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When clients visiting Hawaii Island are craving something different, have them head for the hills.
More specifically, send them to visit the Evening at Kahua Ranch attraction, a lively, upcountry party that immerses guests in the history, heritage and hospitality of Hawaii’s revered paniolo (cowboys).
Held each Wednesday, the three-hour event takes place at an elevation of 3,200 feet above the island’s northwestern region. From there, Kahua — a working ranch — spreads out across 8,500 acres of stunning green pastures and a landscape that rolls down to the ocean.
Evening at Kahua Ranch attracts a variety of travelers — from couples and families to seniors. It made its debut 19 years ago under the guidance of Sue Foat, who remains the managing director and event host.
“When I started Evening at Kahua Ranch, the intention was to educate our guests about ranching and our famed paniolo,” Foat said. “It has evolved into a personal, cultural and fun experience, and people enjoy it so much that they return multiple times.”
Whether clients drive themselves to the ranch or ride the bus from their resort, Foat welcomes each guest with warmth and good humor.
As people arrive, they’re invited to pick up a drink at the open bar — which serves red and white wine, beer and nonalcoholic beverages — then savor the spectacular panoramas from the mountains to the sea.
For the first 30 minutes, clients can play informal games such as horseshoes and cornhole; pet a horse (and sit high in its saddle for photos); and buy some ranch merchandise in the country store.
The group then gathers for a talk by John Richards, a descendant of the family who founded the ranch in 1928. During his engaging introductory presentation, Richards shares the fascinating history and geography of the ranch, including tales of the first paniolo to arrive in Hawaii to help work the land, and the challenges of ranching on an island in the Pacific.
“Our guiding principle is sustainability,” Richards said. “As we raise, ship and sell our cattle, we’re always focused on how to take care of the beauty of this land.”
As the sun sets, participants stroll into an open-air, oceanview pavilion for an all-you-can-eat dinner, served buffet-style. Guests load up on barbecue beef and chicken, area-grown salad, corn, baked beans, garlic mashed potatoes and guava rolls. For dessert, the macadamia nut pie keeps folks coming back for more.
Clients sit at communal dinner tables covered in red-checkered tablecloths. As they sip and sup, they tap their toes to original and traditional country and western songs performed by local favorites Dave and Gladys Toland.
After the meal, the upbeat Foat coaxes participants to join her for some lessons in line dancing. If clients prefer, they can head to the other hands-on activity hubs, all with paniolo overtones.
For instance, Richards demonstrates how to rope a cow — actually, a sawhorse with a cow head on it — then encourages guests to give it a whirl.
At the branding station, clients can take a red-hot iron, place it carefully on a cedar shingle and let it sizzle for a few seconds. The result is a one-of-a-kind souvenir marked with a “K.”
Meanwhile, astronomy expert Scott McCullough helps guests gaze through his 11-inch Celestron telescope. The clear skies of the ranch’s lofty location make it an ideal place to see a range of heavenly bodies, from planets like Saturn — whose rings are easy to spot — to Titan, the second largest moon in the solar system.
Then there’s the wildly popular s’mores station, where clients roast marshmallows at the campfire and add them to chocolate bars and graham crackers for a gooey treat.
At evening’s end, guests take away memories of an authentic and entertaining look at the unique world of Hawaii’s paniolo, high in the hills.
The DetailsEvening at Kahua Ranchwww.exploretheranch.com