The first paniolo (cowboys) in Hawai‘i were hired by John Palmer Parker of Parker Ranch fame. They were Mexican vaqueros, highly skilled horsemen who then trained his Hawaiian ranch workers.
Eventually, the paniolo spread to other islands including Kaua‘i, which has a significant horse culture today. Every July for 20 years, Joyce Miranda of CJM Stables hosts the Kōloa Plantation Days Rodeo. When the feisty 71-year-old owner isn’t hosting this amazing three-day event, she’s taking care of her riding guests at her Po‘ipū ranch.
“We want our guests to slow down and be in the present when they ride with us,” says Joyce when we ask her of her mission. CJM guests choose from two amazing trails: the Māhā‘ulepū Beach Ride, which meanders through ranchland with coastal and mountain vistas, across a sand bar and stream near one of Hawai‘i’s most spectacular beaches; or the Secret Beach Picnic Ride, which is ideal for families and small groups.
Most of the horses at CJM are in service to give visitors the best riding experience, whether they’re expert riders or novices. “We match our horses up to the skill level of our guests,” explains Miranda. “Horses sense human emotions before humans even register them. They sense confidence and anxiety, happiness or sadness. Some horses prefer women, some men.”
On the opposite side of the island, in Kīlauea, is Silver Falls Ranch. Guests of all riding abilities are treated to guided tours atop four-legged trail experts through 300 acres of pristine Hawaiian wilderness. Eighty of its acres are a botanical garden with streams, orchids, native plants, wildlife and breathtaking up-close views of the Makaleha mountain range.
We’ve had the good fortune of getting a ride with Stable Director Donna Hunt to Silver Falls, where riders have the privilege of a picnic and swim. It is one of the most beautiful spots you’ll ever see. “The falls swim is included in two of our three ride options,” says Donna, “our Silver Falls Ride and our Tropical Trail Adventure. The Tropical Trail adventure, which is three hours in total, includes a full picnic lunch at the falls as well.”
What’s her favorite part about the ranch? “Getting out to the wildest parts, up against the mountain range, where it is so pristine,” she says. “In Kaua‘i, access to the interior is more difficult than the coast. What better way to do it than on a horse?”
Silver Falls Ranch welcomes private bookings, and is known for catering to a wider range of guests. “We have horses that carry riders up to 300 pounds. And we accommodate children 5-6 years old with dedicated guides that ride alongside holding the lead ropes.”