HANALEI, Kauai --
Im no expert equestrian, but Ive giddy-upped my way through my fair
share of horseback tours around the world, along the white-sand
beaches of Turks and Caicos with a Rastafarian painter/guide;
across French marshes and manades, or cattle ranches, in scenic
Provence; and with tried-and-true Wild West cowboys in the
Superstition Mountains of Arizona. But one of the most amazing
horseback rides of my life awaited on the north shore of Hawaiis
lush and verdant Garden Island of Kauai.
brochures on display at my hotels concierge desk, activities were
largely aquatic, such as surfing lessons and whale-watching, or
airborne, as in helicopter rides. But I decided on terra firma and
an intimate look at the interior of Kauai, home to Mount Waialeale
-- the rainiest spot on Earth.
riding it was. While four outlets on Kauai -- CJM Country Stables,
Esprit de Corps, Silver Falls Ranch and Princeville Ranch Stables
-- offer guided horseback tours, my resort concierge recommended a
waterfall jungle ride and hike from Princeville Ranch, more than an
hours drive from my beachfront digs at Poipu on the south shore, as
particularly worth the effort and expense.
As any seller of
Hawaii probably knows, leisure activities in the destination can
cost a pretty penny. Surfing lessons and snorkeling excursions run
from at least $50, and whirlybird and catamaran rides can cost $150
or more. Even buffet luaus will set visitors back at least $75 per
on Kauai offer comparatively good value, ranging from $80 per
person for 90-minute rides from CJM Country Stables and Princeville
Ranch to about $345 for an eight-hour, all-day adventure tour from
Esprit de Corps.
offers four horseback experiences: the ocean-bluff ride, above
Anini Beach; two- and three-hour private rides; a 90-minute
paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) cattle drive; and the tour I
opted for, the Waterfall Swim Picnic, priced at $125 a person for
three hours or $135 for four hours (both with lunch).
Princeville Ranch -- with 500 head of cattle on 2,500
acres, one of Hawaiis largest and oldest ranches -- I was given
basic riding and safety instruction and then assigned a large, gray
stallion named Pohaku (stone in Hawaiian).
My companion and
I, along with four other riders, set out with our native Hawaiian
guide, Kalei, across the hilly ranch lands. The views, from
Kilauaea Lighthouse to the north to mountain ranges south and west,
were thrilling and breathtaking.
keep an eye out for the daring wild boar that often spook and
sometimes gore horses (I spotted three), we gently picked our way
through herds of peaceful cattle and a series of pasture gates,
learning to properly ride our mounts.
After an hour of
leisurely riding, we found ourselves in dense jungle. After
dismounting and hitching our steeds, we set out on a steep, but
short, 15-minute hike through the rain forest, stopping here and
there to inspect flora and fauna of medicinal use to ancient
Hawaiians. (Note: A certain degree of physical fitness is necessary
on this slippery hike.)
Arriving at the
bottom of a verdant valley, wed reached our swimming and picnic
destination, Kalihiwai Falls. Flush with a weeks worth of winter
rains, the towering, 80-foot waterfall was a veritable whitewater
deluge crashing down into a dark lagoon.
swam, Kalei unpacked a fresh lunch of sandwiches, cookies, oranges
and lemonade. After an hour of swimming and picnicking, we made our
way back, this time scaling sheer rock walls and crossing the
rushing river to yet another scenic waterfall a bit farther
heart-stopping views awaited on the ride back to
Destinations editor Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].