Before there was coffee, and before there were tourists, ranching and cattle dominated the slopes of the Big Island’s ancient volcanoes. Hawaiian cowboys (known as paniolo) were roping on these slopes before the American West was formed, and in the pastures of Kohala’s Kahua Ranch, visitors can harness the rugged romance of the Big Island’s paniolo past times.
Slip into the saddle and ride on horseback around the rolling green hills of Kohala, or rev up an iron horse ATV for a fast-paced tour of the terrain. By night, gather around the campfire and “talk story” with paniolo while enjoying an outdoor buffet, and gaze through telescopes at the blanket of stars that stretches over the ranch each night. Or, to get the feel for life as a ranch hand, test out the strength of your roping skills and toss some horseshoes in a grassy field with a drink to help keep you warm.
Spread across the pastures of West Kohala—a verdant swath of mountainside at 3,200 ft. elevation—this working ranch still raises cattle on 8,500 impeccable acres. More than simply the views, however, visitors can experience a side of the Big Island that is rarely available for tourists. With the crackle of a campfire providing the evening soundtrack, and stands of ironwoods springing from the pastures, enjoy a day out on the range like the historic paniolo of old.
Kahua Ranch is located 20 minutes from Waimea, 70 minutes from Kona, and 90 minutes from Hilo. Evenings can get chilly at the mountain elevation, so a light jacket is recommended.