ascension”, which requires you to pull yourself up a rope using a pulley system. I felt like all these additional features made the experience super unique. Despite the $179/person price, I felt like I got my money’s worth, considering the experience was full of three hours of action.
After taking a day off, we headed out in our rental car to “The Ranch”, which is home to the Jurassic Zipline. As you all may know already, many movies have been filmed at Ka’a’awa Valley and Kualoa Ranch, including Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, and Kong: Skull Island (just to name a few).
Check-in for the Jurassic Zipline tour was 45 minutes, which gave us plenty of time to check out some of the exhibits and say hello to the horses. We were called over about 15 minutes prior to the tour time to sign our waivers and weigh in. Once our group of 10 was ready to go, a friendly driver/guide loaded us into the back of an open-air truck and explained that the start of the zipline course was about a 15-minute drive away.
The drive to “base camp” was amazing! Not only did we see many of the movie sites along the way, but our driver narrated the journey through an audio system, which we could all hear very clearly. This really added another layer to the experience, as many times, when you are driving to a location on your own, you wind up not having information about what you are seeing and allow special moments to pass you by. This was a great way to understand which movie was filmed where and learn some rich history along the way.
Once we arrived at base camp, we were greeted by three VERY enthusiastic guides. We immediately knew we were in for a great day. The guides quickly got us geared up and, the next thing we knew, we were on the platform for the first zipline. All the lines here are “tandem”, meaning there are two side-by-side lines, which allows you to “race” with another member of your group. There was more walking involved in this zipline tour compared to the other two, but it was never more than three to five minutes between lines.
The Jurassic Zipline course is way back in the valley and offers a unique perspective on the area. It was truly an amazing experience all around. The ziplines may not have been the longest or fastest, but feeling the energy of Ka’a’awa Valley was a special experience.
Once we finished our tour, we were greeted by the same smiling driver that brought us out to base camp. We enjoyed the slow cruise back to the main area of The Ranch. There was a cafe on site, where we were able to enjoy a late lunch and take in the views of the area one last time.
After taking some time to reflect on all three experiences, there’s one primary conclusion I’ve come to: GO ZIPLINING ON OAHU! Visiting the zipline parks was a great way to experience something different and do so in a controlled environment with state-of-the-art safety equipment. I’ve heard stories about ziplines in some countries with unregulated courses, where you’re expected to apply the brakes yourself with very little training! I’d much rather be in the hands of highly trained guides on courses that must pass a rigorous, semi-annual inspection.
As far as which was the best experience, that is a tough one. Coral Crater was the best budget tour by far. While budget wasn’t a major factor in our case, since it was only myself and my wife, for a family of four or more, I can see how pricing could be more of a determining factor. With zipline tours starting at $99 at Coral Crater, it’s a great opportunity to experience the thrill of ziplining without breaking the bank. You can even do the Challenge Course for $59/person.
Scenery-wise, Jurassic and North Shore both offer spectacular views. I’d say Jurassic Zipline offers the best mountain views, while North Shore has better coastal/ocean views. As far as the best tour overall, I’d say that Jurassic is the best overall experience as there is a lot going on at The Ranch, including the on-site cafe. North Shore is the best overall zipline tour, as it has by far the longest and fastest lines.
Either way, you can’t really go wrong. Availability can be hard to come by, especially during busy seasons (spring break, summer, winter break), so book in advance and enjoy the ride!