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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Horseback Riding in Hawaii on the Big Island

Aloha Hawaii lovers,
Good news everybody! Some more Big Island adventure is coming your way, beyond Humpback Whale Encounters in Hawaii and Big Island Hula Festival. Joanne, one of our dedicated blog visitors, is back with another great story about her Hawaii vacation. Last time, she told you all about her Oahu Vacation and what she recommends visitors to see and to do on Oahu. Today it's quite an entertaining story about her horseback riding experience in Hawaii. OK here is what Joanne Sala from California has to say about Horseback Riding in Waipio Valley of the Big Island.

Horseback riding in Waipio Valley Big Island

"One of the things I love about going on vacation is experiencing new adventures that are outside my comfort zone. I don’t know about you, but I get caught up in my day-to-day life. My work days are long and my weekends tend to be filled with social obligations with family and friends. I rarely make time to go for a hike, or God forbid, do anything really wild like scuba diving or whitewater rafting. So when the opportunity arose to go horseback riding in the Waipi’o Valley while we were on the Big Island, I jumped at the chance.

The Waipi’o Valley is tucked into the northeast side of the island along the Kohala Mountain chain. A mile wide at the coastline and nearly six miles deep, the valley has soaring cliffs reaching almost 2,000 feet with dozens of waterfalls cascading over them. Seeing this magnificent place for yourself is one of those oooh-ahhhh moments.

Waipio Valley Big Island
My husband and I booked a tour with Naalapa Stables. They have an office about 10 miles outside of Honoka’a where you pay for the tour and ride in their van to reach the horses in the valley below. As we were driven past the magnificent Waipi’o Valley overlook, then down the hill’s steep, twenty-five percent grade, I couldn’t help but notice all the warning signs absolutely forbidding anyone to drive down the road unless you were in a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

A twenty-five percent grade doesn’t sound like much on paper, but when you’re the passenger in the shotgun seat of an ancient, creaking workhorse of a truck, you’d get a little freaked out too. I tried to distract myself by looking out the window at the blue, blue water below as we pitched ourselves deep into the valley floor. A sign inside the van read, “tips appreciated,” and right then I knew our driver handsomely deserved one each time he down-shifted those groaning gears and navigated his way through the steep hairpin turns.

Once we arrived at the stables we were assigned horses according to our skill level. It was then that I realized, I don’t even like horses! I’m a neurotic city girl with allergies to everything. Now I was going to have to sit atop this massive beast and actually try to get it to obey me. As I swung my leg over the saddle and grabbed the reins, it dawned on me I was hoping for a gentle Disneyland-type ride where I didn’t have to do much, except sit back and enjoy the scenery. Thankfully, two experienced guides led our group. With just a bit of prompting, my horse somewhat obeyed my tentative commands, though she did stop to eat grass and drink water from the flowing streams we crossed whenever she felt like it.

Big Island Paniolo
As our knowledgeable paniolos led us around the valley and shared the area’s history and ancient Hawaiian lore with us, we crossed several streams and meandered down verdant trails for nearly two hours. The air was warm and loamy and reminded me of the fishing trips I used to take with my dad when I was a child. Despite my fear of having to “steer” the horse, there was plenty of time to sit back in the saddle and just appreciate the beauty of the taro fields and gaze at the breadfruit, orange and lime trees surrounding us.

As our tour was coming to an end, one of the guides, who was riding atop a young, energetic horse, decided to move quickly ahead and take a short cut through the trees and over a narrow stream. My horse, not caring what I wanted, quickly followed and ran us through the trees at a fast gallop. She was about to jump over the stream when I felt my seat rise out of the saddle. Suddenly my whole body was in forward motion. I was seconds away from being thrown head first off my horse. I stood up in the stirrups and quickly pulled back on the reins before she made the leap. Whoa! The horse stopped suddenly and I plopped back down in the saddle. Whew. Disaster averted. It scared the hell out of me, but that’s what I came for, wasn’t it? A little adventure."

Joanne, much mahalo for sharing your Big Island horseback riding adventure with our blog visitors! We loved your story and are sure our blog audience will love it too. Furthermore, we hope that this is an incentive for other Hawaii visitors to tell us about their vacation adventures. We can't wait to hear from you. Mahalo and aloha, Pua Hawaii Vacations

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