Pony Express Tours offers horseback
riding with a view.
Pony Express Tours doesn’t cater to clients who want to gallop
across the countryside, wind flowing through their hair. Instead,
it’s designed for the much larger population of visitors who want a
firsthand look at the exceptional geography of Upcountry Maui more
specifically, Haleakala, the island’s 10,023-foot dormant volcano
without exerting too much effort.
Whether your clients sign up for the firm’s mellow ride across
ranchlands or opt for the more rugged ride into the crater, they’re
rewarded with breathtaking panoramas across dramatic expanses while
their steeds do all the work.
Run by Doug and Kathryn Smith, Pony Express Tours was launched
in 1983, and the company leased 100 acres from Haleakala Ranch in
the late ’80s as a base of operations. Today, clients check in at
its headquarters at a cool, crisp 4,000-foot elevation.
Far from an experienced equestrian, I signed up for the morning
Haleakala Ranch Paniolo Ride, perfect for people who want to spend
the entire day Upcountry just not on a horse. During two hours in
the saddle, clients get terrific views and great information, after
which they have time for visits to other area attractions like
Surfing Goat Dairy, Alii Kula Lavender and Tedeschi Vineyards.
Rides take place on the grounds of
the historic Haleakala Ranch.
With names like Amigo, Ozzie, Pegasus, Gigi and Little Man, the
horses stood calmly as we took turns climbing onto their backs. Our
guide, a cheery spirit named Gayle, shared her goals with the
“Number one is safety,” said Gayle. “Next, I hope all of you
will learn something about our unique Hawaiian culture and history.
Finally, my wish is that everyone on the trip will appreciate the
beauty of our amazing surroundings.”
A trail winding through an aromatic eucalyptus forest culminated
in a clearing, where we got our first look at historic Haleakala
Ranch, Maui’s largest working cattle ranch. At 30,000 acres, it
stretches from the ocean up to the border of Haleakala National
Park, and it comprises a large portion of the island’s high
reaches. As our group marveled at the gigantic pasture, Gayle spun
stories of the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) who first arrived in
Hawaii in the 1830s and continue to work the land today.
Ambling along trails crisscrossing the ranch’s steady slopes, I
was astounded by the vastness of the scene. Above us was the summit
of Haleakala, 6,000 feet away, yet it felt close enough to touch.
In the other direction, the entire central valley of Maui spread
out below us in a patchwork of greens, while beaches sparkled to
the north and south and the ocean seemed to stretch to infinity.
Everyone took turns posing in front of the spectacular backdrop as
Gayle took pictures of us with our cameras.
Cows grazed with abandon as if they owned the place, and mothers
mooed their warnings while protecting their calves. Gayle pointed
out trees and flowers of interest while skillfully guiding our
group along the gentlest paths.
Nose-to-tail, the horses kept a steady pace back to
headquarters. Juice and water awaited us as we wrapped up the ride,
a relaxed and inspiring way to spend a morning in the beauty of
Pony Express Tours
Tours across Haleakala Ranch include the two-hour morning
Paniolo Ride for $105 per person and the 1½-hour afternoon Mauka
Ride for $90 per person.
Pony Express also offers a four-hour Crater Ride into Haleakala
Crater for $175 per person, with a picnic lunch.
Clients should wear long pants, closed-toe shoes, a sweatshirt
and sunscreen. Raingear is provided. Participants must be at least
10 years old and weigh no more than 235 pounds.
Commission: 10 percent