For years I've wanted to explore the area of Kauai between Lihue and Poipu that is marked by the majestic Ha'upu Mountain Range. The problem has always been that it is mostly private property with little public access by road.
When I learned that Kipu Ranch Adventures offers daily tours of the portion of this area owned by the ranch, I jumped on the opportunity. My only concern was that their tours are done using ATVs and I've never been on an ATV in my life. Even the thought of getting my 50-year-old-plus body onto one scared me.
Two Passenger 660cc Yamaha Rhinos Are Perfect for Couples
My concerns were quickly relieved when I realized that Kipu Ranch Adventures also uses 2 passenger 660cc Yamaha Rhinos. The Yamaha Rhino is a 2-passenger side-by-side seating ATV with fully automatic transmission with on/off select push button 4 wheel drive and 4 wheel independent suspension. It's an ATV that drives like a car. Bucket seats and a steering wheel makes this Rhino simple to drive and safer than an ATV. Since my wife, Eileen, was accompanying me on this visit to Kauai, the Yamaha Rhino was the perfect option.
When the morning arrived for our scheduled tour it was raining pretty heavily. As we drove to Kipu Ranch for our 7:00 a.m. check-in, we noticed that we could not even see the Ha'upu Mountains. In fact, we could barely see 50 feet in any direction.
As the rain increased in intensity I feared that my dream of seeing this portion of Kauai would likely not take place. I knew that Kipu Ranch Adventures pretty much operates rain or shine. Fortunately we were offered the opportunity to reschedule our tour. We did so for the afternoon tour two days later.
Our rescheduled tour took place on a much better weather day. We joined five other couples for the afternoon Ranch Tour. We were surprised to learn that all of the couples had chosen the Yamaha Rhinos for their tour. Only the two guides rode on single rider Honda AT 400 ATVs.
So that I could take photos, my wife agreed to drive our Rhino. The learning curve is pretty simple and after a few laps around the headquarters area, we were prepared to head out on our Ranch/Mountain Tour.
History of Kipu Ranch
Kipu Ranch is a 3,000 acre working cattle ranch located in the historic Kipu area of Kauai. The land was once owned by the Hawaiian monarchy, but sold to William Hyde Rice in 1872. Rice, the son of Protestant missionaries, was a loyal subject who later served as the last governor of Kauai under Queen Liliuokalani. Rice intended to use the land to breed cattle and horses.
Livestock remained the ranch's primary business until 1907 when Rice's son began to grow sugarcane. In the early 1940's the family once again returned the land to ranching which remains its use today.
In order to supplement their income, the ranch has contracted with Kipu Ranch Adventures to offer a limited number of daily tours. These tours are the only way to explore the ranch since the land has no public access roads.
The Ranch Tour enters the ranch down a long road lined on each side by tall Norfolk pines. On either side of the road are the homes of the ranch owners and manager. An unpaved road then crosses a wide pasture where you'll likely see cattle, wild boar, pheasants, peacocks and other wildlife.
The tour then pauses for a brief overview of the ranch and its history. The guides make sure that everyone is comfortable with their vehicles and let you know the plan for the rest of the tour.
The next, and most important, stop is a training hill where you learn how to handle the vehicles in the rocky, hilly and often muddy paths that you'll be traversing.
Favorite Filming Location for Hollywood Movies
Kipu Ranch has been a favorite spot for Hollywood. Numerous motion pictures have been filmed on the ranch's land including Diamond Head and the Hawaiians both starring Charlton Heston, Islands In The Stream, The Lost World (the sequel to Jurassic Park), Outbreak and Mighty Joe Young.
The best known film that used the ranch was Raiders of the Lost Ark. After a brief stop which features majestic views of the majestic Ha'upu Mountain Range, the Hu'leia Valley and the Menehune Fishpond in the distance, the tour heads downhill to the banks of the Hu'leia River and the location used in the opening scenes of Raiders where Harrison Ford flees a band of Hovito Indians and uses a rope swing to fly into the river to the waiting seaplane. You'll get your chance to swing out over the river if you wish. Just hold on tight! You'll notice that the river has narrowed considerably over the last 28 years as invasive vegetation spreads.
The ride down to the river is the roughest part of the tour. From there it's all uphill to the top of the Ha'upu Mountain Range where you'll be treated to great views of Kipu Kai, a beautiful crescent shaped bay and beach that the public can only reach by boat. From there it's back down to Kipu Kai Ranch Adventures headquarters.
A lot of the Ranch Tour is what you make of it. You decide if you'll take the numerous puddles at a slow pace or smash right through them and soak yourself and your fellow rider. You decide if you're going to approach the steep hills and crevices with a sense of fear or just go for it.
As long as you follow the instructions given by your guides, you'll have a great time. After all, you've been able to explore an area of Kauai that few visitors ever get to see.
If You GoKipu Ranch Adventures offers two tours, each of which is offered twice daily.
3 Hour Ranch/Mountain Tour
- 7:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
- Driver (Age 16+) - $125 + $5.21 tax = $130.21
- Children (Age 5-15)- $72 + $3.00 tax = $75.00
- Seniors (Age 65+) - $100 + $4.17 tax = $104.17
- Passenger (Age 16+) - $100 + $4.17 tax = $104.17
- 8:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
- Driver (Age 16+) - $150 + $6.25 tax = $156.25
- Children (Age 5-15)- $90 + $3.75 tax = $93.75
- Seniors (Age 65+) - $125 + $5.21 tax = $130.21
- Passenger (Age 16+) - $125 + $5.21 tax = $130.21
- Must be 16 years of age to operate ATV. ID is required
- Passenger vehicles are available for children 15 & under or those who prefer not to operate ATVs
- 5 year olds must be accompanied by an adult on the passenger vehicles
- No pregnant women, those with back/knee problems or any serious health conditions
- Covered toe shoes are mandatory. Long pants are recommended
- Safety & operational instructions, bandannas, helmets and safety goggles
- Beverages & snacks (Picnic lunch on waterfall tour)
- Sunscreen & insect repellent
- Swimsuit, towel & water shoes for Waterfall Tour
- Camera, film/memory cards & batteries