In 1838, King Kamehameha III requested that Spanish-Mexican vaqueros from California teach Hawaiians how to manage wild herds of cattle. In Hawaiian, the vaqueros and Hawaiian cowboys became "paniolo" which derives from español. Paniolo heritage is deeply rooted in an appreciation of the natural world and music along with skilled artisans known for unique saddles and tack, braided rope and flowered lei. The paniolo cowboys of the Hawaiian islands are well renowned for their musical talent with the `ukulele and guitar. Paniolo traditions carry on in local culture today at several of the ranches on Oahu and throughout the islands. Over the centuries in Hawaii, horseback riding has changed from being the sole source of transportation to a relaxing and fun leisurely activity.
Recommended Horseback Riding Excursions:
Hawai'i Polo - Feel the fire at a polo game on Oahu's north shore at Hawai'i Polo. Polo is a historic sport involving two teams of players aiming to score in the opposing team's goal using a long-handled mallet from their horseback mount. Things can heat up quickly when experienced riders barrel down a large grassy field. Hawai'i Polo also offers trail rides with unique views of North Shore's Pupukeia beach. Bring a bathing suit, since guests are encouraged to spend the rest of the day at the shore. Oceanfront Trail Rides: 808-220-5153, Polo School: 808-226-0061, Website: www.hawaii-polo.org.
Gunstock Ranch - Also found at North Shore, Gunstock Ranch offers an alternative selection of horseback riding tours for the keiki (children) or honeymoon sweethearts. In addition, this is the only ranch on the island to offer monthly "Moonlight rides" available only during the fullest days of the moon cycle. If the dark is a little too spooky, Gunstock Ranch offers a "Sunset Ride" tour, a two-hour ride including a barbecue steak dinner with a campfire. Lovers can enjoy the "Sweetheart Ride" leading guests to a private scenic lookout. Those who've had experience in the saddle should note that advanced trail rides are available where guides will take the group at faster gaits. The ranch is also home to the children's Paniola O Ko`olauloa 4-H Club, and hosts a variety of equine activities like barrel races, roping and rodeo events throughout the year. Booking information: 808-341-3995, Website: www.gunstockranch.com/horseback_rides.
Kualoa Ranch - Located on the windward side of the island, early cultural accounts such as songs reference the Kualoa area as a sacred place for native Hawaiians. Kualoa Ranch offers two packaged riding tours. The one hour tour covers the southern half of the ranchm which shows riders "Chinaman's Hat" (Mokoli`i island) off the coast and an ancient Hawaiian fishpond, a unique educational experience about the ancient Hawaiian's way of life. The two hour tour takes guests into the lush Ka`a`awa Valley, where many Hollywood blockbusters such as Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates and the hit TV show Lost were filmed. Led children's rides are offered for those too young to attend the regular horseback tour. Booking information: 808-237–7321, with transportation to and from Waikiki available, Website: www.kualoa.com.
Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii - The Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii, certified by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) sits on the windward side of Oahu in Waimanalo. The aim there is to work with individuals of all backgrounds in an effort to improve their mind and body through horsemanship experience. At THH, individuals learn the in's and out's of horsemanship, from riding to the grooming and tack process.Riding Lessons and Therapeutic Riding sessions run from a half hour to an hour, emphasizing physical and emotional development and of course, fun! Booking information: 808-259-7107 or 808-342–9036, Website: www.thhwaimanalo.org.