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Kauai Backroads, detailed description...

George Norton Wilcox acquired Grove Farm in the 1860ís. From humble beginnings as the son of missionary teachers, George Norton built a successful plantation. The Reciprocity Treaty, signed in 1875 stimulated rapid growth in the sugar industry. In 1893, when the Hawaiian Monarchy ended, George Norton represented Kauai in the legislature. Unlike many of his peers, George Norton was a monarchist. In 1898, George Norton was pleased to return to managing his plantation. GN, never having never married, eventually, control of Grove Farm passed to Georgeís nephew, Gaylord Wilcox.

Grove Farm is no longer in the sugar business. In fact, due to the low price of sugar worldwide, sugar production has been declining throughout the State for years. Now, as diversified agriculture replaces sugar, Grove Farm leases itís land to over 100 tenants raising a variety of crops. Other tenants raise cattle, seed corn, coffee, trees, papayas, ornamental flowers, kava root, some of the reservoirs are even used as fish farms.

The need to diversify has been apparent for years. Kukui Grove shopping center, the new Pua Kea golf course, residential and commercial subdivisions have all been developed by Grove Farm. McBryde Sugar, who leased its land from Grove Farm, completed their last harvest and shut down the Koloa mill in 1996. In 1997, we approached Grove Farm with the idea of operating four wheel drive tours on their land.

They gave us the keys and told us to check it out and make a proposal. As we explored the backroads, we were impressed with the incredible views as we occasionally got lost. Once we figured out a route and the timing, we cleared some brush to make viewpoints, installed a comfort station at the half way point, and were ready to conduct the first Kauai Backroads tour in April of 1998.

Kauai Backroads departs from Kilohana, the home built by Gaylord Wilcox in 1935. Kilohana is now the home of Gaylordís Restaurant and numerous shops. The tour covers 33 miles of mostly private roads and follows a figure 8 route. We cover the area from the top of Kilohana Crater to the rugged coastline of Mahaulepu. We pass through the cane tunnel built in 1948 and 1949 to take miles off the round trip to the mill and harbor for the cane trucks.

Kilohana Crater is 1250 feet in elevation. Its height is deceptive because of the gently sloping sides of the crater. On the way up, the vegetation changes from sugar, to rat berries and guava, to a mixed pine and bamboo forest. Wild orchids sprout beside the road. From the east viewpoint, you can see into the bowl of the crater about one half mile across. Now filled with vegetation the area is home to wild pigs. From the viewpoint on the western rim of the crater, you get a 360 degree view of the eastern part of the island. From the Anahola Ridge, Kapaa, Wailua, Lihue, Puhi, Mt. Haupu, Knudsens Gap, Mt. Kahili and Mt. Waialeale. It makes your head spin. Passing trade showers often oblige us with rainbows and waterfalls. If you are interested, please check out our photo gallery.

As we wind our way down the back side of Kilohana towards the rest area, our expert guides elaborate on the formation of the islands, the migration of the Polynesians, Hawaiian history and culture, the sugar industry and diversified agriculture. The typical tour has 10 or fewer passengers. The small groups and the comfortable vehicles make for an interactive tour. Your questions are welcomed and the conversation can focus on areas of your particular interest.

The cane tunnel is a prominent point of interest on this tour. Built after WWII, the tunnel through Haupu Ridge saved many miles for the haul cane trucks heading to the Koloa mill and the trucks delivering raw sugar to Nawiliwili Harbor. The climate is drier on the south side of Haupu Ridge. Seed corn and coffee dominate now where sugar used to grow.

Mahaulepu is a beautiful area of rugged coastline and pristine beaches, still on Grove Farm land. The tour returns to Kilohana through Koloa, Hawaiiís oldest plantation town. Koloa translates long cane. As you return you will be amazed at how much you have seen and learned in only four hours. Bring a camera, lots of film and an inquisitive mind.

Tours depart from Kilohana seven days a week. Check in time is at 7:45 for the morning 8:00 departure and at 12:45 for the afternoon tour. The price of the tour, including local taxes, is $80.00 for adults and $62.50 for children 12 and under. Reservations are required usually at least 24 hours in advance. 

Advance purchase required.
Tours often sell out!

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