Kauai ATV Tours

July 20, 2005
By Brian Korfhage
Photos By Nick Hill

Korf was less serious about his puddle adventure.
Korf rolls through a puddle on his tour of the Old Koloa Sugar Mill while exhibiting a little of the Aloha spirit.

For the uninitiated, the Hawaiian Islands may seem like a place where lounging on the beach and the gentle consumption of Mai-Tais takes precedence over any other activity. However, Hawaii is also a place where activity is rewarded with hidden beauty and spectacular views. To truly experience all the charm and grace that is the island of Kauai, one needs only a proactive nature and adventurous spirit.

Having had the pleasure of visiting Maui in the past, I knew that the scenery and weather would be just as beautiful and inviting when I enjoyed a week on the small island of Kauai. During this visit to Hawaii, I wanted to make a concerted effort to get out and see as much of the island as my wallet could possibly allow.

After heading up the stunning Napali Coast on a catamaran on the first day, I wanted to see the interior of Kauai and do so with the help of a little internal combustion. I headed over to Old Koloa Town where I signed up to take a tour of 22,000 acres which happened to be the remainder of a portion of the old C & H sugar mill on the island of Kauai.

Kauai ATV Tours is a company that offers a way to explore Kauai from the seat of an ATV or OHV. They offer two basic day trips: a 3 hour tour of the Koloa Sugar Mill and shoreline views of Hawaii’s largest inland body of water, or a second tour, which is a 4 hour tour through rugged terrain in the Kahili mountain range, and ultimately stops for lunch at a private waterfall. I opted for the latter and brought along Pappa Korfhage, a longtime motorcycle enthusiast, to join me.

The tour is designed to allow people with little or no riding experience the opportunity to mount and cruise with little or no trouble. Interested parties can make a reservation in person in Old Koloa Town or on the web at www.kauaiatv.com. I made a reservation for me and the old man and had little idea what to expect. All I knew was that we needed to arrive at the Kauai ATV Tours office at 7:00 am. We were promptly directed to the staging area, a permanent camp set up near the old Koloa Sugar Mill Plantation where Kauai ATV has set up shop.

The Old Koloa Sugar Mill
Our tour group pauses outside the Old Koloa Sugar Mill before heading deeper into the plantation.

Tour participants are greeted by smiling faces and the friendly staff who dish out clear and concise instructions that outline what will take place during the tour. Prior to the actual tour, participants are outfitted with pants, shirts, helmets, goggles and boots that are designed to withstand the abuse of an ATV tour, but also make a great substitute for you clothes. The red dirt of Hawaii is notorious for its ability to stain the heck out any and all garments. Kauai ATV has you covered and offers up clothes that take the punishment.

Prior to the tour, you have the option of riding in a two seat buggy or riding solo on an ATV. The Kauai ATV outfit uses Yamaha Kodiak 400cc automatics with a throttle stop to insure riders don’t get trigger happy. The units we used were on their last legs and the fresh crop of 350cc Yamaha Bruins that were waiting to be put into service looked a little more enticing than the ones we mounted. However, the riding was demure enough that a high performance machine wasn’t a necessity.

The staff doles out comprehensive instructions on how to work the ATV and then takes the tour group through a short and dirty training course to ensure everybody can handle their vehicle competently. 

A tunnel that was created to join one side of the plantation to the other.
Part of the tour goes through Wilcox Tunnel which was created to make sugar transportation easier. Look out for falling guano!

After about an hour of instruction and standard paperwork, the tour begins. The pace is really quite tame and never reaches adrenaline-inducing speeds. While the inner child in me wanted to go balls out and blitz the terrain, the slower pace ultimately allowed me to concentrate on the breath-taking scenery. Most of the tour takes place on dirt roads wide enough to allow full size vehicles to pass. Occasionally the tour traverses relatively flat single track. Quite a few of the people on our tour were beginners and they seemed to handle the challenges of riding just fine.

The tour generally consists of about 15 to 30 minute intervals of riding that are interrupted by various stops along the way where the guide dishes out an impressive amount of information on the history of the Koloa Sugar Mill, the land, or the island of Kauai. The tour guide on our ride, Gary Bennett, did a phenomenal job of informing us of the history of the island and the sugar mill. There’s plenty of animal and plant life to see, and the guides make frequent stops to point out the various flora that help to make Hawaii one of the most beautiful and unique locales on earth.

Halfway through the tour a deli lunch is served, which consists of a sandwich, chips, a beverage, and cookies. During the pause, the adventurous can play in the private waterfall, which is really just high-volume water pouring out of a massive irrigation pipe. Nontheless, it’s a nice setting and a great place to eat lunch. The tour continues for another hour or so and ends up back at the beginning where shower facilities and other amenities are provided to allow patrons to clean up before they hit the road.

Korf and his pop pose for a picture in front of the destination waterfall.
Korf and his pop take a break after lunch to pose in front of the destination waterfall.

At the end of the tour, Kauai ATV Tours offers a picture CD of your specific journey. The pics are decent quality (check out our photo gallery), and are a relatively inexpensive way to commemorate the experience.

Kauai ATV Tours does have some restrictions: No persons under 16 years old on the ATV’s (ID required). Children five and up can ride as passengers on the Mud Bug. No pregnant women and no one with back problems are allowed.

The Waterfall tour, which I participated in, costs $145 with four departure times available throughout the day. The Koloa Tour is just $99 and departs twice a day.

The Kauai ATV Tour was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Kauai. For those that want to experience the lush landscape of Kauai’s interior and do so in a non-conventional manner, few experiences will beat Kauai ATV Tours.
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