Horseback Riding in Hawaii

From the deck of Paniolo Riding Adventures, a lush green carpet of rolling hills stretches for miles. This resident of drought-dry Northern California where “brown is the new green,” surveyed this incredible feast of wet greenery with great glee. Just then my daughter joined me, eyes closed, face raised into the sunlight.

“Do you hear that?” she asked.

“I don’t hear anything,” I responded. That was precisely her point. There was nothing to hear but the sounds nature choose to give up. A light breeze, a horse’s whinny, a tail from that same animal swatting a fly are what we heard — no urban traffic, no lifeless din of bass from a stereo inside a passing car on the street, nothing that indicated we were near a big city, because we weren’t. We were in the hills of Waimea, the horse country of Hawaii’s Big Island.

Located about 30 minutes east of Hilton Wailkoloa Village, Paniolo Riding Adventures takes groups horseback riding in Hawaii through the pastures of Waimea’s Ponoholo Ranch, an 11,000-acre, environmentally-friendly working cattle ranch which stretches from the rainforest to the ocean.

With a half dozen ride packages of varying times and themes to choose from, my husband, daughter, and I settled on the Picnic Ride, a three-hour adventure where we enjoyed views of the ocean below us and the island of Maui off in the distance while we traveled through vast pastures where large groups of cattle grazed. There were even some Hawaiian ruins to check out, large volcanic rocks stacked symbolically around a grove of Ohia trees.

An experienced cowboy accompanied us on our excursion, taking us through trotting and cantering on the horses, something my husband thought was a blast but my rear end didn’t appreciate. This activity also gave our daughter ample opportunity to laugh at her parents (something she finds lots of fun).

Horseback riding in Hawaii
When you go horseback riding in Hawaii with Paniolo Riding Adventures kids are required to wear helmets during their rides.

Part way through the ride we stopped in a very picturesque spot where the pasture seemed to stretch downward out of view and claimed some comfortable spots for lunch. The meal included a deli sandwich, chips, fruit, homemade dessert and bottled water.

All you could hear was the breeze coming up over the nearby trees and rustling the long blades of grass surrounding our picnic area. Peaceful only begins to describe the feeling it elicited.

Things move at a slower pace here, slow enough that it makes part of you long to stay and linger for a while. This must be why I felt such a tug in my heart when it was time to go.

While Hawaii’s Big Island is renowned for its black volcanic rock and rugged beauty, Waimea is quite different. Its rolling hills have provided a great environment for ranching and given rise to the folklore of the Paniolo, the Hawaiian cowboy. There are so many horses and so much livestock in the area, that the Stop signs in Waimea say, “Whoa!” instead of what we normally read everywhere else.

There were several times while horseback riding in Hawaii when we were deep in this landscape, away from other tourists, away from residents. It was just us and the large gangs of cattle lumbering and lounging around looking at us as if they wondered what on earth brought us to their pastures when we could instead be lounging by a pool with a tropical drink in hand.

Horseback riding in Hawaii through cattle pastures
We enjoyed horseback riding in Hawaii through pastures where it appeared the cattle wondered why we were there.

There was so much unspoiled ranch land spread out in front of us, I found it impossible to not stop and think, “Not everyone gets to see this!” Because Paniolo Riding Adventure leases the land where they are located and they have exclusive partnerships with the ranches near them, the riding traffic is limited and you are not likely to run into throngs of other horseback riders.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to go horseback riding in Hawaii — Giddy up!

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Know Before You Go

  • Hawaii consists of eight main islands: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kahoolawe, and The Big Island.
  • Hawaii has its own time zone (Hawaiian Standard Time). This time zone is 2 hours behind Pacific Standard Time. Hawaii also doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time!
  • It is considered rude to refuse to wear a Lei if someone offers it.

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Kristine D. Are you interested in traveling to ? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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