Horseback Riding in Waipio Valley with Naalapa Stables

Note: effective February 2022, access to the valley road is restricted, indefinitely. As such, access to tourist activities in the valley is prohibited.
A view of Waipio Valley on the way down to the valley
A view Waipio Valley at the start of our decent

I have to admit that I looked forward to the van ride down into Waipio Valley almost as much as the horseback ride. As we began our 25% grade (the equivalent of a 45 degree angle)  decent, my heart started racing a bit. We were advised to open the van doors and not fasten our seat belts in case the van tumbled off the road, we’d be able to get out of the vehicle quicker. Gulp!

The road down into Waipio Valley
My second-row view of this steep, winding road from the van window.

Though thrilling, our van ride was uneventful, thankfully. Once we arrived at Na’alapa Stables, the heart rate returned to normal. The slow and steady pace on horseback provided just the right speed to soak in Waipio’s verdantly green valley. As I guided my horse on the dirt road and through several streams, I was able to admire the fertile farms and canopy of trees. I could visualize how this valley had once sustained thousands of Hawaiians centuries ago.

Taro farm in Waipio Valley
Waipio Valley Taro Farm

While in the valley, I could finally see the many pencil-thin waterfalls flowing down the valley walls. I had heard about them, but had never been able to see them from the lookouts above the valley. The most impressive waterfall seemed to be perfectly positioned in the middle of the valley and its height is at nearly 1300 feet.

Waipio Valley waterfall
This Waipio Valley waterfall stretches nearly 1,300 feet.

One of the most surprising things I saw in the valley was an abundance of wild horses. Though wild, they may have been wearing watches as they seemed to know the feeding time for the horses of Na’alapa Stables. They showed up to steal some nibbles promptly at lunch time.

After thanking our horses for the gentle ride, we hopped back into the van for the vertical ride up out of the valley. That was one last adventure that completed the tour.

We saw a few hikers that made the trek down and painfully steep climb back to the top. I feel like we got to see a lot more of the valley via horseback than if we’d hiked it. Certainly, this horseback riding tour is more time efficient than hiking it.

We both enjoyed this slow paced view of Waipio Valley and definitely recommend this adventure as a great Hawaii vacation activity.

What to know when you go:

– Na’alapa Stables offers a morning and afternoon ride Monday – Saturday. We took the morning ride, which we liked, but I hear the afternoon ride is nice as well.

– The nice staff will match your riding experience and skills with the horse.

– Definitely pay attention to the instructions. The staff know the horses and their tendencies. Listen to their instructions that will keep you out of trouble.

– The price is $88.54 which includes tax, but not gratuity. This tour is well priced for a 2.5 hour adventure! (There’s a shuttle-only service that’s $50 alone.)

– Wear long pants and shoes with a covered toe that you wouldn’t mind getting wet. (I wore these shoes.) We crossed several streams.

– I recommend bringing mosquito repellant to be on the safe side. Mosquitos love my blood, so I wore it and didn’t get bitten. Andy didn’t wear any repellant and didn’t get a single bite.

– You might want to bring a bottle of water.

– You can see all the photos we took from our Waipio Valley horseback riding adventure. Please bear in mind that it’s difficult to take a photo one-handed on a moving horse.

– For more information and directions, see the Na’alapa Stables website.

Mahalo to Na’alapa Stabels for sponsoring our tour.

  1. This feature brings back great memories. I rode with Na’alapa Stables on two occasions, but many years ago. I once rode on one of their horses that was seen in one of the last scenes of the film Waterworld when the group had reached “dry land.” I am always amazed and envious of the folks who hike down into the valley. They must have supreme stamina to hike back up. What a steep ride. The valley is beautiful and the best way to see it is indeed on horseback. Great company and one of the best horseback rides in Hawaii.

    1. Thanks for your comment, John. I’m glad to hear that you’ve enjoyed this ride, too.

      That’s neat that you got to ride a horse that was a movie star. I hope you were able to get the horse’s autograph. 😉

  2. It’s been years and years since I looked down into this valley. What beautiful photos. I enjoyed it very much. Maybe when you are here in February, we can get together. Perhaps with Evelyn. She would like to take a trip out to Haleiwa to check out the cemetery at Liliuokalani church.

    1. Hi Karen — I do hope we can meet up when we’re there in February. I’m trying to arrange a group meet up / tweet up — potentially after work and the conference hours on Monday, February 13. I’ll let ya know.

  3. That looks so cool!! What a beautiful valley! Those people must be in some kind of amazing shape to hike back up out of there. Wow.

    1. Hi Janet — for sure it would be a heart rater getter upper to hike that Waipio valley road. At least some of the views along the way would take your mind off the extreme exercise.

  4. Sorry, but a 25 percent grade is NOT a 45-degree angle. A 25 percent grade drops 25 feet for every 100 horizontal feet; a 45-degree slope drops 100 feet for every 100 feet. A 25 percent grade is therefore only 14 degrees. Still quite a descent!

    1. Bill — I’ve heard and read it’s a 45 degree angle. Perhaps they meant from the absolute top to the absolute bottom minus the switchbacks? Perhaps it’s a tale that just keeps getting retold? Trust me, whether it’s 45 degrees or 14 degrees….I’ve been on it and it’s extremely steep. 🙂

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