The Original Cowboys
Trails fringed by lush, exotic greenery. Ocean breezes whispering through swaths of upcountry pine. And a rich and vibrant cowboy culture? Visitors to Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele, are often surprised to learn of the role horses play in Hawaii's past and present.
Brought to the islands in the early 1800s, horses quickly became an integral part of the Hawaiian lifestyle, for transportation, agriculture and recreation. In 1832, the Hawaiian king, Kamehameha III, dispatched one of his high chiefs to Spanish California to hire three vaqueros, who taught Hawaiians how to tame wild horses as well as the skills required to handle cattle. The Spanish cowboys were called Espanoles, which became paniolos in Hawaiian. Years before cowboys emerged in the Pacific Northwest, California and Texas in the mid-19th century, Hawaiian-born paniolos were hard at work in Hawaii.
The site of Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele, started with sheep and goats, and then became a cattle ranch in the late 1800s – the site of the current lodge was the home of the ranch manager. But as the fruit plantations took precedence in the 1900s, the ranch fell into disuse.
Today, however, horses are again an important part of the island experience, with top-notch stables housing 30 fine horses located directly across from the lodge. Helmed by Cody Bradford, an authentic cowboy originally from Benjamin, Utah, the horse facilities include a new rodeo arena where guests can watch and participate in roping demonstrations, an expanded trail network for both private and guided rides, a petting zoo, pony rides, horse-drawn carriage rides and English and Western riding lessons. And of course, guests young and old always relish the chance to feed and brush the magnificent, gentle horses.
“One of the favourite experiences for guests is the paniolo ride,” says Bradford. “It’s a trail ride for up to 16 people, through the groves of ironwood trees. You get incredible views of Maui and get to see wildlife like axis deer and mouflon sheep.” Another cowboy guide, Jesse Taylor, serenades guests. So saddle up and you’ll get to see a little-known side of the true Hawaii.