For years Hawaii's island of Niihau has been off limits to travelers. Although only minutes from Kauai, Niihau has avoided our brand of "civilization." No electricity, no telephones. Only a couple of hundred Hawaiians on the entire island, living in a cultural vacuum. Niihau is a tiny speck in the Pacific, totally divorced from all the stresses associated with modern life. Because Niihau is privately owned, it has escaped the invasion of tourists.
Recently Niihau Ranch began tours by a helicopter that doubles as an air ambulance. The owners say they need the income to subsidize the cost of the helicopter, which is used whenever an emergency occurs on Niihau.
Tours to Niihau set down on remote beaches, avoiding the village of Puuwai where most of the islanders live. Flights over-fly a crater, land on a natural lava strip near Puukole Beach. Loads of shells, driftwood, fishing floats. Another landing is made on a cliff overlooking Keanahaki Bay.
While the tour operator insists that the islanders aren't threatened, I am wary. This could be the beginning of a sad farewell for the free spirits living on Niihau and the beginning of tourism. If the developers ever get a foothold, we can write Niihau off as Paradise Lost. One need only consider the scars left by developers on the other islands of Hawaii.
Flying to Niihau costs $135/$235, depending on the length of the visit. Contact Niihau Helicopters, P.O. Box 370, Makaweli, Kauai, Hawaii 96769.
More on Hawaii
Starting next year the old Monterey that sailed under the Matson flag for so many years will begin seven-day cruises from Honolulu to the neighbor islands of Hawaii. The Monterey is being refurbished in Finland. In Hawaii she will carry an American crew. Pre- and post-cruise packages are being scheduled (golf and tennis included). After the multimillion-dollar face lift in Finland, the Monterey will make a one-time-only cruise from Europe to U.S. port cities. A total of 55 days.
For 16 years the Monterey sailed between Hawaii and the mainland. Those were the days when the Royal Hawaiian Band greeted passengers arriving at Aloha Tower in Honolulu. Beachboys dived for coins. Passengers were met with smiles and leis. It was an era that lost out to wholesale tourism and the jet airplane.
For details on the Monterey, contact Aloha Pacific Cruises, 510 King St., Suite 501, Alexandria, Va. 22314, phone (703) 684-6263.
New Zealand's South Island is getting its share of attention. One of the world's last unspoiled destinations. Stunning scenery. Next spring bicyclists will be heading Down Under on tours featuring overnight stays at sheep and deer farms, inns, lodges. The tours will begin on New Zealand's South Island at Christchurch, winding up at Mt. Cook. Farms have been selected for their accommodations, friendly hosts. The nine-day, $799 package includes lodging, all meals, maps, the assistance of a tour leader, pre-departure packets, a support vehicle. Trips are scheduled March 8 and March 24, 1988. For details contact Backcountry Bicycle Tours, P.O. Box 4029, Bozeman, Mont. 59715, or telephone (406) 586-3556. This same company is scheduling a couple of 16-day tours of the South Island (Jan. 25/Feb. 18). Biking, fishing, river rafting, flights over Mt. Cook. Some breathtaking scenery. Price: $1,365. Here at home, other bike trips by Backcountry will focus on Yellowstone, Bryce/Zion, the Grand Tetons.
In Sacramento, free copies of a tabloid-style magazine devoted to international travel are being put in the mail. The latest issue features Italy's coastal villages of Positano, Ravello and Amalfi. Other pages devoted to Japan, Argentina, the Marquesas Islands. The 64-page magazine contains items on B&Bs, Tahiti, Jerusalem, Belgium, New Zealand, Singapore. This is a chatty magazine containing contributions from readers. Example: "When traveling in East Germany take Deutsch marks or dollars, especially if you drive. We were traveling on the Autobahn when a policeman handed us a form with the speed his radar claimed we were going. 'Court' was held right then and there. Cost us $40. The policeman would not accept East Germany currency."
Other features in this magazine deal with European flea markets, frequent flier updates, a train trip along the Rhine in Germany, a Czech wine tour, travel books, steamers in Norway. Copies available by writing to Armond M. Noble, International Travel News, 2120 28th St., Sacramento, Calif. 95818.
Here's a slick giveaway for vacationers planning a trip to Britain. It's a 60-page guide listing rental cottages throughout England. Hundreds of choices. There's the Garden Cottage in Little Farmington that sleeps six (fishing, riding, golf nearby). Features an automatic washer/dryer, modern kitchen, wood-burning fireplace. In the Cotswolds vacationers are invited to move into a pair of stone cottages near Chippenham. A good spot for tours of the South Cotswolds. Children, pets welcome.