Kauai’s Zuckerberg: Ongoing Enigma Stirs Island Controversy Again

The nearly 1/3 billion dollar Mark Zuckerberg Koolau ranch here on Kauai seems to be a never-ending point of attraction, speculation, and controversy. Located 45 minutes north of Lihue Airport, the sprawling 1,500 acre property started with a $100 million purchase a decade ago, then began expanding. The Facebook founder, who is said to be worth some $130 billion, continues to stir displeasure for various things, real and perceived. At the same time, he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have donated over $20 million to Kauai-based nonprofits since 2018.

Non-disclosure agreements, rumors, and more.

People on the island who have worked for Zuckerberg say they are bound by strict non-disclosure agreements. That also came to light more publicly when a guard on the property suffered a heart attack, and his own family was not told until after he died due to the non-disclosures. This case is pending trial in June 2024.

As you drive by the gated and guarded compound, you can’t help but be struck by how it stands differently than other Hawaii estates. Even Bette Midler’s 1,500-acre Kauai property on the Kapaa bypass is modest compared with this, and it exists primarily to preserve the land on which it sits.

A recent expose details plans for two mansions and an underground shelter.

A 5,000-square-foot underground shelter plan has made global news. Although it could also be said that Kauai has suffered deadly hurricanes, this could be at least one reason for such protection.

The expansive personal and corporate complex is reported to consist of thirty suites with bedrooms and bathrooms, corporate conference facilities, and a restaurant-style kitchen, among other features.

Next up is Kauai cattle rancher Mark, with a twist.

Kauai has long been known as a great cattle ranching spot. And Zuckerberg plans to take that passion to new heights.

Zuckerberg revealed on Instagram that his latest fervor surrounds a most unusual way of raising cows on Kauai. The strange twist to this newest pursuit is Zuckerberg’s diet choice for his herd, which he said consists of macadamia nuts and beer. No joke! He added, “Of all my projects, this is the most delicious.”

Social media is alight with discussion of this latest venture, and Zuck is perennially controversial.

Contribution to greenhouse gas emissions criticized.

Zuckerberg didn’t escape unscathed from the online community, as concerns about the environmental impact of cattle farming were quickly raised. Cows are notoriously known for contributing to approximately 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, prompting criticism of Zuckerberg’s choice given the growing emphasis on sustainable and eco-friendly practices.

The debate on sustainable food sources found resonance in the comments, with some users pointing out that fellow billionaire Bill Gates advocates for the shift towards entirely synthetic beef in developed countries. Despite the environmental concerns, Zuckerberg, with Meta’s shares soaring by 168% over the last 52 weeks, seems financially equipped to indulge in his newfound hobby. Currently ranked sixth on Bloomberg’s billionaire list with an estimated net worth of $129 billion, Zuckerberg’s venture into cow farming adds an unexpected and amusing layer to his diverse portfolio of projects.

Modest but obscure Hawaii cattle farming venture.

While it is certainly noteworthy, there’s nothing particularly big or unusual about the Zuckerberg ranch. That in spite of simply wrong comments we receive, such as “Zuckerberg who stole 1/4 of it (Kauai).” Actually, it is small when compared with other massive ranches in Hawaii. For example, the historic Parker Ranch is the largest on the Big Island, sitting at over 130,000 acres. As for land holdings on Kauai, Robinson has more than 55k acres, while Grove Farm has over 30k acres.

You’ll recall that last year, Frank Vandersloot, of nutritional supplement Melaleuca fame, acquired 2,000+ acres here on the Garden Island for more than fifty million dollars. This controversial property is to have more than 500 cattle. The goal here, by the same man who now owns Hawaii’s two primary meat processing operations, is to produce up to 40% of Hawaii’s beef in-state.

One trend concerning local farmers is that such individuals’ consumption of prior agricultural acreage is reducing the already limited opportunity for traditional farming. However, given the cost in Hawaii, whether conventional farming is financially sustainable is questionable.

Some Kauai county officials believe the Vendersloot effort should be applauded if it increases Hawaii’s ability to be self-supporting.

Bette Midler’s Kauai Ranch.

Actress and singer Bette Midler is a familiar face, long associated with Kauai. The Honolulu-born performer has a real estate portfolio here on Kauai that includes multiple holdings. In 2000, she purchased a well-known 1,400-acre parcel adjacent to the Kapaa bypass road for $4.5 million, which was previously held by Amfac Sugar. This land has remained undeveloped due to Midler’s intention to preserve the vast expanse. She also owns 38 acres in Kilauea.

Bette Midler’s real estate holdings here rarely make local waves, and she is but one of many celebrities associated with Kauai. Over the years, this island has been a haven for stars including Pierce Brosnan, Ben Stiller, Britney Spears, Charo, Steven Tyler, Julia Roberts, John Travolta, and the late Michael Crichton. Also, Oprah, who recently re-ignited passion surrounding hiking on Kauai, and last but not least, Mark Zuckerberg.

The allure of Kauai has long extended beyond its natural beauty, attracting those who move and visit here, as well as celebrities seeking to be part of paradise.

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17 thoughts on “Kauai’s Zuckerberg: Ongoing Enigma Stirs Island Controversy Again”

  1. 3rd time visiting from Central FL. 1st for husband. Disappointed this time. Getting Shabby, most store employees not friendly. Only outhouses for visitors in some areas?? Would be nice if some $ could be used to spruce the island up. Disappointed!

  2. Mr. Zuckerberg, if you’re reading this, and I know that you are, please bring your business ventures to the island of Maui as well. Anything we can do to replace our number one industry, tourism, is a move in the right direction. Thank you, and best of luck in all of your ventures.

  3. All Zuck’s land once were in Hawaiian hands. The ahupuaa, (Hawaiian land division), of Pilaa, King Lunalilo.
    Ahupuaa O Waipake my Ohana (family), given to us by Tamehameha III, taken after the overthrow of our Hawaiian government, by the supreme court of the territory of Hawaii in 1906 that certified a deed that said author of deed testified in court that it was done by coercion, threat of bodily harm to my Great Great Great Aunt. That is how these land are no longer in Hawaiian hands, thieves, corrupt officials of a foreign occupation of Hawaii. The Hawaiian community calls this “legal stealing”. Tell the story of the Hawaiian Na Ohana.

  4. most of the island is not inhabitable due the the huge mountain slopes. So according to the Hawaiian Govt he literally owns 1/3 of the islands remaining land upon which homes could be built. he bought 3 plantations and walled in residents that have lived on that land for generations. He owns just under 2.5 sq miles. do you know how many homes you can put on that? I sincerely hope that the US government recognizes the Native Hawaiians soon and then they take back all the land that we stole from them. Zuckerberg does nothing for anyone unless its positively helps him out personally. He is building a fortress for him and his elite friends, he cares nothing about the island, its culture and its people.

    1. Please show me your Hawaiian Govt source that says that Zuckerberg owns 1/3 of the remaining land on Kauai that homes can be built on.
      That number seems absurdly incorrect to me.
      In reality, Zuckerberg owns about 1% of the land zoned Agriculture on Kauai (source: nass.usda.gov/Publications/AgCensus/2017/Online_Resources/County_Profiles/Hawaii/cp15007.pdf)

    2. Rob, you write that Zuckerberg owns “owns 1/3 of the islands remaining land upon which homes could be built”.
      This Cannot be true, as his 1500 acres is only about 1% of the island’s land that is zoned as agriculture, which is not readily available to build homes on.
      Where are you getting that 1/3 number from?

    3. Get a grip. North Shore has tens of thousands of acres available for homes. West side is mostly seed farms for big Ag – there’s a hundred years supply of land there if anyone wanted to live there. And no, neighbors were fenced out, not in. Zuckerberg had every right to build a wall on his private property.

    4. It is interesting how the narrative seems to change with locals… if it was a development adding hundreds of homes, there would be endless criticism of that as well, and in reality would likely be tied up by locals for years to prevent the development. Environmental impacts, sacred lands, etc. would likely be cited as reasons to block the development of a neighborhood.

      The way I see it, Zuck prevented the land from becoming a large development that locals would likely not be able to afford a home in anyway.

  5. I would call Zuckerberg many things but a star is not one of them. I wonder if he declares Kaua’i as his primary residence for tax purposes and pays his way?

    1. California has even higher tax rates than Hawaii in Zuckerberg’s tax bracket. Musk moved to Texas for a reason. But, Kauai Co. will make bank on the property taxes, especially once this mega compound is complete.

  6. Zuckerberg should not be allowed to buy up so much land on Hawaii, that goes for everyone. im a frequent visitor to the islands and i find it appalling that native Hawaiians cant afford to buy a house and live there anymore. It is because of people like Zuckerberg driving up prices and buying up all the land. He should have immediately stepped up and paid to rebuild Lahaina the day it burned. the amount of good this man can accomplish is beyond belief, yet he constantly shrugs his shoulders, flaunts his wealth, spits in the face of the poor, and rips the hearts out of Hawaiians. Time to pass some laws and get back those acres, and turn down All of his building permits.

    1. Exactly.

      It will not be easy, given the government we have.
      How can anyone anywhere justify digging up the island?
      Beyond belief.

  7. It should be pointed out that many estates and properties require an NDA as part of employment on the North Shore. What’s wrong with raising some cattle? The guy has been a good neighbor here on Kauai donating large sums of money for clean-up relief after the floods of 6(?)years and 3 years ago. I prefer one person holding tracts of land that will remain undeveloped under private ownership to houses built. I don’t think the Zuckerbergs are going to need to sell their properties soon. Hopefully, he will enlist in our efforts to restore Wailua to its Hawaiian legacy on the Coco Palms site.

    1. good neighbor? by building walls around the houses so they cant see anything? boxing out native Hawaiians by buying up property? whats he own now, 1/3 of the livable land on Kuai? how is that being a good neighbor? do you know how many houses for Native Hawaiians can go up on his land? Zuckerberg only does things that benefit him in the end. Gates, Bezos giving up most of their money to help those in need. What has Zuckerberg done to better humanity? Facebook has not made anything better.

      1. I’m no fan of Zuck but your comment makes no sense. He owns 1/3 of the “liveable land” on Kauai? What does this even mean? He owns 1500 acres of agricultural zoned land out of a total 150,000 acres of Kauai agricultural land. So he owns about 1% of Kauai’s ag land. And the vast majority of land zoned as agriculture can’t be easily developed to live on, at least with any density. Zuck’s acreage is very difficult to develop for any meaningful additional residential use, Native Hawaiian or otherwise.

      2. “1/3 of housing” huh? If you are going to make something up out of whole cloth, at least come close. He bought empty land, nearly all ag and bits of jungle. It was not, and will never be in our lifetimes, “native Hawaiian housing” paid for by someone else.

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