The long table
Located on the windward coast of Oʻahu, Kualoa Private Nature Reserve is rich with culture, fun and folklore. Nestled in 4,000 acres at the intersection of the Ko‘olauloa and Ko‘olaupoko districts, the reserve offers a wide range of responsible tourism attractions and activities that honor the culture and preserve the ‘aina, including several unique, narrated tours, a zipline, ATV and horseback rides.
After an unsuccessful stint as a sugarcane plantation and mill in the 1860s, Kualoa Private Nature Reserve (KPNR, formerly Kualoa Ranch) became one of Hawai‘i’s largest cattle ranches. For more than a hundred years, raising beef cattle for export was the reserve’s primary source of income. Today, while Kualoa is known for a variety of diverse attractions and outdoor adventures, it is still a top quality producer of cattle—along with other livestock, agriculture and more.
KPNR formerly specialized in cow-calf operations, raising young beef cattle on the farm before being sold and sent to farms on the mainland United States.
“The goal was to maximize our capabilities with what we could do right here on the farm,” says Taylor Kellerman, manager of livestock and diversified agriculture at KPNR. “Three years ago, we expanded our operation and shifted from a cow-calf operation to raising the cattle ourselves.”
KPNR is presently home to more than 600 heads of cattle that are free to graze across 1,500 acres of pasture, which helps to manage the reserve’s natural resources in terms of providing landscaping and fertilizer. Kualoa cows are locals; all born and raised on the property, they’re a mix of Black Angus, Brahma, Brangus, Hereford, Limousin and Charolais breeds, with bulls purchased from within the state of Hawai‘i. KPNR uses no hormones, antibiotics, steroids or unnatural feed with any of their cattle, and their beef production process takes place exclusively on O‘ahu. The cows are slaughtered at an FDA-inspected slaughterhouse in Campbell Industrial Park and processed at Wong’s Meat Market. The result is a lean, grass-fed beef with a healthier fat ratio and a delicious taste. Prime cuts like Rib Eye, Top Sirloin, Tenderloin, Chuck Roast and New York Steak are available at KPNR’s Visitor Center, or may be ordered online. Their shredded beef can also be found in the tacos and burritos at Paniolos Hawaii in Kailua.
In addition to cattle, Kualoa has recently begun dabbling in a few sheep, as well as chickens for meat and eggs. “At this point, it’s really just proof of concept,” says Kellerman. “If it works out, we’d love to expand the types of livestock we have here on the farm.”
In addition to land mammals, KPNR is also the only producer of molluscs on the island of O‘ahu: saltwater oysters that are cultivated in an 800-year-old fishpond using the same aquatic farming methods as the ancient Hawaiians. What began as a test to see if they could produce the necessary water conditions to grow oysters has developed into a program that produces more than a thousand oysters a week that go out to top quality local restaurants. Aquaculture at KPNR extends across nine earthen ponds with other sea life too, including white shrimp (bought as babies from a hatchery, raised, and now selling between 500 to 800 pounds per month) and tilapia.
“Our oysters are raised in baskets in the water instead of just sitting on the mud at the bottom, so often people will say they have a fresher, cleaner taste,” Kellerman says. “You can find our oysters at restaurants like Mud Hen Water, The Pig and the Lady, Alan Wong’s and more.”
So many restaurants have inquired about the reserve’s oysters that there’s now a waiting list for them. Kualoa’s oyster production is limited by nature—only so much dissolved oxygen and available algae to go around—but the reserve isn’t interested in increasing output if it means overproduction. Says Kellerman: “We’re looking at ways to increase our efficiency, not our carbon footprint.”
On land, KPNR’s agriculture includes fresh produce, such as papaya and apple bananas, harvested weekly. Tropical cut flowers are also available, often scooped up in bulk by flower arrangers, and have been offered by the reserve for close to 20 years.
Visitors can purchase a wide variety of products grown, raised and harvested on KPNR’s 4,000 acres at any time on-site, and soon they’ll be able to see, taste and experience the food at Kualoa firsthand too. Beginning in April, the reserve will be introducing a new “Tasting Tour” that will allow guests to travel by bus through the various farmlands and fishponds throughout KPNR, stopping at different sites in the valley to tour the facilities, learn about the operation and—best of all—taste the fresh offerings, right there on the tour. Chefs will prepare an assortment of dishes that feature Kualoa premium beef, oysters, shrimp, tilapia and more for guests to sample.
“The goal is to get all the senses firing—you see the beautiful scenery, smell the fresh air and taste incredible fresh fruits, vegetables and more,” Kellerman says. “Everyone knows that KPNR is perfect for outdoor adventures, but many people don’t know about how diverse we are in terms of agriculture, livestock and other ways to utilize and enrich the land. We hope to change that by showing people what we do here.”
Kualoa Private Nature Reserve
9-560 Kamehameha Hwy., Kāneohe, HI 96744
Open daily, 8:30am–5:30pm