The Mendes Ranch and Trail Rides story began in 1886 when the first Mendes settlers arrived from the Azores Islands, Portugal. But it wasn’t until 1940 when Manuel Mendes, also known as “Red,” established the first homestead that today is the ranch. And that is when he became a Paniolo-“Cowboy.”
Times were hard for Manuel. There was no running water or electricity, the terrain was rocky, and they had to travel over rough dirt roads. But with the fighting spirit of a Paniolo, Manuel never quit. With grit, sweat, and toil, he and his family established a working cattle ranch.
Soon, Manuel handed the reins of the ranch over to his son, Ernest. Cattle rustling was an issue back in those days, so Ernest needed a brand. His first choice was “EM,” but another ranch used it as theirs. Instead, he chose to use “EX” for his stock. The decision was serendipitous because the “X” deterred rustlers from branding over the brand.
Today, the Mendes Ranch is a working ranch overseen by Ernest’s son, Alan.
The point of our story is that when you sign up for a trail ride at Mendes Ranch, you get the real McCoy. Their land is rich with history, and as Paniolos, they’re passionate about their horses, your safety, and enjoyment as guests.
Driving up to the Mendes Ranch, you’ll pass through a stone gateway that’s reminiscent of something from a Hollywood Western. And the view from their West Maui Mountains perch is jaw-droppingly beautiful. The backdrop is the blue Pacific Ocean and nearby mountains. The picturesque setting makes the Mendes Ranch and Trail Rides idyllic for weddings, private parties, and corporate events.
But what Mendes Ranch and Trail Rides are noted for are their trail rides. They offer a morning and afternoon departure that follow the same route and cost the same.
Before your trail ride, you’ll be instructed on the “dos and don’ts” of horseback riding. This doesn’t mean that first-timers will be ready to gallop off into the sunset, but you will feel confident approaching and riding your horse.
After being briefed, you’ll mosey over to the corral, where they’ll introduce you to your horse.
What we found appealing about Mendes Ranch and Trail Rides is the care and expertise they take pairing riders with the best animal. The seasoned Paniolos are skilled at sizing up riders’ fear and anxiety about horses. And since horses have personalities too, the Paniolos make sure nervous guests ride docile horses that want to protect their rider.
Once mounted, you’ll begin your slow journey down from the 1,000-foot bluff to the bottom. During your descent, you’ll have stunning views of the ocean and surrounding mountains. Once you reach the beach, you can be photographed on your horse with the Pacific in the background. You can rehydrate with the water provided and stowed in your saddlebag. Then you remount and ascend the same trail to the corral. The roundtrip takes anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours.
Guests commented that Mendes Ranch takes excellent care of their horses and that the staff was friendly, safety-minded, and fun. Like most trail rides, the horses are conditioned to the trip, know the route, and plod along slowly. Experienced riders will enjoy sections of the trail to spur their horse into a canter.
We believe that if you’re looking for a trail ride that is the real McCoy, you need to consider making reservations at Mendes Ranch and Trail Rides.
Book your trip early! Mendes Ranch and Trail Rides are extremely popular. During peak season, they sell out up to four weeks in advance.