ATV tours are a fun way to explore the beautiful difficult to access places such as the wild forests and cliffs on the Kohala coast. These tours typically take you on a 10+ mile drive through private lands with stops on the way at scenic points, historic sites, and waterfalls.
What happens on an ATV Tour?
ATV tours take between 1.5 and 3.5 hours. At the start of the tour you will receive a safety briefing and a short crash course (pun intended) on how to drive an ATV. The drive itself is controlled and easy to do, even without previous experience. To drive an ATV you need to be at least 16 years old, children can often be brought along with the tour in ATV buggies.
After the introduction the real tour will start. You will follow the tour guide on your ATV and stop at several scenic points along the way. During some these stops you will be provided with snacks, get an explanation about relevant Hawaiian history, and sometimes it is even possible to take a quick swim at a waterfall.
Make also sure to check the weather forecast. Afternoon rains are common where the ATV tours take place and it is always better to be prepared!
What to bring on an ATV tour?
The tours themselves provide safety equipment such as helmets but you should make sure to bring the following items yourself:
- Closed-toe shoes (essential!)
- Long pants
- Sun glasses (to keep the mud out of your eyes)
- Bug spray
- Swimming gear (some tours include swimming at a waterfall!)
- A clean change of clothes for after the tour (you may get dirty and/or rained on)
What is an ATV?
An ATV (All Terrain Vehicle, wikipedia) is a small 4WD vehicle that handles like a motorcycle, but the extra wheels and weight give more it stability at slower speeds. ATVs are also know as a ‘quad’ or a ‘quad bike’ and are very well suited to navigate difficult terrains for drivers with little to no experience.
ATV Tours on the Big Island
There are 5 companies offering ATV tours on the island of Hawai’i: two in the northern Kohala region (closest to Kona and the Waikoloa resorts: ATV Outfitters, and the Kahua Ranch), two close to Hilo: close to Mountain View at the Pa’ani Ranch and on the Hamakua Coast by KapohoKine, and one in Captain Cook, in the south Kona district. Ride the Rim has unfortunately stopped operating tours.
We describe all these companies below, and refer you to the hawaiiactivities website to compare prices (including possible discounts) for the two largest ATV tour companies (#1 and #4 in the list below).
1: ATV Outfitters (North Kohala)
ATV Outfitters is a family-owned business that operates in Halaula on the northern Kohala coast, between Hawi and Pololu Valley. Their tours take you through old rainforests and a macadamia nut farm to breathtaking ocean views and a secluded waterfall.
ATV Outfitters offers 3 different tours that last between 1.5 and 3 hours. You can read more about these tours on the ATV Outfitters website.
2: Kahua Ranch (Kohala, halfway between Waimea and Hawi)
The Kahua Ranch is a large privately owned cattle ranch. They organize ATV tours of their 8,500 acre property that includes lush, cool Hawaiian ranch lands and some spectacular views.
ATV tours are only available for groups (group size between 6 and 20 people). You can find more information on the Kahua Ranch website.
3: Pa’ani Ranch (Mountain View, close to Hilo)
The ATV Tours on the Pa’ani Ranch take you through their 220-acre ranch. This part of the island is not as scenic as the Kohala coast but it has the convenience of being close to Hilo. There is unfortunately no visit to a waterfall included in this tour, but there are plenty of waterfalls to be found nearby.
They also offer horseback tours and have activities on the ranch for children of age 2-8 (a petting zoo, pony rides, etc.). You can find more information on their ATV tours on the Pa’ani Ranch website.
4: KapohoKine (MaunaKea trails ATV / Hamakua coast)
Almost 6 miles of trails on the lush Hamakua coast take you past waterfalls, muddy mountains and views of Maunakea, Mauna Loa, Kilauea and the Pu’u O’o vent. Note that for this tour you need to be 18 to operate the ATV. The tour lasts approximately 3.25 hours with 1.75 hours of riding.
Read more about this ATV tour on the KapohoKine website.
5: Ho’omau Ranch (Captain Cook / South Kona district)
A 2-hour tour that explores the native forests on the Ho’omau Ranch. This is a great way to explore the nature on this side of the island. Read more about this ATV tour on the Ho’omau Ranch website.
6: Ride the Rim (Kohala, Waipi’o Valley)
Ride the Rim has the unique advantage of location: their tours skirt the rim of Waipi’o Valley which allows for amazing views into the valley. Most of the tour takes you through eucalyptus forests and there is a stop at a small secluded waterfall where you can swim if conditions are right.