Horsin' Around in Po'ipu Kauai

Horses have always fascinated me.

Of course, Hollywood played a role in this obsession. I’ll never forget how jealous I was of Elizabeth Taylor’s equestrian talents in movies such as Black Beauty and National Velvet.

And then, there were the friendly police horses whose stable was within walking distance of our home in suburban Pittsburgh. I can still recall my mother’s annoyance at my depleting the fridge of apples and carrots on a regular basis--but what joy it was to give those steeds a daily treat. I can still feel their soft nuzzles in my palm as they munched down on those tasty tidbits.

I wasn’t really expecting to have a horse encounter during our recent visit to Kauai. Here we were on the south shore of Kauai’s Po'ipu Beach, best known for its pristine sandy beaches, with excellent snorkeling, boogie boarding and surfing opportunities, to name a few of the aquatic activities available to the visitor. It was hardly a place where you’d envision a rustic ranch and a stable of horses.

But then we were introduced to CJM Stables, and thus began an adventure that was truly one of the highlights of our trip to the Garden Isle.

Mind you, my husband Tony and I have ridden horseback just a handful of times, the last occasion being well over a decade ago. So I naturally felt some trepidation as we approached the stables, which are located a few miles from Po'ipu Beach on the site of a working cattle ranch.

There were several people lined up for our morning tour, all of whom obviously had more recent experience on horseback than we. However, the capable crew at the stables quickly quelled our fears and, upon our request, outfitted us with mild-mannered and gentle horses.  They helped us into the saddles (they even provide a platform that makes getting into the saddle so much easier than if you are starting from ground level) and the glorious adventure began…..

Our horses trotted gently through grasses and plains on a red dirt trail, reaching breathtakingly beautiful bays and beaches that one just doesn’t readily see from the road.  Every turn brought forth a gasp of awe from our group, as we meandered through lush vegetation to reach a clearing that afforded us a spectacular view of the rugged coastline. Our affable guide embellished the entire experience with his tales of ancient and historic Hawaiian legends when we stopped at various beaches and outcroppings along the trail.

Riding along a sandy beach on horseback was always one of my fantasies, and this adventure actually allowed me that thrill at long last. My gentle horse, “Quick and Easy,” nimbly led me over the coastal rocks and sand and with equal grace, carried me over the mountain trail above the shore on our trip back to the ranch. The vistas along every part of this route never failed to inspire, and the joy of seeing this awesome scenery from horseback will remain a vivid memory of our trip to Kauai.

The “Scenic Valley Beach Ride” we experienced is available daily at 9:30 am and 2:00 pm.  Log on to the CJM Stables web site at: www.cjmstables.com  for more details on this activity, as well as other tour options.

Happy Trails to You….


Rollin' Rollin' down the (Hanalei) River

I’ll never forget my first visit to Disneyland.

Oddly enough, the cruise down the “Jungle Land” faux river so many years ago made an indelible impression on my young mind. The memories of meandering down the waterways cloaked in thick tropical foliage (and the fear I felt when toothy alligators popped into view in the murky waters) remain vivid to this day.

© Joanne DiBona

© Joanne DiBona

So it was no wonder that all the excitement and sense of adventure returned in full force the moment I stepped into a kayak with Tony to explore the Hanalei River. This was the real thing, sans the alligators of course.

© Joanne DiBona

© Joanne DiBona

We maneuvered along the calm river, reveling in the lush tropical vegetation that spread its beauty along the river’s shores. Hibiscus flowers bobbed in the water, adding a romantic touch that seemed almost staged, but was of course just Nature’s way of embellishing the entire experience, as it is wont to do on this magical isle.

Gliding past taro fields and under the picturesque Hanalei wooden bridge, we rowed in unison until we reached an area so lush with vegetation that it made navigation difficult. Reluctantly, we decided to start back—and were surprised to note that we had already been on the river for over two hours!

The return trip, with the current in our favor, took half the time. We docked at the river’s mouth and savored our picnic lunch while watching the activity on majestic Hanalei Bay, which many of us will remember as the backdrop to many scenes in the movie South Pacific

© Joanne DiBona

© Joanne DiBona

Although neither of us are experienced kayakers, we decided to make our way through the small channel linking the river to the bay for a kayak adventure in Hanalei Bay itself. The ocean was very calm and we felt like kids as we paddled our way around this glorious harbor, which we shared with stand-up paddlers, fellow kayakers, and surfers who managed to catch the waves for a dramatic ride towards the shore.

A most thrilling moment came when a curious sea turtle popped his head up right next to our kayak. He inspected us for several minutes until he decided to venture into other territories, but not without leaving us with a truly “wow” experience.

We rented our kayak at Hawaiian Surfing Adventures in Hanalei, a very professional company with a very accommodating staff that not only provides a variety of rentals, but also offers surfing and stand up paddling lessons. Kayak rentals for two are $50 per day.