Horseback riding in Hawaii

Horseback riding in Hawaii

If you’re like me you grew up reading the Black Stallion series. If you’re like me you simply drooled over the film when it premiered. As an adult I now realize that this Francis Ford Coppola classic was a stunning work of filmmaking and was even nominated for an Oscar in film editing and won a special achievement award for sound editing. 

And of course, the great Mickey Rooney was nominated for his role as well. 

While my Black Stallion was a chestnut Appaloosa, and my deserted island was a ranch in Oklahoma, I always dreamed of galloping a horse down a wide stretch of open beach, bareback with my arms thrown wide, just as Kelly Reno did in the film. 

Horseback riding in Hawaii

History of Horseback riding in Hawaii

While the US state of Hawaii is a top tourist destination for many obvious reasons, it’s also a fantastic place to experience the thrill of riding. Hawaiian cowboys called paniolos have been riding the ranges of the islands for over 150 years, and Parker Ranch on the Big Island is the oldest working cattle ranch in the United States, and one of the largest. Parker Ranch no longer offers horseback riding in Hawaii but they celebrate many equestrian events throughout the year.

If a visit to Hawaii is on your travel list, and you’d like to include horseback riding in Hawaii on that trip, these are a few of the places to make your dreams a reality, set against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful places in the world. 

Horseback riding on the Big Island

Horseback riding in the Big Island 

I live in Hilo and I think it’s one of the most special places on earth. Volcanos, rainforests, vast lava fields, and more combine to make this youngest member of the island chain a traveler’s dream. While it’s not quite as well known for its beaches as the neighbor islands, there are still plenty of places to go horseback riding on the Big Island. 


Ponoholo Ranch located in the highlands of Kohala is a rider’s dream. This working cattle ranch offers several rides designed to cater to various ability levels and desired experiences. Experienced riders will have the chance to canter through Kohala’s green valleys, and those who have never ridden can choose a ride on calm and gentle horses. All riders will have the ability to view the sweeping coastline of the Pacific Ocean, see both Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes, and catch a glimpse of the island of Maui on a clear day. This is horseback riding in Hawaii at its finest.

Horseback riding on the  Kohala region of the Big Island


One of the most stunning areas of the Big Island is Waipio Valley. Located at the northern tip of the island, this area is famous for its black sand beach and towering waterfalls. It’s also home to a small herd of feral horses. While you can’t ride any of those horses, you can take a tour with Na’alapa Stables on one of their trusty steeds. If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the feral herd frolicking on the beach.

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Horse back riding in Maui 

As one of the most visited islands in the state, Maui is home to a wealth of things to do, both in and out of the water. Horseback riding in Maui is an incredible way to catch sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, some of the neighbor islands, and ride through misty forests and vast pineapple fields. 

Mendes Ranch, owned and operated by the Mendes family, has been a working ranch since the 1940’s. They offer morning and afternoon rides along the coastline and finish with a stop on the beach. Experienced riders who are eager for something other than the nose to tail experience can book private rides and those who feel confident are able to gallop at a few points along the ride. They also offer a combination horseback and helicopter tour, which sounds like an adventurer’s dream come true. 


Makena Stables on the island’s southern shore has been in operation since 1983, and the owners are active in Maui’s rodeo community. The horses they use for their rides are fit and healthy, and the trails offer some of the best views of the southern coast of Maui. Take their sunset ride in the winter months where you’ll not only see one of Hawaii’s dazzling sunsets but you may see humpback whales breaching offshore. 

Horseback riding in Oahu 

The island of Oahu is much more than Waikiki Beach and the high rises of Honolulu. Its lush and varied terrain is dreamy and exquisite, and if I weren’t already so attached to the Big Island I might call it my favorite. Let’s just say it’s close. 

With a larger population than any of the other islands there are more opportunities for horseback riding on Oahu than on the other islands, and there is even a thriving polo club and competition scene that includes dressage, jumping, and western riding


However, the best stable with the best trails, in my opinion, is Kualoa Ranch. They offer a variety of rides to choose from but what makes them stand out from the rest is the fact that the trails you’ll be riding on take you through portions of the filming location for Lost. You’ll also see some old bunkers from World War II and the sheer beauty that is the Ka’a’awa Valley. Book early as their rides often sell

Hawaii is a beautiful and unique part of the world, and there is little question as to why it’s one of the most visited places in the United States, or the world. If you find yourself in the Aloha State and horseback riding in Hawaii is on your bucket list, consider one of these outfitters. 

You’ll be saying mahalo nui loa to your horses and your guides before you know it. 

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Guest writer bio

Cate Brubaker is a writer who has traveled to more than 40 countries, many of those in a camper when she and her husband drove from the United States to Argentina over a three year period. She loves horseback riding, SCUBA diving, and eating all the food. She and her husband currently live in Hilo, Hawaii.

Check out her blog at The Life Nomadic

Free or cheap things to do in Oahu

Free or cheap things to do in Oahu

Free or cheap things to do in Oahu

For such an expensive place to visit, you can actually do a lot of things for free or on the cheap in Oahu. From seeing attractions, doing an adventure experience, or just enjoying the beach in Oahu, there’s quite a lot you can do for free or cheap if you plan ahead and take advantage of all the free things you can do below. Check out the best free or cheap adventure experience in Oahu below to inspire to discover what you can do here on a dime.

Top 15 fun or cheap things to do in Oahu

Free HIkiing trails in Oahu trails

1.Go on a hike

There are so many amazing hikes that you can do around the island and most of them are free and a great way to see the fascinating and beautiful landscape of the area. Check out these fabulous hikes here for more details and inspiration.

2. Go snorkeling for free in Oahu

Snorkeling fun in Sharks Cove Oahu
Snorkeling fun in Sharks Cove Oahu

Snorkeling can be done around the island at various places where the tropical fish and coral still thrive and you have some snorkel equipment available to use. Among the most popular places include the protected snorkeling beach at Haunama Bay, Sharks Cove and Kahe Point Beach park. To find out the best spots for snorkeling check out all these fantastic snorkel sites here for you to visit for more information and additional web sites.

3. Rent a bike

You can do a cheap bike rental in Oahu at Waikiki through Biki which has over 130 Biki stops around Honolulu and rates as cheap as $4.00 in a one way route to longer use passes. Check out the Biki system and fares here for more details on these cheap rent a bikes here in Honolulu area.

4. Climb Diamond Head

Climbing up Diamond Head in Oahu
Climbing up Diamond Head in Oahu

One of the most popular attractions to do in Waikiki is to climb Diamond Head and enjoy the spectacular views of the city and coastline below. The visit and hike up through Diamond Head is only $1 for admission or $5 per car to the park and the hike up is about 1.4 mile roundtrip walk or about a 45 – 60 minute round trip walk depending on how many stops you make along the way. You can do this easily and better in the early morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat but also get spectacular light for views and photography. Check out the parks website here for more details and hours.

5. Ride The Bus around the island

A different take on riding around the island on the cheap instead of renting a car or doing a tour, you can go on The Bus on a one way trip around the island for only $2.50 and this includes one free transfer/stop you want to do along the way. Check out more details on the circle island bus tour cheap or multi day passes on The Bus here for more information.

6. Visit a botanical garden

Visit a Botanical Garden in Oahu Hawaii
Exploring a Botanical Garden in Oahu

You can go to a many of Oahu’s botanical garden for free and explore the many tropical plants and lush landscapes on your own instead of booking a tour. Check out the Parks and Rec botanical garden site here of all these spectacular gardens for doing your own DIY tour or follow along with a docent on a guided tour.

7. Explore Pearl Harbor for free

Free visit to Pearl Harbor national monument

If you catch da bus to Pearl Harbor or an inexpensive Uber ride, the rest of the visit and boat trip to the monument to the USS Arizona is all free. You can visit the grounds, video show and docent tour all for free as part of the national monument at Pearl Harbor. and the Arizona Memorial You do have to book reservations in advanced at this site to secure a timed entry admission, so book early. Although there are cancellations and availability different times during the day.

8. DIY historic walking tour of Honolulu

Visit historic Honolulu in Oahu
Visit historic Honolulu and the Iolani Palace in Oahu

You can actually join a free walking tour of Honolulu’s historic attractions here and enjoy the highlight attractions and key monuments in the area. This walking tour will give you a peek to the history, settlement and architecture of this historic district in Honolulu. The DIY tour is free and just follow the direction on the web site.

9. Go body surfing

Body surfing adventure in Oahu Hawaii
Body surfing at Lanikai in Oahu

There are so many wonderful body surfing beaches on Oahu and Waikiki beach being the most popular beach to do that in with a fantastic sandy bottom to enjoy this sport. Check out these other fun body surfing spots around the island you can go and have a real water adventure

10. Go surfing for cheap

Learn how to surf in Oahu Hawaii

If you know how to surf, all you need is to rent a board for a few hours and there are many beach areas that have hourly renting of surf boards available for you to enjoy. Check out this site for more information on rentals available in the area. If your new to surfing, you can go on the cheap by watching some free You Tube tutorials to get the basics and then rent a board and hang out with the newbies on the beach.

11. Kayaking on the cheap in Oahu

Kayaking in Oahu Hawaii
Kayaking in Lanikai, Oahu Hawaii

Same as surfing above you can rent a kayak for a nominal amount by the hour or half day to save on some costs of the equipment versus doing a kayak tour which is pretty pricey with the various operators. Check out this site for places you can actually rent kayaks by the hour.

12. SUP boarding on Oahu

Learning how to SUP board in Oahu

Want to do some SUP or try a SUP (Stand up Paddle) experience? You can do like the other water sports above by renting a SUP board by the hour from various locations. If your new to SUP, check out some easy beginning You Tube videos for basic instructions on how to get started on this easy sport.

13. Challenge yourself to climb up Koko Head

Excercise climb up Koko Head, Oahu
Molokini climb up Koko Head, Oahu

Climbing the steep Koko crater trail is a big challenge but you will be rewarded with sweeping views of the Eastern side of Oahu on your 1050 steps up to the top of the crater. Parking is free and easy and the trail head is easy to spot and before you know, you’ll be doing a major stair master challenge. Check out more details of the Koko Crater trail here for more information and images.

14. Go running at these iconic Oahu routes

Running along Waikiki beach
Running along Waikiki beach

Picture a perfect beach and jogging through the soft sands back and forth a few times to get a workout in and enjoy the scenery at the same time. Or you can run through various historic districts or fantastic landscapes that are beautiful to pass through and enjoy these popular local running routes. Check out these top runs in Honolulu here for more inspiration and images.

15. Enjoy a waterfall at Manoa Falls

hike for free at  Manua, Oahu

A relatively easy hike to get to at Manoa falls, this short .8 mile roundtrip hike is easy and passes through green and scenic landscapes meandering through bamboo forests, rainforest and the base of the Exercise mountains. You’ll walk parallel to the Manoa stream until you hit the base of the waterfall which is 150 feet in height. Check out the details of visiting the Manoa falls and surrounding areas here for more details.

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There you have it, What to do in Oahu for free or cheap with 15 tips that won’t break the bank. Bookmark this post for future reference when you are looking for some F ree or cheap things to do in Oahu from the typical sightseeing experience.

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Snorkeling Big Island

Snorkeling Big Island

Snorkeling Big Island

The Big Island has so many amazing snorkeling areas around the island worth driving to even if you’re on the opposite sides of the island. With so many different areas to cover for snorkeling adventure, you can have your pick of some of the fantastic snorkeling destinations on the island.  Being the youngest island in the chain, the Big Island of Hawaii is blessed with many large and small beaches with snorkeling venues or specific spots for snorkeling or diving spots into a magical world. You can easily do your own snorkeling or find a tour outfitter that goes to some of the more outlying and not to easy to get to places. There are also many safe and easy snorkeling areas to choose from that are protected and family friendly places to take the whole family. 

Fantastic Snorkeling around the Big Island of Hawaii

If you’re looking for amazing snorkeling on the Big, here are the top snorkeling spots around the Big Island that you will enjoy spending some time in.

Snorkeling locations around the Kohala coast area

Snorkeling on the Big Island kohala coast

Spencer beach – an easy family friendly beach area with snorkeling spot on the perimeter of the beach around the lava rock areas. Not as diverse in marine life, but a safe and easy place to go with children with calm and clear waters.

snorkeling at 69 beach in Kohala

Hapuna extension also known as 69 beach – This tree covered and shady beach is filled with little sandy beaches and fun snorkeling areas throughout the beach. Look for the rocky outcropping areas and coral zones to find most of the snorkeling activity around the beach and also the perimeter parts with rocky lava zones that tropical fish love to congregate around.

Makalawena beach on the Kohala coast Big Island

Makalawena beach park – a tough 5 mile drive on rough gravel road leads you to a series of beaches that gets better the further out you go. Snorkeling is best at the furthest beach where the water is pristine, clear and filled with tropical fish. Very quiet and only popular with locals so it is not busy which is great for a beach and snorkeling like this in Kohala.

Snorkeling around Kailua Kona area

The downtown areas of Kailua Kona have many small pocket beaches that are perfect spots for snorkeling fun. Check out the most popular areas in Kona below.

kahalu'u beach park in Kailua Kona

Kahalu’u beach park – this popular beach park just a few miles south of downtown Kona has a busy parking area that fills up quick and is also a family friendly beach with a small sandy beach area. The whole swimming area is protected and is a marine life sanctuary filled with amazing coral and tropical fish. Definitely one of the favorite snorkeling beaches to go to just a short drive from the downtown area.

Magic sands beach in Kailua Kona

Magic Sands beach park – a very small beach area that is popular with body surfers, it is also a great spot for snorkeling but a little rougher to swim in especially in the late afternoon when the swells are larger.

Snorkeling on the East side of the Big Island

The Hilo side of the Big Island has colorful snorkeling and beache parks that are family friendly and perfect for snorkeling fun. Check out the popular snorkel spots around Hilo area below.

snorkeling fun at Richardson beach park

Richardson’s Beach Park – the last beach in the string of beaches on Kalanianaole Ave, Richardson is family friendly with small protected areas and rocky lava zones where tropical fish love to hang out in along with turtle, monk seals and the occasional whale that visit the area during the winter season. There are beach entries with a life guard on duty in the beach areas and full facilities on site for shower and toilet.

Water fun at Carl Smith Beach Park, Hilo

Carl Smith Beach – a mostly grassy area with no beach but soft sandy bottom lagoons that host a lot of snorkeling opportunities to spot wonderful tropical fish and marine life. You can snorkel up to little islands or go through cool around the various parts of the park area. There is a life guard station and shower/toilet facilities. Also, this is also a family friendly beach area.

Reeds bay park snorkeling experience

Reeds Bay – a small lagoon area, just off Banyan Drive where most of the main Hilo hotels are located. This is the main family friendly zone that is perfect for kids, inlets and water sports like SUP and kayaking.

Coconut island for snorkeling fun in East Hawaii Island
SAMSUNG CSC

Coconut Island – the area off the island has little sandy beaches perfect for children and snorkeling fun. Local kids climb up the stone pillar and jump in the deep colder waters below which is entertaining to watch. There are shower/toilet facilities on site but no life guard on duty.

Snorkeling locations around the south side of the Big Island

Snorkeling in Southern areas of the Big Island

The southern part of the island has a few fantastic snorkeling areas that are also historical and worth exploring.

Snorkeling west Big Island at two step

2 Step beach – located on the opposite side of the Place of Refuge National Monument AKA Honaunau – 2 step is not a beach but more flat rocky areas with amazing tropical fish and marine life.  Relatively easy access to the water which becomes deep very quickly, the small bay is filled with amazing barbecuing, some coral and dolphins or whales if your lucky. While you are in the area, check out the historic Place of Refuge which was a royal compound and a refuge for commoners that escaped to avoid death or other ancient rules of conduct. There are no lifeguards or facilities on the beach/snorkel area.

Green sand beah and snorkeling fun

Green Sand beach at Papakolea

The gorgeous green sandy beach at Papakolea in the South Point area is a two hour hike around the coastline or a quick pick up ride (you can tip locals for roundtrips to the beach) and small climb down the cliffs to the beach. If the entry is good to the ocean, you can snorkel along the cliff areas where the tropical fish is hanging out. Definitely a one of a kind beach to enjoy in the area and explore. There are no life guards or public facilities at the beach area.

Captain Cook monument for snorkeling fun

Captain Cook Monumentj/Kealekekua – Just located in the bay fronting the monument, the sea life and tropical fish that live in the suddenly deep trench is impressive and colorful. The main ways of getting to this part of the open bay is by hiking through a trail from the top which takes a few hours, kayaking across of a launch area also three mile out or the easiest by taking an snorkeling tour with an outfitter that launches from the Kona area. You can also sign up for popular snorkeling tours are offered through Kailua Kona to get to this snorkeling spot. There are no life guards or public facilities at the beach area.

There are a few tour outfitters that go to Captain Cook and this sailing and snorkeling adventure tour is one of the best outfits to book a fantastic cruise and snorkel experience.

Punaluu black sand beach in Southern Big Island

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach – Close to the sleepy town of Punalu’u is the large black sand beach which is more popular with the various turtles that frequent the area and find the sandy black beach a perfect sun tanning spot. The snorkeling areas off the beach further to the left side is better for snorkeling fun, but be careful with heavier swells that occur later in the afternoon time frame.

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As you can see there are many options of places to snorkel on the Big Island of Hawaii. Depending on where you are planning to visit, make sure you have some down time to enjoy a beach and and enjoy some Snorkeling on the Big Island.

Best kid friendly beaches in Oahu

Best kid friendly beaches in Oahu

Best kid friendly beaches in Oahu

The best kid friendly beaches in Oahu are fantastic with so many amazing beaches that are family friendly. Many are in sheltered areas or with very shallow beach/waters surrounding the beach areas. But you still have to be aware of the unpredictable surf and swells that happen throughout the island and typically pick up in the later times of the afternoon. Fortunately, there are many family friendly beaches on to explore in Oahu to enjoy for the day. Following are some fantastic kid friendly places with easy access and protected areas that are specifically created or natural ocean spots for children.

Top kid friendly ocean and beach locations in Oahu

East side beaches at China Man's Hat

Kid friendly beaches on the East side of Oahu

kid friendly Waikiki beach in Oahu

Waikiki beach – the most popular stretch of beach on the east side happens to be protected in many areas and also have very shallow water and beaches which is perfect for families. There are also barrier protected areas that are specific to little keikis (young children). Take a walk along the entire strip and look out for the areas that have more children playing in the waters so there are lifeguards and more parents in mass in these areas.

Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park

More of a local beach located a short distance from the largest mall in Honolulu also called Ala Moana. This fantastic beach tends to be less crowded except for busy weekends when families come to hang out in the calm and shallow beaches with gorgeous views of Waikiki and Diamond Head in the background.

Halona Beach Cove

A sweet beach surrounded by dramatic lava rock outcroppings which was famous for the “Here to Eternity” movie scenes. Gorgeous cove with striking views, the beach area has aquamarine colored water and is perfect on calm days to bring children.

Kailua – Lanikai beach

Kid friendly Lanikai Beach Oahu

Located in the southeastern area, this popular and kid friendly beach has amazing soft sand, beautiful azure blue waters and gorgeous views of the coast and islands just across from the beach.  The narrow sandy beach is extremely busy on weekends so the best time to enjoy this stretch of beach is mid week time frame.

KuaLoa Beach park – a long stretch of quiet beach and sand with easy parking access and views of the popular China Man’s hat island.  Parking is free with great views of the coastline and the Ko’olau mountain range

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay in Oahu
Looking above Hanauma Bay in Oahu

A horseshoe shape bay that is sheltered with cliffs, this beach is one of the best and safest snorkeling spots on the island and is very popular with tourist and locals alike. To enter the beach, you first have to watch a video at the tourist center to get access and also pay a small entrance fee to the beach. You’ll be amazed at the abundance of tropical fish, marine life and gorgeous corals, so bring all your equipment and water cameras for a real treat. Check out the Hanauma bay website here for more details and information.

North shore family friendly beaches

North shore beaches in Oahu

The North shore is well known for the huge swell and giant surf that happens during the winter months, but there are plenty of times when the ocean is more calm with kid friendly beaches and snorkeling spots to enjoy. Check out some of the popular kid friendly beaches to visit in the North Shore below.

Waimea Bay Beach park

Waimea Beach park in Oahu
Waimea Beach park in the North Shore area

One of the most visited beaches for the giant rock outcrops that locals love to climb and jump from, the beach scene is very family friendly with a parking area. But come early because those spots fill out quickly. The large stretch of beach is a nice walking, lounging and swimming beach with afternoon swells that pick up late in the day. The bay is relatively calm during the spring to summer time frames.

Kuilima Cove and Turtle Bay  

Turtle Bay in Oahu

Located just on the northern tip of Oahu and at Turtle Beach park which is relatively quiet as far as beaches go and a good spot for kids to swim in the water. A protected cove area makes this a nice safe spot for kids and also a great place for excellent beach front dining at Turtle  Bay.

Sharks Cove at Pupukea beach park

Pupukea and Sharks Cove in Oahu
Pupukea and Sharks Cove in Oahu

With the rocky Sharks Cove located on one side of the beach and the sheltered snorkeling spot called the Three Tables this perfect beach area for kids is definitely family friendly and safe. Very shallow water and turquoise color, this is a very popular spot for spending the snorkeling or checking out the different tide pools.

Kid friendly beaches on the west side of Oahu

The west side beaches of Oahu tend to be mostly local beaches with the exception of Aulani (Disney resort). Check out these family friendly beaches for a slice of local beach life on the west side of the island.

Waimanalo Beach Recreation park

Waimanalo in West Oahua

A vast 75 acre park with a long stretch of sandy beach, Waimanalo is quiet and off the tourist map. Family friendly and water that is crystal clear and perfect for snorkeling.

Lagoons at Ko’olina

With over 4 lagoons to choose from and nice easy protected beaches make these family friendly beaches easy and safe for children. The beach is perfect for water sports like Sup boarding, kayaking or even snorkeling in the calm coves.

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Pinterest kid friendly beaches in Oahu to visit

Hope that these kid friendly beaches are on your radar when you visit Oahu. There’s plenty of kid friendly beaches in Oahu worth spending a few hours to the entire day to enjoy the outdoors, clear waters and protected beach areas. If you have other fantastic beaches to recommend, share it on the comments section below.

Hello and Welcome to This Hawaii Life

Hello and Welcome to This Hawaii Life

Hello and Welcome to This Hawaii Life
West Hawaii on the Big Island by Noel Morata

This website is a resource, guide and site that combines the best of Hawaii travel, food, culture and lifestyle. We will feature a variety of different topics that fits many needs for information, new ideas and trends, along with historical perspective and cultural viewpoint that draw from many different sources and inspiration.


West Hawaii on the Big Island by Noel Morata

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