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.
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.