Horsing and Jeeping around Hawaii

Horsing and Jeeping around Hawaii
By admin

The swaying palms, the sun-kissed shores, the countless restaurants and bars – Waikiki’s got it all. Why even bother exploring Oahu, the island on which it’s located, when there’s so much fun to be had at the world’s most famous beach destination?

The answer is simple – you can be a tourist or you can be a traveller. I try to be the latter. And that’s why, after a couple of days of beachside bliss in Waikiki, I’m heading to Oahu’s legendary North Shore to go horse riding. Never mind the fact that my previous memory of this activity was of being on a family holiday in country Queensland and feeling scared when my horse started cantering. Today’s experience is extremely sedate – a 45-minute leisurely trail ride along the beaches of the North Shore.

And I’m travelling there in style – in a shiny red Jeep Wrangler with black leather seats and the all-important GPS. As much as I love Waikiki, heading away from the pedestrian-heavy streets and onto the freeway, with greater Oahu suddenly fanning out either side of you, is almost like a holiday within a holiday.

From our starting point, in the south-east of the island, it takes about one and a half hours of driving in a clockwise direction to the top of the island, where our trail ride will take place. But we’ve also allowed time for a much anticipated stop along the way at Haleiwa.

Picture the dusty main street of an old country town, with colourful buildings from a bygone era now housing charming little boutiques and eateries. That’s Haleiwa. It’s the most popular town to visit on the North Shore and is also known for its roadside shrimp trucks. They’re located in a nondescript clearing of dirt and grass near the centre of town.

At Giovanni’s Famous Shrimp I order the most popular item, the shrimp scampi. It’s marinated in olive oil, fresh chopped garlic, lemon and butter, and sauteed in a pan. Minutes later, my hands are a complete mess from greedily dipping the most delicious shrimp I’ve ever had into the spicy yet tangy sauce.

It’s hard to think that I may never come back here again, but I console myself by doing what nearly every visitor to Haleiwa does – buying some shave ice. Sitting on a wooden bench outside San Lorenzo Shave Ice and slurping the multi-coloured slush, I must be inducing some kind of sugar high. But this business of exploring the island is surely more tiring than lazing on the beach in Waikiki, and besides, I need the extra energy for horse riding. 

And that’s our next stop. Passing by the famous North Shore beaches, we head on a little further to Turtle Bay Resort, a massive luxury property that offers a plethora of activities to both guests and visitors, including horse riding.


The time has come for me to get back in the saddle. My horse, a beautiful brown creature by the name of Willy, doesn’t look like the kind to go cantering off into the distance without my permission, so I’m relaxed. Our guide is a local girl called Shelby, who couldn’t be more than 20 – although she’s been riding horses since she could walk.

Off we go, clip clopping along trails that run alongside empty white sand beaches, which have that wonderfully rugged and windswept look about them. We duck into pockets of forest and pass a massive banyan tree that’s been used a shooting location for several television shows and films including Lost and Pirates of the Caribbean.
At one bay we see turtles popping their heads up from the water in the distance, while at a rocky point between two beaches we see an old military bunker from World War II. The experience is completely relaxing yet surprisingly exhilarating for what is in essence a leisurely ride.

Our ride over, we exchange one type of horsepower for another, setting off again in the Jeep to continue along the Kamehameha Highway.

Within 10 minutes we’ve made another stop, to check out more roadside eateries. There’s Uncle Woody’s BBQ Corn, from which tantalising smells are emanating, while Yoon’s Korean BBQ operates out of a whimsical looking yellow bus. But I go for the huli huli chicken. In Hawaiian, huli huli means turn turn – chicken halves are cooked on metal grills and turned repeatedly over a charcoal fire.

We take the styrofoam box containing our meal and rejoin the highway, on the lookout for a nice beach where we can enjoy the food with a view. Randomly turning into a town called La’ie, we somehow stumble across a dramatic rocky point that extends out into the ocean. We’ve inadvertently discovered La’ie Point, which appears to be something of a hidden gem.

An old plaque explains the Hawaiian legend of how the five small islands lying offshore came to be. The most prominent is a 30 metre long slice of rock with a gaping hole in the middle. Combined with the wild waves crashing beneath us, it makes for a pretty awe-inspiring experience, as we chow down on our succulent chicken.
At sunset, we find ourselves at one of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches – Kailua. It’s nice to once again have my feet in the sand, although there’s so much more of the island to discover. Luckily, we’ve got the Jeep for another day. I’m hoping to tick off Pearl Harbour in central Oahu, as well as Pali Lookout, which offers one of the best panoramic views of Oahu. Hanauma Bay, with its amazing snorkelling, also beckons.

But for now, as we cruise along in the shadow of the mighty Ko’olau mountain range, I’m simply happy to be heading back to buzzing Waikiki.

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

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