I’m an avid equestrienne. From the time I could hold crayons, I
was drawing horses on every piece of paper I could find and begging
my parents to take me on weekend pony rides.
These days I’m mastering the fine points of dressage, but whenever
I get the chance, I also enjoy settling in a Western saddle and
playing “cowgirl.” Happiness for me is being on a horse.
On a recent trip to Maui I mounted up for Lahaina Stables’
Historical Early Ride, which ambles 1½ miles up Launiupoko Hill in
the foothills of the West Maui Mountains. Tour highlights include
magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean; Lahaina town and harbor;
the islands of Kahoolawe, Lanai and Molokai; wild sugarcane; and
thick stands of koa haole, kiawe and wiliwili trees.
My group’s guide was Sparky Perry, a spunky gal who considers
working for Lahaina Stables her “dream job.” She moved to Maui from
Kentucky 2½ years ago, fell in love with the island and has since
learned a good deal about Hawaiian culture and history, which she
weaves into her narration for the tour.
The tidbits Perry shares vary with each ride, depending on her
inclination and guests’ interests. Usually, she’ll include a story
or two about Hawaii’s sugar history.
For 150 years, she told us, cane was grown in this part of West
Maui, nourished by water from numerous reservoirs in the mountains.
Old flumes that once transported millions of gallons of water each
day to the thirsty fields can be seen from the trail.
Perry also explained how immigrant workers came to Hawaii from
faraway lands, such as China, Japan, Portugal and the Philippines
to work on the plantations, creating the melting pot that
characterizes the islands’ population today.
Near the top of 800-foot Launiupoko, we dismounted for a break in
the shade of a thatched hale (hut) beside a reservoir. Between sips
of chilled water and bites of cookies and granola bars, we “talked
story” about our homes, hobbies and what inspired us to go
horseback riding that day.
Two middle-aged women in our group, visitors from the Mainland,
had never been on a horse before.
“We’ve hiked, snorkeled, kayaked, gone to a luau, done pretty much
everything else,” one of them said. “We thought since we’re on
vacation, we ought to get out of the box and try something
According to Perry, Lahaina Stables has taken out many
“We work hard to make sure people have a good time, especially if
they haven’t ridden before,” she said. “Our horses are well trained
and really mellow Maui style.”
Most of the tour is done at a walk, allowing even first-time
riders to relax in the saddle, bond with their horse and take
advantage of great photo opportunities, which may include rainbows
and pueo, Hawaiian short-eared owls. (Perry recently saw a white
pueo every day for a month straight.)
Although she has led the Historical Early Ride dozens of times,
Perry said she never gets tired of it. What’s the best part of her
“Showing visitors from all over the world beautiful areas that 99
percent of the people who come to Maui don’t get to see.”
Historical Early Ride
333 Dairy Rd.
Kahului, Hawaii 96732
Commission: 20 percent
Price is $110 per person, including snacks and bottled water.
The tour is offered daily from 9-11 a.m. Clients should check in at
8:30 a.m. at Lahaina Stables’ office, above the Makila subdivision
1½ miles south of Lahaina town. Directions will be given when the
ride is booked.
Riders must be at least 8 years old (the guide may grant
exceptions) and weigh no more than 275 pounds. Long pants and
closed-toe shoes are required. The sun can be brutal in this part
of Maui, so it’s a good idea to wear a hat, sunglasses and a
liberal dose of sunscreen.
The ride goes nose to tail on a well-marked trail. Tours may
include both greenhorns and seasoned equestrians; horses are
matched to riders’ ability. Most of the ride is done at a walk, but
trotting is allowed in certain spots if the group is game. The pace
is determined by the comfort level of the least experienced rider.
For this reason, serious horsemen may find this ride to be a bit
Lahaina Stables also offers a 3½-hour Lunch Ride and a two-hour
Sunset Ride. Call or check the Web site for details.