Surf, sand, sunshine – and horses?

Going on a horseback ride is not something you would necessarily expect to do in Hawaii. After all, Waikiki is just about every visitor’s dream of our beautiful Aloha State. Now don’t get me wrong, Waikiki is wonderful, but there are times when us city fold want to head to the country for some fun and adventure.

If you uncover the history of Hawaii, you will find that paniolos (Hawaiian for “cowboys”) were a big part of plantation life here in the islands since the 19th century. There were actually cowboys here in Hawaii before there were any in North America. Isn’t that just wild? Now my last ride on a horse feels like it happened more than a century ago, and my fifth grade self would (very happily) clean up the horse manure out of the stall knowing the arena lesson and trail ride would come later, so this trip to the Hawaii Polo Trailrides was something I’d been looking forward to for a long time.

The traffic was pretty clear on a Sunday morning, and it was not more than an hour and 20 minutes from Honolulu. We arrived early for the best riding conditions (it was cool, the winds were slightly breezy, and  the weather was clear. The morning is by the far the best time to go and I can say, that this is also the time when the beach is least busy. I might regret coming in the afternoon if I hadn’t. After the long drive, a trip to the restroom was in order, but the outhouse was a construction worker’s nightmare. Although I suppose an outhouse and a Port-o-potty are of equal (and equally stinky) nightmare potential. Bring a nose clip and prepare for 30 seconds of mouth breathing, or you can just hold your breath. The choice is yours. Fortunately, you can look forward to the fresh ocean breezes just outside the door. And a sink nearby.


Checking in was as easy as giving my autograph on a paper with a list of other names I could hardly read through the lazily scrawled cursive. There were a few choices of helmets to choose from – mine being one of the largest. Big heads run in my family. The guides came out to show me which horse I would be on for the next 90 minutes. A GIANT horse named Clara. I wondered whether or not this would be a good fit. I’m a short person after all, so I was a bit taken aback by the nearly 17 hands high horse they paired me with. Thankfully the girl at the stable offered me the stairs in order to get on, and I gladly accepted.

As we went on the ride however, I realized how easy a horse she was to ride on along the trail (I told them I was pretty much a beginner). The Mokuleia beach was a beautiful sight and we saw other horses at other stables just hanging out in their pasture. Hawaii Polo has access to the beach (one of only a handful on the island) to conduct their trailrides, so I was happy to get an opportunity to go out on their beach horseback ride.

My guide Adriana took some photos and told me about how the North Shore was home to the Oahu Railway and Land Company, also another major contributor to the plantation history on Oahu (the still have the little train rides coming out of Ko Olina, on the West side of the island). Life was much calmer on the North Shore 20 years ago compared to now, and it was really quiet for me. City life must be so loud that I cannot think of anywhere quieter to go but the North Shore. All this talk of trains and horses made me think of old Hawaii, and how it must have been like for locals (a lot simpler and quieter than it is now).


When you head into the field with the coconut tree, be sure to take some photos. What are the chances that we would see other people enjoying (?) the scenery 10,000 feet above us? We had good laugh at the screaming skydivers on their way down. I think it was more adrenaline than enjoying the views honestly. The skydiving place is located across the road, so you can see the planes up above as skydivers jump out. I’m too scared for something like that, so don’t expect a post with me skydiving out of an airplane mid scream.


The Haleiwa area is probably the best place on the island to do horseback riding and Hawaii Polo Trailrides gives you an opportunity to ride by the ocean, and offers views that you can’t see anywhere else. The beginning of the Waianae mountain range starts in this area and we had views of both Mauka and Makai (Hawaiian for mountain and sea).

After the horseback ride, we took in more of the Country. The shops in Haleiwa are nice, but crowded, so we decided to take a detour on our drive back down to Town with a stop in La’ie. And my least favorite actor The Rock went to high school here too…he was my favorite WWE wrestler if that’s any consolation. La’ie is also home to the Polynesian Cultural Center (conveniently closed on a Sunday so not much of a crowd) and the beach nearby was nice. There is a little shopping center with Foodland, ice cream, and more for your beach going needs.

We ended our trip with an late afternoon drive down the Windward side of the island to stop in Kailua for a late lunch. Best places to go for lunch in Kailua are Fatboys, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers, and Kalapawai Cafe. They serve these massive salted Chocolate chip cookies that I can’t eat, but jealously watch as my boyfriend ate one in front of me. My overall impression of the North Shore is one of relaxation and talking story with people. Country culture is definitely not the same as Town culture. I highly recommend everyone experience it. I had an enjoyable ride and I look forward to someday doing it again soon.

While the City offers you the luxury of most concrete jungles, you will find that the Country is a place you can breathe. On vacation, that is something we all can enjoy.