Hawaii Diaries #7 – First Time Horseback Riding and An Outdoor Dinner

Happy Thanksgiving all! I’m writing this from a new AirBnB in the north. Yesterday was a packed day which started with horseback riding in the morning.

It was one of the last planned excursions we had. It was also our last day in the southern part of the island.

We were up early, packed up and got going. There was still a bit of time before we needed to be at the ranch so we stopped to check out the Grand Hyatt resort on the way.

The place is what you’d expect from a $500+ a night hotel. There are many manicured paths and a few expensive restaurants on site. We parked on the road across the street and walked around to check it out.

However, views or not, I’d still rather stay in an AirBnB. It’s cheaper and a lot more private. The Hyatt grounds were swarming with people and seemed hectic.

After this quick stop, we headed over to CJM Stables for our ride. It was down the same path we took to our Mahaulepu beach hike. In fact, the horseback riding today was the Mahaulepu beach ride.

We signed our waivers and checked out the horses.

This was my first time doing something like this and there was a brief training video telling you how to control a horse. Pull the rein back to back to stop, kick and make a noise to go; that sort of thing.

They portioned us into groups of 7, each with a guide and assigned us a horse based on experience level. I got Mr. Bojangles and my wife got Quickie Poo.

After that, there was a lot of waiting around as each rider walked up some steps to easily mount their horses. The guide told me Mr. Bojangles likes to get up close to the females so I should keep him back lest he gets a kick to the face.

Great thing to hear for a beginner.

I was a bit nervous about this whole thing but the horses do most of the work. They start walking when the guide starts walking and do a good job of following the path.

Mr. Bojangles was a bit of an asshole at times and he certainly didn’t like it when I tried to correct him. I’d pull back on the reins when he got too close and he’d give me this side eye look. He’d also swerve off the path a bit and start eating grass.

I’d have to try to control this big massive beast especially when we happened to stop in grassy areas.

The ride itself was about two hours. We started at the stables then made our way down the horse trail towards the beach.

This was billed as a Mahaulepu beach ride but it really wasn’t that. We did visit the beach and we did see it but we spent maybe 5% of the ride in that area. The trail took us down to a little stream we crossed onto the beach and then immediately turned into wooded areas and continued there for most of the trip.

There were some spots where we saw the beach but they were few and far between.

When they were there; they were nice but most of the time you were just riding through some wooded paths or with tall grass surrounding us.

That’s fine but I was expecting a lot more beach riding than we got.

The trails did eventually open up.

horseback riding

That led to some more cool vistas of far away beaches and cliffs.

Throughout all this, the guide would talk about things like movies shot in this area. However, since we were in the back and it was a windy day, we couldn’t hear much.

At the midway point, we reached a beach area where they apparently shot the movie six days, seven nights.

We stopped here so that everyone could take pictures.

At this point, we also ran into the other group who were going in the other direction. After this, the path took us further inland so the views were behind us and we walked up some inclines surrounded by more tall grass.

There was another long stop to have some store bought juice where the horses got antsy again. Mr. Bojangles, picture below, clearly wasn’t liking my presence as he tried to bite my foot.

Maybe I was doing something wrong?

I certainly hope I wasn’t hurting him but I was just following the three minutes of video directions I got.

After that we moved on and continued for another 30-45 minutes through dull landscapes. The guide stopped from time to time to tell us facts about plants or trees in the area. We couldn’t hear half of what he was saying, not that it was that interesting.

The pace of the ride was very slow and it really didn’t require much rider intervention besides a few stops and yanks when the horse got rowdy. My horse seemed to be doing OK but one rider up front had a lot of trouble with her horse wandering off to eat.

Overall, this thing ended up being pretty boring. The beach ride didn’t have much beach and most of the views were ones we already saw during our Mahaulepu hike.

Since it was my first time riding a horse, I’m sure my form was off since my ass and knees started to hurt about an hour into it.

I’m not sure horseback riding is for me. However, like with many things on this trip, I’m glad I did it since you don’t know what you like till you try it!

My advice? Save yourself a sore ass and $100 and just take the hike and skip the horseback riding.

We were pretty hungry after the horseback ride. The Lanai in the Kukui’ula Shopping Village was our stop.

I had a delicious beef bowl and my wife went with a grilled cheese sandwich.

It’s a very solid and reasonably priced lunch. Lappert’s is right there too for an after lunch dessert and we made another stop there to try some new flavors.

Next was a trip to Costco to get gas. There’s always a line there but it’s worth it when you consider it’s $2.99/gallon here versus $4+ anywhere else on the island. We also stopped at the store to get some more food for our new place.

The drive over was a bit messy since the traffic around Kapaa gets rough during rush hour. However, we didn’t have anywhere to go until 6:30 P.M. so we didn’t rush too much.

This was our first foray into the northern part of the island and it definitely gets more tropical in this more wet part of the island.

Just look at the view off the back deck of our AirBnB.

There was one more thing planned and that was dinner at Kauai Ono. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while. It’s this cool outdoor dinner that takes place at Princeville Ranch. They only do it twice a week and set up this cool tent to present a five course menu.

We got there early to take in the area. Eventually, the communal tables filled up and the meal started. While we ate, we chatted about food and the island with a couple from Montana who were seated across from us.

The meal started with beef carpaccio served with chimichurri and breadfruit chips.

The presentation looked like a little garden and the flavor was wonderful.

Sashimi grade marlin was our second course. It came with a macadamia nut wasabi crumble served atop kale.

The wasabi crumble gave a nice little hint of spice and the fish melted in my mouth.

A simple salad of local greens with a citrus ginger and vanilla dressing followed.

There is no menu and the waiter would explain the dish as he served it.

The main course was a pulled pork dish with a papaya salad, a papaya puree and a purple sweet potato mash.

It was some of the best, most juicy pork I’ve ever had.

Dessert was a mochi churro with a spiced coconut hot chocolate.

It was delicious but too small! The hot chocolate sauce was the highlight.

Overall, it was a fantastic meal, one of the best I’ve had in a while. The ambiance was great and the outdoor setting was awesome as the night was nice and breezy. Wear long pants and bring bug spray to ward off bites.

I still got a few mosquito bites but it was definitely worth it. They only do this dinner twice a week. I’d go back if I had the chance but we’re leaving before that could happen.

That’s it for the day. We’re in the north now so a whole new part of the island to explore.

We’ve also got some blisters and super sore shins that may limit what we can do as well.

It’s also thanksgiving today so we’ll likely just take it easy and eat at home.

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