In Hawaii, the cattle ranching tradition has deep roots. A century before their counterparts in the American West started roping and riding, paniolos – the term for Hawaiian cowboys – were learning horsemanship from Mexican vaqueros hired by Hawaiian royalty.
Today, small-scale working ranches are still thriving across the islands and there are many festivals and parades celebrating Hawaiian cowboy culture. For all these reasons and more, there’s nothing quite like exploring Kauai on horseback.
If you’re interested in adding a horseback adventure to your Kauai itinerary, we’re sharing a few tips on what to expect and prepare. When you’re set on the idea, read on to find a roundup of providers offering equine tours of the Garden Isle’s lush, tropical landscape.
What to Expect
Horseback riding tours in Kauai introduce clients to an impressive variety of Kauai landscapes — from ocean, valley and mountain views to agricultural and ranch lands. Additionally, guests have a chance to ride some of the best quarter horse bloodlines in the U.S., including performance horses for ranching, cattle work and rodeo events.
If it’s your first time saddling up, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Horses are incredibly well-behaved and don’t move faster than a walk, making it a breeze to snap pictures along the way. You can expect the horses’ speed to be a big plus, since the scenery is one of horseback riding’s selling points.
Kids can tag along in scenic horseback rides, too. Wranglers are trained to keep rides easy-going and safe. With various points of interests to see, kids will be in for a treat and memories to last a lifetime.
Where to Go Horseback Riding in Kauai
1. Princeville Ranch
First on our list is one of the oldest cattle ranches established in Hawaii, Princeville Ranch. Encircled by the majestic Hanalei mountains, trail riding and arena lessons are popular offers in the heart of the ranch.
Princeville’s team of instructors are trained in natural horsemanship skills. The ranch offers two types of horseback lessons, Horseback Riding Arena and Trail Riding. Each option opens up different experiences, but both open for riders of all levels.
Continuing with various eco-adventures, the herd of 50 horses and 200 cows, the ranch’s success was framed by the hard work and dedication of the operations team over the years. Today, the ranch focuses on a horseback riding lesson program while continuing to run the herd of Brangus cows.
2. Esprit de Corps Riding Academy
Esprit De Corps Riding Academy or EDCRA is located in Kapaa. Having spent the last 40 years offering the complete horseback riding experience to adventurous guests, the ranch has earned a reputation of being one of the best places to learn the skill in Kauai.
At EDCRA, beginners through advanced riders learn about Kauai, horses, and themselves while enjoying the beauty of Kauai. Eco-tours feature knowledgeable guides who willingly share information on plant and animal life, Hawaii’s volcanic origins, history of the islands, and life in Kauai.
Guests can choose a group ride for beginners or experienced equestrians, while private rides are also available for honeymooners or those wanting a personalized experience. One unique way to celebrate weddings is through horseback, which can be arranged to include a tour to the nearby beach and a stay at the ranch.
3. Healing Horses
Healing Horses was established in 2001 to bring in equine therapy to clients. When founder Karin Stoll began taking kids to meet the horse she shared as part of therapy sessions, she realized that her clients had more focused sessions, started to talk more and get better.
Today, the ranch maintains its focus on its mission to enrich the lives of people of all abilities through Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT), improving their physical, cognitive, social and/or emotional well-being. The ranch in Lihue is focused on accessibility: with its Handi-Van accessible parking lot, ADA toilet and wheelchair accessible mounting ramps this location opened the door to even more riders, and eliminated trailing stresses.
Healing Horses has a variety of programs from lessons to resident outreach activities. It’s truly a great place to explore horseback riding while tagging kids along. In addition to learning the art of riding, vaulting and horsemanship, Healing Horses’ students increase their strength, flexibility, social skills, engage in healthy competition, laugh out loud, and have fun!
4. CJM Country Stables
Located at Koloa, CJM Country Stables is a working cattle ranch that provides spectacular rides that travel right along the coastline and dolphins, rays and various forms of sea life, including whales in season, can often be seen from the ride. It’s truly a must-visit for anyone desirous of riding along the beautiful sea cliffs of south Kauai.
The rides at CJM are well-appreciated by those who experience them. Their variety of rides and warm and sunny ranchland areas bring riders back year after year to enjoy horseback riding at its finest. Just simply being at the ranch is an experience as you will often be able to see as many as fifty horses and often their newborn colts enjoying their south Kauai surroundings.
Explore Kauai on Horseback
Riding through Kauai’s interior is a unique and fun way to explore Kauai. The experience of seeing the island’s coastal bluffs and lush valleys on horseback is a whole other experience from seeing it through hiking.
Many of Kauai’s horseback riding companies are working cattle ranches, which means they also offer tropical jungle rides, ride and swim tours to a secluded waterfall, where time is taken to cool off with a swim and picnic lunch.
If you’re into scenic adventures, horseback riding is definitely an activity to consider booking on your trip to Kauai. You can reserve your slots by yourself, or you can get help from activity coordinators like the Activity Shack Kauai if you’d like to skip the hassle of planning. Either way, we highly recommend exploring the Garden Isle horseback as it’s sure to give you a spectacular experience and beautiful memories of Kauai.