My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Horseback Riding in Hawaii’s Waipi’o Valley

2009/05/18by Donna Hull

Updated 07.01.2013

View from horseback riding tour in Waipi'o Valley, Hawaii

Horseback riding in Hawaii, Waipi’o Valley

When baby boomer travelers drive Highway 240 on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island, the road ends at Waipi’o Lookout. Peering over the rail at the dramatic valley fronted by a long, black sand beach, active travelers will be asking, “How do I get down there?” You have three choices—hike the road with its 1,000 ft. vertical drop, but that means a steep climb out. Violate the car rental contract and drive your 4-wheel-drive rental to the valley floor hoping you won’t be paying thousands of dollars to be towed out if all doesn’t go well. Or, go horseback riding in Hawaii.

Alan and I took the easy route. We opted for the tour. Anyway, doesn’t horseback riding in Hawaii sound romantic and adventuresome? We thought so.

Horseback riding in Waipi'o Valley

Riding through a river in Waipi’o Valley

The Waipi’o Valley Horseback Adventure tour begins at the Naalapa Stables office in Waipi’o Valley Artworks, which had excellent hand-crafted Hawaiian products to browse while we waited for the adventure to begin. After being transported in four-wheel-drive vans down the steep one-way road, we met our rides. Mine was named “Papa.” For the next two hours, the group (approximately 12 or so)  rode with guides Maile and Maki through the misty, green wet valley. We saw farmers tending taro patches, heard stories of the 1946 tidal wave that wiped out life in the valley, watched wild horses grazing and stopped for photographs of waterfalls. But it was riding through the valley’s rivers that proved to be the most fun, even for a novice like me.

Alan and I finished this boomer adventure energized from the experience, returning to our accommodations at Waianuhea Bed and Breakfast with a fun tale to share with other guests over wine. Our only disappointment was not making it to the black sand beach. It turns out that commercial companies are not allowed to take visitors there due to environmental laws.

Have you ventured into the Waipi’o Valley? Post a comment to tell me about it. This is one baby boomer adventure we’d be happy to repeat.


A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

MarthaAndMe May 19, 2009 at 1:33 pm

We’ve been to the lookout, but did not venture down into the valley. It was beautiful. It sounds like you had a wonderful adventure, although I would have sad to have missed the beach too.

Reply

MarthaAndMe May 19, 2009 at 6:33 am

We’ve been to the lookout, but did not venture down into the valley. It was beautiful. It sounds like you had a wonderful adventure, although I would have sad to have missed the beach too.

Reply

matt May 19, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Hey I think this blog is really interesting :)

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matt May 19, 2009 at 7:56 am

Hey I think this blog is really interesting :)

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pen4hire May 19, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Sounds like you had a great time. I’m afraid I would be saddle sore and drained rather than energized. What a beautiful place!

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pen4hire May 19, 2009 at 10:11 am

Sounds like you had a great time. I’m afraid I would be saddle sore and drained rather than energized. What a beautiful place!

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Lill May 19, 2009 at 10:59 pm

You didn’t miss much at the black beach. Most of it is rocky and the surf is so ragged it’s iffy beyond wading. There are lots of signs and it wasn’t feeling very hospitable when we were there. We hiked the interior using the Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer guidebook. Knowing where to go after crossing the creek was essential. The fields of taro were really pretty and we felt very removed from the rest of the world. The hike down and back up…..steeeeep!

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Lill May 19, 2009 at 3:59 pm

You didn’t miss much at the black beach. Most of it is rocky and the surf is so ragged it’s iffy beyond wading. There are lots of signs and it wasn’t feeling very hospitable when we were there. We hiked the interior using the Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer guidebook. Knowing where to go after crossing the creek was essential. The fields of taro were really pretty and we felt very removed from the rest of the world. The hike down and back up…..steeeeep!

Reply

Jennifer Margulis May 21, 2009 at 12:47 am

Fantastic to know all this. I am on my way to the Big Island this summer and this is on my to do list. I’ll have to read all your other posts on the subject. My focus is family travel. Any advice more than appreciated!!

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Jennifer Margulis May 20, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Fantastic to know all this. I am on my way to the Big Island this summer and this is on my to do list. I’ll have to read all your other posts on the subject. My focus is family travel. Any advice more than appreciated!!

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
May 21, 2009 at 12:56 am

Hi Jennifer,
More Hawaii posts will be coming. I like to spread them out offering varied information that appeals to all sorts of travelers. But, I do have much more to write about when it comes to the Big Island. If you have a specific question, feel free to ask.

Reply

Susan May 21, 2009 at 12:29 pm

My boyfriend and I hiked down into the valley, but it was quite trecherous (even for a relatively fit 20something) and I got cranky and tired. We hitchhiked back up and most of the drivers were happy to help. It’s not sketchy like hitchhiking in other areas. In fact, one of the park rangers suggested it!

Reply

Susan May 21, 2009 at 5:29 am

My boyfriend and I hiked down into the valley, but it was quite trecherous (even for a relatively fit 20something) and I got cranky and tired. We hitchhiked back up and most of the drivers were happy to help. It’s not sketchy like hitchhiking in other areas. In fact, one of the park rangers suggested it!

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
May 21, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Thanks for the hiking information, Susan. What did you think of the black sand beach?

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Jeanine Barone May 25, 2009 at 2:19 pm

I’ve been to the Waipi’o Valley and this is a lovely reminder of my time there. I hiked it at that time. But I love the idea of horseback riding, too.

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Jeanine Barone May 25, 2009 at 7:19 am

I’ve been to the Waipi’o Valley and this is a lovely reminder of my time there. I hiked it at that time. But I love the idea of horseback riding, too.

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Kris May 31, 2009 at 2:26 am

A number of years ago we ventured into the valley, also with Naalapa Stables – though our guide was Keoni. What a fabulous time. We had a spaghetti western moment crossing the stream and then coming up – accidentally – upon valley residents setting off firecrackers. Our horses bolted, but we got them quickly under control and continued our ride. The taro fields are just gorgeous and I loved seeing Hi‘ilawe in person.

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Kris May 30, 2009 at 7:26 pm

A number of years ago we ventured into the valley, also with Naalapa Stables – though our guide was Keoni. What a fabulous time. We had a spaghetti western moment crossing the stream and then coming up – accidentally – upon valley residents setting off firecrackers. Our horses bolted, but we got them quickly under control and continued our ride. The taro fields are just gorgeous and I loved seeing Hi‘ilawe in person.

Reply

William June 3, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Now that’s definitely Sydney Australia…i like the “feet” kinda creativity u gave ur banner…nice1

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Maggie June 3, 2009 at 9:58 pm

I knew as soon as I looked out at the overlook that this was where they filmed the end of WaterWorld.
I only went to the overlook in 2006, but in February 2008 I walked down the road. I went to the black sand beach, but did not cross the river, then walked to the twin waterfalls.
It is a strenuous walk, but I was proud of myself! I walked back up as well. I just kept telling myself that slow & steady wins the race. It was well worth it!
I was 52 at the time. It would have been nice to have someone with me, but I left my 82 year old Mom at the lookout.
The green sand beach was a fun hike as well especially in the pouring rain!

Reply

Maggie June 3, 2009 at 2:58 pm

I knew as soon as I looked out at the overlook that this was where they filmed the end of WaterWorld.
I only went to the overlook in 2006, but in February 2008 I walked down the road. I went to the black sand beach, but did not cross the river, then walked to the twin waterfalls.
It is a strenuous walk, but I was proud of myself! I walked back up as well. I just kept telling myself that slow & steady wins the race. It was well worth it!
I was 52 at the time. It would have been nice to have someone with me, but I left my 82 year old Mom at the lookout.
The green sand beach was a fun hike as well especially in the pouring rain!

Reply

NJ March 14, 2012 at 10:27 am

Amazing story about Hawaii! It was interesting to read about something less typical that vacationers enjoyed experiencing there.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Glad you enjoyed our post about Waipi’o Valley. It is definitely a unique experience. However there are many off-the-beaten-path activities in Hawaii if you look hard enough.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
May 20, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Hi Jennifer,
More Hawaii posts will be coming. I like to spread them out offering varied information that appeals to all sorts of travelers. But, I do have much more to write about when it comes to the Big Island. If you have a specific question, feel free to ask.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
May 21, 2009 at 6:28 am

Thanks for the hiking information, Susan. What did you think of the black sand beach?

Reply

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