The Cowboy Way

These Kauai stables help clients explore the island on horseback

By: Marty Wentzel

LIHUE, Kauai Kauai has been part of Hawaii’s paniolo (cowboy) history since the early 1800s, and today’s visitors can get their own taste of paniolo life by booking a horseback ride with one of the following ranches.

Esprit De Corps Riding Academy

Dale Rosenfeld started teaching riding in 1986 while working in New York City for an ad agency. She moved to Kauai and bought five acres in 1989, and today her Esprit De Corps Riding Academy comprises 10 horses, 4 ponies, 3 dogs and a cat on the east side of the island near Kapaa.

Rosenfeld’s company took about 1,000 people on horseback trips last year. “We appeal to experienced trail riders who want more than a nose-to-tail walk, since we allow trotting and cantering,” said Rosenfeld. “We offer true eco-tours, because we keep our groups small and we explore a lush mountain forest reserve.”

For beginners, Rosenfeld’s trail rides start with a mini-lesson in the arena. Riding boots and helmets are provided. She puts together children’s games on horseback, spiritual exploration rides, weddings on horseback and day camps. Esprit De Corps’ three-hour Taste of Kauai ride costs $112 per person. For experienced equestrians, the four-hour Fast Half costs $150, while the six-hour Wow Ride costs $215. The eight-hour All-Day Adventure with lunch is $346.

Lessons start at $60 per hour. Travel agent rates range from 20 to 50 percent off rack.

808-822-4688; www.kauai Princeville Ranch Stables

Established on the North Shore in 1978 by island natives Donn and Gale Carswell, this family-run 2,000-acre working cattle ranch offers exclusive access to ocean and mountain views through a variety of horseback rides. “Our mission is to provide visitors with an activity that preserves and promotes Kauai’s natural beauty, history and culture,” said Princeville Stables spokeswoman Gale Carswell.

Gale’s son David handles the horsemanship program at Princeville. “David considers the perspective of the horse and builds trust and respect through understanding and communication,” said Gale. “He teaches riders skills and habits that help achieve unity with the horses.”

Princeville Stables’ four-hour waterfall picnic ride costs $120 per person (three hours for $110). The 11/2-hour Country Ride across ranchlands is $65 per person. Clients can help round up a herd of cattle at sunrise by booking the City Slickers Paniolo Adventure for $120. Two-hour private rides are $125 per person; and David Carswell customizes horsemanship lessons for various rates. Travel agents visiting the ranch get a 10 percent discount on rides.


Other companies on Kauai include CJM Stables on the South Shore, run by Joyce and Jimmy Miranda. They present two- and three-hour excursions to Mahaulepu Beach ($75 and $85, respectively); and they put together small private group rides, Western theme parties, mini-rodeos and a cattle drive with a cookout. 808-742-6096;

Silver Falls Ranch, set on 400 acres on the North Shore, features a leisurely two-hour trail ride for $81, a two-hour ride to a waterfall for $109 and private and group rides.