Gunstock Ranch offers Hawaii's only guided moonlight horseback ride. // © 2015 Gunstock Ranch
Feature image (above): Koloa Zipline features a sunset/night tour over south Kauai. // © 2015 Koloa Zipline
Evening cruises and luaus always lure visitors, but there’s plenty more to do under Hawaii’s night skies. As the sunset gives way to a starry spectacle, clients can explore natural and cultural island wonders with a number of organizations and tour operators.
Hawaii’s clean air makes it easy to see constellations, meteors and the moon. For hardcore astronomers, hopeless romantics and visitors looking to broaden their horizons, here are five ways to experience the Aloha State when the stars start to shine.
Gunstock Ranch Moonlight Ride, Oahu
This family-owned establishment helps guests enjoy the rural beauty of Oahu’s windward side like a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy). Its 90-minute guided moonlight ride — the only of its kind in Hawaii — departs in time for sunset views. As the moon rises, the horses do all the work. Clients need only sit back in the saddle and savor this singular stroll under Hawaii’s night skies.
Koloa Zipline Sunset/Night Tour, Kauai
As daylight draws to an end, this four-hour excursion begins. Guests soar along eight ziplines — including the longest line on Kauai — on the island’s south shore. Clients travel the second half of the course in the dark, with flashlights and headlamps to illuminate their way. As an upgrade, participants can experience the tour using the Flyin’ Kauaian harness, which lets them zip hands-free — just like Superman.
Meteor Shower Cruises with Wild Side Specialty Tours, Oahu
Ready to wish on a falling star? The waters off Oahu’s Waianae Coast are stellar for watching the meteor showers that take place several times each year above Hawaii. Timed with those showers, Wild Side takes small groups offshore on a 42-foot catamaran. Removed from ambient light, guests get spectacular views of constellations and occasional meteors. Naturalists point out the nighttime highlights.
Moonlight Tidepool Explorations with Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF), Maui
Hawaii’s tide pools are a busy place after dark. They’re teeming with nocturnal species such as brittle stars, urchins, octopuses, shrimp, snails and baby fish. When the tide is low and the moon is full, PWF’s marine life experts lead clients along the south Maui coast while discussing the unique traits of these nighttime critters. Protective footwear such as reef shoes is a must, and you’ll want to bring your own flashlight.
Twilight at Kalahuipuaa, Mauna Lani Resort, Hawaii Island
Each month on the Saturday closest to the full moon, respected musicians, hula masters and storytellers gather with visitors and locals for a free evening of Hawaiiana. Some 400 guests relax on the lawn at Eva Parker Woods Cottage, a sacred spot with deep historical and spiritual roots. Hosted by Mauna Lani’s cultural historian Danny Akaka, it’s a perfect venue for sharing aloha spirit.