Kula, Hawaii – Hundreds of years ago, Hawaiian kings would hand out to subordinate rulers thin slivers of land that stretched from volcano to sea. The system of rule via these plots, called ahupua’a, was abolished in the 19th century, and much of the land was split up and sold as the value of Hawaiian real estate skyrocketed.
Henry Rice, a fifth-generation Hawaii native and banking dropout, lives with his wife Sandy on what real-estate agents and the Department of Land and Natural Resources say is one of the few nearly intact ahupua’a left in the islands: 10,000 acres of ranchland stretching continuously from the top of Mount Haleakala down towards the sunny beaches of Maui’s south shore.
Even though the Rices have sold off their beachfront lots over the years, appraisers say their ranch, named Ka’ono’ulu, is likely worth close to $50 million. (Hana Ranch, also on Maui, has oceanfront access but is in a more isolated location, is currently on the market for $65 million.)
The Rices say they will never sell what’s left. Ranch life is fast disappearing from Hawaii, and the family has employed the same native Hawaiian cowboys, called paniolos, for decades. After years of big-city living in Honolulu, Mr. Rice says he now spends his days roping cattle and fixing fences.
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