Travel Blog #90 – Horseback Riding with Princeville Ranch

Jul 4, 2022 | Activity Information

When I woke up this morning and looked out the window, I couldnt help but smile when I saw that it was an absolutely classic sunny Hawaiian day outside. I put on my long pants, socks and shoes, then made a quick breakfast before I left to go on the waterfall ride with Princeville Ranch Stables. I knew that there was going to be some sort of mountaineering that was involved in the days trip, so I was pretty excited.

We checked in at the Princeville Ranch headquarters on the makai (ocean) side of the highway. This was the same place where our zipline tour departed from. Getting there was very straightforward and clearly marked, there were signs that were easily visible from the main highway. After filling out some waivers and packing our saddle bags, we got back in our truck and headed to the stable (about a mile down the road from the headquarters). When we got there, our guides were waiting out front. The horses were lined up along the hitching post, already saddled up and ready to ride.

Before the ride began, our guides went over some the basics of how to get on and ride the horses. The ranch had small platforms called mounting blocks that made it very easy for the smaller riders in the group to get on their horses. As I was waiting my turn to get on my horse, I began talking with some of the other people in our group that were also going on the ride. These people were very friendly, their group was made up of a mother, a father and two kids. They had flown in from California earlier in the week and both the children were eager to try the mountaineering section. I was curious what that part of the trip was going to entail.

After we all got on our horses our guides opened the gate of the arena and we made our way into the pastures of the ranch. We couldnt have had better weather for the ride. It remained sunny with clear skies throughout the whole trip. All the mountains behind the ranch were fully illuminated from the days bright sun. As we were riding, I was pleased to find out that this was not a nose to tail ride. Because the ranch was so open, the group was able to spread out quite a bit. As we all rode our horses in a big pack through the pasture I couldnt help but to think about how it must have been on Kauai in the Paniolo (cowboy) days. Many people dont know it, but Hawaii has a rich cattle ranching history dating as far back as the 1830s.

The Princeville Ranch is a working cattle ranch that covers over two thousand acres and has a herd of hundreds of cattle. As we were riding through, we got to see quite a few of the cows and even a few baby calves. We passed through the different gates that divided various pastures on the ranch before we entered a more dense forest. As we got deeper into the forest and closer to the waterfall, the trail began to narrow and we fell into a single file line. Eventually we reached a hitching post where we dismounted our horses and emptied our saddle bags of the items that we wanted to bring down to the waterfall. I grabbed our towels as well as my cameras and made my way to the top of the trail.

The trail down to the waterfall was very steep. It zigzagged its way down the hill through some very dense jungle to the waterfall below. Along the way there were stairs that were dug in the ground. All the people in our group were in good shape and made it down the trail without any problems. However, I think that most elderly people, or anyone with health issues that negatively effects their personal mobility would have a great deal of difficulty with the hike. Once we got to the bottom of the trail the canopy opened up and we were greeted by a picturesque waterfall that was flowing into a pool. The pool had a gentle current and was large enough for us to swim in.

For some reason, I was expecting the pool to be much colder then it was. There was a changing station off to the side where I switched my long pants for my board shorts before I made my way to the pool. When I jumped in it was actually quite refreshing and I felt quite comfortable as I floated around in the water for about ten or fifteen minutes. Some members of the group climbed up the rocks and walked underneath the waterfall. While we were all swimming and playing, the guides emptied out their bags and unpacked our picnic lunches. We sat there on the rocks enjoying the views as we ate. After a while we all changed back into our dry clothes and prepared for our trip back up the trail.

Before we began our ascent, the guides issued us all some light mountaineering harnesses that were complete with large carabiners. They explained that we were going to go a different way up the hill that was going to take us over some streams and up a small rock climbing section. The younger members of the group were especially thrilled to get to clip in and conquer the rougher terrain. After I made it to the top I looked back down and realized that the whole section we went through was actually on the top of the huge waterfall that we were swimming in earlier.
Our horses were waiting for us at the top of the trail. We rode back to the stable along a similar path to the way we came. As we were riding back I talked with our guides and learned that they are much more involved in the equestrian culture then I had previously realized. They actually partake in a rodeo circuit where they regularly complete in events such as roping and barrel racing. These events take place on Kauai as well as the other Hawaiian islands.

As we rode through the last gate and pulled back up to the stables I noticed that there were smiles throughout the group as we all said our goodbyes before we parted ways. The experience we had at Princeville Ranch Stables definitely had a bit more excitement in it then I had expected from the days horseback ride. I definitely think that this will not be my last time at Princeville Ranch and Im looking forward to doing it again in the future.