Hawai'i's best rodeo arena hosts its annual statewide rodeo on Thanksgiving weekend, and for the first time, Moloka'i Ranch is offering accommodations out on the range.
Moloka'i Ranch Rodeo and Equestrian Arena, on the outskirts of Maunaloa town, is home to top Hawaiian cowboys-the paniolo. Many of them hale from families who have worked in the Moloka'i Ranch cattle operation for five generations. The 55,000-acre ranch on the west end of the island is unusual in Hawai'i, as it encourages visitors to meet the paniolo and to learn all about Hawaiian cowboy culture. During the week before and after the rodeo, and most every day of the year, visitors take part in their own Paniolo Roundup-a special two-and-a-half hour session in which you climb onto a cowhorse chosen for your particular riding ability (even if you haven't ridden before).
The cowboys are patient and their horses are trained. They are careful with the ranch guests. In the arena, paniolo introduce the guests to a small huddle of calves, and it becomes readily apparent that the horses enjoy their job of cutting them from the herd. These are working horses that spend part of the week with wranglers on their backs honing their skills, and other days in the arena with the Moloka'i Ranch visitors.
The paniolo and horses also take visitors out on the Great Moloka'i Trail, through pasture and forest, to the highest seacliffs in the world, and to some of the longest beaches in Hawai'i.
The ranch offers visitors overnight resting places. These are significantly more comfy than cattle drive tents but give you the feeling of being out on the range. Canvas cottages with wooden floors sit on the edge of the Moloka'i Gulch, offering astonishing views of the ranch and Pacific Ocean. Traditional palaka (checkered) quilts, wooden chairs and tables create the ambiance of the paniolo home on the range.
The cottages are designed with an environmental consciousness and an aim towards low impact on the landscape. Each is equipped with solar panels for hot water and electricity, composting toilets, and a canvas canopy above the canvas walls for cooling. Many are nestled under shade trees. They are available for overnight stays through the Moloka'i Outfitters Center and are expected to be full during the Thanksgiving Rodeo weekend. Early reservations are recommended. Call 800-254-8871 or (808) 552-2681.