The land upon which Kapualei Ranch sits has been in the Austin family since 1868 as a result of James Walker Austin’s service to Kamehameha V. It has an ahupuaa running from the top of Kamakou to the shoreline at Kamalo Wharf.



1853 - James Walker Austin and Kamehameha

In 1853, James Walker Austin arrived in Hawaii and was quickly thereafter enlisted by Kamehameha III for his legal services. He served the monarchy in that capacity through the reigns of Kamehameha III, Kamehameha IV and Kamehameha V. In honor of his work for Kamehameha V, James Walker Austin was given the land upon which Kapualei Ranch sits on July 10, 1868, and the ranch was officially born.

The ranch has an ahupua`a running from the peak of Kamakou at an elevation of 4,970 feet to Kamalo Wharf at the shoreline. This wharf was the primary connection between Molokai and Maui when Lahaina, Maui was the capital of Hawaii, and for its time, was a bustling center of interisland commerce. While the state of Hawaii has not chosen to maintain Kamalo Wharf, the channel leading to it, along with the shoreline, are regularly used by residents for access to the deeper water outside Molokai’s famous reef line.

For many decades, land of the ranch was leased to various cattle ranchers, who raised beef cattle on its fertile soil and rugged terrain. Some of those involved with the ranch during that era include Norman Maguire, John Pereira, Sammy Pedro and Timiteo “Galing” Pablo, among others. Several of their fence lines are still in place today—a true testimony to their dedication and quality of work.


Beginning in the 1950s, the modern era of the ranch began, with underpinnings being set by two generations of Austin men, Lindsley Austin and his son, Kimo Austin. They turned additional portions of the lands into organized grazing paddocks and installed more basic infrastructure that not only established the ranch more formally, but also improved access and utilities for the surrounding community.


In the 1980s, the first facilities were constructed by then-manager George Maioho to support a horse operation and rodeo activities. These improvements eventually included a fully functional arena, a covered-stall complex, a round pen and other amenities. Although the ranch had as many as 300 cattle, it was during this time that the ranch began to be considerably more than just a cattle operation.

A growing concern arose in the 1990s about the ailing watershed on Molokai due to the amount of native forest being eaten by feral animals at the higher elevations. Additional acreage was fenced for grassland management as well as the formation of a strategic partnership with two neighboring ahupua`a under the oversight of The Nature Conservancy. During that time, The East Molokai Watershed Project was established and that partnership continues to this day, collectively working to protect native plant species and preserve the soil of Molokai’s majestic uplands.

Looking Forward - Top Quality Horses and Community Involvement

While the various facets of the ranch continued their respective operations, in 2006, Kapualei Ranch began to invest more significantly in its equine bloodlines with an emphasis on the formation of a small but top-quality selection of horses. This continues today. We specialize in fully papered AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) horses, and we have some of the most desirable bloodlines in the state of Hawaii, with improved refinement in each generation of foals. We have bred our horses to be well-rounded cow horses with physical and mental traits designed for performance under control. Our buyers range from top-level ropers to recreational riders looking for a horse they can implicitly trust. 

In 2006, Kapualei Ranch launched the Molokai Stampede. What started out as a small but entertaining event has grown into a fixture on Molokai’s event calendar. In addition to the essential roping events, the stampede has expanded to included barrel racing, calf scramble and dummy roping. In 2016, the ranch will hold its 10th Anniversary Molokai Stampede, with new events including mugging and pole bending. This event is a good representation of Hawaii’s paniolo, or cowboy, culture and is one of our highlights of the year.

The history of Kapualei Ranch is one of honorable tradition stretching from Kamehameha V to modern day stewardship, making the ranch one of Molokai’s treasured gems.