Tom’s Tips – Big Island Horseback Riding

Jan 11, 2018 | Activity Information

Horseback riding on the Big Island has always been a way of life, at least that was true after the first cattle were brought to the island. In 1793 Captain George Vancouver made a special gift to King Kamehameha the 1st of cattle he had brought from overseas. The king was so impressed with the animals that he placed a 10 year kapu on them forbidding any one to kill them. After 10 years they were well entrenched on the island and then a second gift was bequeathed upon the king from a trader to the kingdom. It was a horse. Another 20 years passed and by that time the cattle industry needed some serious attention in the form of herding and taking care of the cattle and in 1823 the first Mexican Cowboys, called ‘vaqueros’ were brought in from Mexico to take charge of the livestock. These men later became known as ‘Paniolo’s in the Hawaiian culture. It was about four years later in 1827 that Mexican horses were brought into Lahaina on Maui and it was noted that this was the first introduction to Hawaii of the mosquito.

The land referred to as the upcountry on the Big Island, particularly around Waimea and Kamuela became the famous pastureland for the Big Island beef. One of the largest cattle ranches in the world, the Parker Ranch, was founded in this area and from that point forward horses were a big part of the Big Island culture.

To this day many of the horseback rides are found in these areas, as well as others and the wide open ranch lands often allow for the ‘spread out’ style of horseback riding these rides provide for visitors. Most of these ranches are a good hour or two away from the hotels in Kailua-Kona so there is some preparation that is required in arriving at the correct time for your rides. Almost all rides offer ocean views and the area surrounding these ranches is quite breathtaking.