Star Power 6-1-2006

Evening at Kahua Ranch runs the range

By: Dawna L. Robertson

Here’s a bit of Hawaii trivia. Ranching existed on the Big Island before there were states west of the Mississippi River! And at the center of it all was 8,500-acre Kahua Ranch. Through the summer, this rambling spread invites visitors to experience its rustic appeal with an Evening at Kahua Ranch Sunset Dinner.

Located 3,200 ft. above sea level in the Kohala Mountains, the working ranch provides a unique and exciting experience full of entertainment, fun and storytelling around the campfire.

“Visitors to Hawaii are amazed that we have ranches here, let alone how long we’ve had them,” says Sue Foot, co-owner of an Evening at Kahua Ranch. “Our goal is to educate people about the Paniolo (cowboy) life in a fun and down home way.”

Taking off from the Kohala Coast, the tour includes a fully-narrated trip along Highway 19 climbing to the town of Waimea, then Highway 250 through the rolling hills of the Kohala Mountains. History comes alive as guides share stories about the introduction of cattle to the area in 1794 and the arrival of the Paniolos.

Upon arrival at the ranch, the owners greet the group with a Paniolo-style aloha. While watching the sunset with the panoramic views of the mountain ranges in the distance, guests enjoy a choice of Kona beer, wine and soft drinks. They’ll also learn a brief history of the ranch and the family while talking story around a crackling campfire.

As the night sky appears after sunset, it’s chow time. The family and Paniolo serve up a ranch-style barbecue consisting of steak, chicken, local potatoes, corn on the cob, baked beans and salad.

All food served is raised or produced at Kahua Ranch or by farmers in the surrounding Big Island communities. Local musicians present live family entertainment.

“People these days don't know where our food comes from,” remarks Foot. “Children think milk comes from containers in grocery stores and meat comes from the butcher on styrofoam plates. They depart Kahua Ranch with an appreciation for ranching and the necessity to sustain them.”

It’s on with the fun and games after dinner. Guests have a chance to observe or participate in horseshoe throwing, roping and other ranch games. Stargazers are treated to a stellar peep show through a deluxe telescope - all making it clear why the Big Island is considered the best place in the world for stargazing.

Foot notes that the event is geared to all ages. “It's educational and cultural for adults. And children love playing with our resident horse, pig, dogs and cats. Then all ages enjoy the roping, branding, horseshoes, darts, campfire, sing along and stargazing.”

Limited to 60 guests, the evening event is held twice weekly (schedule varies). The all-inclusive price is $98 for adults, $49 for children 6 - 12 and free for children under five.