I have a big zipper scar on my right ankle that reminds me to not underestimate Hawaii's lush and sometimes dangerous wilderness. I got it sixteen years ago when I was hiking alone in the remote Waipio Valley of the Big Island, trying to reach the thrilling waterfall at the back of the valley, and when the trail got steep and treacherous I pressed on, fell and broke my ankle.
That was one of the more exciting days of my travel career.
I'm thinking about this because my friend Elizabeth just returned from Kauai with her two young children and a story to tell about going for a seemingly benign outrigger canoe ride and hike to another waterfall that almost became a nightmare. They signed up for the tour at Kamokila Hawaiian Village on the Wailua River, paddled themselves downstream with a grumpy guide who told them to get out and walk up a non-existent trail. He stayed behind and Liz and the kids pressed on. After sliding around in mud for two hours, getting bit a million times by bugs, getting lost and running into other tourists who had also been left alone on the unmarked trail, they never did find the waterfall. Liz, who feared for her children's safety, also watched a group of elderly people on another tour being forced to ford the river to reach the mysterious trailhead.
It reminds me that despite the colorful brochures, and the hotel pickups, and the flocks of tourists who do these activities, you never quite know what you're going to get for a guide, and anything can happen once you're in the wilderness.
Even a Hawaiian wilderness, where you might not freeze to death, but you can still fall, get lost, get sunburned, get bashed by big waves, cut yourself badly on coral, or like the clumsier of us, break an ankle and have to fend for yourself back to civilization and treatment.
Have you ever found yourself in a dangerous situation on a Hawaiian trip? Tell us about it in the comment space, below. And be careful out there, will you?