We Tried This: Horseback Riding at Kaua‘i’s Silver Falls Ranch
Inside a caldera, this 300-acre ranch offers tours of its dozen or so trails.
Gray clouds overhead, some drizzle on my skin and a pristine mountain range ahead of me. I feel like I’ve stepped into another world.
In reality, I’m only 4 miles from the center of Kīlauea town on Kaua‘i’s North Shore. I’m with my husband, meandering on horseback through 300 acres of tropical wilderness. The horse I’m riding, Miwacon, a small Appaloosa with dark brown spots, tries to steal a bite of grass as we walk by some shrubs. Our guide, Juan Gomez, tells us the trail is like “an open salad bar” for the horses: They can have a quick bite, he says, but then it’s back to work.
Silver Falls Ranch began horseback riding tours in 1994. The ranch is popular, with 9,500 visitors during a typical year. Donna Hunt, the ranch’s business manager, says many people are drawn to the ranch’s natural swimming hole and waterfall, where guests can swim and enjoy a picnic lunch nearby.
But my husband and I want to see as much of the ranch as we can, so we opt for a private Hawaiian Discovery Ride, a 90-minute adventure entirely on horseback. (The ranch also offers group rides and can accommodate riders as young as 5.) We start the tour at 3:30 p.m. with a quick safety and riding orientation before hitting the trail. We spend the first 20 minutes riding our mounts through the ranch’s botanical garden, which has several hundred plants and spans about 80 acres.
Hunt says the garden is one of the good things that came out of Hurricane ‘Iniki, a Category 4 storm that ravaged the island in 1992. The strong winds and rain ripped up the ranch’s vegetation, which made it easier to create the garden.
We pause at the ranch’s namesake waterfall, Silver Falls, to take some pictures. The 20-foot waterfall gently empties into a natural swimming hole. “Silver Falls” comes from the silver sheen of the falling water when the sun shines on it. We move on after a few minutes, leaving behind the manicured grass of the garden for natural wildland.
The 300-acre ranch is nestled in an ancient caldera that helped create Kaua‘i. As our horses take us deeper inland and toward the ranch’s perimeter, the hard red dirt turns into soggy gray volcanic soil. White bamboo orchids with purple tongues line our path.
Want to know more? Read about the full experience on hawaiimagazine.com