Horseback Riding in Kauai: Equestrian Adventures at Princeville Ranch

Riding guide at Princeville Ranch

I am riding a horse in the land of a dragon.

One slumbering dragon, by the name of Puff.

You know, the guy from the land of Hanalei? Had a friend named Jackie? It’s a real place, by the way, on the island of Kaua’i: a funky town with cool little shops selling cool little things and fish tacos made a hundred different ways. And if you look just at the right angle, the ridge of the Hanalei mountains looks exactly like a sleeping dragon.

In Your Bucket Because…

  • You’re looking for something beyond the normal hack ride.
  • The Princeville Ranch offers more than just riding: hikes, ziplines, and waterfalls.
  • Good for equestrians of all levels.

Princeville Ranch, a 2,500 acre spread of hills and ravines sandwiched between the mountains and the sea, is a few miles away from the town of Hanalei. For once, as I canter across the fields, I’m not worried about gopher holes (there are no gophers in Hawaii). I feel just like a real live Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy). I don’t know if they have a name for cowgirl.

This is not the usual course of events when I sign on for a hack ride while traveling. As an experienced rider — I used to teach horseback riding and ran riding programs at two different facilities — I love to ride any chance I get. But litigation and safety issues have made it virtually impossible to find a stable in the United States that allows hacking clients to actually ride a horse, as opposed to passively plodding along at a pokey walk. I want to do that about as much as I want to watch paint dry.

Horses waiting for riders at Princeville Ranch

Princeville Ranch in Kauai, Hawaii is no exception: If you sign on for a group trail ride, you’ll be pretty much walking the whole time. That’s great — and safe — for families and beginning riders, not so great for experienced riders. But Princeville Ranch has a few surprises up its sleeve that take riding — for both beginners and advanced riders — beyond the usual hack.

Riding Options at Princeville Ranch

The standard group ride at Princeville ranch is a three hour waterfall ride. Riders get to learn about Paniolo culture, get some tips about handling a horse, and learn about the ranch itself. After a break at the waterfall, they make their way

My trusty steed spots a flock of nene (native Hawaiian geese).

Advanced riders can book a private ride. It’s more expensive, but it’s also the best way to get around the problem of trail riding in groups. You’ll still ride with a guide, which is a good thing, because you’ll have a chance to learn about the ranch and the region, not to mention find your way around the property. But you’ll be able to walk, trot and canter (assuming you can show your guide you know how to). I have to admit that my horse had a rather more stolid temperament than I prefer (I like the skitzy ones that are hard to handle). But I got to ride, and that in itself was unusual.

You can book a ride for two or three hours. Note (and really, if you’re an advanced rider, you already know this, right?): If it’s been a while since you’ve ridden, take the two-hour tour: Your legs will thank you.

Waterfalls, Kayaking, Ziplining, and Hiking at Princeville Ranch

Ziplining at Princeville Ranch

As we meandered around the property, we stopped at a ravine where all of a sudden, a person came zipping through the air. Princeville Ranch, it turns out, also has ziplines, and one of the equestrian adventures is a “ride and glide” where riders on guided group trail rides stop for a “relaxing” zip on three lines that traverse the ravines and valleys. They then ride back to the starting point.

Ziplining is just one of several non-equestrian activities Princeville Ranch offers, either with or without riding (which is great for those families — and this means just about every family — that have one or two people who just won’t get on a horse). In addition to ziplining (with or without riding), activities include trekking, kayaking, waterfall hikes, and picnics. Most tours go out rain or shine, although activities may be re-scheduled if the ranch management determines weather conditions are hazardous.

Kauai is an adventure travel mecca, with a wide variety of interesting activities all over the island. Here, on the north shore, under the gaze of a slumbering dragon, one facility offers a selection of some of Kauai’s most popular activities, all in one place.


  • Book in advance, especially for private rides
  • Princeville Ranch is located near the tourist development (condos and high end hotels) of Princeville, and only about 10 minutes drive from the laid back town of Hanalei.
  • Wear long pants and sturdy shoes (not sandals or flip flops). Hardhats are available. Sunglasses and a brimmed hat are a good idea.
  • Height, weight, and age restrictions apply.



  1. Tom Kerr says

    Can you ride English or do you have to ride Western at Princeville Ranch? I’m going to Princeville in late August and was thinking about shipping my britches, tall boots and helmet. I’d much prefer to ride English than plod along on Western saddle.

    • Karen Berger says

      I’m sure you could contact them and ask, but I rode western (I too prefer English, but I assume trail rides will be western). I am guessing they are all western there, but you should check if it matters to you. I rode in jeans and sneakers. (And yes, I know better.) They have helmets there.


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