A very single-minded cyclist can endure hours on their trainers, dripping sweat on their basement floor while watching reruns of Lost. For others of us, at this time of year, our thoughts drift to the idea of a winter bike tour.
While we’re spoiled for choice for summer bike tour destinations, good winter cycling vacations are harder to find. Most of Europe and the US are too cold. Florida is warm enough but too flat with little good cycling infrastructure. Chile and Argentina are increasingly popular though their roads can be a little unpredictable and you might be traveling for 24 hours each way once you add up the flights and ground transfers.
And so it is that for winter cycling I repeatedly come back to Hawaii – and specifically the Big Island. Hawaii is great for a winter cycling vacation for many reasons:
- Coastal temperatures in the 80s but with a cooling wind
- Some monster climbs with stunning views on some of the world’s tallest volcanoes
- There are enough fellow riders to help drivers be used to cyclist – the Ironman world championships are held here each year
- What better way to end a day’s ride than to walk across a white-sand beach and plunge into water little cooler than your average bath
Big Island Hawaii Bike Tours
The Big Island – as the name implies – can provide enough variety of cycling to last up to two weeks without too much repetition. I should add, however, that this is not riding suitable for beginners. The heat, climbs and occasional winds make this island more a paradise for intermediate and experienced riders.
My top bike rides on Hawaii are focused in the north and west of the island. For me, this area has the best blend of weather, roads and scenery. A great itinerary would start at one of the white-sand resorts in Waikoloa and head north to Hawi – along the route of the Ironman World Championships. From here, climbers will want to head north to Waimea over the shoulder of the Kohala Volcano. From Waimea you take one of the best cycling roads on the Island (Old Mamalahoa Hwy) down to Honoka’a. Heading back across the island takes you to Kona – the tourist heart of the island. From Kona it’s an outstanding ride down the coffee belt to Captain Cook and onto the Place of Refuge.
- Our favorite places to stay are Waianuhea B&B (near Honoka’a), Ka’awa Loa Plantation (Captain Cook), and Hawaii Island Retreat (Hawi). However, if money is no object, book yourself into the Four Seasons Resort – on the Kohala Coast.
- For me, the best place to eat is Merriman’s (Waimea).
- For something off the bike, take a kayak and snorkeling equipment out on Kealakekua Bay or go zip-lining near the stunning Pololu Valley.
- And finally, check out what the volcanoes are doing – it’s not often you get the chance to see hot magma being spurted hundreds of feet in the air.
The sheer variety of terrain, weather and culture on a Hawaii bike tour is quite outstanding. The climbs and views will have you grinning – a grin made all the broader knowing that back home your friends & neighbors are likely sheltering under umbrellas, shoveling snow or mopping up the puddle in their basement after another soulless hour on the trainer.