If you like Horseback Riding you are on the right island. There are many horses on the Big Island, especially in and around Waimea. The scenic open landscapes here are great for horse-powered adventures, and did you know that the island of Hawaii has a rich equestrian history including Hawaiian Cowboys?
The history of Paniolos – the Cowboys of Hawaii
Hawai’i has its own brand of cowboys, or Paniolo’s, and a rich history in horseback riding. When the Spanish vaqueros (“cowboys”) arrived on the island in the early 19th century they brought the traditional euro-latin culture of riding and roping skills. The king of Hawaii hired these vaqueros to teach Hawaiians herding and ranching skills in order to control the many cows that were given to the Hawaiian royalty as a gift, but now were roaming the island almost uncontrolled.
As the Hawaiian culture and Latin vaquero cultures mingled, a unique breed of cowboy emerged: the Paniolo. Waimea on the Big Island is Paniolo central, and the place to be if you like horseback riding – local style!
Horseback riding tours on the Big Island
Several ranches offer the opportunity to explore their (often very large) range as part of a guided horseback riding tour. Trails take you through the pastures with spectacular views of the coastline and peaks. It is also possible to see other spectacular parts of the Big Island, such as Waipi’o valley.
Horseback riding tours near Waimea
Two good vendors arranging horseback riding tours are located on the northernmost tip of the Big Island, 20 minutes (by car) north of Waimea:
- Paniolo Adventures at Ponoholo Ranch offers 5 different rides.
- Na’alapa Stables at Kahua Ranch. They offer a tour of the Kahua ranch and a 2.5-hour excursion on horseback deep into Waipi’o valley.
- Dahana Ranch (formally known as Nakoa Ranch) offers rides at their ranch that last between 1.5 and 2.5 hours. All rides need to be reserved ahead of time.
Especially the horseback riding tours in Waipi’o valley are an unique experience. Have a look at the follow video by PBS featuring the Na’alapa stables tour for an impression:
Horseback riding tours near Hilo
On the east side of the Big Island, midway between Hilo and Volcano in mountainview:
- Pa’ani Ranch horseback riding tour: offers small group tours of approximately one and a half hour in length riding through their 220-acre working cattle ranch for $90 per person (2017 price).