Old Koloa Sugar Mill
Ever wanted to see the hidden interior part of Kauai where roads donâ€™t go and very few people have ever seen? Well, take an ATV tour and youâ€™ll see exactly that.
There are two major ATV tour companies on Kauai: Kipu Ranch Adventures which operates near Puhi on the makai (ocean) side of the highway, and Kauai ATV which operates on the south side of the island, mauka (mountain side) of the highway. Both companies offer three and four hour tours, are similarly priced, and give full vehicle and driving instructions prior to the tour. Both companies use pre-existing cane haul roads to drive on ,but the experiences and scenery are very different.
Kipu Ranch Adventures is located off the highway on Kipu Road in Puhi. You are assigned a vehicle depending on if you want to ride by yourself or with others in your party. You can choose from a quad single-seater ATV, a quad 2-seater ATV, a 2-person Rhino and a 4-person Rhino. Kipu Ranch Adventures also offers a guide driven Ranger seating 5 people if no one in your party wants to drive. The tour provides helmet, goggles and face-covering bandana.
Prepared for a muddy ride!
If you think you will look silly all covered up with helmet, goggles and a bandana, believe me, you will be happy for the coverage. Donâ€™t want to wear the bandana? Just be prepared for your companions to laugh at your brown teeth when you turn to smile at them. This tour is more of a scenic tour than an off-road muddy ride, although you will get dirty from all the dust.
The tour guide sets the pace and the vehicles rarely go above 15-20 mph and you must follow the vehicle in front of you. Kipu Ranch covers some 2,500 acres bordering the Hule’ia River, Haâ€™upu Mountain Range and the Kipu Kai shoreline area. It is a working cattle ranch, be prepared to see other wildlife including peacocks and wild pigs that come down from the mountains to be fed by the tour guides.
Many, many movies have been filmed on Kipu Ranch and it is a favorite of Steven Spielberg. Highlights of the tour include the rope swing from the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie where Indiana Jones swings across the river to escape the Indians in the beginning of the movie. You are given the chance to try the rope swing for yourself if you have the strength to hang on. The tour also takes you to a lookout area above Kipu Kai, a crescent shaped bay that is only accessible from the ocean. The four-hour tour goes to these same places as well as taking you to Kipu Falls for swimming and lunch.
Kipu Kai overlook
Kauai ATV is based in old Koloa town with their office and check-in behind the Chevron gas station. After checking in, you are directed to the tour starting point at the old sugar mill in Koloa. Here you are given clothing to put on: pants, shirt, helmet and goggles. Boots are also available if you havenâ€™t brought any closed toe shoes with you. Their motto is â€œDo Something Dirtyâ€ and, by contrast with the other tour, you will be happy to have the clothes.
The vehicle choices here are a quad single-seater ATV, a 2-person Mud Bug and a 4-person Ohana Bug. They also have bio-diesel vehicle choices if you want to be green.
The tour takes you to land owned by Grove Farm which is in turn owned by Steve Case of AOL fame. The guide sets the pace on this tour, but the pace is faster and you get more of an off-road experience. You can decide to take the puddles (depending on the last rain) at a slow pace or smash right through them and soak yourself and your fellow riders. There are several scenic stops to learn about local plant and animal life, see movie filming locations, and learn Kauai history. Drive through a mountain in a half-mile tunnel originally used for trucks that hauled sugar caneâ€”back when most of Kauai was a sugar cane plantation. The four-hour tour does all the same things, and takes you to a small waterfall for swimming and a lunch stop.
Whichever tour you end up taking you will be glad you did it. You will see a hidden part of Kauai with breathtaking views that very few get to see.