Top Dream Days of 2018, Horseback Riding at Dahana Ranch on the Big Island

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

One of my dream days of travel in 2018 was spent on the Big Island of Hawaii, in May. Although we needed to re-route in the week before our trip to avoid the small area in the southeast affected by the Kilauea volcano, we had a fantastic time!
On this particular dream day, my daughter Sophie and I began in Holualoa, an artist and coffee community in the hills above Kailua-Kona. Mamalohoa Highway winds through the heart of the town, past the wonderful Holuakoa Gardens and Café where we had brunch. Then we headed to Hawi, on the northwestern coast. Located on the slopes of the Kohala mountain, Hawi has become a popular tourist destination in recent years due to its artists’ shops, delicious restaurants, and beautiful scenery. After checking into our accommodation on a small lush farm just outside of town, we drove the Kohala Mountain Road from Hawi to Waimea, for horseback riding on the Dahana Ranch and hiking in the Pololu Valley. 
As you drive north to Hawi from Kailua-Kona, you see mostly black lava fields along the road, then you enter an incredibly green area, full of ranches which date back to 1840s, older than the oldest ranches in the continental United States by more than 30 years! Kohala Mountain Road is stunning. At Dahana Ranch, we grew to understand the paniolo (cowboy) world better: there they breed, raise, and train a variety of horses and ponies, and also manage a 140 head cow/calf operation for beef and rodeo bucking stock. 
After riding, we wanted to stretch our own legs. From Waimea to Honokaa, our destination was the Pololu Valley, on the way back to Hawi. Down a steep trail for about ½ hour, we soaked in the dramatic northeastern Big Island coastline. At the bottom, we were rewarded by a fairly isolated black sand beach, a lone woman practicing yoga, and a few brave souls camping overnight. Spectacular!