Soaring The Maui Air: Ziplining On Maui

Posted by Staff Writer on Thursday, January 28th, 2021 at 8:21am

Maui has a wide range of diverse and equally breathtaking climates and micro-ecosystems. While you could be walking along the warm shoreline of Lahaina, you could also be bundled up deep in Kula’s dense forests next, or maybe hiking through the wet and humid jungle of Wailuku’s Iao Valley. All of this beautiful yet unique scenery surely does make for perfect zip-lining adventures. Whether you’re strapped in and flying past 150ft eucalyptus trees through the dense upcountry fog, or soaring above the white caps along Kaanapali beach, Maui ziplining makes for a unique and adrenaline-filled experience no matter where you choose to do it. 

Bring the whole family and learn about Maui’s history and the significance of the scenery all around you from local and educated guides. Choose from countless zipline and adventure companies all eager to take you and your family on an unforgettable journey. 

Known as “America’s original and most award-winning zipline company,” Skyline Hawaii offers incredible unique experiences ranging from sunrise tours, Road To Hana tours, Haleakala tours, ziplining in two different Maui locations, and even 250ft waterfall tours. It’s no secret that they hold the key to extreme Maui fun. Not only do they know how to have fun, but they do so while having a heavy hand in conservation, local community, and culture efforts. They offer an authentic and genuine glimpse into Maui’s most rich and hidden sights while telling stories and lessons of old times. 

Island Sotheby’s International Realty’s own, Erik McLellan R(S), has had first-hand experience in one of the biggest zip lining companies on Maui. When he first came to Maui, in between basking in the Maui sun and hiking through the Haleakala clouds, Erik was the General Manager of Skyline Hawaii. He helped grow the company from 7 employees to 120 and expanded to multiple locations on different islands. His favorite part of the company was the dedication to giving back to the community, culture, and numerous conservation efforts. 

We reached out to him to get his behind the scenes input on what ziplining on Maui is all about. Read what Erik had to say below! 

How did Skyline Hawaii plant its roots on Maui?

EM: Danny Boren started Skyline Hawaii in 2002 (Skyline Eco-Adventures at the time), and I was able to join him in 2005 after the first operation was up and running. At that time, he was looking for a place to build a second operation in Hawaii, as well as potentially out of the state. Navigating the industry at that time was both exciting and a non-stop learning curve. Since it was such an immature industry, but beginning to grow fairly rapidly, things were changing all the time. The plan was always to grow through company-owned locations but also look at franchising options. We were fortunate to acquire very early in the business, which illustrates how young the industry was at the time. Also, from the beginning, Danny had always been very focused on building a brand that represented ziplining but was also very focused on giving back to local conservation efforts in the communities in which it operated. This was an extremely important part of building a company culture based on education and giving back, in addition to giving guests a great ziplining experience. When it came to navigating starting a business on Maui, especially based in tourism, this commitment to conservation made conversations with residents, regulators, County officials, etc. very comfortable because they could all see that the company intended to not just set up a thrill ride for tourists. To date, Skyline has donated over $1.5M to local conservation efforts and other non-profits. The company staff has also donated thousands of hours, and the company has a native forest restoration project responsible for clearing thousands of invasive Eucalyptus trees and reforesting the area with over 10,000 native trees and plants.

How has zip-lining grown on Maui?

EM: From the time I moved to Maui in 2005, the industry has grown tremendously. Skyline Hawaii's Haleakala location was the first commercial zipline tour in the US when it opened in 2002. The company opened its second location in Ka'anapali in 2007, and the first competitor on Maui didn't open until 2009. Currently, there are well over 20 operations throughout the state on five different islands. On Maui alone, there are now 10 operations. While not necessarily true about every operation, one of the great things about the growth of the industry, in general, is that most operators have taken an approach that focuses on education and sustainability. 

What makes ziplining so special?

EM: Ziplining is an activity that typically takes people to areas that are inaccessible to the general public, or sometimes even at all. This makes ziplining anywhere an incredible way to see some pretty spectacular places. Given that Maui is a pretty special place when it comes to scenery even in the worst locations, many of the zipline companies are in locations that allow guests to see even more of what makes Maui amazing. Since each tour is so different, they all allow guests to see different views, experience different people, and learn different information about the island. 

What makes zip-lining through Maui a unique experience?

EM: There are so many great activities to choose from on Maui and in Hawaii, but the difference with ziplining is that it allows visitors of nearly any ability level to participate in a very thrilling, but safe outdoor activity. Skyline Hawaii has taken guests from ages 8 to 100 and everything in between. It is a running joke (but serious) that the activity is perfect for people who are afraid of heights. Most zipline tours are designed to start guests out on smaller lines that are lower to the ground, then build their confidence along the way. Skyline has had many, many guests over the years say that the tour has helped them get over their fear of heights. Unlike more extreme activities like bungee jumping and skydiving, ziplining is an activity that allows for a very wide variety of guests to participate and have an adventurous and thrilling experience.

How do Maui zipline guides add local value to the experience? 

EM: The guides and educational aspects of the tours are an incredibly important part of the ziplining experience for the company and guests. There is so much wonderful and amazing information to learn about Maui and the islands that it would be a shame for guests to walk away without learning anything about the areas they are visiting. Training for Skyline guides includes a 3-day program entirely focused on general Hawaiian geological history, cultural history, and ecological information. Guides also participate in hands-on experiences throughout the training so they can share those first-hand accounts with guests. This includes visiting a heiau (a Hawaiian temple or sacred site), planting native trees and plants with Skyline's Conservation Manager, and participating in a beach cleanup to pick up trash and plastic at one of the many amazing beaches Maui has to offer. This information and the experiences guides have to share allows guests to participate in a more complete experience, rather than simply a thrill ride, as mentioned above. This not only gives more of a full experience for the zipline tour, but it provides guests with information and knowledge that can make their entire trip to Maui and Hawaii more fulfilling.  

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