Off island guests, always the best excuse to get out and explore the Big Island. this time it is my sister in-law Darcy and her friend Karen. With three horse addicted women, add my wife to that list, it is inevitable that at least one excursion would involve a ride.
The Big Island offers many options for horseback rides, with a rich ranching history the traditions of horsemanship run deep in local culture. Several island ranches offer riding excursions. This time we chose a slightly different setting, the beautiful Waipio Valley.
Na’alapa Stables offers a two and a half hour morning or afternoon ride. We chose a morning ride to avoid the usual afternoon clouds common on the Hamakua Coast. The ride is just under $90 per person, and they do offer a kama’aina discount.
First order of business is to check in at a small office beside the Waipio Valley Artworks. A number of local tours originate here. Everyone loads into a four-wheel-drive van for the trip into the valley. The ride into Waipio is an adventure in itself, the road dropping 800ft in half a mile with spectacular views of the canyon.
The horses appeared to be pretty good stock, they seem well cared for and well trained. I had no real issues with my mount, except perhaps that the horse was well habituated to the ride. Any attempt to deviate from the line of horses was met with resistance. Drop to the side of the line to get some photos? That would take both hands on the reins! Darcy and Karen, who own their own horses and ride regularly, had good things to say about their mounts. They also complimented the handlers, the folks with Na’alapa Stables were professional and know their business.
The setting is spectacular, this is Waipio after all. A lush tropical valley with multiple streams and waterfalls. Cliffs well over a thousand feet high isolate this eden from the rest of the island making access a challenge. Horseback is a pretty good way to see it, much different that my previous vehicular excursions into the valley. I was free to let the horse follow the other riders and take photos.
Do plan on getting wet on this ride. It rains regularly in Waipio, particularly in the afternoon. Even if is not raining, the ride takes you through numerous streams, at least one up to, or above the bellies of the horses. Getting off the horse my boots sloshed. No matter, I had worn some old boots knowing that this would happen.
I may be an indifferent rider, even so, I enjoyed the ride. The scenery is simply spectacular, and I did get some good photos. The gals were just loving it, riding the valley on horseback such a memorable experience that they were going over every photo and chatting about each moment for hours afterwards.