Nicknamed "the Forbidden Island," Niihau is largely off-limits to Hawaii's visitors; it is owned by the Robinson family, who purchased it from King Kamehameha IV in 1863. The island is home to about 200 native Hawaiians who live a very traditional lifestyle. The economic mainstays are raising cattle, manufacturing kiawe-wood charcoal and making Niihau-shell lei (a beautiful, if expensive, alternative to a flower lei).
Unless you have a special invitation from a resident, there's only one way to visit the island—by taking Niihau Helicopters' tour, which departs from Port Allen Airport on the west side of Kauai. It allows you to view many parts of the island from the air and makes a stop at a beach on the northern end, well away from where Niihauans live. (Contact between residents and visitors is not encouraged.)
The entire tour lasts almost four hours. Private hunting expeditions are also offered. For more information, call 877-441-3500. http://www.niihau.us.
Fishing and dive tours from Kauai anchor off Niihau, but participants aren't allowed to set foot on the island. We recommend visiting Niihau only if you've seen all of the other parts of Hawaii or have a personal invitation. Given the restrictions, you'll only get a very superficial look at the island.
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