The Brothers Eco

The family-run Kauai Eco-Tours takes visitors to the island’s green side

By: Marty Wentzel

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Hiking with Kauai Eco-Tours.
On first glance, half-brothers Peter Artley and Kimo Hawk seem as different as night and day. Shorter, stockier Peter has an engaging high-energy aura about him, while tanner laid-back Kimo looks every bit the island boy. But they’re equally passionate about Kauai and its nature, culture and history, making them the perfect partners for a new venture called Kauai Eco-Tours.

Launched in January 2007, Kauai Eco-Tours leads clients on hiking adventures to areas of the island that visitors might not discover on their own. Catering to all levels of endurance, their options range from gentle forest paths, to trails along the dramatic 3,000-foot-high Na Pali Coast, to the lush upland routes of Kokee State Park.

I joined the brothers on the four-mile Kuilau Ridge tour, the most popular of their trips because of its relatively gentle incline.

“There’s a reason Kauai is called the Garden Island,” said Peter. “Everywhere we go there’s so much growth and beauty. We try to make each hike an adventure for our clients, and along the way we help them understand what a special place Kauai is.”

While Peter spent his college and early professional years in Los Angeles, Kimo stayed on Kauai and learned it like the back of his hand. When Peter returned to the island for family visits, he always hiked and explored, and eventually the brothers decided to join forces on a visitor-oriented company that reflects their mutual love of the great outdoors.

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Peter Artley (left) and Kimo Hawk.
As we walked, the brothers shared their wealth of Kauai knowledge, pointing out, for instance, invasive species and native plants. We tasted wild edible fruit like raspberries, mountain apples and guava (“a great source of vitamin C,” said Kimo). Kimo told me to put my hand under the flower of an awapuhi (wild ginger) blossom; squeezing a thick liquid out of it and into my palm, he explained how it’s a natural shampoo and conditioner for the hair.

Mango, monkeypod, albizia, eucalyptus and swamp mahogany trees surrounded the path as it rose slowly from the 500- to 1,140-foot elevation. We marveled at kukui trees, whose nuts the ancient Hawaiians used for fire; hao trees, whose wood was used to build outrigger canoes; hala trees, with leaves ideal for weaving; and ti plants, long a symbol of good luck.

“The early Hawaiians were incredibly resourceful, making the most of the materials around them,” said Peter. “We embrace the same idea by buying and using only local supplies.”

With that, he opened his pack at a scenic stopping point and laid out a delicious spread of island-made edibles: fresh mango and pineapple chunks, banana chips, Kauai granola bars and poke (marinated raw fish), all of which we savored while gazing at spectacular views of 5,200-foot Mt. Waialeale. Often a tree, flower or plant reminded Kimo of a Hawaiian legend, from the tale of the ohia-lehua tree to the myth of the mountain range called Sleeping Giant. Equally fascinating were his stories of growing up on the island, from memories of May Day celebrations as a child to more recent experiences during Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

Kauai Eco-Tours appeals to clients with an urge to explore the real Kauai, without any tourist trappings. While it’s best for people who are physically active, the excursions can be customized to meet each guest’s needs. “We try to get to know our clients beforehand either on the phone or by e-mail, so we can tailor the tour and make the experience good for everyone involved,” said Peter.

The brothers bring along a camera and snap digital images that they e-mail to their clients after they’ve returned home.

Peter and Kimo hope to expand the company’s offerings to include other activities, but only if they’re self-propelled, like mountain biking and kayaking. In the future the brothers hope to provide van service, perhaps biodiesel. They pride themselves on their mobility as a company.

“We don’t have an office, which lowers our impact on the environment,” said Peter.

Similarly, they try to protect the environment of their home by organizing hikes to restore trails, clean up litter, remove invasive species and help reintroduce native plants.

“Clients who join us can feel good knowing they’re helping to keep Kauai beautiful,” Peter said.


Kauai Eco-Tours

Hikes take place on weekday mornings and afternoons on request. Rates begin at $65 per person, with the Kuilau Ridge Tour priced at $75. Rugged and longer trips are more expensive. Other options include trails around Kokee State Park and to the top of Sleeping Giant mountain. Island-style snacks and water are provided on all excursions. Rates are commissionable (call for details).

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