By George Christopher Thomas, Travel Writer
WAIPIO VALLEY, HAWAII — The most memorable times on vacation are those when the thing you are doing is so cool, you can’t help but continuously smile. If you have the chance, and I highly recommend you find the time to “Ride The Rim” up in the north part of Hawaii Island.
We were staying in the Waipio Valley area, a remote and spectacular part of the Big Island easily overlooked by tourists, and decided to set aside our morning to ride ATV’s around the valley’s rim. And what an experience we had, my wife, my parents and I, all out riding all terrain vehicles through trails and rainforests.
The guides start the experience off with a safety briefing, and test your skills on the vehicles before the tour begins. If you’ve driven an ATV before it might seem a bit redundant, but there were a few people in our group that needed the extra attention and of course safety comes first, especially given the wild and undeveloped terrain we were set to explore. Still, I was impatient to get out there and “Ride The Rim,” and our initial test drive made me excited to turn the throttle and really get going.
The briefing was finally over, everyone had their safety helmets on, and we were off. The meaning of the name “Ride The Rim” soon becomes clear — our route was to encircle the edge of the dramatically spectacular Waipio Valley. With our team leader blazing the trail for us, and a large passenger vehicle pulling up the rear, we set off through the dense and shady forest. At intervals we would stop, disembark, and see up-close the native trees of the island, our guides telling us tales of their traditional uses. Sometimes unseen from these parts of the trail were breathtaking views over the valley and island, seen by poking our heads through the trees. These were perfect picture spots, where every rider became silent in the moment, the only sound the clicking of a camera and the breeze through the forest.
We navigated almost all the way around the rim, and enjoyed some snacks and juice during what I initially thought was just a break. However we soon were hiking up a wooden staircase and were at a freshwater pool with a waterfall. Obviously this was another great spot for family photos, and we also had the opportunity to swim in the pool and under the waterfall. Surprisingly, my wife was the only one in all of our group to dive into the freshwater pool and swim up to the gentle cascade. Emerging after a cooling swim, confused as to why nobody else chose to join her, she stated “It’s not every day you get to swim under a waterfall.” And today was that special day. Everyone gave her a round of applause for being quite the sport.
From the minute we were picked up at the art gallery in town, to the final moment when we got off our ATVs, dusty all over with our hands still buzzing from the handlebars, we all had a most amazing time. Ride the Rim offers a morning and a afternoon run, and I recommend you allow a little extra time for traveling up to Waipio Valley if you are coming in from Kona or Hilo.
The staff were informative and helpful. If you have a question about any part of the experience, from ATV techniques to the landscape to the cultural heritage of the valley, their knowledge was offered with enthusiasm. The safety precautions were more than sufficient to make us all feel well-briefed and secure throughout the adventure. Put any trepidation aside— after all, you are off-roading in Hawaii on an ATV, and having the time of your life.
If you’re considering what to do for your one big adventure on the Big Island, you must “Ride The Rim” up in the Waipio Valley. I treasured every second, roaring through mud puddles, taking pictures that are priceless, and seeing the smile on my wife’s face after she swam under a waterfall. Mark this one off your bucket list, and get out there for some fun in the sun on the Big Island of Hawaii.
For more information, please visit www.ridetherim.com.