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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The authentic cowboy experience👌

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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

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