The 6 Best Horseback Riding on Big Island  

Aloha fellow adventurers!

I can’t tell you how many times my boyfriend and I have gone horseback riding on the Big Island, where the paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys) once roamed. The rich history of cattle ranching, dating back to the 1800s, is truly something to experience first-hand. We’ve had some amazing rides through Waimea’s expansive lands, Hilo’s rainforests and waterfalls, and the awe-inspiring Kohala mountainscapes – all perfect for exploring on horseback.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Where do I even begin?” Well, don’t you worry! As someone who has been studying and researching horseback riding tours in Hawaii for years now (and having ridden on quite a few myself), I gotchu covered. In this article, I’ll be sharing with you my favorite tours that cater to both beginners and experienced riders alike.

Warning: After reading about these incredible adventures waiting for you on the Big Island, your wanderlust may spike so high that your boss will start questioning why you need to take time off so urgently…

So whether you’re an adventurous soul looking to connect with nature or just want to create unforgettable memories with loved ones, saddle up

Paniolo Adventures at the Ponoholo Ranch 

Start your horseback riding adventures from the stunning Kohala Mountains, where an 11,000-acre cattle ranch stretches from the rainforest to the coast. Paniolo Adventures offers five different riding tours at the Ponoholo Ranch, with breathtaking views of the Kohala coastline, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai Volcanoes on the Big Island. 

The most popular tours are the Morning, Afternoon, and Sunset horseback rides that go through the ranch’s vast lands in Upper Waimea, with sprawling green hills, mountains, and views of the Pacific Ocean in the background. In addition, riders can walk, trot, and canter their horses on these tours for 2+ hours, with expert guides leading the way. 

What’s more, the ranch offers tours for experts, like the Wrangler Ride, lasting 4 hours with lots of cantering and trotting, and the walking-only City Slicker Ride for beginners, which goes at a relaxed pace. 

My boyfriend and I loved the terrific riding with Paniolo Adventures, and you need to try them for the best horseback riding on the Big Island.

  • They provide bottled water, sunblock, boots, dusters, cowboy hats, and helmets for the ride. 
  • The guides are professionals and guide you well during the tour. 
  • The tour includes a walk through the expansive cattle farms.
  • They offer private horseback riding tours for small groups.

Waipi’o on Horseback 

Although the Waipi’o Valley is closed for guests until further notice, ranches from the area continue to offer stellar horseback riding tours through the area’s lush mountainscape. Enjoy one such amazing tour with Waipi’o on Horseback, offering 2.5-hour tours of their beautiful ranch grounds. 

The tour starts at the WOH Ranch, where guests are saddled and led to the mountains. The working cattle ranch spans 500 acres from the mountains to the ocean, and riders pass through lovely coconut orchards, banana groves, and fishponds during the tour. 

The tour passes by tons of breathtaking sights, like the historic Hamakua ditch, into pastures blooming with purple flowers, and tunnels of guava and ironwoods. In addition, you’ll be riding wild horses native to the valley, now tamed and trained for the best horseback riding. 

So don’t miss a trip to the WOH Ranch for the best horseback riding on the Big Island. 

  • The local guides share legends from the valley and its history on the ride.
  • You’ll pass by baby sheep, horses, and calves on your ride during spring.
  • You can also book a thrilling ATV ride on the ranch’s grounds. 

Na’alapa Stables at Kahua Ranch

The best way to explore the gorgeous area that houses Waipi’o Valley on the Big Island is through a tour of the Kahua Ranch, one of Hawaii’s oldest working ranches. Here you can find the Na’alapa Stables, offering multiple horseback riding tours through the Kahua Ranch’s beautiful sprawling grounds. 

Your tour will be led by Hawaiian paniolos on the best horses as you ride past stately cinder cones and lush pastures with grazing sheep and cattle. Riders can choose between 1.5 and 2.5-hour tours, with opportunities to trot or canter, all while taking in panoramic views of mountains and the coastline. 

Their horseback riding is perfect for beginners and experts both, as the guides match horses to riders according to your skill level and experience. 

Don’t miss a trip to the Kahua Ranch on your next trip, as they offer terrific horseback riding on the Big Island. 

  • The guides are friendly and share fun stories throughout the ride.  
  • The horses adapt well to the riders and easily follow your lead.
  • You can avail a 10% discount by booking tours from their website.

Wailea Horseback Adventures 

Travel to the Big Island’s eastern edge, home to rainforests and waterfalls, where you’ll find the Wailea Horseback Adventures, a Hawaiian family-owned business with 30 years of horseback riding experience. They offer riding tours through the gorgeous Hamakua Coast, Umauma River, and waterfall. 

On this tour, you can experience the Big Island’s only horseback riding excursion with waterfall swimming. The round trip lasts 2.5 hours and includes walking horses through open pastures with livestock and enjoying views of Mauna Kea and the Pacific Ocean from the Hamakua Coast. 

The tour also provides private access to the Umauma waterfall, where guests can take a dip in the cool freshwater pool and unwind after the ride. In addition, the waterfall is a favorite picnic spot, so pack a meal with your tour and enjoy it with lovely views of the falls. 

My boyfriend and I loved taking this tour with Wailea Horseback Adventures, as they have the best horseback riding on Big Island. Here’s why you’ll agree:

  • The tours take small groups per ride, perfect for family and friend groups.
  • The riding is ideal for all skill levels, as they provide trail-broken, patient horses.
  • The guides teach you authentic Paniolo-style riding on the tours.

4D Quarter Horses at Dahana Ranch 

Explore breathtaking sceneries of the Kohala Coast, and Waimea, with horseback riding at the Dahana Ranch, also known as 4D Quarter Horses. The ranch offers a range of fun rides for beginners and experienced riders going over the beautiful hills of the Mauna Kea volcano.

Their Ohana ride is perfect for families and novice riders, lasting 1.5 hours and accommodating children as young as three years. However, experts should try their Advanced ride, with opportunities to trot and lope in the presence of guides. 

My boyfriend and I booked their Cattle Drive, which included pushing cattle on the ranch’s hills from horses, and hollering at cows to move them along. This ride is fun for beginners as you experience how cattle ranches function. 

We enjoyed our trip to the Dahana Ranch, as they offer some of the most fun horseback riding on the Big Island. Here’s why you’ll agree:

  • You get to walk horses open-range with no nose-to-tail riding. 
  • The guides are terrific and keep you entertained throughout the ride. 
  • The ranch offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean from its hills.

Ho’omau Ranch 

A lesser-known location for incredible horseback riding on the Big Island is South Kona near Captain Cook, where the Ho’omau Ranch lies between native Hawaiian rainforests. They offer small group tours, perfect for those searching for a private horseback riding trip. 

The riding tour provides a nature adventure like no other, going through the lush rainforest as the fresh mountain breeze blows past and bird calls echo from the trees. Riders of all ages will enjoy horseback riding here, as local instructors lead you through the forest trails and maintain safety at all times. 

In addition, the ranch is family owned and operated, with cozy cottage-like accommodations available for guests. My boyfriend and I stayed overnight at the Ho’omau Ranch and took an early morning riding tour, and the experience was amazing – quaint and relaxed!

We highly recommend the Ho’omau Ranch for horseback riding on Big Island, and here’s why you have to come here:

  • They also offer ATV/UTV tours on the ranch’s grounds.
  • They sell macadamia nuts and organic honey grown from their farms.
  • Guests of the ranch can enjoy a homemade breakfast complete with farm-fresh eggs.

Winding Up The Best Horseback Riding in Big Island

Big Island horseback riding offers an unforgettable adventure for all. Hawaii Island boasts stunning ranches, perfect for horseback riding tours. These tours take you through Kohala mountains, Hilo forests, and the Waimea valley.

My boyfriend and I experienced remarkable horseback riding tours on the Big Island. We endorse them for anyone seeking an exciting Hawaii island activity.

Keen on tours in Waimea and the majestic Waipio Valley? Check out Paniolo Adventures, Na’alapa Stables at Kahuna Ranch, and Waipi’o on Horseback.

Fancy a horseback ride to a secluded waterfall? Wailea Horseback Adventures is a top pick.

For personalized horse riding excursions on the Big Island, consider Ho’omau Ranch in South Kona and Paniolo Adventures in the Waipi’o Valley.

Don’t miss out on the Big Island horse adventures!


Where are the best equestrian trails on Big Island?

The Big Island has several top horse-riding spots that offer unforgettable horse-riding excursions and equestrian activities. Paniolo Adventures at Ponoholo Ranch offers some of the best trails, taking you through a journey rich in Hawaiian history. For those seeking beach rides, you shouldn’t miss out on big island horseback beach rides for a unique interaction with nature.

What options for Hawaii horseback riding tours exist around Waipio Valley?

Waipio Valley is known for its impressive scenery and is home to multiple ranches offering guided horse tours recognized as some of the most adventurous Big Island Horse adventures. Additionally, Parker Ranch also presents spectacular sheep ranch experiences encompassing North Kohala’s beauty and intriguing historical tales about King Kamehameha met by Mexican Cowboys.

How does one engage in an authentic Hawaiian cowboy or “Paniolo” experience when exploring Hawaii Island on Horseback?

Engaging in Paniolo adventures takes you back to Hawai’i’s roots when authentic Hawaiian cowboys roamed this paradise island. These adventures include visiting well-known locations such as Ponohlo Ranch where the traditional art of horsemanship flourished. By joining their tour, one can experience guided exploration within beautiful parts of the island like Waipi’o Valley floor or even take a journey through Volcano National Park while enjoying superior Equestrian Experiences that embody true Big Island spirit.

Last Updated on August 20, 2023 by Brigitte