Waipio Valley Horseback Riding
Cost per rider: $85 per person
Waipio on Horseback offers special guided excursions in the beautiful and secluded Waipio Valley, also known as Hawaii's "Valley of the Kings." Your adventure begins at mile marker 7.5 on the road from Honokaa to the Waipio Valley overlook where you check in for your ride and meet your guide. You'll begin your tour with a memorable and hair-raising 4 wheel drive van ride to the bottom of the valley floor. The road is the steepest in North America with a vertical drop of 900 feet in less than a mile. The road is so steep that In places the grade hits 45 degrees! Don't even think about taking your rental car down here. Getting into (and out of) the valley is half the fun of this tour.
When you arrive on the valley floor you find yourself in a land that is more lush and fertile than you can imagine. The valley is lined with steep cliffs and 1200 foot waterfalls. Near the back of the valley you get saddled up on your horse and begin your ride. The trek takes a leisurely pace, with guides narrating throughout the ride. They explain the history, legends, and facts of life in the valley today. The trail meanders through lush jungle along the hillside, with many stream and river crossings. If you love to ride a horse wading through water, this is the ride for you!
Total time spent on horseback is about an hour and a half. Following the conclusion of the ride you still have to get OUT of the valley, and sitting in the back of the van gives you a great perspective on where you've been and just how steep the road really is!
Rides are available at
9:30am and 1:30pm Monday through Saturday (closed Sunday). Please remember this is a rain forest area and bringing a light rainjacket is a good idea. Showers are frequent and do not affect the operation of this tour. This tour does occassionally cancel due to high river levels in the valley!
Riders should be agile and in relatively good health. No pregnant women and no neck or back injuries. Maximum rider weight is 225 pounds. Minimum age for children is 8. Long pants and closed-toed shoes are required.
To arrive with ample time for checkin, driving time to the ranch is approximately: 2 hours from Kona, 90 minutes from Waikoloa, and and hour and 45 minutes from Hilo.
WOH / V
Because of the distance from the ports in Hilo and Kona AND the timing of these tours, this ride is not possible for most cruise ship passengers. If you have a large enough group it may be possible to do a customized tour time that would make this ride possible when you are in Hilo. Call us for details! Otherwise, we recommend Mendes Ranch on Maui or Princeville Ranch on Kauai.
When you stand
at the Waipio Valley overlook it feels like the valley below is an entirely different world. When you get to the bottom you realize you were right, but you had no idea just how right you were. Life here is a taste of old Hawaii, long before there were resort hotels with infinity pools and fake waterfalls made out of concrete. This is the REAL deal ... a few hours spent in this valley and you will NEVER want to go back to your day job.
When my wife and I did this tour our guide was Stacey. He is a crusty, long-time valley resident who has been driving this road for years. He was as animated and lively as any tour guide I've ever heard. He really MADE the whole experience ... just riding in the van with HIM as the driver justified the tour price ... and that was before we even got on the horses. At $85 per rider this tour is a VERY good value considering the transportation that is included in and out of the valley.
When we reached the stable in the back of the valley, we were joined by two other guides; a brother and sister who are also Waipio residents. I've been on some trail rides where the horses seemed like they wish they were somewhere else; or they mindlessly follow the horse in front of them. These horses were well groomed and accepted rider instructions well. My horse was George Jr, and he did what I told him to do, not the other way around. I don't know; maybe George Jr. had the same thing to say about me!.
The thing that makes this ride really special is all the water crossings. There are times when you cross streams, and other times when your horse is walking up a stream. At one point the river was actually up to the horse's knees!
After the tour be sure to check out their t-shirts at the ranch. I really like the simple design, and wearing the shirt the next day in Kona I must have had a dozen people ask me about the ride. Great advertising I guess!
I recommend this ride highly, not just as a horseback ride, but as a great way to experience a very unique place in the world!
One final word about the road for those of you who are thinking of driving it. Yes, the road is VERY steep. Yes, four wheel drive is really required. As a matter of fact, if you are caught with a 2 wheel drive vehicle down in the valley you'll get a nasty ticket in the nieghborhood of $200. The cost of that ticket pales in comparison with the cost of having that 2 wheel drive vehicle towed back out of the valley with a 4 wheel drive towtruck. I've heard that bill runs around $700. Even if you succeed in renting a jeep, I don't recommend driving this road. Want to see why? Check out this final picture: