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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 20, 2004

Hawai'i by horseback offers views of the great outdoors

By Pamela Ching
Special to The Advertiser

Hawai'i on horseback?

With Mokoli'i Island in the background, Lyle Kleusch leads a group along a trail at Kualoa Ranch. The ranch, on O'ahu's Windward Coast, is a popular horseback-riding location for international tourists.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

Some may scratch their head, but for those disinclined to spend all day at the beach, this activity vaults to the top of the list of things to do on O'ahu.

There are many types of rides available with varying terrain and levels of difficulty.

Whether you're in the mood for a trail ride, a carriage ride, or even a wagon ride, the great outdoors can be experienced and enjoyed to great satisfaction.

Here are some companies that offer equine pursuits.

Kualoa Ranch

Modern-day paniolo or "Hawaiian cowboy" and trail guide Kaipo Lau-Chai delights in taking Japanese tourists out for a spin on the quarter horses and palomino horses of Kualoa Ranch.

The former rancher conveys "aloha spirit" toward Kualoa's visitors with a smile and the claim: "I've met a tourist from every state in the Union."

Kaipo likes to chat up a large group in both Japanese and English, as he explains the tale of Kualoa — literally meaning "long back" — of a legendary Hawaiian dragon, referring to the mountain ridge that extends from the Ko'olau range.

Kualoa Ranch, founded in 1850, enjoys its status as the oldest horse and cattle ranch on O'ahu.

On the Windward Coast, roughly 45 minutes from Waikiki, this venue for recreational horseback riding is most popular among international tourist groups.

Ranch staff and trail guides can speak conversational Japanese, and both the saddle-challenged and horse hobbyist are welcome.

Visitors have a choice of a one- or two-hour trail ride boasting panoramic views of Kane'ohe Bay, Mokoli'i Island (otherwise known as Chinaman's Hat), Ka'a'awa Valley and the mountains.

The shorter ride cuts a wide path along the southern half of the ranch, while the longer ride journeys into verdant valleys where motion pictures such as "Jurassic Park," "Godzilla" and most recently, "50 First Dates," were filmed.

History and culture buffs will appreciate the remnants of World War II bunkers, and ancient Hawaiian treasures such as an 800-year-old fishpond.

Daily start times: 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 12:40 p.m., 1:50 p.m., 3 p.m. (2-hour ride begins only at 3 p.m.)

Duration: 4 to 5 hours total including transportation.

Days of operation: Seven days a week. Closed New Year's Day and Christmas.

Cost: 1-hour ride, $47 ($40 for military/kama'aina) 2-hour ride, $87 ($74 for military/kama'aina).

Reservations: Two to four days in advance.

Restrictions and conditions:

• Minimum age—10 years and up and 4 feet 6 inches or taller. No children under 10.

• Maximum weight—230 pounds.

• No pregnant riders.

• All participants must be in good physical condition.

• Recommended—Long pants, towel and sunscreen.

• Required—Close-toed shoes.

Riding level: This outing is safe for the first-time rider as well as the very experienced. All riders must sign a liability release before riding.

Contact: Phone: 237-7321; Web: www.kualoa.com; e-mail: activity@kualoa.com.

Happy Trails

Mark Becker has owned and operated Happy Trails Hawai'i for the past 13 years. An avid poloist, Becker's stable of horses was taking its financial toll when wife Tammy — the business guru in the family — said, "If you want to keep playing polo, then you're going to have to find a way to make (the horses) pay for themselves."

Almost all of Mark's horses are purebred and several of them regularly play in polo competitions.

Some of the best canyon and ocean vistas are found navigating the Pupukea and Waimea trail ridges. While varied topography may require your attention to horse and terrain at times, the scenery from the mountaintop is straight out of a movie.

Trailside, you'll encounter a diversity of flora and fauna including guava trees (you're allowed to pick the fruit for eating), kukui nut trees, groves of ironwood, tropical birds, and even wild pigs foraging for food on occasion.

Daily start times: 12 p.m., 2 p.m. (1-hr. ride) 9:30 a.m., 4 p.m. (1 1/2-hr. ride).

Duration: 1 hour, 1 1/2 hours.

Days of operation: 7 days a week.

Cost: 1-hour ride $45 (military $35), 1 1/2-hour ride $55 (military $50).

Reservations: Two to four days in advance

Restrictions and conditions:

• Video and large lens cameras are not permitted on the trails.

• Minimum age — 6 years old.

• Maximum weight — 235 pounds.

• Recommended — loose-fitting pants.

• Required — Close-toed shoes.

Contact: Phone: 638-7433; Web: www.happytrailshawaii.com; e-mail: happytrails@hawaii.rr.com

Kahuku-Kai Horses

Kahuku-Kai Horses' trail rides take place along the coastline of the North Shore, just below the Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku.

The preferred time for riding is in the afternoons, when it's not as hot.

Duration: 1 hour

Cost: Adults $45, children $35.

Reservations: By appointment only

Contact: Phone: 293-8081, 222-9544; e-mail: kahukukaihorses@cs.com

Restrictions and conditions:

• Children — under 70 pounds.

• Maximum weight — 250 pounds.

• Recommended — Long pants and closed-toed shoes.

• Booking maximum — Four.

Riding Level: This outing is safe for the first-time rider. More experienced riders are allowed to canter.

Turtle Bay Resort

The North Shore setting of Turtle Bay Resort enchants its guests with breathtaking views.

The picturesque hotel sits back on a short bluff overlooking the sea, a shared stomping ground for green sea turtles and surfers.

Horse and rider stroll along a white sandy beach, then venture back into an ironwood forest tucked behind Kawela Bay.

Anyone can enjoy the leisurely pace of this 3-mile ride, which features an ancient banyan tree and a World War II bunker.

Equestrians can take advantage of the trot and canter rides offered daily while popular carriage rides and private party rides fulfill the romantic notions of many a guest including.

Daily start times: 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., or 1:30 p.m., 4 p.m. (evening ride).

Duration: 40 to 45 minutes, 1 1/2 hours (evening ride).

Days of operation: Seven days a week.

Cost: Adults $45, Kama'aina $35, children $30, evening ride $65.

Reservations: Day before.

Restrictions and conditions:

• Minimum age 7 years and 4 feet 4 inches or taller

• Adults — over 12 years old

• Maximum weight — 225 lbs

• Booking minimum for evening ride: 2

• Booking maximum for evening ride: 6

• Booking maximum for 45-minute ride: 8

Contact: Phone: 293-6000; Web: www.turtlebayresort.com; e-mail: tbrconcierge@benchmarkmanagement.com.

Koko Crater Equestrian Center Inc.

Koko Crater Equestrian Center takes riders on undulating trails and through one of the islands five botanical gardens. Residents can take advantage of the "Horsing Around" program that grants members access to horseback riding six days a week and discounts of 50 percent on lessons. Pony parties are also available.

Duration: Trail ride, 1 hour.

Days of operation: Tuesday through Sunday.

Cost: Trail ride $40, $375 per 10 tickets, horsing around $160 per month and $75 registration fee, pony parties $250 plus tax includes a party of up to 10 children, cake, camera, and use of the facilities.

Reservations: By appointment only, one to two days in advance for trail rides.

Restrictions and conditions:

• Required — Helmets (provided).

• Maximum weight — 200 pounds.

• Booking maximum — Five.

Contact: Phone: 395-2628, 256-1317.

Riding level: This outing is a walking trail only and safe for beginners. Advanced riders must take a trot and canter lesson.

Ziggy Pony Parties

Reservations: By appointment only

Cost: $150 to $280 per hour; military discounts offered.

Contact: Phone: 696-8560.

Honolulu Horse and Carriage Ltd.

Honolulu Horse and Carriage offers scenic tours through Waikiki with friendly operators. It also offers its horse-drawn carriages for special events including weddings, birthdays, proms and more.

Duration: 25 to 30 minutes.

Days of operation: 6:30 to 11 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, weather permitting.

Cost: Adult $15, child $7, Special events: one horse and carriage: $300 for the first hour, $175 for each additional hour, $200 horse only for the first hour. (Prices vary depending on location.)

Reservations: First come, first serve

Restrictions and conditions:

• Children — Under 70 pounds.

• Maximum weight — 250 pounds.

• Booking maximum — Four.

Contact: Phone: 924-7895; Web: www.honolulucarriage.com; e-mail: hnlhorse@aol.com

Correa Pony Rides

Weston Correa has offered trail rides as well as Shetland pony rides in Waimanalo for 14 years. The ride follows the base of the Ko'olau Mountains overlooking the ocean, with views of Makapu'u lighthouse, Turtle Island and Manana (Rabbit) Island.

Daily start time: 8:30 a.m., roughly every 1 1/2 hours.

Duration: 1 hour.

Days of operation: Seven days a week.

Cost: $60, pony corral $10.

Reservations: By appointment only; group rides, one day in advance.

Restrictions and Conditions:

• Minimum age — 10 years and up for trail ride.

• Maximum weight — None.

• Recommended — Long pants and tennis shoes.

• Booking maximum — Four.

Contact: Phone: 259-0014.

Riding level: This outing is safe for the first-time rider. More experienced riders are allowed to canter.

Party Time Ponies

Reservations: By appointment only, at least one month in advance

Cost: $100 for one pony per hour, $175 for two ponies per hour up to six ponies and horses. There is a $50 deposit required to book.

Contact: Phone: 668-6540

Restrictions: Maximum weight 80 pounds for pony only.