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
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
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
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
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!
Check availability and buy tickets online:
Book one of our Kauai Tours!
Or call Zerve at (800) 979-3370