Glimpse ancient Hawaii on horseback tour


POSTED: Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ed Lincoln and his family live and work in Kipahulu—a peaceful pocket of paradise in East Maui that's off the grid and most people's radar. There on the lush “;back side”; of Haleakala Volcano, nature not only embraces them, it defines the way they live. The sun provides electricity; the sea, forest and their vegetable and herb garden yield food; and streams supply the water they need for drinking, cooking and cleaning.

Describing the close relationship, Lincoln said simply, “;In our blood flows the sea, and in our bones is the mountain.”;

The Lincolns moved to Maui from the Big Island in 1980 when he became a partner and vice president of operations for a commercial fishing company based at Maalaea Harbor. Living on Maui made it easy for them to get better acquainted with family members who resided in Hana, 10 miles north of Kipahulu.

“;My uncle began running cattle in Kipahulu after he retired from Hana Ranch in 1985,”; Lincoln said. “;I would help him with roundups, and bring my wife and kids to camp on property that he was leasing by the ocean. We came on holidays, vacations, any time we could get away from work and school.”;





        » Meet at: Maui Stables in Kipahulu, Maui, just past the 40-mile mark on Highway 37. Directions will be given when booking.

» Offered: 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily. Check in at 9:45 a.m. Participants staying in the major resort areas should leave their hotel by 6 a.m. to make it to the stables on time.


» Cost: $150 per person, including refreshments. Ask about rates for private rides.


» Phone: (808) 248-7799


» E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


» Web site:


» Notes: There's a maximum of 10 riders per tour. Participants must be at least 10 years old and weigh no more than 250 pounds. Children younger than 10 may be allowed on the tour if they have riding experience (all exceptions are made at the guide's discretion). Closed-toe shoes and long pants are required. It's a good idea to bring sunscreen, camera, swimwear and a change of clothes.


* Earlybirds can walk to nearby Palapala Hoomau Church where famed aviator Charles Lindbergh is buried. There's a small park that opens to a lovely view of the ocean and the Kipahulu coastline. * After the ride, participants will receive a free three-day pass to get back into Haleakala National Park. If time permits, hike the scenic Pipiwai Trail to various waterfalls and a bamboo forest.




When Lincoln retired in 2000, Kipahulu beckoned. He settled there and, with the help of two local paniolo families, launched Maui Stables three years later to give visitors a glimpse of what he believes is the most beautiful place in Hawaii. The company offers a daily two-hour tour on horseback that goes 1,200 feet above sea level into a pristine part of Haleakala National Park. Access to this area is allowed only to licensed tour companies, and Maui Stables is the only one currently operating there.

Kipahulu is a vestige of old Hawaii that many kamaaina, even some who have lived on Maui all their lives, have not seen. It harbors the last large native Hawaiian rainforest in the state. That's due to its remoteness; it's 55 miles from Kahului Airport whether you choose to approach it from the north, on the famous road to Hana, or from the south via Ulupalakua and Kaupo.

Before ascending the slopes of Haleakala, participants ride along the coast past Kanekauila Heiau, which, measuring about 220 feet long and 110 feet wide, is the largest luakini heiau (war temple) extant in East Maui. According to Lincoln, there is no known resource for dating this heiau.

“;It's old enough to be lost in the oral traditions,”; he said. “;We have pretty good oral records from the 11th century A.D. on, and none of them mention Kanekauila Heiau.”;

Kukui Bay, near the heiau, was where the ancient voyagers entered Maui. “;They had to sail their canoes up the Alenuihaha Channel and pay homage to the gods at Kanekauila Heiau before they could land on the island,”; Lincoln said. “;Our guests see the remains of the heiau, but we don't go too close to it because it is still being used by cultural practitioners.”;

Legends say East Maui was the home and playground of many gods, including clever Maui. One popular tale tells how he coerced the alae (mudhens) into teaching him the secret of making fire at Kukui Bay. Long ago, stone altars called kuula in honor of Kuula, the god of fishermen, were erected along the coast to mark the spots where fish were abundant. Fishermen would place two fish from their first catch of the day on the altars to thank Kuula for his generosity.

From the magnificent coastline—etched with lava arches, blowholes, peninsulas and bays—the ride heads up Haleakala to the spot where the water flowing from falls on Palikea cliff joins to form Oheo Stream, a series of mini waterfalls and pools that meanders two miles through Oheo Gulch to the sea.

“;Depending on the amount of rainfall, there will be up to a dozen waterfalls on Palikea,”; Lincoln said. “;Pali means 'cliff' and kea means 'white.' The old Hawaiians often spoke in metaphors, so some say the cliff got its name from the color of the waterfalls. Others think its name refers to the clouds that usually hang over it. We tell our guests to decide for themselves.”;

In the forest, participants snack on luscious mango, banana, star fruit, lilikoi, strawberry guava and other fruit in season that they pluck along the trail. They also get close-up views of several native medicinal plants, including mamaki, used to cleanse the kidneys; moa to ease congestion; popolo to alleviate asthma and abdominal complaints; and noni to treat boils and bruises.

“;When people fantasize about Hawaii, Kipahulu is what they see—tropical forest, waterfalls, freshwater pools and no development,”; Lincoln said. “;When you're here, you instinctively speak softly, move slowly and tread lightly because you realize how small you are in the presence of nature. When people ride with us, they're experiencing Hawaii, not just visiting it.”;

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.