An Adventure Of A Lifetime

Karin Carswell leads horseback riding tours. Photos courtesy Karin Carswell

By Karin Carswell
Owner of Princeville Ranch Adventures

Please tell us about your business. We started with horseback riding tours in 1978. We now offer horseback riding, ziplining, hiking, kayaking and we have a Kids’ Adventure Center all on a working cattle ranch. We also sell local grass-finished beef at various North Shore markets.

Where did you grow up? I grew up on Kaua’i. I am a sixth-generation descendant of Abner and Lucy Wilcox, who came to Kaua’i in the late 1800s.

What school did you attend? I attended St. Catherine’s School from kindergarten until eighth grade, then high school at Hawai’i Preparatory Academy on the Big Island. Next I went off to college at the University of Denver, where I majored in business.

How did you get started in this business? My parents, Donn (Curly) and Gale Carswell, started Po’oku Stables in 1978. My siblings and I grew up leading trail rides and taking care of the horses. After college, I moved home to help run the business with my brother David. Our trail rides always rode across the lands of Princeville Ranch. Then in 1994 we acquired the lease for all of the ranch lands, and we took over the cattle operation. I became herd manager while continuing to oversee the stables operation with my brother. In 1999, David and his wife Denise started hiking and ziplining tours, and then we merged all of the activities and the cattle operation together in 2010, all under Princeville Ranch Adventures. In May of 2011, my husband Jeff Guest and I took over the entire ranch operation, which includes the cattle, horseback rides, ziplines and Kids’ Center.

Race 1,200 feet across the valley on the ‘King Kong’ line!

What sets your business apart? Our business is unique because of the natural beauty of the area and the diverse activities that we offer, mixed with an incredible staff and the deep history of the ranch. Cattle were first brought to the area in 1831, and Princeville Ranch has been a cattle ranch ever since. My greatgreat-great-uncle ran cattle on the ranch, and now my family is ranching the same lands, as well as offering eco tours that are a oncein-a-lifetime experience for many visitors and locals alike. What sets us apart is that we are the whole package: from horseback rides to zipline adventures, to a working cattle ranch, to the amazing beauty of the ‘aina. It’s all here. And on top of it all, our staff will make it an adventure of a lifetime.

Why do you do what you do? I do what I do not only because it is in my blood, but also because I love to do it. I get to work with cattle and horses, and with all sorts of different people who come to the ranch, in one of the most beautiful places in the world. To me, it’s the perfect balance. I am motivated every day by our company’s mission of providing worldclass customer service while offering a really fun and educational experience. Being a good steward of these lands also motivates me, which allows us to provide grass-finished beef without the use of hormones and antibiotics.

Do you have a motto or philosophy for doing business? Work hard, be honest, have fun and stay connected with all the different aspects of your business.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business? As any smallbusiness owner will attest, there are many challenging aspects of doing business on Kaua’i and in Hawai’i. Dealing with the ups and downs of the busy and slow tourism seasons can be difficult for staffing and retaining employees. Also, over the last few years the downturn in the economy has presented financial challenges. On the ranching side, we have more than 400 animals to keep track of and to keep healthy that can be a challenging feat.

What do you find rewarding about this business? Hearing or reading guest comments on what a fantastic time they had on the ranch, providing jobs for more than 50 people on the island, taking pride in the quality of care we give our animals and hearing from people about how much they love our beef.

How do you measure success? Doing what you love to do, whether it be raising kids, running your own business or working in an area that makes you happy. There are always going to be ups and downs in life, and accepting that with grace, while continuing to grow personally and staying connected with the people around you, is how I measure success. My favorite saying is “Live well, laugh often, love much.” To me, if you accomplish that, you are successful.

Are there any business/community organizations you’ve found helpful? I have been a part of Kaua’i Cattlemen’s Association for more than 15 years. To be part of a grassroots association with a group of ranchers who are passionate about the animals and land under their care has been very rewarding. Also, being a part of the AYSO and HYSA soccer associations and coaching my children, as well as other children in our community, has always been very fun and rewarding for me.

Kuhio Highway, Princeville