NIIHAU, Hawaii — Our pilot, Dana Rosendal, revved the twin engines of the Agusta 109A helicopter and taxied 30 yards down the runway of the Port Allen Airport on the southern shore of Kauai. Seconds later, the powerful rotors lifted the aircraft and its five passengers off the ground with stomach-wrenching force, and Rosendal’s voice crackled over our headsets: “Next stop, Niihau.” We were headed for Hawaii’s Forbidden Island.
Few people, even Hawaiians from other islands, have ever set foot on Niihau. Noi Igou, the housekeeper at our rental beach bungalow in Kauai, cringed at the mere mention of the name and whispered: “You cannot go there. It is forbidden.”