Train Hike Orchard Tour
After the Journey
Watch the Movie
Map of the Train Route
Schedule & Prices
The very best of Kilohana and the Kauai Plantation Railway—see it all local style on our guided train-hike-orchard tour!
- PHOTO TOUR
Have you ever wondered what it was like to be royalty?
To ride on your own train through farmlands and fields?
And, after your adventure, to dine on the most succulent gourmet treats?
Welcome to the Kauai Plantation Railway–so much more than just a train ride
Our premier tour—ride the train, hike in the rainforest, have a gourmet picnic lunch under a spreading tree then, for dessert, sample fresh tropical fruits you pick directly from the tree.
Your tour begins in our authentic Hawaiian train depot. Check in with the stationmaster, then take a few minutes to explore our unusual train depot shop. Here you will find many hand crafted items made right here on Kauai.
In a few short minutes you hear the approach of the train. You step out onto the boarding platform and watch as the engine appears out of the jungle. It winds it's way past a garden in bloom with tropical flowers.
The train cars are reproductions of the railway cars of the period of King Kalakaua. They are elegant with hand finished wood interiors and off an enclosed ride with plenty of views.
If you are feeling more adventurous you may pick the open sided excursion car as used on the Oahu coast railway before World War II.
In either case you are sure to have a safe and comfortable ride.
You local guide, we'll call him Kimo, narrates the train trip, pointing out to you the more than 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables grown right here on Kilohana. Please feel free to ask any questions as you continue your journey.
Your train ride takes you back through history to the plantation days of Kauai… but this is also a real working farm. Much of the produce that you see grown goes to Kilohana's renowned restaurant, Gaylord's.
The Kilohana plantation is surely one of the most beautiful farms in the world. You see an unusual mix of plants and trees, as well as our friendly farm animals.
Well out into the heart of the plantation you disembark, first to spend some time with the pigs, goats, sheep, cattle and horses that comprise the farm menagerie.
Imagine… you walk through a tropical rainforest bursting with exotic plants and flowers. Drop down into a hidden valley. Walk along rushing creeks. See the sun filter through the rainforest canopy. Be surrounded by huge, lush, green plants.
Kimo points out the out the sights so that you don't miss a thing as you wend your leisurely way down into the valley.
On the walk down you are treated to views across the top of the canopy and looking directly down into the valley floor.
You take your time—you're on "Kauai Time" now experiencing the heart of the island as few visitors ever do. The warm moist air enfolds you and you can almost feel the forest breath. The sun is a gentle presence through the trees creating ever shifting patterns of light and dark on the forest before you.
The valley floor is a true tropical haven… Hawaii as it used to be. You all gather at the bottom (wait for Auntie!). Kimo tells you that there is an old man of the forest watching you—can you spot him? Soon everyone is gathered around to have their photo taken with Kahuna Nui, our old tree man.
After climbing back out of the valley it's lunchtime!
Kimo serves you a variety of delicious lunch items and ice cold water and drinks—tastes great after the hike.
This is a great time to get to know your fellow hikers as you all sit together under our cool Norfolk Pine trees. A time to relax and laugh and enjoy the moment.
You stretch out on the grass and watch the clouds float by through the branches above. Wait! Where is everyone going?
Someone has noticed that there are horses gathered by the fence across the pasture. Do you think their waiting for hand outs? Sure, horses like lunch too!
Join the group and walk on over to view our beautiful Clydesdales and other horses up close. Your guide provides horsey snacks to help you make friends. Please, feed the animals!
You find a special friend in one of the horses—he really seems to have taken a shine to you. You call over a couple of children to introduce them to your new friend.
You may also see the wild pigs of Kilohana (behind the fence!), comedic goats and fluffy sheep. Notice how everyone's that nice cinnabar color? That's our Kauai red dirt at work!
If it's Spring, there will be baby pigs, baby goats, baby sheep… all sorts of baby animals. They can be shy, but with a little patience (and some bread from Kimo) you can quickly become the best of buddies.
As you leave your four footed buddies you walk down the tracks a short way to the exotic fruit orchard.
Here you can see, smell—and taste!—fresh pineapple, bananas, papaya, sugar cane, rambutan, lychee, cherries, many many other exotic fruits depending on what's in season today.
You also spot many beautiful flowers throughout the orchard.
Did you know that it takes two years for a pineapple to produce one fruit? And that the plants are spiky and sharp? Take a close look (but be careful!). You spot a baby pineapple nestled in the arms of it's parent plant.
The orchard is a great experience for everyone—young, youthful, spry and tutu too! (Tutu? Grandmother in Hawaiian!)
This is not a hands off, see but don't touch, crowded tour… this is your experience of your plantation. Feel free to touch, to pick to sample everything that the orchard has to offer. Kimo will let you know what's good to eat, what's not, and what's in between (have you ever had cashew fruit?).
Your adventure begins in our authentic depot. You spend some time strolling through the depot shop and talking with our friendly and knowledgeable staff–getting the latest Kauai news directly from the locals.
Look! There are pineapples picked fresh this morning. Or perhaps you find that perfect gift for Uncle Fred...
While you're in the shop you take the opportunity to meet your fellow passengers—we're all family here at Kilohana.
You notice the many historic railway items on the lanai as well. There are reminders here of Kauai's plantation past… and some substantial pieces of metal!
The train depot sits next to Luau Kalamaku (sssshhhh, don't tell anyone, but it's the best luau on Kauai) and our soon to be complete rum distillery.
Just across from the station you will see the main plantation house where there are many more shops and the fabulous Gaylord's restaurant. Consider lunch or dinner at Gaylord's after your train adventure for a perfect day.
You stroll out to the train platform savoring the tropical scents and the warm Kauai sun. In the distance you hear a whistle. That must be your train... it will be arriving soon.
With a nostalgic clatter and roar the engine pulls into the station. Your conductor gives you a hand up into a railway coach custom built of mahogany. As you look around, the conductor explains that your coach is modeled after the personal railway car of King Kamehameha. You notice the elegant details as you find your seat by an open window.
The train pulls out from the station and you are on your way.
You begin your journey traveling through dense tropical forest and past plantation era houses. The sun dapples the ground and makes everything glow with a warm yellow light.
Soon you pull out into the working farm that is Kilohana Plantation. You conductor points out many of the more than 50 fruits and vegetables that are growing on the farm, including exotic varieties of pineapple, papaya, mango, and rambutan. The warm, clean scent of well turned earth and growing things wafts into your coach. The train winds through fields and past taro patches to your first stop...
and the most popular part of the trip for young and old alike...
Here you are enthusiastically greeted by herds of wild pigs, sheep, goats and the occasional horse or donkey.
You disembark to stretch your legs and soak up the peaceful farm atmosphere. Your conductor gives you bread–a treat for your farmyard friends. Go ahead, please DO feed the animals!
All too soon it is time to re-board for your homeward bound journey. You see new crops growing and some that you can now identify. Off in the distance you see a large red wagon pulled by a mighty Clydesdale. Another way to tour the farm. Looks like fun... perhaps another day...
On your return journey your conductor tells you more of local legends and lore as well as a few local Kauai secrets. You learn about Kauai’s history by being a part of it... you have experienced a slice of plantation life up close.
As you arrive back at the depot and disembark, you walk over to the main house, or perhaps check out the rum distillery being built right next door.
Your trip has left you a bit hungry... Hummm, a snack, or complete breakfast. lunch or dinner at Gaylord’s or should you save room for the Luau?
Perhaps a bit of shopping will settle your mind. There are many shops within the Kilohana mansion as well as Kilohana Clayworks where you can watch pottery being made.
Would you like to know more about Kilohana Plantation and all that it has to offer in addition to the railroad? Just click here to continue your tour.
We look forward to seeing you soon at the Kauai Plantation Railway.
Be sure to watch the movie on the next page and if you're a train buff don't miss out on the history page. There you will find many interesting facts about railroad history in the islands as well as the story of creating the Kauai Plantation Railway.
Train tours can fill up quickly during the busy season, so if you know that dates you're going to be on Kauai email us and we'll let you know the best tour dates to suit you plus information about special seasonal events.
Want a virtual tour of our train ride?
We are located on Highway 50.
3-2087 Kaumualii Highway
Lihue, HI 96766
If you are on the North or East side of Kauai, head SOUTH. We are located 1 mile out of the town of Lihue on Highway 50. Look for our white picket fence and large Train sign.
If you are on the South or West side of Kauai, head EAST. We are located right next to the Kauai Community College. Look for our white picket fence and large Train sign.
The Railway is located at Kilohana Plantation next to Kauai Community College. Scroll on the map below to find the college—when you've found the college you've found Kilohana!
View Larger Map
Please contact us to make your reservations for the Train Hike Orchard tour or the Plantation Train Tour.
We can also help you book your special event at Kilohana. Why not take your wedding party on the train and celebration your union under a tree in the most beautiful place on earth. Or do you have a special birthday or other event coming up? We can provide complete service from transportation to the very best gourmet catering and professional musicians and other entertainment.
Just let us know what we can do to make your Kauai vacation even more special!
Train Only Tour:
Open 7 days a week, train tour is 40 minutes long, train leaves the Depot on the TOP of the following hours: 10 & 11 am, 12 Noon, 1 & 2 pm, Prices: Adults $18, Children 3–12 years $14, Infants Free
On Tuesday and Friday we have a Late afternoon 40 minute train tour that leaves the Depot at : 5:30 pm
Tours M–F, check in 9:30 am, return 1:40 pm, Prices: Adults $75, Children 3-12 $65
Luau & Train Tour:
Check in at 5pm, Luau only price: Adults $95, Teens $65, Children $45 plus Train Only price per above
or call 808-245-RAIL (245-7245)
The stationmaster's office is open from 9 am to 4 pm, Monday through Saturday. (Closed Sundays.)
A detailed history of railroading in Hawaii and the building of the Kauai Plantation Railway
- PASSENGER CARS
- KAUAI RAILROAD HISTORY
The Kauai Plantation Railway is the first new railroad to be built on Kauai in nearly 100 years.
Over 2.5 miles of roadbed has been constructed with more than 6000 wood ties in place, and tens of thousands of pounds of iron rail were hand-spiked in place at a traditional three foot gauge.
Motive power is currently provided by a restored 1939 Whitcomb diesel engine—similar to the first internal combustion engines that ran on adjoining Lihue Plantation during the pre-war period.
Two historic Hawaii sugar plantation steam engines have already been purchased and plans are underway for their renovation and future addition as part of the Kauai Plantation Railway. The engines were built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, of Philadelphia, for plantation service on the Island of Oahu. Delivered in 1899 and 1916 respectively. Sold to a sugar plantation in the Philippines in 1947, the engines worked there until 1998 when they were set aside. Recovered in 2004, these two steam locomotives represent some of the very few Hawaii engines to have survived.
The 1899 engine was named “Halawa” and is an 0-6-2 tank engine of 18 tons—her sister engine, named “Manana” was built in 1916 to exactly same design.
Both ran on the Honolulu Plantation Co operation near Pearl Harbor until 1947, when they were sold to the Hawaiian-Philippine Sugar Company, of Silay City, Island of Negros, Philippines.
To have located a matched pair of Baldwin engines with Hawaii history is a major feat and their future return to service in the Islands will be an important contribution to historic preservation.
The passenger cars used on the Kauai Plantation Railway have been inspired by similar cars from Hawaii’s railroad history that were built during the era of King Kalakaua.
Designed for traditional style and to give you an open view of the tour, each 36 seat coach provides comfortable enclosed accommodations for the 40 minute ride.
An open-sided covered excursion car offers those who enjoy the open air another option for viewing the plantation. These cars are similar to those that ran along the coast line before World War II as part of the Oahu Railway,
Each of these replica passenger cars were specially handcrafted to order in the Phillipines and are mounted on the frames and running gear of flat cars originally built for service on the Oahu Railway in the 1940’s.
In 1962 they made their way to Alaska and the famed White Pass & Yukon Railway, where they served until the late 1980’s. Back in Hawaii they were rebuilt and received custom built superstructures.
Once again rolling the rails in Hawaii, these well-traveled flat cars now accommodate passengers instead of loads of freight.
Railroads on Kauai date from 1881 with the first three miles of rail laid at Kilauea Plantation. By 1915 there were nearly 200 miles of narrow gauge track in service on the sugar plantations of the Island.
Early sugar planters encountered transportation problems from the start. They struggled with wagons on unpaved roads to move cane from the fields to the mills and processed sugar to the ports for shipment to market.
In late 1881 management of the Kilauea Plantation ordered rail equipment from the John Fowler Co, of Leeds, England. Rail, spikes, a locomotive and cars arrived on Kauai late in 1881. By the end of 1882 the line was in operation. Track gauge was 2 foot and the tiny (likely 6 tons) 0-4-2 Fowler locomotive could move up to ten loaded cars of cut cane in one train.
While the original line at Kilauea Plantation remained at 2 foot gauge to the end, all the other lines on Kauai chose 30 inch gauge, the only Island in the Hawaiian Chain to run with this gauge.
The success of the Kilauea line led management at the Koloa Sugar Plantation, the first on Kauai, order a similar Fowler locomotive. Instead of the 2 foot gauge however, they chose 30 inch(2' 6") gauge for their line. The reason is not known. The success of this line soon prompted management to order a second Fowler locomotive of similar size.
By 1887 the Koloa operation needed more powerful engines and ordered a 10-ton, 0-4-2T locomotive from the Hohenzollern Co. of Germany. Today this engine is preserved by the Grove Farm Homestead Museum in operating condition—it is the oldest functioning plantation locomotive in Hawaii and is put in steam occasionally for special events.
None of the railroads on Kauai were intended for passenger service, although on special occasions flat cars were outfitted with seats and canvas roofs.
Workers often rode out to the fields on the railroads and returned on the last trip of the day. The daily work on these railroads involved moving cars loaded with cut cane from the fields to the mill and the bags of processed sugar to the nearest ship landing, as well as moving supplies and equipment to the plantation from the landings. The expansion of the plantations increased the length of the railroad lines and the improvements in the sugar processing plants enabled much greater production capacity.
As the lines increased in length and management wanted to move larger quantities of sugar cane per trip, the locomotives were upgraded to larger units. The Baldwin Locomotive Works, of Philadelphia, became the prime supplier to most Hawaii plantations and Kauai was no exception.
Initially the 0-4-2 design was popular, but soon the larger 0-6-2 wheel arrangement, with the water tank draped over the boiler ("saddle tank") was favored because of its high tractive effort and the ability to negotiate sometimes less than perfect track.
Historians have called these the "Bulldog Baldwins" for their squat, compact appearance and renown pulling ability. At one point there were more than 20 of these engines in service on Kauai at the same time. Three of them survive in the collection of the Grove Farm Homestead Museum, two of which are operational.
The Kauai Plantation Railway has been fortunate to locate and recover a pair of these Baldwin 0-6-2 tank engines that once ran on the Honolulu Plantation Co, on the Island of Oahu. Unlike the other Kauai railroads, these are 36 inch gauge, which was common on all the other Hawaiian Islands. Once restored this will raise the number of Hawaii narrow gauge steam engines on Kauai to six, the largest surviving group of Hawaii sugar engines in existence.
By 1927 plantation managers began to experiment with internal combustion engines and a 12-ton Plymouth diesel was placed in service at the Kekaha Sugar Company and was soon followed by similar units on other operations. In 1936 management at the Lihue Plantation purchased a 10-ton Whitcomb diesel-mechanical engine, which proved to be successful. The following year a second, similar engine was brought on line.
The Kauai Plantation Railway has located and restored a 1939 Whitcomb diesel-mechanical of the same design as the early Kauai engines, thus replicating this era of Kauai railroading. Also on the Kauai Plantation Railway roster is a 1948 GE diesel-electric engine similar to the early GE units purchased by Lihue Plantation Co.
In the same period many Kauai plantations began to experiment with the use of motor trucks in harvesting and other hauling needs. This marks the beginning of the end for plantation railroads on the Island. As the lines began to be pulled up locomotives were sold to other Kauai plantations, sold elsewhere, or scrapped on site. Following WWII the improvements brought on during the war in motor trucks and tracked vehicles brought most of the Kauai railroads to an end.
As elsewhere in Hawaii, the plantation railroads were largely gone by 1950 or so, with only the Lihue Plantation Company on Kauai keeping its railroads in service until 1959—far longer than expected. By that time five large GE diesel engines were doing the majority of the work, with several of the old steam engines in reserve.
Through the foresight of Mable Wilcox, a member of the family who owned the Lihue Plantation Company, the Grove Farm Homestead Museum was established to help preserve Kauai's plantation history. The museum was able to acquire and preserve four of Kauai's steam engines, three of which have been restored to operational condition.
Though the plantation railroads of Kauai no longer haul sugar cane, the preservation efforts of the Grove Farm Homestead Museum, and the operations of the Kauai Plantation Railway help visitors and Island residents experience this long-gone aspect of Island life.
Riding a narrow gauge train on the Kauai Plantation Railway through the plantation fields is a unique and wonderful opportunity to travel back in time to the heyday of Kauai's railroad history.