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Hawaii Cycling Guide

Introduction

The following guide is a compilation of  background, safety and day-by-day routes of the area. Complete with restaurant suggestions and “Points of Interest,” this guide will provide you with thorough, applicable travel information for your next cycling tour through the Hawaii. After years of cycling the globe, we are convinced that the tropical paradise of  Hawaii offers some of the best cycling in North America, and it is our privilege to be your guide.

The Day-by-Day section of the guidebook will preview each days route and scenery or points of interest along the way. It’s suggested that you read this before you head out on the day’s ride. Typically, there are three levels of riding each day: easiest, intermediate and challenge.

We are passionate about cycle touring and believe there is no better way to experience the sights, sounds and scents of an area than on two wheels. Enjoy!

Background on the Area

HAWAII – THE BIG ISLAND – Snorkeling, sandy beaches, volcanoes, whale watching, the “shaka,” waterfalls, sunsets, culture, and coffee plantations. Explore and discover.

GREEN SEA TURTLES “HONU” – Honu grow to around 3-4 feet but weigh up to 300-350 lbs or more! No touching, please. They may be nesting.

SUNSETS – Tropical temps, humidity, the geography of the islands and more give sunsets in Hawaii their original palette.

COFFEE FARMS – Kona Coffee is exclusive to the Big Island, and Greenwell Farms has a casual, yet informative tour.

PAHOEHOE LAVA – “Ropy” shaped lava, one of two types found on the island, are constant reminders of the forces that shaped these islands.

Overview

The Island of Hawai’i is often referred to as the Big Island or Hawai’i Island to distinguish it from the state of Hawaii.  At 4,028 square miles, it’s the largest of the Hawaiian Islands.  The state is the southernmost state of the United States but, surprisingly, not the most westerly – that honor goes to Alaska.

The Big Island grows coffee, has royal palaces, and has Hawaii’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea.  Mauna Kea is “just” 13,796 feet above sea level but locals will tell you it is taller than Mount Everest.  And it is, if you measure from the base of the mountain deep under the Pacific.

Like the other Hawaiian islands, The Big Island was formed from volcanic activity initiated at an undersea hotspot. As the tectonic plate beneath the Pacific Ocean has moved to the northwest over the top of the hotspot, new volcanoes and new islands have been created.  The hotspot’s current location means that the most active volcanoes are located in the southern half of The Big Island – Mauna Loa and Kilauea.  Volcanic activities all over the island and the subsequent erosion have created impressive landscapes including lava deserts, precipitous gorges and snow-capped mountains.

The state’s isolation, and the wide range of environments (extreme altitude, tropical climate), has produced a vast array of endemic flora and fauna.  From a visitor’s perspective, The Big Island is famous for its beaches and volcanoes but it’s also fast becoming a major off-season cycling destination.  Its reputation for sporting endeavor is enhanced by the annual presence of the Ironman World Championship – see boxed text in the History section below.

Climate

The Big Island enjoys a mild climate year round – with temperatures on the coast between 70°F and 80°F.  Winter lasts from November through April and is slightly cooler and wetter than summer.  However, location is the real predictor of temperature and rainfall.  Generally the west coast is hot and dry.  This dry heat can seem more extreme when you’re riding across an arid lava desert such as those north or Kailua-Kona.  It gets wetter the further west you go and cooler the higher you go.

Visitors are often surprised by how cold it gets in the highlands around Waimea. This is exacerbated if clouds are sitting around Mauna Kea creating heavy mists.  The other climatic challenge is the wind.  Hawaii sits in the predominantly northeasterly trade winds – great if you are heading southeast but it can be hard work if you’re not!  It is also these reliable winds and the mountains that lead to a marked contrast between the wet/windward (Hilo) and the dry/leeward (Kona) sides of the island.

The charts below show the monthly average temperatures (in Fahrenheit) and rainfall (in inches) for the towns of Waikoloa (west), Hawi (northwest), Waimea (central highlands), and Captain Cook (southwest).

Average Monthly Temperatures in Fahrenheit

Data Source: Western Regional Climate Center, see http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/

Average Monthly Rainfall in Inches

Data Source: Western Regional Climate Center, see http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/

History

The Kingdom of Hawaii was sovereign from 1810 until 1893 when the monarchy was overthrown by resident American (and some European) businessmen. It was an independent republic from 1894 until 1898, when it was annexed by the United States as a territory, becoming a state in 1959.

Pre-European contact

Archaeological evidence suggests the island has been inhabited since 300 CE, probably by Polynesian settlers.  The pre-European history of the islands is of a slow but steady growth in population and the size of the chiefdoms, which grew to encompass whole islands.  Local chiefs, called Ali’i, ruled their settlements and launched wars to extend their sway and defend their communities from predatory rivals.

European Contact

The first recorded European contact with the islands was in 1778 by British explorer James Cook.  Cook named the islands the “Sandwich Islands” in honor of his sponsor John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.  Cook visited the islands twice and was killed on his second visit.

After Cook’s visit many other Europeans visited the islands including whalers who found the islands a convenient harbor and source of supplies.  Early British influence can be seen in the design of the flag of Hawaii which has the British Union Flag in the corner.  These visitors also introduced diseases and the Hawaiian population plunged precipitously; during the 1850s, measles killed a fifth of Hawaii’s people.

The Rise of King Kamehameha

During the 1780s and 1790s, different chiefs were in a power struggle.  After a series of battles that ended in 1795, all inhabited islands were subjugated under a single ruler, Kamehameha I.  He later became known as King Kamehameha the Great and established the House of Kamehameha, a dynasty that ruled the kingdom until 1872.

After Kamehameha II inherited the throne in 1819, American Protestant missionaries converted many Hawaiians to Christianity.  Their influence ended many ancient practices, and Kamehameha III was the first Christian king.  One prominent Protestant missionary, Hiram Bingham, was a trusted adviser to the monarchy during this period.  Other missionaries and their descendants became active in commercial and political affairs, leading to future conflicts between the monarchy and its restive American subjects.

The death of the bachelor King Kamehameha V—who did not name an heir—resulted in the popular election of Lunalilo.  Lunalilo died the next year, also without naming an heir.  The subsequent election in 1874 was contested leading to riots and the landing of U.S. and British troops.  Governance then passed to the House of Kalākaua.

The 1887 Constitution

In 1887, Kalākaua was forced to sign the 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii, which stripped the king of much of his authority. There was a property qualification for voting, which disenfranchised most Hawaiians and immigrant laborers, and favored the wealthier white community.  Resident whites were allowed to vote, but resident Asians were excluded. Because the 1887 Constitution was signed under threat of violence, it is known as the “Bayonet Constitution” and King Kalākaua was reduced to a figurehead.  His sister, Liliʻuokalani, succeeded him in 1891.

In 1893, the new queen announced plans for a new constitution.  As a result, a group of mostly Euro-American business leaders and residents formed a Committee of Safety to overthrow the Kingdom and seek annexation by the United States.  U.S. Government Minister John L. Stevens, responding to a request from the Committee of Safety, summoned a company of U.S. Marines.

The Committee of Safety

In January 1893, Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown and replaced by a Provisional Government composed of members of the Committee of Safety. The administration of President Grover Cleveland commissioned the Blount Report, which concluded that the removal of Liliʻuokalani was illegal.  The U.S. government first demanded that Queen Liliʻuokalani be reinstated, but the Provisional Government refused.  Congress followed with another investigation, and submitted the Morgan Report on February 26, 1894, which found all parties with the exception of the queen “not guilty” from any responsibility for the overthrow.

In 1993, a joint Apology Resolution regarding the overthrow was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton, apologizing for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.  It is the first time in American history that the United States government has apologized for overthrowing the government of a sovereign nation.

The Territory of Hawaii

After negotiations, in June 1897, Secretary of State John Sherman agreed to a treaty of annexation.  The treaty was never ratified by the U.S. Senate.  Instead, despite the opposition of a majority of Native Hawaiians, the Newlands Resolution was used to annex the Republic to the United States and it became the Territory of Hawaii.

In 1900, Hawaii was granted self-governance and Hawaii remained a territory for sixty years. Plantation owners and key capitalists, who maintained control through financial institutions, found territorial status convenient, enabling them to continue importing cheap foreign labor; such immigration was prohibited in various states.

The Road to Statehood

In the 1950s the power of the plantation owners was finally broken by descendants of immigrant laborers.  Because they were born in a U.S. territory, they were legal U.S. citizens. Expecting to gain full voting rights, Hawaii’s residents actively campaigned for statehood.

In March 1959, Congress passed the Hawaii Admission Act and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law.  On June 27 of that year, a referendum asked residents of Hawaii to vote on the statehood bill. Hawaii voted 17 to 1 to accept.  The choices were to accept the Act or to remain a territory, without the option of independence.


The Original Ironman

The Ironman World Championships come to the Big Island each October.  The bike course runs from the Kona Beach Hotel up Hwy 19 and Hwy 270 to Hawi where the riders turn around and return along the same route.  This section of road is hot, dry windy and flat-prone.

The idea for the original Ironman Triathlon arose out of a debate as to which athletes were fitter: runners, swimmers or cyclists.  Among the group was U.S. Navy Commander John Collins who suggested that the debate should be settled through a race combining three existing long-distance competitions already on the island of Oahu: the Waikiki Rough Water Swim, the Around-Oahu Bike Race and the Honolulu Marathon. Collins said, “Whoever finishes first, we’ll call him the Iron Man.”

Prior to racing, each athlete received three sheets of paper listing a few rules and a course description. Handwritten on the last page was this exhortation: “Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life”, now a registered trademark.

Each of the racers had their own support crew to supply water, food and encouragement during the event. Of the fifteen men to start off in the early morning on February 18, 1978, twelve completed the race. Gordon Haller, a US Navy Communications Specialist, was the first to earn the title Ironman by completing the course with a time of 11 hours, 46 minutes, 58 seconds. The runner-up John Dunbar, a US Navy SEAL, led after the second transition but ran out of water on the marathon course; his support crew resorted to giving him beer instead.

With no further marketing efforts, the race gathered as many as 50 athletes in 1979. The race, however, was postponed a day because of bad weather conditions. Only fifteen competitors started off the race Sunday morning. San Diego’s Tom Warren won in 11 hours, 15 minutes, 56 seconds. Lyn Lemaire, a championship cyclist from Boston, placed sixth overall and became the first “Ironwoman”.

Collins planned on changing the race into a relay event to draw more participants, but Sports Illustrated journalist Barry McDermott, in the area to cover a golf tournament, discovered the race and wrote a ten page account of it. During the following year, hundreds of curious participants contacted Collins.

In 1981 organizer Valerie Silk moved the competition to the Big Island and in 1982 moved the race date from February to October; as a result of this change there were two Ironman Triathlon events in 1982.

In the February race, Julie Moss moved toward the finish line in first place. As she neared the end, severe fatigue and dehydration set in, and she fell, just yards away from the finish line. Although Kathleen McCartney passed her for the women’s title, Moss nevertheless crawled to the finish line. Her performance was broadcast worldwide and created the Ironman mantra that just finishing is a victory.

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Towns and Cities

Captain Cook

Overview

captain_cookCaptain Cook is just a cluster of B&BS, low-key restaurants, cafes and a few homes.  The town’s name comes from the fact that the local post office was located in the Captain Cook Coffee Company during the early 1900s.

If you were driving along Highway 19 you might not even realize you’d passed through Captain Cook – it’s that small and blurred into other communities along the highway.  Turn off the highway here, however, and you get to explore Kealakekua Bay and the Place of Refuge.  And, there are views to die for – in fact the eponymous explorer, Captain Cook, did just that on the beach just down from here.

The other thing Captain Cook (the town) is famous for is its coffee.  The town’s boundaries lie between 800- and 2,000-feet, which makes it ideal for coffee growing.  Prior to the 1960s, most of Captain Cook was part of the vast Kealakekua Ranch, founded in the 1850s by English immigrant Henry Nicholas Greenwell.

Eating & Drinking

Most of the places to eat are spread out along the highway.  Consequently, we would recommend talking to your guide or B&B owner to arrange transportation to dinner.

In the center of Captain Cook are:

The Manago Hotel has a solid lunch or dinner including their famous pork chops.  They claim to be “Hawaii’s Oldest Restaurant” and the place certainly has old-world charm.  On RHS heading south on Hwy 11, just past the Napoopoo Rd turn at 82-6151 Mamalahoa Hwy.  (808) 323-2642 11:00am-2:00pm and 5:00-7:30pm, closed Mondays / https://www.managohotel.com/restaurant/

One block further south from the Manago, Black Rock Pizza serves good pizzas and a terrace with a good view.  They also have a good selection of beers.  82-6127 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, Hawaii 96704.  (808) 731-6162.  Daily 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM.  https://blackrock.pizza/

Next door to Black Rock Pizza, Dakine Coffee serves good Kona coffee as well as sandwiches and smoothies.  They also have a small terrace at the back.  82-6127 Mamalahoa Highway Captain Cook, HI, HI 96704.  (808) 731-6017.  8:00 AM to 2:00 PM.  Closed Sundays.  https://www.facebook.com/pg/dakinecoffeehi/

On the same block, Manny’s Mexican Food is a family-owned restaurant serving good, authentic food from the Tierra Caliente region of Mexico from a small building with a couple of tables at the side of the road.  82-6123 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, HI 96704.  (808) 936-6214.  Daily 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM.  https://www.facebook.com/mannysmexicanfood/

Further back (north) along Hwy 11 are:

Ke’ei Café serves American-Asian-Pacific food that’s tasty, creative, and good value.  The second-floor dining room has open sides which is nice for the breeze but bad for road noise.  79-7511 Mamalahoa Hwy.  (808) 322-9992.  Dinner only Tuesday to Saturday.

Further north is Teshima’s.  Home-style, Hawaiian-Japanese cuisine with no frill.  But they must be doing something right as they’ve been around since 1929.  797251 Mamalahoa Highway.  (808) 322-9140.  Mon-Sun 6:30am-1:45pm, 5:00-9:00pm / https://www.teshimarestaurant.com

Further north (towards Kona) on Hwy 11, the Strawberry Patch has nice salads, sandwiches & pizzas with outside tables – though close to the highway.  As you head towards Kona, it’s on the RHS ½ mile past Halekii St & the Tesoro gas station at 79-7491 Mamalahoa Hwy.  (808) 322-9060.  Open Tues-Sat 4-8:30pm / https://thestrawberrypatchhawaii.com

Annie’s Island Fresh Burgers are just a little further towards Kona on LHS (next door to Island Naturals grocery store) and have good burgers.  79-7460 Mamalahoa Hwy.  (808) 324-6000.  11:00am-8:00pm daily / http://www.anniesislandfreshburgers.com

The South Kona Fruit Stand offers a fresh alternative in Big Island bounty – local fruits, smoothies, sandwiches, and some yummy baked goods.  84-4770 Mamalahoa Hwy (Hwy 11) Honaunau, Hawaii 96704, between Mile markers 103 and 104. (808) 328-8547.  As you approach from Horizon Guest House, this will be on your RHS about 3 miles north on Hwy 11. Open Monday through Saturday, 9am-5pm and Sundays 10am-6pm.

South of Captain Cook:

If you’re heading to Ho’okena Beach, you may find simple food at the concession stand there (closed Wednesday) but you can’t rely on it so you may want to take a picnic.

If you’re riding to South Point, the only place to find food on the route is at the Ocean View Market just off Hwy 11 in Ocean view.  92-8674 Lotus Blossom Ln.

Sights and Things to Do

Captain Cook is a good place to relax.  It’s warm without being oppressive and there are views around every corner.  Most people, however, come to Captain Cook for the kayaking and snorkeling.

Snorkeling & Kayaking: If you just want to snorkel down at Kealakekua Bay – at the bottom of Napoopoo Rd – very often the B&B owners will lend you snorkeling gear and direct you to the best places.capitain_cook

The most popular outing here is to take a kayak and paddle a mile across the Bay from the dock to the Captain Cook Monument.  There is good snorkeling here.  There’s just one catch – you need a permit to actually land your kayak at the monument site.  Some people get around this by getting into the water off their boat – just be sure you can climb back in again and don’t forget to secure the kayak!  It’s also worth noting that the site can get crowded after mid-morning as tour boats from Kona arrive.  As with many things, early risers are rewarded!  NOTE: Kealakekua Bay is open ocean and conditions can change quickly.  Make sure you are aware of and comfortable with your equipment and the risks.

One option to avoid the permit problem – or the problem of balancing a double kayak between two road bikes down a 8% hill – is to join a tour.  The following operators have good tours with the relevant permits for between $100 and $190 for a 4-hour tour:

Kona Boys 79-7539 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, HI 96750 / (808) 328-1234 and Aloha Kayak Co. 79-7248 Mamalahoa Hwy, Honalo, HI 96750 / (808) 322-2868 / https://www.konaboys.com

kealakekua_bayAt the time of writing, the above companies were the only ones with permits – following a moratorium on launching kayaks in the bay implemented in January 2013.  However, this is likely to change in the near future so it may also be also worth checking with the following operators.

Adventures In Paradise offer a selection of tours with consistently good feedback and their morning trip promises to get you out to the monument before the snorkel boats from Kona arrive.  82-6020 Mamalahoa Highway, Captain Cook, Hawaii, 96704.  (808) 447-0080 / https://www.bigislandkayak.com

There is also a kayak rental outfit close to the Bay: Ehu & Kai Kayak.  They have a “simple” storefront but, like the more polished companies, their rentals include a cooler, a dry bag, backrests and life vests. They also have snorkels to rent.  If you ask nicely, they’ll likely agree to drop your kayak down by the water – a plus if your only means of transport is a bike!  Kayaks rent for $45 single and $65 double for around 4 hours.  Snorkel gear may be an additional charge (Check equipment on delivery.)   The shop is located at 81-6641 Kahauloa Rd/Launch zone is located at 82-6009 Kahauloa Rd.  (808) 328-8775 / http://www.ehuandkai.com

Hiking: You can hike down to the Captain Cook Monument along the logically named Captain Cook Monument Trail.  It can be hard to find the trailhead – ask your B&B owner or look for 3 palm trees on the landward side of Napoopoo Rd about 750 feet down from Hwy 11.  The path is marked “Cap Cook” on the shoulder of the seaward side of the road. There are fine views on this rough and exposed trail.  It’s only 4 miles in and out but the heat and the climb will mean it could take you up to four hours.  Don’t forget your swimmers!

Coffee: Greenwell Farms has an interesting shop, regular tours and constant tastings.  81-6581 Mamalahoa Hwy/Hwy 11.  Tour Info: (808) 323-2295.  It is just down the hill from the Kona Historical Society’s Greenwell Store Museum (808) 323-3222 / https://www.greenwellfarms.com

The Historical Society also runs the Kona Coffee Living History Farm further south on Hwy 11 just after the Napoopoo Rd turn (at mile marker 110). This historic coffee farm brings the coffee pioneer’s story to life and visitors walk through the coffee and macadamia nut orchards, and tour the historic farmhouse.  The only downside is that the $7 admission is relatively expensive for what you get.  The Farm is open for tours and coffee sales Monday to Thursday from 10:00am-2:00pm.  82-6199 Mamalahoa Hwy.  (808) 323-3222 / https://konahistorical.org 

Better value (free) and a little more off the beaten track is the tour at Bay View Farms.  They offer a tour of their processing facility as well as a complimentary tasting. 83-5249 Painted Church Rd.  (808) 731-6757.  Daily 10:00am-4:00pm / https://www.bvfcoffee.com

Learn about bees and honey and taste single blossom samples.  Take a short detour to the Big Island Bees Museum and Tasting Room on Napoopoo Rd. Seasonal combinations of honey and local spices are available for purchase too. Take Napoopoo Road off Highway 11, immediately south of mile marker 111. Keep bearing right on Napoopoo Road, following signs to Kealakekua Bay. Turn right at Big Island Bees sign immediately past Hawaiian Host Macadamia Factory and Kealakekua Estates. Follow winding lane 2/10 mile and turn right at the gate, where you will find a parking lot in the front. Open Monday through Friday 10:00am-4:00pm and Saturday 10:00am-2:00pm.  (808)328-1315 / https://bigislandbees.com 

Useful Contacts

Stores: There is a Choice Mart grocery store on Hwy 11 just south of the Capitan Cook Baking Company at 82-6066 Mamalahoa Hwy.  (808) 323-3994.  5:00am-10:00pm.

Further along on route to Honaunau (if staying at Horizon Guest House) the South Kona Fruit Stand offers a fresh alternative in Big Island bounty – fruits, smoothies, sandwiches, and some yummy baked goods.  84-4770 Mamalahoa Hwy Honaunau, Hawaii 96704, between Mile markers 103 and 104. (808) 328-8547.  As you approach from Captain Cook, this will be on your LHS. Open Monday through Saturday, 9am-5pm and Sundays 10am-4pm.

Hilo

Overview

Hilo, on the east side of the Big Island, sits in the shadows of the active Mauna Loa volcano and the dormant Mauna Kea volcano on a crescent-shaped bay. It is both the capital and the largest city on the island but maintains a relaxed,
historic feel. During ancient times, the area was a trading center for native Hawaiians. In the 1800s, once missionaries arrived, Hilo became a prominent trading hub due to its proximity to sugar plantations. In 1946, an earthquake near the Aleutian Islands produced a tsunami which struck Hilo and killed 160 people. Another powerful tsunami hit in 1960, killing 61 more. The Hilo Bay Beachfront Park, where many of the people were at the time of the 1960 tsunami strike, is now a popular site for weekend volleyball games, picnics, and kayaking. The Tsunami Museum, under Things to Do below, is worth visiting to learn more about these events.

The closure of the sugar plantations on the island in the 1990s were a blow to the Hilo economy. However, Hilo is now making a comeback. The business district has undergone major renovations, and visitors are drawn to the town for the museums, local farmers market, fish market, shops, and restaurants. Each April, the popular Merrie Monarch festival takes place in Hilo. Dedicated to the memory of King David La’amea Kalakaua (the “Merrie Monarch” who was king of the Hawaii nation from 1874-1891), this annual week-long Hula festival celebrates the culture and continuation of Hawaiian tradition through native language, dance and the arts.

The east side of the island gets most of the rainfall, 130 inches per year. All that rain makes this area tropical and lush and fills the rainforest with colorful flowers and waterfalls. Rainbow Falls State Park and Wailuku River State Park are two of the larger natural attractions and are located along the same river just west of Hilo.

Eating & Drinking

A good choice for breakfast or brunch, if you are in Hilo for the day, is Paul’s Place. The Salmon benedict is, in our opinion, the best on the island. They are also vegetarian-friendly. 32 Punahoa St. (808) 280-8646.

Moon and Turtle is a fresh seafood restaurant which features locally sourced ingredients and a frequently changing international menu. It is small and popular with the locals, so reservations are recommended. 1 Kalakaua St. (808) 961-0599 / https://www.facebook.com/moonandturtle 

For Thai, Sombat’s Fresh Thai Cuisine is outside of the downtown hub, but it is well received by locals and visitors alike. 88 Kanoelehua Ave in the Waiakea Kai Shopping Plaza (808) 969-9336 / http://sombats.com

Café Pesto is a casually elegant restaurant offering creative and locally fresh island cuisine. Service is consistently good, and they have a full bar menu as well. 308 Kamehameha Ave. (808) 969-6640 / https://www.cafepesto.com 

Hilo Bay Café is highly rated and sits right on the shore at Hilo Bay. Artisan sushi, locally inspired dishes, and a lanai perfect for warm evenings await you. 123 Lihiwai St. (808) 935-4939. Open 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM Monday-Thursday (until 9:30 PM Friday and Saturday / Closed Sunday) / https://hilobaycafe.com 

Ponds is an historic Hilo tradition, and is located overlooking the local swimming hole, Ice Pond. Here you will find traditional Hawaiian dishes along with a full selection of burgers, salads, wraps, and more.  135 Kalanianaole Ave. (808) 934-7663 (POND) Open 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM Daily / http://www.pondshilo.com 

And for dessert or a cool down after a ride, you can visit Kula Shave Ice. They offer hand-crafted flavors with “organically-grown/locally-sourced fruit, organic cane sugar, ultra-filtered water, and love”. They also offer organic Acai bowls, coffees, and ice-creams. Open 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day (from 09:00 AM on Wednesday and Saturdays). Address: 57 Mamo St, Hilo. 808-747-5574. https://kulashaveice.com/

Things to Do

Gardens and Waterfalls: Lili’uokalani Park is a meticulously groomed Japanese Garden surrounded by banyan trees. Arched stone bridges connect areas of the park and pagodas provide shade on a warm day (or a reprieve from showers!) and overlook Hilo Bay. 189 Lihiwai St. (off Banyan Dr)

Continue strolling down Banyan Dr to see Banyan trees lining the road. They have withstood the many tsunamis to hit Hilo and were planted by various dignitaries and celebrities, including Babe Ruth and Amelia Earhart.

Wailuku River State Park is home to the Boiling Pots, Pe’epe’e Falls and the 80-foot Rainbow Falls (Waianuenue Falls.) Rainbow Falls got its name from the rainbows that sometimes are seen arching across the falls. Depending on recent rainfall, Rainbow Falls can be a thin stream of water or a raging cascade. Follow the path from Rainbow Falls to the lookout for a view from above the falls. The 16-acre park at 2-198 Rainbow Dr can be accessed from Waianuenue Ave.

Museums and Astronomy: The Pacific Tsunami Museum is a renovated bank which withstood both the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis. The old vault is now a theater where an introductory movie is shown recounting survivor stories. Many of the docents who volunteer their time are survivors. There is a $8 admission fee. Open Tue-Sat 10:00am-4:00pm. 130 Kamehameha Ave. (808) 935-0926 / http://tsunami.org 

A more culturally artistic museum is the Lyman Museum and Mission House. Spend time in the mineral and seashell collection, wander through a simulated lava tube, and explore exhibits that span the natural and cultural history of the islands. Next to the museum is the Mission House, the oldest structure on the island. It was originally constructed in 1839 for the New England missionaries David and Sarah Lyman. Tours are given 5 times per day – from 10:00am through 3:00pm with a break at noon. There is a $10 admission fee. Open Mon-Sat 9:00am-4:30pm. 276 Haili St. (808) 935-5021 / https://lymanmuseum.org

The ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is an opportunity to connect the links of the night sky and early Polynesian navigation. The $19 admission charge includes one planetarium presentation and all-day exhibit access. Open Tue-Sun 9:00am-5:00pm. 600 ‘Imiloa Place. (808) 932-8901.

Shops and Galleries: Stroll down Kamehameha Ave in downtown Hilo where you will find many centuries-old wooden storefronts housing shops, museums, galleries, and cultural sites.

Farmers Market: Twice a week, on Wed and Sat from 6:00am-4:00pm, 200 vendors are open for Big Market Day. 7:00am-4:00pm on other days, 10-30 retailers, crafters, and farmers share their wares. At the corner of Mamo St and Kamehameha Ave.

Honoka’a

Overview

Honoka'aLike Hawi, Honokaa’s economy was historically based on sugar production.  Major sugar production effectively ended in 1994 with the closure of the Hāmākua Sugar Company and the local farmers have, somewhat, diversified into pineapples, coffee, papaya, macadamia nuts, and tea.  As the gateway town for the Waipi’o Valley, the town sees a steady trickle of tourists but the economy still struggles.

That said, we like unspoiled Honoka’a with its historic downtown which includes the Honoka’a People’s Theatre built in 1930.  Connoisseurs of early 21st century Japanese cinema will recognize it from the 2009 movie Honoka’a Boy – or not!

True, there’s not really much to do in town but it’s a pleasant wander and has a couple of nice cafes and an interesting antique store.

Eating & Drinking

The Honokaʻa Public House serves good pizzas and pub food at this casual local landmark.  Due to some quirky local laws, there isn’t a sign for the pub on the façade, it reads “First Bank of Hilo.”  45-3490 Mamane St unit g, Honokaa, HI 96727 (808) 775-1666.  Sun – Thurs 12:00 PM – 10:00 PM. Fri – Sat 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM.    http://www.honokaapub.com/

Gramma’s Kitchen has an eclectic mix of comfort food including burgers, honey stung chicken and Korean Katsu.  Open Wed& Thurs 09:00 AM – 2:00 PM.  Fri – Sun 09:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  In the main crossroads in town at 45-3625 Mamane St. (808) 775-9943.  https://grammaskitchenhi.com/

For coffee, baked goods, sandwiches and (of course) fudge, head to Fudge’n Coffee Café, just along from Gramma’s at 45-3611 Mamane St # 105, Honokaa, HI 96727.  (808) 775-1333.  Mon – Fri 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM.  Sat 12:00 AM – 6:00 PM.  Closed Sun.

Cafe Il Mondo serves stone baked pizzas and good pasta.  45-3580 Mamane St, Honokaa, HI 96727 (808) 775-7711 Tues – Sat 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM.  Closed Sun & Mon.  https://cafeilmondo.com

At the top of the hill, just before the highway, Tex’s Drive In serves sugary, hot and fresh malasadas (basically a doughnut with a local twist).  They are a local institution and reputedly have the best malasadas on the island.  They also serve burgers, soup and sandwiches, but it’s the malasadas that made them famous.  45-690 Pakalana St.  (808) 775-0598 / https://www.texdriveinhawaii.com

Hina Rae’s café’. Offers açai bowls, waffle sandwiches, fresh brewed coffee, Italian sodas, local lunch specials and more. Open Weekdays 8:00 AM – 5:30 PM. 45-3610 Mamane St. (808) 756-0895 / http://hinaraescafe.com

Things to Do

Not a lot.  The Honoka’a Peoples Theatre still shows movies; excellent value at $6 per ticket / http://honokaapeople.com

Shops & Galleries: There’s a decent grocery in Honoka’a: the Malama Market is at corner of Lehua St and Mamane – diagonally opposite Café Il Mundo.

There is also a cluster of curious stores along Mamane St including a gallery and the Honoka’a Marketplace with its eclectic mix of old and new Hawaiian as well as Asian handicrafts.

Farmers Market: Every Saturday on Mamane St.

Waipi’o Valley: Honoka’a is the gateway town for the Waipi’o Valley.  From Honoka’a, it’s a rolling descent down to the Waipi’o Valley Lookout paralleling the ocean.  Just before the lookout, you detour through the small settlement ofwaipi'o_valley Kukuihaele.  This is where tours for the Waipi’o Valley start.  There are 4wd tours, mule tours and horseback tours – or, shoes permitting, you could just walk down.  What awaits you is a lush wonderland of steep cliffs, waterfalls and a black sand beach.  If you decide not to descend in, the overlook itself has an iconic Hawaiian view of the black sand beach framed by lush green cliffs.


Can I Ride the Steepest Road in America?

It’s hard to be a cyclist looking out over the Waipi’o Valley and not wonder whether you could ride up America’s steepest road – Waipi’o Valley Rd.  If you’re not on a mountain bike or you’re not Lance Armstrong, the honest answer is, probably not.  Just for the record, Lance did it in 9½ minutes, at 430 watts, 46 average cadence and in a 39×27 gear.  In doing so he won a bet that earned $10,000 for the Livestrong Foundation.

If you need more discouragement, the road is potholed, it is prone to out-of-control tourists in rental cars and it has an average grade of 25%.  But, what really gets you is that the grade, in places, maxes out at a whopping 40%.

Really, don’t do it!  Just remember to bring your shoes to hike down if you want to do it under your own steam or take the tour that starts in Kukuihaele.


Kailua-Kona

Overview

Kailua_KonaKailua-Kona is another of those places with a confusing name.  It was originally Kailua until USPS stepped in to avoid any confusion with Kailuas on other islands.  So now it’s now Kailua, Kailua-Kona, Kailua Town or  just Kona.  Much less confusing!

Kona is where the action is on the Big Island.  Once a sleepy fishing village, this is now the island’s main tourist town.  As you’d expect, there is no shortage of restaurants and tour agencies and there is less polish (dare we say pretention) than at the major resorts further north.  On some days, large cruise ships disgorge their payload into the town but despite all the bustle, Kona retains a certain seaside charm.

The original community was established by King Kamehameha I.  After he consolidated his rule over the other islands of Hawaii, he made Kona the capital of that new kingdom.  The king had his private temple here (Ahu’ena Heiau).  Later the town functioned as a retreat of the Hawaiian royal family.  You can get a sense of their lives at the Hulihe’e Palace.

The core of the town is around Ali’i Drive that stretches south from the Kona Beach Hotel along the waterfront.  The road is always lively and the views good but it’s particularly pleasant in the evening as the sun is setting and the buskers are out.  It’s also along Ali’i Drive that you’ll find small beaches, most restaurants and several historic sites – see Things to Do below.

Kona is also the start and end point of the Ironman World Championships.  The event is centered on Kailua Pier – in front of the Kona Beach Hotel.

Eating & Drinking

Despite all the tourism (or perhaps because of it) you won’t find many truly outstanding restaurants in Kona.  What you have is a clutch of good places to eat and a host of just okay options.  Talk to the locals to see what’s hot, but these are some of our favorites.Kailua_Kona

The Kona Inn Restaurant serves mostly seafood in a great location – think views of the sun setting into the ocean while outrigger canoes head for home.  The décor is a little dated, the cooking is competent rather than inspired and the prices are high for the quality – but we still enjoy eating here for the sunset and the location.  There is also a Café Grill which is easier to get in to.  In the Kona Inn Shopping Village at 75-5744 Ali’i Dr.  Reservations advised. Open 11:30am-9:00pm.  (808) 329-4455 / https://konainnrestaurant.com 

Quinn’s Almost-by-the-Sea is not really by the sea, not even almost but they have tasty food – think seafood, steaks and burgers.  It is sometimes easier to get a table here if your first choice is booked out.  Lunch better priced than dinner.  Opposite the Kona Beach Hotel at 75-5655 Palani Rd.  (808) 329-3822.  11:00 AM to 11:00 PM / https://quinnsalmostbythesea.com 

For unpretentious, good-and-cheap sushi check out Hayashi’s You Make the Roll tucked at the back of the Kona Marketplace at 75-5725 Ali’i Dr.  It can be very busy and hectic and seating is sparse and very casual.  (808) 326-1322.  Mon-Fri: 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM.  Sat: 11:00 AM to 3:45 PM – though they often close (but don’t lock) the door earlier.

For good smoothies and a nice breakfast head to Green Flash Coffee at the quieter (southern) end of Ali’i Dr just past the Kona Tiki Hotel at 75-6000 Ali’i Dr.  Pleasant outdoor seating in vine-covered lanai.  (808) 329-4387.  Mon-Fri 6:30 AM to 1:00 PM.  Sat-Sun 6:30 AM to 1:00 PM / https://www.greenflashcoffee.com 

If you arrange to meet someone in Kona, there’s a good chance they’ll suggest meeting at Island Lava Java.  The foods good, there are pleasant outdoor tables and it’s right across the road from the ocean.  A great – if crowded – breakfast, lunch or afternoon coffee place. 75-5799 Ali’i Dr. (808) 327-2161.  6:30 AM to 9:00 PM / http://islandlavajava.com/

When you can’t face another espresso, what about a kava?  Kava, or Hawaiian Awa, is a natural antidepressant and relaxant made from the root of a pepper plant known as Awa – and it’s totally legal.  Kanaka Kava serve a mean kava as well as simple organic foods.  You’ll find them at the back of the Coconut Grove Marketplace – just south of Island Lava Java at 75-5803 Ali’i Dr, Space B6.  Monday-Thursday 3:00pm-11:00pm/Weekends 10:00am-11:00pm (808) 327-1660 / https://www.thecoconutgrovemarketplace.com

Huggo’s has one of the best locations in Kona – right on the waterfront – but the food is pricey for the quality.  It is a nice place for a sunset drink (though again not cheap).  Down a small lane on oceanfront side just south of Island Lava Java on 75-5828 Kahakai Rd.  Sun-Thurs: 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM.  Fri-Sat: 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM.  The bar is open about an hour before the restaurant and stays open later into the night – 10:00 PM+ / https://huggos.com

Just before Huggo’s is Huggo’s on the Rocks – described as “a more casual, toes-in-the-sand restaurant and bar,” which it is.  It also has regular live music.  Again, go more for the scene and the location than the food.  11:00am-10ish / https://huggosontherocks.com 

Still young and fine tuning the menu and service is Papa Kona Restaurant and Cafe – 75- 5770 Ali’i Drive Kailua-Kona, HI – 808.339.7824. Visit mainly for the water-side views and coffee. They offer breakfast and dinner menus. Open Every day!  Coffee bar: 7am-9pm, Restaurant: 8am-9pm / https://papakonarestaurant.com

Things to Do

There are plenty of non-cycling things to do in Kona – and plenty of people offering to arrange them for you.

Sites and Museums: Ahu’ena Heiau was the personal temple King Kamehameha the Great. It is now on the grounds of King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel – the Marriott.  It was reconstructed in the 1970s and can be viewed, but not entered.  There are interesting artifacts in the hotel lobby and historic walking tours and luaus are also offered by the Hotel.

Hulihe’e Palace is beautifully located on green lawns overlooking the ocean just south of the Kona Beach Hotel at 75-5718 Ali’i Dr.  A former vacation home of Hawaiian royalty, this museum gives a real sense of royal life in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  9:00 AM to 4:00 PM – closed Sunday & Monday / https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/hawaii-big-island/regions/kona/hulihee-palace 

Beaches: At the southern end of Ali’i Dr, Kahalu’u Beach Park is probably Kona’s best beach – which is the problem as it can get quite crowded.  The beach at the Kona Beach Hotel is small but pleasant.  If you want more space, try the Old Kona Airport Beach just north of town – much better than it sounds and you get to ride your bike down the runway!

Shops & Galleries: With a stroll down Ali’i Dr you’ll pass most of the souvenir shops in town.  We are not really shoppers but if you need a bobble headed Barack Obama wearing a lei and flip-flops, you’ll likely find it in one of the tourist shops along Ali’i Drive.  You’ll often find buskers in the Kona Inn Shopping Village‎ (75-5744 Ali’i Drive).  The “amazing” Bosco makes nightly appearances with various friends.

Farmers Market: Kailua Village Farmers Market has not just fruits and veggies but also a host of arts, crafts, trinkets, shells and odd Hawaiian.  Even if you’re not shopping, it’s an entertaining stroll through the stalls. 75-5769 Ali’i Dr.  Wed-Sun: 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

Volcano Tours & Star Gazing: Hawaii Forest & Trail operate tours up Mauna Kea for star gazing as well as daytime and twilight tours of the Volcanoes National Park.  Trips include meals as well as equipment.  Daily $180 average pp. plus tax.  Book by calling (808) 331-8505 with pickup at their headquarters just north of town at 74-5035B Queen Kaahumanu Hwy (Hwy 19) / https://www.hawaii-forest.com 

Other Tours & Activities: You can arrange many types of tours and activities out of Kona.  Most require pre-booking.  Your guide or the hotel concierge would be happy to help.  Tours include:

  • Kayaking and kayak fishing
  • Diving, snorkeling & “snuba”
  • Paddle boarding
  • Outrigger canoe lessons
  • Sunset & dinner cruise
  • Surfing
  • Whale watching

Useful Contacts

Stores: There are a wide variety of stores from Target to bike shops.  KTA is the most convenient of the large supermarkets – just up from the Kona Beach Hotel at 74-5594 Palani Rd.  5:00 Am to 11:00 PM daily.  This store also has more local produce than the nearby Safeway.

Bike Shop: If you brought your own bike and need a bike store, we highly recommend Bike Works at 74-5583 Luhia St.  From the Kona Beach Hotel, head up Palani Rd, take first left onto Kuakini Hwy and then first right onto Kaiwi St.  Luhia St is a right turn just before you reach the highway.  (808) 326-2453 / http://www.bikeworkskona.com – If you’re riding a rental bike, it’s probably theirs!

Volcano Village & Volcano Nat’l Park

Overview

Volcanoe_VillageVolcano Village, or simply “Volcano,” lies in the southeastern part of the island. It is 30 miles southwest of Hilo and 100 miles from Kailua-Kona. At 4,000 feet in elevation, Volcano has a cooler climate than the beaches. The small number of residents, numbering around 1,500, are scattered around several square miles, but the primary focus here is the rustic center of Volcano and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – home to Kilauea Volcano, the most active volcano on earth. The 100 inches of rain that falls in this area provides an abundance of Hapu’u Fern and Ohi’a and Koa forests, a bright contrast to the dark lava rock that makes up the slopes of Kilauea.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must-see for anyone interested in volcanoes. The National Park was established in 1916 and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1987. Just inside the entrance to the park is the Kilauea Visitor Center, a good first stop to obtain information on current conditions, things to do and the daily schedule of ranger-led activities. The short yet informative film shown in the auditorium details the most recent eruptions as well as flora and fauna you will see as you explore the park. Some park closures remain in effect after the 2018 eruptions – The Jaggar Museum is closed indefinitely – but the most popular site on the island still has plenty to offer. As of this writing, the lava lake in the Halema’ua’u Crater has disappeared and there is no active lava flow on the island, but Kilauea remains an active volcano and will erupt again.

Eating & Drinking

In Volcano, Ohelo Café is the best option. The seating area is small and often fills up, so reservations are recommended. Wood-fired pizzas, pasta, steak and seafood are all on the menu. Ohelo Café is open daily for lunch and dinner but closed the first Tuesday of each month. 11:30am-2:30pm and 5:00-8:30pm. 19-4005 Haunani Rd (808) 339-7865 / https://www.ohelocafe.com

Thai Thai Bistro & Bar is a surprising find in Volcano. They serve traditional Thai dishes with a website warning that “Thai Hot is EXTREMELY hot and recommended only for the experienced.” No fish oil is used in their food preparation. Western menu items are also available. Open every day except Wednesday 11:30am-9:00pm. 19-4084 Old Volcano Rd (808) 967-7969 / https://www.lavalodge.com/thai-thai-bistro.html 

Volcano Lava Rock Café has an extensive menu of burgers, salads, fish and chips, and pasta. The food is basic, and the evening vibe is hopping with live music on some nights. Open for breakfast and lunch daily and for dinner Tues-Sat until 8:00pm 19-3972 Old Volcano Rd (808) 967-8526 / http://www.lavarock.cafe

For a formal dinner, Kilauea Lodge is a former YMCA Camp built in 1938, is now a lodge with an award-winning restaurant. They are open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until 9:00pm with a closure between 2:00-5:00pm. Reservations for dinner are highly recommended, especially on weekends. 19-3948 Old Volcano Rd (808) 967-7366 /https://highwaywestvacations.com/properties/kilauea-lodge#restaurant 

If you prefer to dine inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, The Rim is open daily from 7:00am-8:30pm. They highlight locally sourced seafood on their menu but serve a variety of vegetarian and meat dishes as well. The Rim is open for dinner 5:00-8:30pm and is located inside Volcano House, the National Park lodge, at 1 Crater Rim Dr. (808) 756-9625 / https://www.hawaiivolcanohouse.com/dining 

Things to Do

Shops and Galleries: Volcano Garden Arts, farmhouse-turned-gallery, is constructed of California redwood originally brought to Volcano by ship, rail and horse-drawn wagon. The manicured grounds include cultivated gardens, an art studio, greenhouses, and nature trails that give access visitors access to the large surrounding upland rain forest. Open daily 10:00am-4:00pm 19-3834 Old Volcano Rd (808) 985-8979 / https://www.volcanogardenarts.com 

Volcano Art Center showcases art from more than 200 local artists and displays artworks from the National Park’s collection. This non-profit has several events on their calendar each month, including musical concerts, yoga, art classes and more. If interested, check their website at http://www.volcanoartcenter.org for events and fees. The gallery is open daily 9:00am-5:00pm and is located at 19-4074 Old Volcano Rd. (808) 967-7565.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: The Visitors Center is a good first stop once inside the park. The Steam Vents trail leads to you to what you might expect – steam vents. The vents billow when ground water seeps down to the hot volcanic rocks and generate continuous plumes of steam. This trail is relatively flat and is accessed just past the visitor’s center. The Kilauea Iki trail is a longer hike that includes views of the Kilauea Iki Crater. Check with rangers on any sections of the hike that may be closed. The Chain of Craters Rd once led to Kalapana, but lava flows have closed that access. However, there are still 19 miles leading 3,700 feet down to cliffs overlooking the ocean with ancient craters, lava flows with the year of flow designated, and petroglyphs along the way. Get a park brochure from the pay station as you enter if you are interested in learning more about the sites you will encounter. There is no entrance fee if you have a National Park Pass or are active-duty military. Otherwise, the entrance fee is $25 per passenger vehicle and $15 per pedestrian or bicyclist. Each park pass is valid for 7 days.

Akatsuka Orchid Gardens is 10 minutes south of Volcano. This is a prominent Cattleya Orchid grower and retailer. The garden is open for self-guided tours or a guided tour with reservation ($30 per person with tour and tasting or $45 for a tour and lunch) Open Mon-Sat 10:00am-4:30pm. Closed on Sunday and major holidays.11-3051 Volcano Rd (808) 967-8234 / https://akatsukaorchid.com


Have you ever seen a $20,000 orchid?

It blooms once a year and stays in bloom for two months, from May-August. Brought to Akatsuka Orchid Gardens in 1984, this orchid was awarded a First-Class Certificate for size and symmetry in 1991. It is not the only plant like this in the world but is the only one of its kind with perfect symmetry and is registered   with the American Orchid Society.


Farmers Market: Each Sunday morning from 6:30-10:00am, the Cooper Center hosts a farmers’ market. Find arts and crafts as well as locally produced food items. 19-4030 Wright Rd.

Stores: Kilauea General Store has very few groceries, but there are good baked goods and an espresso stand. Next to Volcano Lave Rock Café and open daily 6:30am-7:30pm. 19-3972 Old Volcano Rd. (808) 967-7555.

Waikoloa Beach Resorts

Overview

Waikoloa is a resort area on the South Kohala coast.  Like many places in Hawaii, it has a somewhat ambiguous name.  The US census names the area as Puako but everyone just calls it Waikoloa or Waikoloa Beach.  To add to the confusion, there is also a Waikoloa Village 5 miles east up the hill along Waikoloa Rd.Waikoloa

As well as a cluster of resorts, shops and restaurants, the area is home to some historic and geologic sites including ancient pathways, royal fishponds and petroglyphs.

Anaeho’omalu Bay, also known as A-Bay,  is the bay behind the Waikoloa Beach Marriott and the heart of the area.  This is a very pleasant, sandy beach with picture-postcard sunsets.  A hut here also rents kayaks, boogie boards and snorkel gear (expensive).  A walk south from A-Bay will take you via numerous petroglyphs to Kapalaoa Beach – really a series of small coves.  The last cove (farthest south) has the best snorkeling. Petroglyphs are found all over this area. These stone carvings are probably the closest thing to a written language that ancient Hawaiians used.  Some petroglyphs are thought to be astronomical symbols.

Just behind the A-Bay beach are the Ku’uali’i and Kahapapa royal fishponds.  The two ponds were part of complex fish farms tended for Hawaiian royalty.  Small fish would swim in from the ocean through the grates, gorge themselves and then be too big to get back through the grates.  They could then be caught and eaten at leisure.  There is a pleasant walk around the ponds with good signage.  Looking across the ponds, through the swaying palms to the ocean at sunset, is a classic Hawaiian snapshot.

WaikoloaThe Hilton Waikoloa Village is at the other end of the cultural scale.  It is a Disneyesque, sprawling wonderland of lagoons, waterfalls, artwork, gardens, restaurants and captive dolphins.  Intra-resort transportation is via trains and a network of canals.  It is built on 62 acres and has 1240 rooms.  It was originally developed in 1988 as the Hyatt Regency Waikoloa and then sold to Hilton in 2002.  As you might expect, there are a lot of kids.  You can walk to the Hilton from A-Bay beach; heading north on trails that pass over sand, lava and coral.  There are also tide pools with green sea turtles en route.

If A-Bay Beach is the seaside and cultural heart of Waikoloa, the commercial heart is contained within the left and right ventricles of the Queens’ MarketPlace and the Kings’ Shops.  Both are up-market malls with the Queens’ MarketPlace being a little more utilitarian and the King’s Shops having nicer views and better restaurants – see below.

Ala Kahakai or “trail by the sea” is the name for the ancient pathway that runs along the coastline in the Waikoloa area that linked important entities in the Hawaiian culture including communities, temples, fishing areas, etc.  The Ala Kahakai, estimated to be 175 miles (282 km) long, is commonly called King’s Trail.  It sounds scenic but, in reality, much of the trail is across hot and exposed lava fields.

Eating & Drinking

There is no shortage of places to eat and drink in Waikoloa. All the resort hotels have bars and restaurants – often several.  These tend to be good if relatively expensive.  If you choose to venture outside of your hotel there is also a host of other options.

As you ride along Waikoloa Beach Drive from Highway 19, you will pass Queens’ MarketPlace on the LHS and the Kings’ Shops on the RHS.

The King’s Shops – 69-250 Waikoloa Beach Dr / (808) 886-7057 – have the better restaurants including the excellent (if expensive, noisy and now much reproduced) Roy’s serving modern Hawaiian food in a nice lakeside setting.  (808) 886-4321 / https://www.royyamaguchi.com 

Finally, there is the more affordable Island Fish & Chips served from a hole in the wall on the lakeside.  You eat at picnic tables by the lake.  Good food at affordable prices make this place quite unique in Waikoloa! / https://www.kingsshops.com/island-fish-chips

The Queens MarketPlace – 69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr / (808) 886-8822 – has a selection of more casual eating options from Starbucks to Subway as well as the Island Gourmet Market grocery store.

Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar – Suite 801 (808) 886-6286 – is the best restaurant on this side of the street serving innovative dishes in a lively setting.  Evenings only 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM / https://dkrestaurants.com

The Marble Slab Creamery makes a good mid-ride pit stop for some cooling ice cream / https://www.marbleslab.com

One of the gems of the Waikoloa Beach Resorts area is the Lava Lava Beach Club, the restaurant features open air setting with many seats directly outside on the beach. The restaurant features “relaxed island cuisine” and a varied menu with options for light dining on fresh fish tacos and burgers as well as the Chef’s creative preparations of steak, Hawaiian seafood and more upscale options. It is the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset and on certain evenings, live music. Lava Lave Beach Club is located on Anaeho’omalu Bay in legendary Waikoloa Beach Resort. 808-769-LAVA (5282), 69-1081 Ku‘ualii Place, Waikoloa, Hawaii 96738 . https://lavalavabeachclub.com/bigisland/

Things to Do

Shops & Galleries: There are many stores in the Queens’ MarketPlace and Kings’ Shops – from Macy’s to Tiffany & Co.  There are also galleries, gift stores and local apparel.  The Kings’ Shops have a wider selection but, if you want a Bike Shop or a children’s store, head to the Queens’ MarketPlace.

Farmers Market: Kings’ Shops Farmers Market every Wednesday, 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM.

Sites: Royal Fishponds behind the Waikoloa Beach Marriott – see Overview section above.

Close to Spencer beach is Pu’ukohola Heiau a temple – see Overview section above.  Open 7:45 AM to 4:45 PM.

Helicopter Flights: Just outside of the resort area – at the intersection of Hwy 19 and Waikoloa Rd – is Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours.  Probably the best aerial outfitter on the island, they offer several flights including one across to the neighboring island of Maui and up to the Kohala Coast. Prices vary according to the tour and type of helicopter but expect to pay between $200 and $500 per person.  Advanced reservation needed.  Waikoloa: (808) 961-5600 / https://www.bluehawaiian.com/en 

Water Sports: Organized ocean activities in the area are dominated by Ocean Sports.  They are well run if expensive and can arrange most water-based activities including: Snorkel Cruises, Sunset Sailing, Dolphin Cruises, Whale Cruises, Scuba Diving, Glass Bottom Boat Excursions, Canoeing, and Sport Fishing.  Contact them on 1-888-724-5924 they also have a kiosk at Anaeho’omalu Bay Beach behind the Waikoloa Beach Marriott / https://hawaiioceansports.com

Star Gazing: If you want to get a little closer to the stars, Hawaii Forest & Trail operate a good tour to the top of Mauna Kea.  Trip includes dinner and star gazing.  Book on (808) 331-8505 with pickup at the Kings’ Shops / https://www.hawaii-forest.com

Golf: Wander far from a road here and you’ll soon find yourself on a golf course.  Waikoloa Beach Resort operate two 18-hole course: The Beach Course and the Kings’ Course.  For a tee time call (808) 886-7888.

Volcano Tours: Hawaii Forest & Trail operate both daylight and twilight tours to the Volcanoes National Park.  Trip last up to 12 hours and include meals as well as equipment.  Daily $216 pp. plus tax.  Book on (808) 331-8505 with pickup at the Kings’ Shops / https://www.hawaii-forest.com

Beaches: There are many fine beaches along this stretch of coast.  Many are behind the resorts but with public access.  Unfortunately, several of these resorts, do not allow you to cycle across their property making two-wheeled access impractical.  The following beaches are both scenic and bike-accessible.

Spencer Beach is an attractive stretch of sandy beach located south of Kawaihae.  The protected location, gentle slope and ample shade make this ideal for families.  Restrooms, showers & picnic tables.  Lifeguards are typically on duty here.

Hapuna Beach has frequently been voted the best beach in the US.  While this may be a little generous, it is indeed a nice ½-mile, 200-feet-wide, stretch of sand.  Snorkeling is best at the southern end of the beach where there is a coral reef.  Less shade than Spencer Beach.  Facilities include restrooms, showers and picnic tables.  Lifeguards are sometimes on duty.

Anaeho’omalu Bay (AKA A-Bay) beach while more gray- than white-sand has a little of everything: a palm-fringed sandy beach, watersports, royal fish ponds, petroglyphs and sunsets to die for.  It also has interesting walking trails to both north and south – see overview section above.  Sited behind the Waikoloa Beach Marriott.

Useful Contacts

Stores: Island Gourmet Markets has a nice selection of food and plenty to make up a picnic.  In the Queens’ MarketPlace.  (808) 886-3577.  7:00 AM to 11:00 PM.  There is also a smaller general store in the King’s Shops mall – the Whalers General Store 7:00 AM to 10:30 PM.

Bike Shop: Bike Works in the Queens’ MarketPlace is exactly what a bike shop should be: friendly, informative with collegial shop rides.  (808) 886-5000.  9:30 AM to 9:30 PM.

Waimea (Kamuela)

Overview

Since each US state cannot have more than one post office of the same name and there are many Waimeas in Hawaii, the official USPS name for Waimea is Kamuela – but everyone still calls it Waimea.  The name is not the only schizophrenic aspect to the town.  There is a dry side (west) and a wet side (east).  There are the suburban strip malls as well as thriving art galleries and gourmet restaurants.  If you asked the average mainlander to describe a typical Hawaii town, it’s a fair bet that few would describe Waimea.  It’s high, cool and surrounded by rolling pastureland more reminiscent of Ireland than the Aloha State.Parker_Ranch

The town is surrounded by the Parker Ranch – the largest privately owned cattle ranch in the US – and paniolo (cowboy) culture dominates the town.  Waimea is also home to the headquarters of two astronomical observatories located on Mauna Kea: the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.   The former has a visitor’s center in the town – see below.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, most of the land was subsistence farmed but as Europeans arrived most of the sandalwood forests were harvested and the land became ideal for grazing cattle.  In 1809, John Palmer Parker arrived to the area after jumping ship and over time becoming employed by King Kamehameha I to tame the population of cattle, which at this point had grown out of control. In 1815 Parker married Kipikane, the daughter of a high-ranking chief, and this family developed what is now Parker Ranch.

The early 19th century saw the arrival of the horse and Spanish vaqueros (cowboys), bringing the traditional Euro-Latin culture of riding and roping skills. The king hired these vaqueros to teach Hawaiians herding and ranching skills, and by 1836 the island had working cowboys. As the Hawaiian culture and Latin vaquero cultured commingled, a unique breed of cowboy emerged, the paniolo.

Eating & Drinking

For a cowboy town, there is a surprising variety of good restaurants.

The best place in town is undoubtedly Merriman’s Big Island Restaurant 65-1227 Opelo Rd.  (808) 885-6822. It’s just a few blocks down Hwy 19 from the Jacaranda Inn and practically in the driveway of the Kamuela Inn.  Chef Peter Merriman is one of the best on the island and create dishes using primarily local ingredients and local influences.  Fish and beef are the staples.  The only downside is the price and the need for reservations.  5:00 to 9:00 PM daily / https://www.merrimanshawaii.com 

Next door to Merriman’s is the more casual Pau serving good pizzas as well as pasta, salads, and sandwiches.  65-1227 Opelo Rd (just off Hwy 19).  (808) 885-6325.  11:00 AM to 8:00 PM / https://www.paupizza.com

For a very local experience, you can eat at the bar, Forc (Farmer, Ocean, Rancher, Cook). Their website boasts “With a nod to Hawaiian Regional flavors, award winning Chef Allen Hess has expanded on local land and sea offerings and developed a menu both distinctive and creative in his newest restaurant.” Open 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM from Thursday to Monday. Reservation essential (you can book online). https://forchawaii.com/

If you just want a great burger, locally sourced, head to the Village Burger 67-1185 Mamalahoa Hwy – in the Parker Ranch Center.  (808) 885-7319.  As they say on the menu, “Supporting our island ranchers, one hamburger at a time.”  10:00 AM to 8:00 PM (6:00 PM Sundays) / https://villageburgerwaimea.com

The dishes at the Hawaiian Style Café – 65-1290 Kawaihae Rd/Hwy19 – are tasty, generous and served with a smile.  This is one of our favorite breakfast spots on the island.  If the stack of monster pancakes served here don’t power you all the way to Waipi’o Overlook, nothing will!  (808) 885-4295.  7:00 AM to 1:30 PM (12:00 noon Sunday).  CASH ONLY / https://hawaiianstylecafe.us/menu-waimea.html 

For coffee or a light lunch, head to the Waimea Coffee Company – 65-1279  Kawaihae Rd/Hwy 19.  (808) 885-8915.  There is a nice setting – both in and out – making it a great place for a post ride espresso and treat / http://www.waimeacoffeecompany.com 

Another great place for lunch or a casual dinner is the Big Island Brew House.  Serving pub food with a Mexican slant with an extensive list of their own craft beers and margaritas.  Also has outdoor, covered patio.  At the eastern end of town at 64-1066 Mamalahoa Hwy, Waimea, HI 96743  (808) 887-1717.  Mon – Sat 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM.  Closed Sun.  http://www.bigislandbrewhaus.com/

Red Water Café serves Hawaiian-Asian fusion food as well as sushi.  This casual fine dining restaurant, prides itself on use of local ingredients – they even make their own chocolate.  But prices are on the higher side for the informality of the setting.  65-1299 Kawaihae Rd, Waimea, HI 96743.  (808) 885-9299.  Tues – Fri 2:00 PM – 9:00 PM.  Sat 12:00 PM – 9:00 PM.  Closed Sun & Mon.  http://www.redwatercafe.com/

Moa Kitchen is a small, local restaurant serving delicious-if-expensive Japanese food in a casual setting.  65-1298 Kawaihae Rd, Waimea, HI 96743.  (808) 339-7887.  Tues – Sat 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM. Sat 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM.  Mon 5:00 – 9:00 PM.  Closed Sun. http://moakitchen.net/

Things to Do

If you are in Waimea for two days, there are a few things to keep you entertained – other than simply riding your bike.

Waimea_KamuelaShops & Galleries: The Parker Ranch Center 67-1185 Mamalahoa Highway – at the intersection of Hwy 19 and Hwy 190 (on the SE side) – has a selection of stores including a good grocery store, a pharmacy, clothing boutiques, a toy store as well as the Parker Ranch Store for all things cowboy / https://parkerranchstore.com 

Museums: The Isaacs Art Center – 65-1268 Kawaihae Rd – has a large permanent collection of paintings, furniture, rare books, and Hawaiiana.  A section of the center also has art pieces for sale.  The building itself is as interesting as the art work.  Built in 1915, it was Waimea’s first public school structure and is on State Register of Historic Places.  Closed Sunday & Monday / https://isaacsartcenter.hpa.edu 

Located just west of the Jacaranda Inn (65-1480 Kawaihae Rd), the Anna Ranch Historic Home and Heritage Center is an opportunity to explore a restored ranch house.  There is also a newly completed Discovery Trail, which takes visitors on a self-guided tour of the historic property. You can also observe the onsite blacksmith and master saddle maker.  Guided tours run 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM.  Property is open Tuesday through Friday 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  (808) 885-4426 / https://www.annaranch.org

Parker Ranch Visitor Center and Museum is located on the scenic and pastoral countryside in Waimea. Take a self-guided tour through two historic Parker Ranch homes, free of charge. There is also a 20-minute informative video. Currently used as the Parker Ranch Headquarters, the homes are open Monday-Friday 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM / https://parkerranch.com/waimea/explore-self-guided-tours/ 

Not really a museum but the W. M. Keck Observatory – 65-1120 Mamalahoa Hwy – is a working office where volunteers are available Monday through Friday from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM to educate guests about Keck and the other Mauna Kea observatories. Visitors can view models and images of the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes.  A good alternative to attempting the ride to the summit of Mauna Kea / https://keckobservatory.org

Horseback Riding: The Dahana Ranch also offers a range of riding tours.  The ranch is owned by a local native-Hawaiian family and has a strong reputation for open-range riding.  Daily.  For reservations call (808) 885-0057 / https://dahanaranch.com

Farmers Market: There is a vibrant and lively farmers’ market every Saturday, open 7:30am-1:00 pm, on the lawn fronting Kuhio Hale, Hwy 19 at 55-mile marker on LHS shortly before the Mana Rd turn.

Useful Contacts

Stores: There is a good grocery store Foodland at the Parker Ranch Center 67-1185 Mamalahoa Highway – at the intersection of Hwy 19 and Hwy 190 (on the SE side.)

Request Itinerary

Day-by-Day

Kailua-Kona to Captain Cook

Route Overview

You head south today, down the Kona Coast to the world-famous Kona coffee district.cycling_Kona

Intermediate riders first head inland from Kona – climbing up to Holualoa. This small settlement sits at 1,300 feet and is surrounded by coffee plantations. From here it is an easy cruise into Captain Cook.

The Easiest route heads south from Kona, hugging the coast and skirting around numerous bays before climbing up to the small enclave of Captain Cook.

Challenge riders follow the Leisure route out of Kona but add on a loop down to the Place of Refuge National Park.

Epic riders start with a detour up Kaloko Drive. Climbing 3,000 feet in just 7 miles, this is something of a local challenge. Riders then follow the Challenge route to Captain Cook.

NOTE: If you plan to eat lunch at Bay View Farm, remember to buy a picnic en route, for example, in Captain Cook

Route Options

Easiest Route

Head south from Kona along the coast road – Ali’i Drive.  You pass numerous small coves and beaches including Magic Sand Beach (3.8 miles) – see Points of Interest below.  Shortly after Magic Sands Beach, you pass the main lunch options for the day – all located just off the route in the Keauhou Shopping Center.

At 7.0 miles, you continue straight onto Mamalahoa Bypass Rd. [A right turn here (staying on Ali’i Drive) takes you to the Lekeleke Burial Grounds – see Points of Interest below.]

There is not much along the prosaically named Mamalahoa Bypass Rd but it is a well-graded climb with a large shoulder and excellent views down to the coast.  Your ride summits, just outside Captain Cook, at the end of the bypass from where you descend down Napo’opo’o Road.  Just after the turn, you pass the Captain Cook Monument Trailhead (12.2 miles) – see Points of Interest below.  The remainder of the ride is downhill – except for the steep climb up to your accommodation.

Intermediate Route

You start heading south along Ali’i Drive but after less than half a mile you turn inland and leave Kona on a four-mile climb into Kona’s coffee belt.  You summit at Highway 180 – just outside of Holualoa.  You then follow Highway 180 south, along the ridge until it ends at Highway 11 (Hawaii Belt Rd).  This is also where you find your main lunch options – Teshima’s & Kaya’s Kawanui Cafe.  From here, you continue along the ridge, through Kealakekua, past Greenwell Coffee Farm (mile 11.9 see Points of Interest below) and on to the outskirts of Captain Cook.  At the lights, the main road goes left into Captain Cook but you continue straight onto Napo’opo’o Road.  Shortly after the lights, you pass the Captain Cook Monument Trailhead (13.3 miles) – see Points of Interest below.  The remainder of the ride is downhill – except for the steep climb up to your accommodation.

Challenge Route

Head south from Kona along the coast road – Ali’i Drive.  You pass numerous small coves and beaches including Magic Sand Beach (3.8 miles) – see Points of Interest below.  Shortly after, you pass the main lunch options for the day – all located just off the route in the in the Keauhou Shopping Center.

At 7.0 miles, you continue straight onto Mamalahoa Bypass Rd. [A right turn here (staying on Ali’i Drive) takes you to the Lekeleke Burial Grounds – see Points of Interest below.]

There is not much along the prosaically named Mamalahoa Bypass Rd but it is a well-graded climb with a large shoulder and excellent views down to the coast.  Your ride summits, just outside Captain Cook, at the end of the bypass from where you descend down Napo’opo’o Road.  (A detour into Captain Cook here will give you various lunch options – see Captain Cook in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for details.)   Just after the turn, you pass the Captain Cook Monument Trailhead (12.2 miles) – see Points of Interest below.

After three miles of descending on Napo’opo’o Road, you veer left onto Middle Keei Road and right onto Painted Church Road and follow the ridge past Bay View Farm (16.8 miles) and the Painted Church (17.2 miles) – see Points of Interest below.  A sharp right then takes you down to Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park (AKA Place of Refuge).  A flat ride across lava fields then takes you to Kealakekua Bay followed by a climb up Napo’opo’o Road followed by an even steeper climb up to your accommodation.

Epic Route

Head north out of Kona for three miles before heading inland where you start to climb, and climb.  After a relatively gentle start you reach Kaloko Drive.  There is an annual race up this road nicknamed the “Pedal ‘till Ya Puke” race.  Which tells you all you need to know about this climb with its seven switchbacks.  You summit at 4,300 feet after 12 arduous miles of climbing.  Be prepared for clouds and cooler weather at this altitude.

A technical descent and a short section on Highway 190, bring you to the quieter Highway 180, which follows the ridge through Holualoa.  Here, the Holuakoa Coffee Shack (27.5 mi) makes a good coffee (or early lunch) stop.

After riding along the ridge, you descend back down to sea level – passing Sam Choy’s and Los Habaneros located in the Keauhou Shopping Center at mile 35.  After a short ride along Ali’i Drive, you continue straight onto Mamalahoa Bypass Rd. [A right turn here (staying on Ali’i Drive) takes you to the Lekeleke Burial Grounds – see Points of Interest below.]

There is not much along the prosaically named Mamalahoa Bypass Rd but it is a well-graded climb with a large shoulder and excellent views down to the coast.  Your ride summits, just outside Captain Cook, at the end of the bypass from where you descend down Napo’opo’o Road.  (A detour into Captain Cook here will give you other various lunch options – see Captain Cook in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for details.)   Just after the turn, you pass the Captain Cook Monument Trailhead – see Points of Interest below.

After three miles of descending on Napo’opo’o Road, you veer left onto Middle Keei Road and right onto Painted Church Road and follow the ridge past Bay View Farm (16.8 miles) and the Painted Church (17.2 miles) – see Points of Interest below.  A sharp right then takes you down to Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park (AKA Place of Refuge).  A flat ride across lava fields then takes you to Kealakekua Bay followed by a climb up Napo’opo’o Road followed by an even steeper climb up to your accommodation.

Lunch

South End of Ali’i Drive

There are several eateries in the Keauhou Shopping Center at the southern end of Ali’i Drive.

Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai was opened by Sam Choy to introduce to popularize Hawaiian cuisine – especially the poke bowl.  Now under new owners, the experience is a little more commercialized with a food truck vibe – think plastic cutlery and paper plates – but the food is still OK and there are great views from the deck.  78-6831 Ali‘i Dr #1000, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740 (808) 333-3434.  11:00 AM – 8:00 PM.  https://samchoyskailanai.com/

Los Habaneros is a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant serving decent, good-value food.  There are a few tables outside the restaurant but no views. 78-6831 Alii Drive # 404 # 404, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740. (808) 324-4688.  11:00 AM – 7:00 PM.  Closed Sunday.  https://www.habaneroskona.com/

Kealakekua

Just south of the intersection of highways 11 and 180, Teshima’s is a longstanding favorite with the locals.  They serve good Japanese comfort food in a simple setting.  79-7251 Hawaiʻi Belt Rd, Kealakekua, HI 96750.  (808) 322-9140. 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM.  http://www.teshimarestaurant.com/

Just south of Teshima’s, Kaya’s Kawanui Café serves great organic baked goods, salads, sandwiches, and smoothies.  79-7300 Hawaiʻi Belt Rd, Kealakekua, HI 96750.  (808) 322 8800.  5:30 AM – 5:30 PM.  http://www.kayascoffee.com/

Captain Cook

See Captain Cook in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more eating options in Captain Cook,

Outside of Captain Cook, on Painted Church Rd, Bay View Farm has coffee, nuts, and other sweets.  While they do not have lunch food per se, it is a nice place to stop for refreshment and to enjoy a picnic lunch (that you have brought with you).  They also offer a tour of their processing facility. 83-5249 Painted Church Rd.  (808) 731-6757.  Daily 10:00AM – 4:00 PM.  https://www.bvfcoffee.com

Holualoa

In the heart of Holualoa, the Holuakoa Coffee Shack serves nice drinks, baked good, salads and sandwiches in humble shack with some outdoor tables.  76-5900 Mamalahoa Hwy, Holualoa, HI 96725.  (808) 731-4711.  6:00 AM – 3:00 PM.  http://www.holuakoacoffeeshack.com/

Points of Interest

Sights

Magic Sands Beach AKA White Sands Beach Park or Disappearing Sands Beach is a pleasant strip of sand for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing.  However, what makes this cove of particular interest is the tendency of the sands to disappear (sometimes overnight) to reveal the exposed lava rock.  The cause is high winter surf.  The sands are deposited offshore and gradually return over the following weeks.  Worth a look to see where the sands are when you are passing.  Also, the regular sand replenishment keeps the beach nice and clean!

The Lekeleke Burial Grounds are at the site of the 1820 Battle of Kuamo’o that killed more than 300 Hawaiians and represented the end of the kapu system of laws and taboos.  A little further down the gravel track you reach “The End of the World”: a place where thrill-seekers thrown themselves off the cliffs into the raging surf.  The site is down a gravel path where it is probably best to walk your bikes.  https://www.kuamoo.org/

The Captain Cook Monument Trailhead is the start of a strenuous walk down to the white monument that marks the spot where Captain Cook died in 1779.  The monument is on the scenic Kealakekua Bay and can only be reached by hiking of kayaking.  The hike is steep and takes an hour down and two hours back.

Greenwell Farms has an interesting shop, regular tours, and constant tastings.  81-6581 Mamalahoa Hwy/Hwy 11.  (808) 323-2862.  It is just down the hill from the Kona Historical Society’s Greenwell Store Museum (808) 323-3222. There is no charge to take a tour, but the guides appreciate tips.  https://www.greenwellfarms.com

St Benedict’s Painted Church overlooks Kealakekua Bay and is one of only two painted churches on the island, the other being near Hilo at Kalapana.  St Benedict’s was built between 1899 and 1902 under the direction of a Belgian catholic priest.  The same priest also illustrated many biblical scenes on the walls of the building.  In a time when many were unable to read or write, the paintings provided a vibrant teaching tool.  84-5140 Painted Church Rd., Captain Cook.  http://thepaintedchurchhawaii.org

Pu’uhonua O’ Honaunau National Historic Park (Place of Refuge): These royal grounds are a sacred site for Hawaiians. Kapu, or laws, governed all aspects of the Hawaiian society. If a law was broken, a Pu’uhonua, or Place of Refuge, was the only place one could go to seek forgiveness and asylum. If the lawbreaker was able to elude capture and make it to the sacred grounds, all was forgiven. If not, death was certain. Today, you can explore the grounds, listen to a ranger talk or simply sit in the silence that surrounds these beautiful grounds. You may even find a green sea turtle resting in the quiet waters. Please note that no picnics are allowed directly in the Pu’uhonua but there are picnic tables just outside. Check with the visitor center with any questions. (808) 328-2326 ext. 1702. Open daily 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM.  https://www.nps.gov/puho/index.htm

Kealakekua Bay is both a Marine Life Conservation District and State Historical Park. This is the location where the first westerner landed on the island of Hawaii. In 1778, Captain James Cook was the first British explorer to establish contact with the Hawaiian Island (Kauai). One year later, he was killed in a fight with natives here in Kealakekua Bay. A white obelisk on the far shore memorializes his death.  Colorful schools of fish live in its coral-filled waters, and Spinner dolphins are sometimes seen playing in the bay.

Stores

In the Keauhou Shopping Center (close to Sam Choy’s) the Aloha Island Mart is a large grocery store.  78-6831 1001 Alii Drive #1001 AIM, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740.

On Highway 11, just before Captain Cook, there is Captain Cook Mini Mart.  81-6372 Hawaiʻi Belt Rd # 101, Kealakekua, HI 96750. (808) 323-2471.  7:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

See Captain Cook in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for stores in Captain Cook.

 

Request Itinerary

Captain Cook Loop Rides

Route Overview

As well as scenic cycling, this area has great kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking in and around the clear waters of Kealakekua Bay. This bay is where Captain James Cook first landed on the island.

The Intermediate loop ride, heads to Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park (the Place of Refuge). This beautifully situated park preserves the site where Hawaiians who broke the law could avoid certain death by fleeing to seek refuge.

The Easiest route takes you along a ridge with stunning views of the ocean past the Paleaku Peace Sanctuary to the picturesque Painted Church.

Challenge riders will extend the Intermediate loop to the lovely Ho’okena Beach. The swimming here is good and you have a chance of seeing dolphins and turtles.

NOTE: If you plan to eat lunch at Bay View Farm, remember to buy a picnic in Captain Cook before you start your ride or ask your accommodation if they are able to supply a boxed lunch.

Route Options

Easiest Route

This short ride starts with a 1½-mile descent down Napo’opo’o Road but before you reach the ocean, you veer left onto Middle Keei Road and right onto Painted Church Road.  In the next couple of miles, you will pass a banana bread store (really just a cooler and a cash box at the side of the road), a peace gardens (see Paleaku Gardens in Points of Interest below), a coffee farm which makes for a nice picnic lunch stop (Bay View Farm), and a painted church (see Points of Interest).  Anything you missed on the way out; you can visit on the way back on this in-and-out ride.

When you get back to Napo’opo’o Road you turn right to return to your accommodation.  If you turn left and descend ½ mile you will see the turn to Big Island Bees on your right-hand side.  This is an interesting detour if you have apiarian interests.

Intermediate Route

This ride starts with a 3-mile descent down to Kealakekua Bay (see points of Interest).  If you want to break up the downhill, stop in at the Big Island Bees Museum and Tasting Room – a right turn down a small lane at mile 1.9.

At the bottom of the hill, it’s worth taking a short detour to the right to take a look at Kealakekua Bay (see Points of Interest).  From here, you have a four-mile ride across exposed lava fields to Pu’uhonua O’ Honaunau National Historic Park (Place of Refuge).  This is the main site on today’s ride and a nice place to have lunch if you brought a picnic.

After visiting the national park, you start a long steady climb back up the hill.  For the most part, the climb is well-graded and there is a good shoulder.  Partway up the hill, you take a sharp right onto Painted Church Road and continue along a ridge with fine views down to the ocean.  Along the ridge, you pass the Painted Church (see Points of Interest), Bay View Farm (see Lunch options), and the Paleaku Peace Garden.

Continuing along the ridge, you return to Napo’opo’o Road where you turn right to return to your accommodation.  (If you turn left and descend ½ mile you will see the turn to Big Island Bees on your right-hand side.  This is an interesting end-of-ride detour if you missed it on the way out.)

Challenge Route

This ride starts with a 3-mile descent down to Kealakekua Bay (see points of Interest).  If you want to break up the downhill, stop in at the Big Island Bees Museum and Tasting Room – a right turn down a small lane at mile 1.9.

At the bottom of the hill, it’s worth taking a short detour to the right to take a look at Kealakekua Bay (see Points of Interest).  From here, you have a four-mile ride across exposed lava fields to Pu’uhonua O’ Honaunau National Historic Park (Place of Refuge).  This is the main site on today’s ride (see Points of Interest).

After visiting the national park, you start a long steady climb back up the hill.  For the most part, the climb is well-graded and there is a good shoulder.

At the top of the climb, you reach Highway 11 where you turn right.  2½ miles along the busy highway brings you to the turn down to Ho‘okena Beach.  If you want to collect a picnic for the beach, South Kona Fruit Stand is on the left after you turn onto Hwy 11 – see Lunch suggestions below.  The surface on the descent down to Ho‘okena Beach is uneven and steep in places and should be traveled with care.  When you reach the bottom, stay left through the small village.

After visiting the beach (see Points of Interest), you return up the hill and turn left onto Highway 11 – returning the way you came – and then left again down Keala O Keawe Rd (up which you previously climbed).  As you descend, a right turn takes you on to Painted Church Road and you continue along a ridge with fine views down to the ocean.  Along the ridge, you pass the Painted Church (see Points of Interest), Bay View Farm (see Lunch options), and the Paleaku Peace Garden (see Points of Interest).

Continuing along the ridge, you return to Napo’opo’o Road where you turn right to return to your accommodation.  (If you turn left and descend ½ mile you will see the turn to Big Island Bees on your right-hand side.  This is an interesting end-of-ride detour if you missed it on the way out.)

Lunch

Captain Cook

See Captain Cook in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more eating options in Captain Cook,

Outside of Captain Cook, on Painted Church Rd, Bay View Farm has coffee, nuts, and other sweets.  While they do not have lunch food per se, it is a nice place to stop for refreshment and to enjoy a picnic lunch (that you have brought with you).  They also offer a tour of their processing facility. 83-5249 Painted Church Rd.  (808) 731-6757.  Daily 10:00AM – 4:00 PM.  https://www.bvfcoffee.com

On Highway 11

South Kona Fruit Stand is a fruit, sandwich and smoothie stand with both vegan and gluten-free options. 84-4770 Mamalahoa Hwy (Hwy 11). (808) 328-8547. Open Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri  9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  Sun 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM.  Closed Tues.  http://www.southkonafruitstand.com/

Points of Interest

Sights

The Paleaku Peace Garden is a tranquil tropical garden dedicated to peace.  Stroll among tropical plants, petroglyphs, and Tibetan monuments. There are also quiet places to sit with beautiful views.  There is a small store selling works by local artists as well as coffee and macadamia nuts. Tues to Saturday 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM.  https://www.paleaku.com/

St Benedict’s Painted Church overlooks Kealakekua Bay and is one of only two painted churches on the island, the other being near Hilo at Kalapana.  St Benedict’s was built between 1899 and 1902 under the direction of a Belgian catholic priest.  The same priest also illustrated many biblical scenes on the walls of the building.  In a time when many were unable to read or write, the paintings provided a vibrant teaching tool.  84-5140 Painted Church Rd., Captain Cook.  http://thepaintedchurchhawaii.org

Big Island Bees Museum and Tasting Room is a great place to learn about bees and honey and taste single blossom samples.  Seasonal combinations of honey and local spices are available for purchase too. If descending Napo’opo’o Rd, turn right at the Big Island Bees sign immediately past Hawaiian Host Macadamia Factory and Kealakekua Estates. Then follow the winding lane 0.2 miles and turn right at the gate.  Open Monday through Friday 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM (Saturday until 2:00 PM). (808) 328-7318.  https://bigislandbees.com/pages/visit-us-in-hawaii

Kealakekua Bay is both a Marine Life Conservation District and State Historical Park. This is the location where the first westerner landed on the island of Hawaii. In 1778, Captain James Cook was the first British explorer to establish contact with the Hawaiian Island (Kauai). One year later, he was killed in a fight with natives here in Kealakekua Bay. A white obelisk on the far shore memorializes his death.  Colorful schools of fish live in its coral-filled waters, and Spinner dolphins are sometimes seen playing in the bay.

Pu’uhonua O’ Honaunau National Historic Park (Place of Refuge): These royal grounds are a sacred site for Hawaiians. Kapu, or laws, governed all aspects of the Hawaiian society. If a law was broken, a Pu’uhonua, or Place of Refuge, was the only place one could go to seek forgiveness and asylum. If the lawbreaker was able to elude capture and make it to the sacred grounds, all was forgiven. If not, death was certain. Today, you can explore the grounds, listen to a ranger talk or simply sit in the silence that surrounds these beautiful grounds. You may even find a green sea turtle resting in the quiet waters. Please note that no picnics are allowed directly in the Pu’uhonua but there are picnic tables just outside. Check with the visitor center with any questions. (808) 328-2326 ext. 1702. Open daily 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM.  https://www.nps.gov/puho/index.htm

Ho’okena Beach Park is a pretty, community-run, sandy cove popular with locals.  You can rent kayaks, boogie boards and snorkel gear. There are showers, restrooms, and picnic tables.  There is also often a small stand on the beach selling snacks.  https://www.hookena.org/

Stores

There are not many stores en route today.  On the Challenge ride, you will pass the small Fujihara Grocery Store on the LHS as you ride the short stretch of Highway 11.  85-4524 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, HI 96704.  (808) 328-2224 6:00 AM – 7:00 PM.

See Captain Cook in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for stores in Captain Cook.

Captain Cook to Volcano

Route Overview

Cane_Haul_RoadThe jewel in today’s ride is the stunningly beautiful, and deserted, Cane Haul Road. This deserted back road takes you through woodland, sugar-cane fields and meadows. You also get great views of cinder cones and the ocean.

Today’s Intermediate ride starts with a van transfer to the Kahuku Unit – a little-known part of the Volcanoes National Park set among lush grasslands. From here you ride to the tiny village of Naalehu, an unassuming town with a great Hawaiian bakery. You then ride the length of Cane Haul Road – an almost deserted road across open grasslands with stunning ocean views. The ride ends at the old sugar-town of Pahala from where you take a van transfer to the town of Volcano (just outside of the Volcanoes National Park).

The Easiest route starts with a transfer to Naalehu where you join the Intermediate ride.

Challenge riders follow the Intermediate route but at Pahala continue on the highway all the way to the town of Volcano.

Epic riders following the Challenge route but add on a scenic in-and-out ride down to South Point – the most southerly point in the United States.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Your day starts with a 60-minute van transfer to the sleepy town of Naalehu – close to the southern tip of the island.  Naalehu has the only options for lunch on today’s route.  However, you might also choose to collect a picnic or simply wait until you arrive at Volcano.

Your ride takes you northeast of Naalehu along Kaalaiki Rd (which later becomes Cane Haul Rd).  The riding starts with a steady two-mile climb with some steep pitches before leveling out and becoming a more mellow ride.  The road sees little traffic and for the most part you are travelling through open cane fields and grassland with a few trees here and there for shade.  To your right, you have fine views down to the ocean.

After 14 miles, you skirt around the town of Pahala and begin another two-mile climb up to the Ka’u Coffee Mill (see Points of Interest) where your guide will meet you for your transfer to Volcano.

Intermediate Route

Your day starts with a 60-minute van transfer to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Kahuku Unit: the site of an old cattle ranch with rolling grasslands on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano.  From here, you head south (mostly on side roads) before turning northeast and riding a short section of highway to the sleepy town of Naalehu.  Naalehu has the only options for lunch on today’s route.  However, you might also choose to collect a picnic or simply wait until you arrive at Volcano.

From Naalehu, your ride takes you northeast along Kaalaiki Rd (which later becomes Cane Haul Rd).  A steady, two-mile climb with some steep pitches brings you to more level terrain with great ocean views across cane fields and open grassland.

After 13 miles, you skirt around the town of Pahala and begin another two-mile climb up to the Ka’u Coffee Mill (see Points of Interest) where your guide will meet you for your transfer to Volcano.

Challenge Route

Choose the GPS file based on where you are staying – either Kilauea Lodge or Volcano House.On the Challenge ride, your day starts with a 60-minute van transfer to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Kahuku Unit: the site of an old cattle ranch with rolling grasslands on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano.  From here, you head south (mostly on side roads) before turning northeast and riding a short section of highway to the sleepy town of Naalehu.  Naalehu has the only options for lunch on today’s route.  However, you might also choose to collect a picnic or simply wait until you arrive at Volcano.

From Naalehu, your ride takes you northeast along Kaalaiki Rd (which later becomes Cane Haul Rd).  A steady, two-mile climb with some steep pitches brings you to more level terrain with great ocean views across cane fields and open grassland.

After 22 miles, you descend down to the town of Pahala where you join Highway 11 for the 20-mile climb up to Volcano.  The grade is not steep and there is a shoulder for most of the way but the sheer length of the climb and the traffic can make it a bit of a slog.  A sign at 35 miles lets you know you are entering the Volcanoes National Park.

If you are staying at Volcano House, at the end of your ride you turn right off the highway into the Volcanoes National Park.  There is often a queue of cars to enter the park and you will need to pay the entrance fee.

If you are NOT staying at Volcano House, you continue past the entrance to the National Park and turn left off the highway into the village of Volcano where your ride ends.

Epic Route

Choose the GPS file based on where you are staying – either Kilauea Lodge or Volcano House.

The Epic ride also starts with a with a 60-minute van transfer to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Kahuku Unit: the site of an old cattle ranch with rolling grasslands on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano.  From here, you head due south across the highway onto South Point Rd.  This takes you all the way to South Point – the most southernly part of the US (see Points of Interest).  This stretch of road is narrow and windy – hence the wind farms and the trees that seem to grow sideways.  Generally, the winds blow from the east, so you will be blasted from the side both going and coming back.

Once back at the highway, a short section on highway 11 will bring you to the sleepy town of Naalehu.  Naalehu has the only options for lunch on today’s route.  However, you might also choose to collect a picnic or simply wait until you arrive at Volcano.

From Naalehu, your ride takes you northeast along Kaalaiki Rd (which later becomes Cane Haul Rd).  A steady, two-mile climb with some steep pitches brings you to more level terrain with great ocean views across cane fields and open grassland.

After 22 miles, you descend down to the town of Pahala where you join Highway 11 for the 20-mile climb up to Volcano.  The grade is not steep and there is a shoulder for most of the way but the sheer length of the climb and the traffic can make it a bit of a slog.  A sign at 53 miles lets you know you are entering the Volcanoes National Park.

If you are staying at Volcano House, at the end of your ride you turn right off the highway into the Volcanoes National Park.  There is often a queue of cars to enter the park and you will need to pay the entrance fee.

If you are NOT staying at Volcano House, you continue past the entrant to the National Park and turn left off the highway into the village of Volcano where your ride ends.

Lunch

Naalehu

Hana Hou Restaurant serves good Hawaiian comfort food in a simple setting with some outside tables.  It also claims to be “The southernmost restaurant in the USA.”  Just south of the highway at 95-1148 Naalehu Spur Rd, Naalehu, HI 96772.  (808) 929-9717.  Thurs – Mon 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  Closed Tues & Wed.  https://naalehurestaurant.com/

Ka Lae is a very nice café with excellent coffee, great baked good as well as sandwiches and smoothies.  Just north of the highway at 95-5656 Hawaiʻi Belt Rd, Naalehu, HI 96772.  08:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  Closed Sun.  https://www.instagram.com/Kalaecoffee/

Opposite Ka Lae, the Punalu’u Bake Shop is a popular Hawaiian bakery serving malasadas (think donut), Hawaiian sweet bread and other treats.  There is also an outside restaurant with salads and sandwiches.  Can feel a little touristy if a tour bus is visiting.  HI-11, Naalehu, HI 96772.  (866) 366-3501.  Mon – Fri 08:30 – 4:30 PM.  Sat – Sun 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM.  http://www.bakeshophawaii.com/

Volcano

See Volcano in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more eating options in the village of Volcano,

Points of Interest

Sights

The Ka’u Coffee Mill is an off-the-beaten-track coffee farm with a free, 20-minute tour twice a day at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM.  The store also has coffee tastings and sells fruit smoothies as well as nuts and gifts.  Two miles northeast of Pahala at 96-2694 Wood Valley Rd, Pahala, HI 96777.  (808) 928-0550.  Daily 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM. https://kaucoffeemill.com/

At the end of South Point Rd, South Point is the most southernly point in the US.  From the highway, you follow the road south for 10 windy miles or until you get to the cliffs.  There are  diving platforms and blow holes for the reckless but please don’t be tempted to enter the water. There are no facilities at South Point and, like much of the ride, it is exposed and windy.  In fact, there’s not much to see generally except for a wind farm and trees growing horizontally (west) – both a testament to the strong Tradewinds that blow here.  However, the views are great and you definitely get bragging rights.  Despite its desolation, this is thought to be the first area of the island to be settled by Polynesians sometime around 400 CE.

Stores

There are small stores in both Naalehu and Pahala.

In Naalehu, there is a UNION 76 Wiki Wiki Mart Na’alehu at 95-5591 Hawaiʻi Belt Rd, Naalehu, HI 96772.  (808) 929-7135.  Daily 5:00 AM – 11:00 PM.

In Pahala, basic supplies at R & G Minimart at 96-1195 Kamani St # 5, Pahala, HI 96777.  +18089288155 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM.  There is also a CVS Pharmacy at 96 3163 Pikake St, Pahala, HI 96777.  Mon – Fri 8:00 AM – 5:00, Sat 8:00 – 1:00 PM.  Closed Sun.

See Volcano in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for stores in the village of Volcano.

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Volcano Loop Rides

Route Overview

Today you visit Volcanoes National Park – one of the must-visit sites in Hawaii. The park encompasses two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, the world’s most active volcano, and Mauna Loa, one of the world’s largest volcanoes. The park has dramatic landscapes as well as rare flora and fauna.

The Intermediate loop does a circuit of the park that includes the Kilauea Visitor Center, steam vents, lava tubes and part of the famous Chain of Craters Road that goes from lush forest to lava desert in just a few miles.

The Easiest route includes most of sights of the Intermediate ride but does not go down the Chain of Craters Road.

Challenge riders follow the Chain of Craters Road all the way down to the ocean, where the road has been terminated by recent lava flows. The climb back up rises over 4,000 feet and has expansive views.

Epic riders first complete the Challenge ride and then add on 10-mile climb up a small, single-track lane to the Mauna Loa Lookout.

NOTE: if you are staying in the vilage of Volcano, your rides start with a 1½-mile ride along Highway 11 into the Volcanoes National Park.  There is often a queue of cars to enter the park and you will need to pay the entrance fee.  If you are staying in the National Park, your ride starts at Volcan House/Kilauea Vistor Center at mile 2.2 on the GPS routes.

At this altitude, the weather can always turn cool, windy, and rainy.  So bring raingear and warmer clothing.  You will also need sunscreen and a hat!    Note also that no food or water is available outside of Volcano House and the Visitors Center.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Once inside the park, you ride from the Volcano House/Visitors Center to the Steam Vents and onto the Kilauea Overlook (see Points of Interestbelow). You then retrace your route to the Visitors Center and head southeast on Crater Rim Drive to Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube).  [Alternatively, you can choose to visit the Lava Tube on your way back up the hill.]

After visiting the lava tube you get back on your bike and descend further to an eruption viewing area.  Note that Crater Rim Drive is closed near mile 11 on your route due to damage by earlier eruptions.

After reaching the end of the road, you return up Crater Rim Drive and then leave the park and ride to the village of Volcano along Highway 11.  Alternatively, if you are staying at Volcano House, you ride directly back to Volcano House. 

Intermediate Route

Once inside the park, you ride from the Volcano House/Visitors Center to the Steam Vents and onto the Kilauea Overlook (see Points of Interestbelow).  You then retrace your route to the Visitors Center and head southeast on Crater Rim Drive to Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube).  [Alternatively, you can choose to visit the Lava Tube on your way back up the hill.]

After visiting the lava tube you get back on your bike and descend further along Crater Rim Drive and turn left onto Chain of Craters Road.  A gentle descent through the rainforest brings you to a right turn onto Hilina Pali Rd.  The vegetation thins and the views open up as you descend down this quiet, narrow lane.  At the end of the descent, you reach the Hilina Pali Overlook (see Points of Interest).  Hilina Pali means windy cliff and there are excellent views from this exposed promontory.

From the overlook, you retrace your route back up to the park entrance from where you ride back to the village of Volcano along Highway 11.  Alternatively, if you are staying at Volcano House, you ride directly back to Volcano House.

Challenge Route

Once inside the park, you ride from the Volcano House/Visitors Center to the Steam Vents and onto the Kilauea Overlook (see Points of Interestbelow).  You then retrace your route to the Visitors Center and head southeast on Crater Rim Drive to Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube).  [Alternatively, you can choose to visit the Lava Tube on your way back up the hill.]

After visiting the lava tube you get back on your bike and descend further along Crater Rim Drive and turn left onto Chain of Craters Road.  Chain of Craters Road is a flowing descent that passes through rainforests, scrubby desert, and lava fields all the way down to the ocean.  The road ends at the Holei Sea Arch (see Points of Interest).

From the sea arch, you retrace your route back up to the park entrance from where you ride back to the village of Volcano along Highway 11.  Alternatively, if you are staying at Volcano House, you ride directly back to Volcano House.

Epic Route

Once inside the park, you ride from the Volcano House/Visitors Center to the Steam Vents and onto the Kilauea Overlook (see Points of Interestbelow).  You then retrace your route to the Visitors Center and head southeast on Crater Rim Drive to Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube).  [Alternatively, you can choose to visit the Lava Tube on your way back up the hill.]

After visiting the lava tube you get back on your bike and descend further along Crater Rim Drive and turn left onto Chain of Craters Road.  Chain of Craters Road is a flowing descent that passes through rainforests, scrubby desert, and lava fields all the way down to the ocean.  The road ends at the Holei Sea Arch (see Points of Interest).

From the sea arch, you retrace your route back up to the park entrance.  On leaving the park, you turn left onto Highway 11 and ride for a couple of miles before turning right onto Mauna Loa Rd.  From the turn it is 11.5 miles to the Mauna Loa Lookout at the end of a scenic, forested, narrow lane. At over 6,600 feet, the lookout provides fine views of Kīlauea volcano, old lava flows, and the ocean (at least when it is not in the clouds).  Note there are picnic tables and a basic restroom at the Kipuka Puaulu Trailhead (mile 54 on the way up and mile 74 on the way down).

You return to Highway 11 the way you came from where you ride back to the village of Volcano along the Highway.  Alternatively, if you are staying at Volcano House, you ride along the highway for a couple of miles before turning right into the park and on to Volcano House.

Lunch

In Volcano House in the Volcanoes National Park

For casual dining, Uncle George’s Lounge is a restaurant/bar serving casual food such as burger, salads, and pasta dishes as well as beer, wine, and cocktails.  The food is just okay but views are excellent.  Open daily 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM.  Located inside Volcano House at 1 Crater Rim Dr. (808) 756-9625.  https://www.hawaiivolcanohouse.com/dining

For more formal dining, The Rim serves locally sourced seafood as well as a variety of vegetarian and meat dishes.  The quality of the food and the prices are much higher than Uncle George’s Lounge and the views are just as good.  Located inside Volcano House at 1 Crater Rim Dr. Open daily 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM and 5:00 PM to 8:30 PM.  (808) 756-9625  https://www.hawaiivolcanohouse.com/dining.  Reservations recommended.

See Volcano in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more eating options in the village of Volcano.

Points of Interest

Sights Inside the Volcanoes National Park

The Volcanoes National Park was signed into existence in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson.  It was 13th National Park to be created in the United States.  The park protects some unique landscapes, both culturally and geologically.

The Visitor’s Center, just inside the park, is open daily 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM and is a good first stop upon arrival. Here you can gather information regarding any closures, hiking maps, watch a short film and chat with rangers.

The Steam Vents, northwest of the Visitors Center along Crater Rim Drive, is an interesting area to get off the bike and explore. A short walk leads to steaming bluffs where water, which has fallen as rain, is evaporated by the heat of the Kilauea volcano.  A little further along the trail there are also good views of the caldera.

Towards the end of Crater Rim Road, the Kīlauea Overlook provides some of the most dramatic views in the park of the Kīlauea caldera and the Halemaʻumaʻu crater, which suffered a massive collapse during the eruption of 2018.

Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube) was created by a river of molten lava and is now home to a delicate ecosystem of ferns and delicate tree root.  The lava tube is a short walk from the parking lot through a beautiful Hawaiian rainforest rich with native plants and birds.  To avoid the crowds, it is best to visit before 9:00 AM or after 3:00 PM.  The lava tube is lit 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

The Hilina Pali Overlook is a windy promontory at the end of Hilina Pali Rd – a narrow lane built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s.  The views from this exposed promontory are vast and outstanding; across the scrubby Ka’u Desert all the way down to the ocean.

The Chain of Craters Road is a 19-mile-long road off Crater Rim Drive.  The road starts in rain forest but transitions to scrubby desert and lava fields as you descend.  Crater pullouts line the road as you drop 4,000 feet to the lava covered coastal cliffs.  Dated placards mark the years of volcanic eruptions. The Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs (26.2 and 31.0 miles) provide a connection to Hawaiian Culture and are located near the cliffs at the end of the road.  The road used to extend along the coast but since 1969 lava has flowed repeatedly over Chain of Craters Road/Highway 130 burying several miles of road.

At the end of Chain of Craters Road, the Holei Sea Arch is a 90-foot-high natural arch formed by the erosion of the cliffs that were part of an ancient lava flow from some 500 years ago.  The viewing area is located about 1,000 feet past the gate at the end of Chain of Craters Road.  NOTE: Hiking on flow fields is not recommended due to deep earth cracks, uneven and unstable terrain, and razor-sharp lava.

For a longer hike, the Kilauea Iki Trail is an opportunity to get up close with park geology.  You will walk through a rainforest then travel across the 1959 lava lake.  There are opportunities to view cinder cones, steam vents and splatter cones.  You can also peer into the vent that erupted in 1959, spewing lava 1,900 feet into the sky. This four-mile roundtrip hike is rated moderate to difficult due to trail conditions and will take two to three hours to complete. Take water, food, good walking shoes, a hat, sunscreen, rain gear and be prepared for all conditions.  You can collect a trail guide in the visitor’s center with notes for the various numbered sites along the trail.  This popular trail is best hiked early in the morning. By 9:00 AM, the trail is often busy and the parking lot full.  For the best experience, start your hike before 8:00 AM. The parking areas are located on Crater Rim Drive. Please remember to lock your bikes before hiking.

Stores

There is a small general store, K.M.C General Store, in the park just north of Crater Rim Drive shortly after the Steam Vents.  Located in the Kilauea Military Camp at 99252 Crater Rim Drive, Volcano, HI 96785.  8:00 AM – 7:00 PM.  (808) 967-8333  http://kilaueamilitarycamp.com/

See Volcano in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for stores in the village of Volcano.

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Volcano to Hilo

Route Overview

Today you ride from the rainforests of Volcano at over 3,500 feet down to steamy, laid-back Hilo on the east coast of the Island.

The Intermediate ride follows a direct route from Volcano to Hilo. The first few miles are on the highway but you are descending and soon complete this section of the ride. In the small hamlet of Mountain View, you leave the highway and travel on small, little-traveled roads through verdant countryside all the way to Hilo.Hilo_Hawaii

The Easiest route starts with a van transfer to Mountain View where it joins the intermediate route into Hilo.

The Challenge ride starts with a loop of the Volcanoes National Park before following the Intermediate route into Hilo.

The Epic ride starts with a deeper incursion into the Volcanoes National Park – to Hilina Pali Overlook – before following the Intermediate route into Hilo.

Route Options

Easiest Route

You start with a van transfer to the small village of Mountain View – a cluster of houses with a post office, a school, a church, a minimart, and a video rental store!  After less than a mile on the highway, you turn onto Kulani Rd – a quiet, gently-rolling road passing lush farms and forests.  A right onto Stainback Highway and the road becomes smaller and quieter as you pass through the Waaiakea Forest Reserve.  At 10½ miles you pass the entrance to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens (see Points of Interest below).

After rejoining Highway 11 for less than a mile, you enter the outskirts of Hilo and ride into the center of the city along side streets.  At mile 15.3, a cluster of restaurants at the Manono Street Marketplace are your best option for lunch.

Shortly before the end of you ride (16.3 miles) you pass the Liliuokalani Gardens.  See Things To Do in Hilo in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more information about these beautiful Japanese gardens.

Intermediate Route

You start this ride in the village of Volcano, heading east on Highway 11.  Almost immediately (mile 4.1), you pass the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens (see Points of Interest).  You then have a 13-mile rolling descent along Highway 11.  The road can be busy but there is a good shoulder and you are descending, so this section passes faster than you might expect.

After a long, rolling descent, you reach the small village of Mountain View – a cluster of houses with a post office, a school, a church, a minimart, and a video rental store!  If you need a break, detour into the village along Old Volcano Rd (a left turn at mile 12.2) where you will find a bakery café.

A little further down the highway, you turn left on to Kulani Rd.  This is a quieter road that passes lush farms and forests.  A right onto Stainback Highway and the road becomes smaller and quieter still as you pass through the Waaiakea Forest Reserve.  At 22½ miles you pass the entrance to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens (see Points of Interest below).

After rejoining Highway 11 for less than a mile, you enter the outskirts of Hilo and ride into the center of the city along side streets.  At mile 27.5, a cluster of restaurants at the Manono Street Marketplace are your best option for lunch.

Shortly before the end of you ride (28.5 miles) you pass the Liliuokalani Gardens.  See Things To Do in Hilo in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more information about these beautiful Japanese gardens.

Challenge Route


Your days starts with a ride around the Volcanoes National Park.  Once inside the park, you ride from the Volcano House/Visitors Center to the Steam Vents and onto the Kilauea Overlook (see Points of Interest below).  You then retrace your route to the Visitors Center and head southeast on Crater Rim Drive to Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube).  [Alternatively, you can choose to visit the Lava Tube on your way back up the hill.]

After visiting the lava tube you get back on your bike and descend further to an eruption viewing area.  Note that Crater Rim Drive is closed near mile 11 on your route due to damage by earlier eruptions.

After reaching the end of the road, you return up Crater Rim Drive and then leave the park and ride through the village of Volcano along Highway 11.  Just after the village, you pass the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens (see Points of Interest).  You then have a 13-mile rolling descent along Highway 11.  The road can be busy but there is a good shoulder and you are descending, so this section passes faster than you might expect.

After a long, rolling descent, you reach the small village of Mountain View – a cluster of houses with a post office, a school, a church, a minimart, and a video rental store!  If you need a break, detour into the village along Old Volcano Rd (a left turn at mile 29.2) where you will find a bakery café.

A little further down the highway, you turn left on to Kulani Rd.  This is a quieter road that passes lush farms and forests.  A right onto Stainback Highway and the road becomes smaller and quieter still as you pass through the Waaiakea Forest Reserve.  At 39.3 miles you pass the entrance to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens (see Points of Interest below).

After rejoining Highway 11 for less than a mile, you enter the outskirts of Hilo and ride into the center of the city along side streets.  At mile 44.4, a cluster of restaurants at the Manono Street Marketplace are your best option for lunch.

Shortly before the end of you ride (45.4 miles) you pass the Liliuokalani Gardens.  See Things To Do in Hilo in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more information about these beautiful Japanese gardens.

Epic Route

Your days starts with a ride around the Volcanoes National Park.  Once inside the park, you ride from the Volcano House/Visitors Center to the Steam Vents and onto the Kilauea Overlook (see Points of Interest below).  You then retrace your route to the Visitors Center and head southeast on Crater Rim Drive to Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube).  [Alternatively, you can choose to visit the Lava Tube on your way back up the hill.]

After visiting the lava tube you get back on your bike and descend further along Crater Rim Drive and turn left onto Chain of Craters Road.  A gentle descent through the rainforest brings you to a right turn onto Hilina Pali Rd.  The vegetation thins and the views open up as you descend down this quiet, narrow lane.  At the end of the descent, you reach the Hilina Pali Overlook (see Points of Interest).  Hilina Pali means windy cliff and there are excellent views from this exposed promontory.

From the overlook, you retrace your route back up to the park entrance from where you ride back through the village of Volcano along Highway 11.  Just after the village, you pass the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens (see Points of Interest).  You then have a 13-mile rolling descent along Highway 11.  The road can be busy but there is a good shoulder and you are descending, so this section passes faster than you might expect.

After a long, rolling descent, you reach the small village of Mountain View – a cluster of houses with a post office, a school, a church, a minimart, and a video rental store!  If you need a break, detour into the village along Old volcanoes Rd (a left turn at mile 29.2) where you will find a bakery café.

A little further down the highway, you turn left on to Kulani Rd.  This is a quieter road that passes lush farms and forests.  A right onto Stainback Highway and the road becomes smaller and quieter still as you pass through the Waaiakea Forest Reserve.  At 58.9 miles you pass the entrance to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens (see Points of Interest below).

After rejoining Highway 11 for less than a mile, you enter the outskirts of Hilo and ride into the center of the city along side streets.  At mile 64, a cluster of restaurants at the Manono Street Marketplace are your best option for lunch.

Shortly before the end of you ride (65 miles) you pass the Liliuokalani Gardens.  See Things To Do in Hilo in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more information about these beautiful Japanese gardens.

Lunch

Riding into Hilo

On the outskirts of Hilo there is a cluster of restaurants in the Manono Street Marketplace.  Your last option for lunch before you arrive at the center of the city.

The Hawaiian Style Café serves an eclectic mix of Hawaiian comfort food in a casual setting.  Note the opening hours if you are planning a late lunch.  681 Manono St, Hilo, HI 96720.  (808) 969-9265  Daily 8:00 AM – 1:30 PM.  Tues – Sat 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM.  http://hawaiianstylecafe.us/

For great fresh blended smoothies head to Liquid Life Hilo.  They also serve sandwiches, burritos,  and coffee.  Small outside sitting area.  697 Manono St Suite 101A, Hilo, HI 96720.  (808) 333-5538.  Mon – Fri 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  Sat 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  Closed Sun. http://www.liquidlifehawaii.com/hilo

Next door to Liquid Life Hilo, Tetsuma Ramen serve nice, authentic Japanese noodles dishes – both in broth and platted – with many options.  697 Manono St suite 103, Hilo, HI 96720.  (808) 934-0516.  Daily 11:00 Am – 9:00 PM.

In Volcano House in the Volcanoes National Park

For casual dining, Uncle George’s Lounge is a restaurant/bar serving casual food such as burger, salads, and pasta dishes as well as beer, wine, and cocktails.  The food is just okay but views are excellent.  Open daily 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM.  Located inside Volcano House at 1 Crater Rim Dr. (808) 756-9625.  https://www.hawaiivolcanohouse.com/dining

For more formal dining, The Rim serves locally sourced seafood as well as a variety of vegetarian and meat dishes.  The quality of the food and the prices are much higher than Uncle George’s Lounge and the views are just as good.  Located inside Volcano House at 1 Crater Rim Dr. Open daily 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM and 5:00 PM to 8:30 PM.  (808) 756-9625  https://www.hawaiivolcanohouse.com/dining.  Reservations recommended.

See Volcano in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more eating options in the village of Volcano.

See Hilo in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more eating options in Hilo.

Points of Interest

Sights

The Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens is a small zoo set in lush gardens.  If you need a break from cycling, it makes a good place to stop.  The gardens are attractive and entrance is free.  (808) 959-9233.  800 Stainback Hwy, Hilo, HI 96720.  Daily 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM.  https://www.hilozoo.org/

Akatsuka Orchid Gardens has everything for the Cattleya Orchid lover. Since 1974, this family business has been a prominent grower and retailer.  Over 500 blooming orchids are on display, including Mr. Akatsuka’s ‘mother’ plants and their offspring.  Farm tours are often on offer though they are on hold at time of writing.  Visiting hours are also limited at the moment though this may change in the future.  We recommend calling ahead if interested.  11-3051 Volcano Rd. (808) 967-8234.  Wed & Fri 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM and 12:30 PM – 3:00 PM.  https://akatsukaorchid.com/

Sights Inside the Volcanoes National Park

The Volcanoes National Park was signed into existence in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson.  It was 13th National Park to be created in the United States.  The park protects some unique landscapes, both culturally and geologically.

The Visitor’s Center, just inside the park, is open daily 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM and is a good first stop upon arrival. Here you can gather information regarding any closures, hiking maps, watch a short film and chat with rangers.

The Steam Vents, northwest of the Visitors Center along Crater Rim Drive, is an interesting area to get off the bike and explore. A short walk leads to steaming bluffs where water that has fallen as rain is evaporated by the heat of the Kilauea volcano.  A little further along the trail there are also good views of the caldera.

Towards the end of Crater Rim Road, the Kīlauea Overlook provides some of the most dramatic views in the park of the Kīlauea caldera and the Halemaʻumaʻu crater, which suffered a massive collapse during the eruption of 2018.

Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube) was created by a river of molten lava and is now home to a delicate ecosystem of ferns and delicate tree root.  The lava tube is a short walk from the parking lot through a beautiful Hawaiian rainforest rich with native plants and birds.  To avoid the crowds, it is best to visit before 9:00 AM or after 3:00 PM.  The lava tube is lit 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

The Hilina Pali Overlook is a windy promontory at the end of Hilina Pali Rd – a narrow lane built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s.  The views from this exposed promontory are vast and outstanding; across the scrubby Ka’u Desert all the way down to the ocean.

Stores

There is a small general store, K.M.C General Store, in the park just north of Crater Rim Drive shortly after the Steam Vents.  Located in the Kilauea Military Camp at 99252 Crater Rim Drive, Volcano, HI 96785.  8:00 AM – 7:00 PM.  (808) 967-8333  http://kilaueamilitarycamp.com/

See Volcano in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for stores in the village of Volcano.

There is a small bakery café in the village of Mountain view: Mt View Bakery.  It is just off the main route at 18-1319 Old Volcano Rd, Mountain View, HI 96771.  (808) 968-6353.  Tues – Fri 6:30 PM – 1:00 PM.  Sat 7:30 AM – 1:00 PM.  Closed Sunday.

See Hilo in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for stores in Hilo.

Hilo to Waimea

Route Overview

Today you head south from Honoka’a down the east coast of the island. The route you ride will depend on your appetite for miles. While we get you off the highway wherever possible, much of the riding is on the main highway, and this stretch of road can be busy. This side of the island is often rainy as well.

Despite the challenges, you are rewarded with some lush, tropical riding alongside the ocean, over rivers and past waterfalls. There are also several botanical gardens en route that make for pleasant stopping points.

The Intermediate Route heads south from Honoka’a on a series of smaller lanes before joining the highway just before the small village of Paauilo. The ride ends at the Hakalau Botanical Gardens where we will collect you for your transfer to Hilo.

Those choosing the Easiest Route will follow the Intermediate Route, described above, to 10 miles beyond Paauilo. We will collect you there.

If riding the Challenge Route, you will ride from Honoka’a to Hilo. The ride is undulating rather than mountainous, but the heat and risk of rain make this a challenging-but-rewarding 50-mile ride.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Start this ride by heading southeast toward Honoka’a keeping the ocean on your left.

Continue through Honoka’a to the junction with HI-19. Here you will turn left – there is a decent shoulder, but cross traffic does not stop, and the road can be busy. Use caution. You will leave Hwy-19 for a short stretch then continue along Hwy-19 past Paauilo toward Hilo. Your guide will meet you another 6 miles along the Hwy for your transfer into Hilo.

Intermediate Route

Note: Along this route, there are three gulches you will encounter. Quick downhills followed by moderate turns and climbs riding out of them can create hazardous conditions, especially on wet days. Even when conditions are dry, use caution. This “wet” side of the island is beautiful due to the amount of rain, and water may pool over bridges and on turns.

You begin by following the Easiest Route, described above, past Paauilo. Continue along Hwy-19 for 11 miles to the town of Laupahoehoe. There is an interesting train museum at the intersection with Old Mamalahoa Hwy. See Sights below for additional information.

The remaining 10 miles route you between Hwy-19 and Old Mamalahoa Hwy. This scenic stretch of riding is highlighted by high bridges overlooking streams, lush gulches and narrow lanes.

Your guide will meet you at Hakalau Botanical Gardens for your transfer into Hilo.

Challenge Route

Your ride starts out following the Intermediate Route described above, to Hakalau Botanical Gardens at 31 miles.

Continue riding south toward Hilo, alternating between Hwy-19 and Old Mamalahoa Hwy to the small town of Pepeekeo at 37 miles.   On the left side of the Hwy, there is a large gear marking Sugar Mill Rd.

This is one of our favorite roads to ride. What’s Shakin’ (see Lunch below) is one mile down the road followed by the Kawainui Stream flowing through a lava tube, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and the popular roadside stop of Onomea Bay. There are many photo ops on this 4-mile narrow lane lined with thick vines and lush greenery. See Sights below for additional information.

As you near Hilo, expect an increase in traffic. Walk your bike across the Wailuku River bridge and enter town. Continue past Hilo Bayfront Beach Park before turning toward the water and Lili’uokalani Park and Gardens. Refer to the Directions to Accommodation Sheet in your packet for information regarding your overnight lodging.

Lunch

Honoka’a

Here there are a couple of reasonable cafes, near the intersection of Lehua St and Mamane / Hwy 240.

Gramma’s Kitchen offers great burgers and much more with a Portuguese flair and gluten free options too. 45-3625 Mamane St, Honokaa. (808) 775-9943. Open daily 8am-3pm / https://www.grammaskitchenhi.com

Hina Rae’s café’ serves açai bowls, waffle sandwiches, fresh brewed coffee, Italian sodas, local lunch specials and more. 45-3610 Mamane St. Honokaa, HI 96727 (808) 756-0895. Open Weekdays 8am to 5:30pm / http://hinaraescafe.com 

Tex Drive-In is at the junction of Pakalana St. and Hwy-19. This is a popular spot for locals and bus tours regularly stop here. Long lines move quickly here, and the ono Kine grindz, or local Hawaiian food, is reason enough to wait. This is also home to hand made Malasadas (Portuguese fried doughnut). 45-690 Pakalana St/Hwy-19. (808) 775-0598. Open daily 6:00 AM – 8:00 PM / https://www.texdriveinhawaii.com

Pepeekeo

What’s Shakin’ is our favorite spot on island for smoothies and freshly made wraps. 27-999 Old Mamalahoa Hwy (Sugar Mill Rd). (808) 964-3080. Open daily 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM / https://whatsshakinbigisland.com

Hilo

There are many restaurants located in Hilo town, many of them within one block of Bayfront Hwy as you ride into town. A few of our favorites for lunch:

Puka Puka Kitchen is a tiny, no frills restaurant serving bento, pita sandwiches and more. 270 Kamehameha Ave. (808) 933-2121. Open Monday-Saturday 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM (Closed Sunday).

For Thai lovers, Tina’s Garden Café is a small, family owned restaurant serving quality dishes. 168 Kamehameha Ave. (808) 935-1166. Open Monday-Thursday 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Friday and Saturday until 9:00 PM / Closed Sunday) / http://www.tinasgardencafe.com

Ocean Sushi is another popular spot among locals serving sushi, bento boxes and more. 235 Keawe St. (808) 961-6625. Open Monday-Saturday 10:30 AM – 2:00 PM / 5:00 – 9:00 PM (Closed Sunday) /https://www.oceansushirestaurant.com 

Café Pesto is a classic, and they serve woodfired pizza along with traditional Italian dishes. 308 Kamehameha Ave. (808) 969-6640. Open Tuesday-Sunday 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM (Monday starting at 10:30 AM) / https://www.cafepesto.com

Points of Interest

Sights

The Laupahoehoe Train Museum surprises some Hawaii visitors and draws many second looks. In 1876, the United States, through the Reciprocity Treaty, gave the Hawaiian Islands permission to export sugar duty free, and profits from the already flourishing sugar industry soared. Infrastructure to support the booming industry multiplied, and the Hilo Railroad was born. – from the museum’s website. Stop by and visit to learn more about this fascinating slice of Hawaiian history. $7 / adult. 36-2377 Mamalahoa Hwy. (808) 962-6300. Open Wednesday-Friday 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM / http://www.thetrainmuseum.com

Waikaumalo Park, with the Waikaumalo Stream running through it, is a nice picnic spot if you are riding the Challenge Route (mile 27.3). Lock up your bike if you decide to spend additional time off your bike here.

Onomea Bay was once a harbor used for cargo. Long defunct, the overlook and 1.2-mile trail leading to the bay is a picturesque spot for a break in your ride. Onomea Trail is nicknamed “The Donkey Trail,” because donkeys were once used to haul cargo up and down the trail. There are spots where you can see into the grounds of the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, but don’t enter unless you have paid their fee. If you hike down, do not drink the water from the stream and be certain to lock your bike before you go. The pullout is located ½ mile past the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is a nature preserve located off the 4-mile Scenic Drive featuring more than 2,000 species of plant life. Nature lovers, scientists, photographers and more visit these grounds to learn about, photograph and simply enjoy being among the tropical grounds. Admission is $25 / adult. 27-717 Old Mamalahoa Hwy. (808) 964-5233. Open daily 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Closed Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day) / https://htbg.com 

Stores

Hilo has several stores throughout town, including big box stores Target and Safeway. Locally, Island Naturals Market and Deli offers organic produce, bulk items and supplements. 1221 Kilauea Ave. (808) 935-5533. Open Monday-Saturday 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM (Sunday 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM).

Also, in Hilo, Longs Drugs is conveniently open 24 hours for those emergency needs. 555 Kilauea Ave. (808) 935-9075.

Request Itinerary

Waimea Loop Rides

Route Overview

The Intermediate ride heads northeast out of town across the shoulder of Kohala Mountain. The ride peaks at 3,500 feet and, soon after, you reach the Kohala Ranch where you turn around and head back to Waimea. The 6-mile descent has spectacular views down to the Kohala Coast and the Ocean beyond. With an early start, you can be back in Waimea for lunch.

The Easiest route is a relatively flat ride around the town and the local countryside. The route passes local farms and the site of the mid-week farmers’ market.

Challenge riders head to the center of the Island, onto the slopes of Mauna Kea. After a relatively flat ride out of town, you enjoy a steady 10-mile climb before a fast descent back into Waimea.

The Epic route follows the Challenge ride over the shoulder of Mauna Kea. However, whereas the Challenge ride peaks at 5,700 feet, the Epic ride pushes on to the Mauna Loa observatory at a crazy 11,000 feet. The altitude, distance, and weather make this a very serious ride.

Route Options

Easiest Route

This ride first heads out of town on the Mana Rd.  After 4½ miles the road turns to red dirt.  Tourn around here if you are uncomfortable on the loose surface.  Ride on for another mile to the turnaround point if you want to get a sense of the infamous, red-dirt Mana Road that loops around the back of Mauna Kea.  It is known as one of the most treacherous roads on the island and rental car companies do not allow their renters to drive it – even in a 4WD vehicle.

After you turn around, you meander back into Waimea on quiet side roads.

Having completed the eastside loop you now do a small loop on the westside of town, passing the Wednesday Farmers Market (9:00 AM – 2:00 PM).  You then ride back into town along the main highway.

Intermediate Route

This is a simple in-and-out ride with nice riding but few points of interest (other than great views down to the ocean).

You ride out of town along the main highway (19).  After a couple of miles, you turn right onto the quieter Kohala Mountain Rd (Highway 250).  Here you start to climb and climb for six miles – summiting at 3,580 feet shortly before your turnaround point at the entrance to Kohala Ranch.  There is a pullout at mile 7 on the way out and mile 13.3 on the way back if you want to stop to admire the view.

You return to Waimea the way you came – only this time you enjoy a long, rolling descent.  A gradual, two-mile climb into Waimea along the highway is the sting in the tail.  You pass the Anna Ranch Heritage Center on the way back into town (mile 19.4) – see Things To Do in Waimea in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more details about this restored ranch house. 

Challenge Route


There are no major points of interest on this ride – other than the stunning scenery.  As well as the climbing, the unpredictable weather can be a major challenge on this ride.  There are no lunch or refreshment stops.

Leave town on the side roads before heading south on Highway 190.  After seven miles of flat riding, you turn left onto the famous Saddle Rd and begin a 10-mile climb.  Note that the surface is good but there is no shoulder on this road.  The road can also carry busy traffic at certain times of day.  You should also be prepared for cool, wet, foggy, or cloudy weather – even if the sun was shining in Waimea.

You summit at 5,700 feet from where you begin a ten-mile descent.  A mile after the start of the descent, you turn right and continue descending on Highway 200 (the main road that cuts across the center of the island).  Your descent ends at the intersection with Highway 190, from where you have a flat ride back into Waimea.

Epic Route

This is one of the most challenging rides on the island.  Altitude, weather, distance, elevation, and isolation combine to make this a serious ride that should not be undertaken lightly.  Please talk to your guide before considering riding this route. There are no lunch or refreshment stops and cellphone reception is not reliable.

You should also notify someone before starting your ride and on returning.

Leave town on the side roads before heading south on Highway 190.  After seven miles of flat riding, you turn left onto the famous Saddle Rd and begin a 10-mile climb.  Note that the surface is good but there is no shoulder on this road.  The road can also carry busy traffic at certain times of day.

You have a false summit at 5,700 feet from where you descend for a mile before turning left onto Highway 200 (the main road that cuts across the center of the island) and start climbing again.  At mile 26.5, you pass the entrance to Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area Rest Stop (rest rooms and water).  At mile 32.8 (shortly after the turn to Mauna Kea), you turn right off Highway 200 onto Mauna Loa Observatory Rd.  This narrow road is surfaced but deteriorates towards the top as it climbs steadily up to the Mauna Loa Weather Observatory.  You cannot access the observatory but the views (fog permitting) across to Mauna Kea are quite stunning.

You descend the same way you climbed.  Bundle well up for the descent as it can be cold, and you will lose heat quickly.

Lunch

There are no lunch options on today’s ride outside of Waimea.  However, there are many excellent lunch options in Waimea.  See Waimea in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more eating options in Waimea,

Points of Interest

Sights

There are no Points of Interest on today’s ride outside of Waimea.  There are, however, sights and activities in Waimea – see Things To Do in Waimea in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook,

Stores

There are no stores on today’s ride outside of Waimea.  See Useful Contacts in Waimea in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for details of stores in Waimea,

Request Itinerary

Waimea to Kailua-Kona

Route Overview

Today you leave highland Hawaii and descend to the coast and the white-sand beaches of classic Hawaii. As you ride, the high grasslands give way to lava fields down at sea level.

Intermediate riders head south from the town across open grassland before enjoying a 10-mile descent down to the Ocean at Waikoloa Beach. From here, you continue down the coast – across lava fields – all the way to Kailua-Kona.

The Easiest route starts out on the Intermediate route but then ends when it reaches the resorts at Waikoloa Beach.

Challenge riders head north from Waimea, climbing over the shoulder of Kohala Mountain to the small artists community of Hawi. On the descent into Hawi, you can see the island of Maui in the distance. From Hawi, you parallel the coast down to Waikoloa Beach where you join the Intermediate route for the ride into Kona. Hawi to Kona is also the return leg of the Ironman Triathlon.

The Epic route follows the Challenge route but adds on a 15-mile in-and-out ride from Hawi to the Pololū Valley Lookout.

Whichever route you choose, your guide will meet you at the end of your ride for your end-of-tour transfer.

Route Options

Easiest Route

From Waimea, you head south on Highway 190 across open grassland with views of Mauna Kea to your left (unless the top is shrouded in mist) and glimpses of the ocean to your right.  After eleven miles you turn right and head west on a sweeping descent down to the ocean.

At mile 18, you pass by Waikoloa Village (not to be confused with Waikoloa Beach which is your final destination).  There is a nice café in Waikoloa Village (see lunch options below), if you want an early lunch or a morning coffee and a treat.

Your ride ends at the beautiful Anaehoʻomalu Bay – see Points of Interest below – at Waikoloa Beach.  The Lava Lava Beach club makes a great place to enjoy lunch on the beach while waiting for your guide to meet you.

Intermediate Route

From Waimea, you head south on Highway 190 across open grassland with views of Mauna Kea to your left (unless the top is shrouded in mist) and glimpses of the ocean to your right.  After eleven miles you turn right and head west on a sweeping descent down to the ocean.

At mile 18, you pass by Waikoloa Village (not to be confused with Waikoloa Beach at mile 25).  There is a nice café in Waikoloa Village (see lunch options below), if you want an early lunch or a morning coffee and a treat.

As you arrive at the coast, your route passes through Waikoloa Beach resort area.  There are many places for lunch here including the Lava Lava Beach club right on the water on beautiful Anaehoʻomalu Bay – see Points of Interest below.

From Waikoloa Beach, you head south on Highway 19 down the coast and across the hot, dry lava fields.  This is the route of the Ironman Triathlon and, while the road can be busy, there is a good shoulder and usually other riders.  The road undulates over big rollers that are deceptively hard work. If possible, avoid the gritty edge of the road where there can be tiny thorns that cause flats.

At mile 33, there is a pullout into a scenic overlook if you need a break.  At mile 37.6, you could choose to turn right off the highway and have a splurging lunch at the Beach Tree Restaurant at the Four Seasons.  (You could also choose to end your ride here by prior arrangement with your guide.)  A more economical option would be to take a picnic down to the beach at Kua Bay – see Points of Interest.  Kua Beach is 1½ miles off the highway at mile 39.3.  Just past the airport, another stopping point is the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park (mile 47.9) – see Points of Interest.

Your ride ends at Kailua-Kona, the main town on the island.  See Kailua-Kona in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more about this bustling seaside town.

Challenge Route


After a short descent on Highway 19, you head north on Highway 250 over the shoulder of Kohala Mountain.  You climb for six miles with just under 1,200 feet of elevation gain. During the climb, you have expansive views of the Kohala coast.  On sunny days, you will see Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa behind you.  You peak at 3,580 feet and we would recommend having a jacket for the descent.

As you descend, you leave the high plains of Kohala Ranch for the tropical forests.  Through gaps in the trees, you have glimpses of the ocean and Maui’s Haleakala volcano.  Note that the downhill is winding and there is little shoulder.

At the bottom of the hill, you arrive at the center of Hawi – at the junction with Highway 270.  Hawi and nearby Kapa’au were once the commercial center of the Kohala sugar industry.  This is tropical, relaxed Hawaii and Hawi has reinvented itself as a small artist community and tourist destination.  In its two short blocks it has a couple of galleries, a decent restaurant and a nice café.  In fact, the Kohala Coffee Mill café has, probably, the best ice cream on the island – see below.  Hawi is also the turnaround point for the Ironman Triathlon. Hawi is the first chance to have an early lunch or a mid-morning coffee.  From here, you parallel the coast towards Waikoloa and Kona – keeping the ocean on your right.

The next nine miles are mostly downhill and are followed by a 10-mile stretch of rolling hills.  At 28.3 miles you pass the entrance to Lapakahi State Park – see Points of Interest.  At mile 37.9, just before the small town of Kawaihae, you pass the pullout to the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company – see Points of Interest for details.

After Kawaihae (lunch option), you pass the turn off to Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and Spencer Beach at mile 40.0 – see Points of Interest.

A right turn onto Highway 19, takes you across lava fields to the Waikoloa Beach resort area.  There are many places for lunch here including the Lava Lava Beach club right on the water on beautiful Anaehoʻomalu Bay – see Points of Interest below.

From Waikoloa Beach, you head south on Highway 19 down the coast and across the hot, dry lava fields.  This is the route of the Ironman Triathlon and, while the road can be busy, there is a good shoulder and usually many other riders.  The road undulates over big rollers that are deceptively hard work. If possible, avoid the gritty edge of the road where there can be tiny thorns that cause flats.

At mile 57.8, there is a pullout into a scenic overlook if you need a break.  At mile 62.5, you could choose to turn right off the highway and have a splurging lunch at the Beach Tree restaurant at the Four Seasons.  (You could also choose to end your ride here by prior arrangement with your guide.)  A more economical option would be to take a picnic down to the beach at Kua Bay – see Points of Interest.  Kua Beach is 1½ miles off the highway at mile 64.2.  Just past the airport, another stopping point is the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park (mile 72.8) – see Points of Interest.

Your ride ends at Kailua-Kona, the main town on the island.  See Kailua-Kona in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more about this bustling seaside town.

Epic Route

The Epic route follows the Challenge route but, when you reach Hawi, you take a 16-mile in-and-out detour to the Pololū Valley Lookout – see Points of Interest below.

The mileages are a little further than those listed in the challenge route.  Namely:

  • At 43.0 miles you pass the entrance to Lapakahi State Park.
  • At 52.6 miles you pass the pullout to the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company.
  • At 54.6 miles you pass the turn off to Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and Spencer Beach
  • At 72.4 miles there is a pullout into a scenic overlook
  • At 77.1 miles you pass the turnoff for the Four Seasons.
  • At 78.8 miles you pass the turnoff to Kua Bay
  • At 87.4 miles you pass the entrance to Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park.

Lunch

Waikoloa Village

Island Lava Java serves an all-day breakfast and light lunches – sandwiches, salads, and tacos – in a pleasant space with outdoor seating.  They are just off the route in the Waikoloa Highlands Center at 68-1845 Waikoloa Rd, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738.  (808) 769-5202.  Thurs – Mon 7:00 AM – 2:00 PM.  Closed Tues & Wed.  https://islandlavajava.com/

Waikoloa Beach

Lava Lava Beach Club is right on the beach, at the end of the Easiest route and just a short detour down Ku’uali’i Pl on the other routes.  This makes a great place to enjoy a post-ride (or mid-ride) lunch.  They serve Hawaiian beach food – fish, seafood, burgers, steaks, tacos, etc.  The food is good, but the view is the main draw.  At the end of the road, by the beach at 69-1081 Ku’uali’i Pl, Waikoloa Beach, HI 96738.  (808) 769-5282.  Daily 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM.  http://lavalavabeachclub.com/bigisland

See Waikoloa Beach in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more eating options in Waikoloa Beach.

Four Seasons Resort

If you want to have a long, splurging, expensive lunch, the Four Seasons has a choice of restaurants.  Of these, the Beach Tree is a truly oceanfront experience with your feet practically in the pristine, white sand.  It is what they call; “barefoot elegance” and the food and service are excellent – with prices to match.  Riding on to Kailua-Kona will help assuage the guilt for such indulgence.  Or arrange to end your ride here and be collected by your guide.  To get here, turn off Highway 19 along Ka’upulehu Drive (signed), and continue to the end of the road following signs to the Four Seasons.  72-100 Ka’upulehu Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740.  (808) 325-8000.  Daily 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM.  Reservations recommended.  https://www.fourseasons.com/hualalai/dining/

Hawi

A good choice is Bamboo Restaurant & Gallery 55-3415 Akoni Pule Hwy.  (808) 889-5555.  They serve “fresh, island-style cuisine” and consistently get good feedback.  This is also a good place for a mid-ride cocktail (please drink responsibly!), and they claim to have invented the Lilikoi – a passion fruit margarita.  Open 11:30am-2:30pm and 6:00-8:00pm but closed Mondays / https://www.bamboorestauranthawaii.com/#fresh

Worthy of note is The Kohala Coffee Mill.  Not only is the coffee good but they serve some of the best ice cream on the island – making it a popular rest stop for cyclists and other visitors.  They also have shave ice, soup, salad & sandwiches.  Open 6:00am-6:00pm, except for weekend when they open at 7:00am / https://kohala-coffee-mill.business.site

The Kings View Café has great pizza, sandwiches and salads.  54-3897 Akoni Pule Hwy, Kapaau, HI 96755.  (808) 889-0099.  It’s in the center of Kapa’au on LHS of Hwy 270 heading away from Hawi opposite the statue of King Kamehameha.  Open 7:00am-8:30pm / https://www.kingsviewcafe.com

Kawaihae

The Seafood Bar and Grill is your best option for food in this small community.  It has an eclectic menu featuring fish and seafood (as well as burgers and rice dishes) in a tiki-themed space.  61-3642 Kawaihae Rd, Waimea, HI 96743.  (808) 880-9393.  Daily 11:00 AM – 8:45 PM.  http://www.seafoodbarandgrill.com/

Points of Interest

Sights

At the Waikoloa Beach resort area, Anaeho’omalu Bay (AKA A-Bay) is a pleasant, sandy beach with picture-postcard sunsets.  A hut here also rents kayaks, boogie boards and snorkel gear (expensive).  A walk south from A-Bay will take you via numerous petroglyphs to Kapalaoa Beach – really a series of small coves.  The last cove (farthest south) has the best snorkeling.  Petroglyphs are found all over this area. These stone carvings are probably the closest thing to a written language that ancient Hawaiians used.  Some petroglyphs are thought to be astronomical symbols.

Just behind the A-Bay beach are the Ku’uali’i and Kahapapa Royal Fishponds.  The two ponds were part of complex fish farms tended for Hawaiian royalty.  Small fish would swim in from the ocean through the grates, gorge themselves and then be too big to get back through the grates.  They could then be caught and eaten at leisure.  There is a pleasant walk around the ponds with good signage.

Kua Bay is a pleasant three-mile detour off Highway 19.  The shallow shoreline, clear water and perfect white sands make this one of the best swimming beaches on the coast.  The official name for the beach is Manini’owali.  The beach itself is a short walk from the parking lot so be prepared to carry or lock your bikes.  The parking lot also has restrooms and there are picnic tables just up from the beach.  The only things that stop this beach being perfect are the lack of shade, some crowding at weekends, and it is closed on Wednesdays!

The Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park is the site of an ancient Hawaiian settlement.  Trails, signage and rangers allow you to explore how they managed to survive in such an inhospitable location.  Sites include temples, petroglyphs, and fishponds.  You will need to hike to get to the main sites.  For example, it is a mile hike down to the beach where you may see green sea turtles.  The Park Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM.

Lapakahi State Historical Park is a large area of ruins from an ancient Hawaiian fishing village. Bring cash as there is a small fee to take the self-guided walking tour. HI-270, Waimea, HI 96743.  (808) 587-0300.  Daily 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM.    http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/hawaii/index.cfm?park_id=50

Pu`ukohola Heiau (in Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site) is a temple constructed by Kamehameha I around 1790. This is one of the largest Heiau (temples) on the island and could only be accessed by the priests and chiefly classes.  As well as being an interesting site, the visitors center has several good exhibits including an excellent display of weapons.  https://www.nps.gov/puhe/index.htm

Further down the hill from Pu’ukohola Heiau is the scenic Spencer Beach.  This pretty white-sand beach has picnic tables, restrooms, and shade. Spencer Beach Park is beautiful and popular, but if you go a bit further south, you’ll find two little beaches, Mauʻumae and Kaluhikaa, which are much quieter and just as picturesque.

Pololū Valley Overlook is 8-miles east of Hawi at the end of a quiet stretch of Highway 270.  From the overlook there are fine views down to a beautiful black-sand beach.  There is a very-steep, 1½-mile hike down to the beach from the lookout and there are switchbacks to soften the 400’ ascent on the way back up. This is not a safe swimming beach, but the views and soft black sand make this a popular hiking trail.

Zip Lining in Hawi: Kohala Zipline offer guided tours on 9 zip lines crisscrossing the tropical ravines.  The experience includes suspension bridges and a rappel line. For a full day experience, add a waterfall hike to your day.  Office: 55-515 Hawi Rd.  Call (800) 464-1993 or locally at (808) 331-3620 / https://kohalazipline.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=gmb-hawi

Saturday Hawi Farmers Market: There is a small farmers market “under the banyan trees” at the corner of Akoni Pule (Hwy 270) and Hawi Rd (to Waimea).  Saturday between 8:00 AM 12:30 PM.

Stores

Hawi: There is a grocery store and post office at 55-515 Hawi Rd – close to the intersection with Hwy 270.  Open 8:00am-7:00pm, Sunday 8:00am-3:00pm.

The Hāmākua Macadamia Nut Company is just north of Kawaihae at 61-3251 Maluokalani St, Waimea, HI 96743.  They sell a vast array of macadamia nuts and nut products as well as coffees and gifts.  From the store, you can also see into the nut factory.  (888) 643-6688.  Daily from 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM.  https://www.hawnnut.com/


Hawi and Kapa’au

Kapa’au is celebrated as the birthplace of Kamehameha I (AKA King Kamehameha the Great) and home to a notable statue of him built in the nineteenth century several years after his death. The statue was built in Florence, Italy but the ship transporting it sunk and another statue was sent. That statue is found in Honolulu. Many years later, the original statue was recovered and now stands outside the civic center – opposite the Kings View Café.


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Safety and Enjoyment

Your safety is our first priority and should be yours, too! Here, we share some ideas on helping you get the most from your cycling tour – safely and while having fun.

Riding Safely

We have a few simple rules we ask you to follow:

    1. Always wear a cycle helmet fastened securely while cycling.
    2. Do not ride at night or in the dim light of dawn or dusk.
    3. Ride in single file and with the direction of traffic.
    4. Carry identification, details of your medical/travel insurance and emergency contact details.
    5. Sign an accident waiver indicating you are fit to ride and understand the risks.
    6. All cyclists under 16 years of age:
      • Must wear a florescent safety triangle or high visibility clothing.
      • Need to be accompanied by an adult over the age of 21 who is responsible for their safety at all times while cycling.

Daily Bike Checks

Your rental bikes are checked and tuned before every trip.  However, it is useful to do some regular checks just to keep things running smoothly. These checks should take less than five minutes to do.  Of course, if you’re in any doubt or have any concerns, give us a call and we’ll have a guide come out to you.  If they can’t fix a problem they’ll arrange for a new bike.

Brakes: 

  • Do both brake levers engage the brakes smoothly?  This test is best performed first on a stationary bike and then on a moving bike.
  • Are the shoes spaced evenly on either side of the wheel and the brake blocks close to but not rubbing on the wheel rims?
  • Are cables OK – not frayed – and under tension?

Handlebars & stem:

  • Check alignment – does the wheel point forward when the handlebars point forward?
  • Holding front wheel between legs check for lateral movement when flexing/twisting handlebars.
  • With front brake engaged, move bike back and forth to check for any rocking.  If there is movement, the headset may need tightening.

Gear changing.  This check is easily done as you set out at the start of your ride:

  • Check all front gears engage/change smoothly
  • Check all rear gears engage/change smoothly
  • Are cables OK – not frayed?

Chain:

  • If you’ve been riding in rain or on wet roads, you may want to wipe off your chain and apply a little lube the night before.  In the morning, run a clean rag over the chain to remove any excess oil.
  • But don’t overdo it; an over-oiled chain just attracts dirt.

Wheels & tires:

  • Inflate front & back tires to recommended tire pressure which should be written on the side.
  • Check front & rear wheels spin smoothly with little friction or noise and are true (no wobbles).
  • Check there are no loose or broken spokes in either wheel.
  • Check tires including sidewalls for cuts or other damage.
  • Check tires for any foreign bodies embedded in the tires and remove / replace tires as needed.
  • Are the quick-release mechanisms secure, correctly engaged and pointing backwards?

Frame:

  • Check for cracks and alignment in the frame, the headset & the handlebars – especially if you accidentally dropped the bike.
  • Pay extra attention and feel for problems in carbon forks and carbon rear stays where fitted.
  • General check for any loose parts.

Riding Safely

Here are our favorite top tips to help you have a safe trip.

  1. Ride predictably in smooth lines and avoid weaving or wobbling. When you stop – for example to check your map – we recommend that you move off the road. The more people there are in your group, the more important this becomes.
  2. Stay alert, be aware and anticipate; anticipate what other vehicles will do, anticipate what gear you will need to be in after you stop and anticipate the approaching road surface – do you need to avoid gravel, potholes or broken glass? Should you dismount to cross railroad tracks?  [FACT: 50% of urban accidents happen solo.  That is, people just fall off of their own accord.  A little anticipation would work wonders here.]
  3. Be as visible as you can be. Our fluorescent triangles are available to all guests and we recommend that riders of all standards wear them.  [When riding with our florescent triangles, we have noticed that cars give us a noticeably wider berth as they pass by.]
  4. Choose a safe riding position on the road. Stay as close as is safe to the right-hand side of the road as possible but do not be cowed into a dangerous riding position.  For example, avoid riding on grit, or dangerously broken pavement or where you are at risk of being hit by an opening car door.
  5. Obey the law. Drivers will give cyclist more respect, and you are far safer, if you obey all the traffic laws – including stopping at stop signs, riding on the right-hand side of the road and not riding under the influence of alcohol.  [FACT: 10% of ‘cyclist at fault’ accidents are caused by cyclist using the wrong side of the road.]
  6. Ride assertively but defensively. At intersections, make eye contact with drivers.  Assertive riding is easier for drivers to predict, but cars are bigger and harder than we are, so we always try to avoid getting into confrontations with them.  [FACT: 63% of cyclist collisions occur at intersections.  The most common cause of accidents, where the driver is at fault, is the driver’s failure to yield the right of way.]
  7. Check out your bike and make sure you are confident that it is roadworthy. Everyday check brakes, tires, quick release mechanisms, pedals and headsets.  Everything should fit snuggly and move smoothly.  Whether you are riding your own or a rented bike, the roadworthiness of that bike is your responsibility.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Cyclists

[Apologies to Stephen Covey]

As well as having a safe tour, we are keen for you to enjoy cycling and achieve a real sense of accomplishment.  This is likely to include riding within your limits and not exhausting yourself before lunch.  Here are some thoughts on how to stay happy on your bike.

  1. Eat before you are hungry. Even moderate cycling burns around 300 calories per hour so eat plenty of snacks such as power bars or trail mix.  We need to eat in enough time to allow our bodies to process the food and get the fuel to our legs before the fuel gauge reaches on empty.  Recovering from a fuel deficit is very difficult and will leave you tired for the rest of the day.  So, indulge yourself.  [Everybody’s metabolism is different, but when riding extended distances, it is typical to need to eat something every 45 minutes.  A nice big bowl of pasta the night before and a carbohydrate rich breakfast in the morning also help.]
  2. Drink before you are thirsty. It can get very hot on the bike in this area.  As you sweat, you will lose both water and essential salts.  You will not notice the effects until it is too late.  Drink plenty of water before you start to ride and then take regular sips en route.  [A good target is to drink either water or a sports drink at least every 30 minutes.]
  3. Ride at a pace that feels comfortable. Even when climbing hills, it is good practice to be able to keep a conversation going without being out of breath.  This means changing down to a low gear, keeping your cadence high and taking things easy.  If you are a slow rider riding with fitter friends, have them ride at your pace rather than you struggling to keep up with them.  This will also help them avoid sore legs the next day.
  4. The sun can get very intense, especially in the middle of the day so keep your shirt on and use a high factor sunscreen. [Watch for being burned through the gaps in your cycle helmet.  Many of the best helmets have extra wide gaps for better ventilation.  A bandana under the helmet can make all the difference.]
  5. Relax and change your hand position regularly. This helps avoid shoulder cricks or back aches.  Drop handlebars are better for being able to do this than straight handlebars.
  6. Check your bike. A sticking brake or skipping gear stops you relaxing and can be dangerous.  If you are unsure, talk to your guide, who will be happy to help you check things out if you have a concern.
  7. Smile, you are on vacation!

Seat Height Adjustment

Seat height adjustment is more craft than science.  The most important thing is that you feel safe and confident on the bike.  However, getting your saddle to the right height will also help you stay comfortable on longer rides, avoid saddle sores and conserve your energy while you pedal.

Bike fitters can spend hours getting your fit just right, but here are some simple rules of thumb.

  1. Stand and hold or prop yourself up against a wall.
  2. Position the pedals so the pedal cranks are vertical (one pedals at 12 o’clock and one pedal at 6 o’clock).
  3. Get on your bike and place your feet on the pedals. Move your foot so that your heel is on the pedal at 6 o’clock.
  4. When your seat is at the correct height, your leg (of the foot at 6 o’clock) should be straight but your knee shouldn’t be locked (technically, there should be a 25-30-degree flexion in the knee when the pedal is at the bottom most point).

If your seat is too low, it will make it harder to pedal and you may get knee pain at the front of the knee.  Too high and your hips will go from side to side which will make you tend to ride in too high a gear and you may develop pain at the back of your knees.

Saddle Sores

Saddle sores are the great unmentioned subject of cycling.  However, if you have not been riding much recently and start doing a lot of miles on a bike, you may well become just a little too familiar with this phenomenon.

To prevent sores, it’s helpful to know what they are.  Definition: A saddle sore is a skin ailment on the buttocks due to, or exacerbated by, riding on a bicycle saddle.  It often develops in three stages: skin abrasion, folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles) and, finally, abscess.  If it’s not obvious from the definition, it is better to stop the sores in the early stages than try and treat it in the final stage.

The best cure of all is to not get them in the first place.  The best way not to get them is to gradually build up your riding mileage and get used to your bike seat.  Doing rides before you come on the trip will help with this.  Other good preventative measures include:

  • Reducing the friction due to bobbing or swinging motion while pedaling, by setting the appropriate saddle height – see above.
  • If you have a favorite saddle, bring it along and we’ll fit it to your rental bike.
  • Wearing good cycling shorts, with a high-quality chamois insert.
  • Use petroleum jelly, chamois cream or lubricating gel on the chamois to further reduce friction.
  • Do not sit around in damp bike shorts after your ride and thoroughly wash and dry the affected area.
  • A friend who guides extreme mountain biking trips in the Colorado Rockies swears by putting hemorrhoid cream on the affected area. If all else fails, it’s worth a try!

There are pharmacies in all the main towns you’ll stay in if you need medical treatment.  Our primary message would be, if you think you have them, don’t ignore them.

Fixing a Flat

Of course, we hope you won’t ever need this skill – but just in case here is a checklist for fixing a flat – or repairing a puncture in your tyre as the English would say!  If it seems as though there are a lot of steps, you may be reassured by the fact we have seen all these steps completed in just over a minute

Remove the wheel. Sounds simple, but a couple of hints might make this easier.

  • If it’s the rear wheel, first put the chain on the smallest cog. This makes it easier to remove and replace the wheel.
  • Undo the quick release.
  • If it’s the front wheel, you will need to unscrew the quick release a little to get it over the lips on the fork – they’re known as lawyers’ lips!
  • You may have to loosen the brakes a little to get the tire past the brake blocks if there is still some air in the tires. On hybrid bikes this usually means squeezing the brake calipers together and unhitching the cable.  On road bikes there is usually a release mechanism on the caliper itself (or on the brake lever).
  • For the back wheel, you may need to ease back the derailleur a little before the wheel just drops out under gravity.

Let the air out of the tire.

  • For Presta valves, loosen the small nut at the top of the valve and press down.
  • For Schrader valves (like the valves on car tires) press the tip of a tool or stick onto the valve tip.

Before doing anything else, spin the wheel to see if you can find out what caused the flat. If you find it, either remove it now or mark it so you can remove it when you remove the tire.

If you’re very lucky, you’ll now be able to ease the tire off the rim with your bare hands. But to do this you may well need bear’s hands. Alternatively, you’ll need to use tire levers (irons):

  1. Insert the curved end of two tire levers under the edge of the tire about two spokes apart.
  2. Lever back the first tire lever to take the tire off the rim being careful not to pinch the inner tube and so add an extra hole to patch! Hook the free end of the lever around a spoke.  This leaves your hands free to lever back the second tire lever.
  3. Keeping the hooked lever stationary work the other lever around the tire until one side of the tire is completely removed from the rim but leaving the other side still seated on the rim. If a tire is very tight, you may need to engage a third lever.  When the third is in place, the middle one can be removed and re-inserted farther over.
  4. Remove the valve stem of the inner tube first then pull the rest of the inner tube from the tire. Try to keep the inner tube oriented with the tire so that when you find the hole you can navigate back to the same point in the tire and double check that what caused the flat isn’t still embedded.
  5. Look over the external and inside of the tire for damage and embedded debris. Remove any objects.  Then run your finger around the inside of the tire (carefully!) to detect any glass or thorns.  As a final check, inflate the tube and locate the puncture hole.  Check the tire at the corresponding place to ensure the offending object has been removed.  If you skip this step or are just a bit sloppy you may have another flat five minutes after getting back on your bike!
  6. Hopefully, you have a spare tube that your nice tour company gave you at the start of your ride. If not you’ll need to repair the hole in the old tube using a patch kit.
  7. Place some air in the new (or repaired) tube – just enough to give it some shape. Insert the valve stem on the tube into the valve hole in the wheel and then ease the rest of the tube into the tire.  Then ease the tire wall so the tube is sitting in line with the wheel not hanging outside of the wheel.

Now the tricky part.  Starting at the valve, work the tire back onto the rim using your thumbs or the muscle in the palm just under the thumb (actually the abductor pollicis brevis though knowing this won’t help you get the tire back on).  If the last section is hard to get on, try these things:

  • Ensure that the tire that is inside of the wheel is sitting well into the rim.
  • Hold the wheel horizontally against your stomach with the section of wheel without the tire on furthest away from you. Then use your abductor pollicis brevises to roll the tire onto the rim.
  • If none of this helps, use tire levers to work the bead onto the rim. However, if you resort to this there is a real risk of pinching the inner tube and creating another hole and being back to Step 4 above!

Inflate the tire.

As you inflate ensure that the tire is sitting evenly in the wheel.  If not, let out a little wire and reseat the tire in the rim.

When inflated, spin the wheel to ensure there are no bulges or wobbles. If there are, deflate the tire, reseat the tire on the rim and re-inflate.

Replace the wheel. (This is pretty much the reverse of Step 1.)

  • If you didn’t need to loosen the brakes to get the deflated wheel off, you may find you need to do it now to get it back on. A tap with the palm of your hand can also do the trick to ease the tire past the brake blocks.  DON’T FORGET TO RETIGHTEN THE BRAKES BEFORE HEADING OFF!
  • If it’s the front wheel, you will need to retighten the quick release a little after getting it over the fork lips before reengaging the quick release. The pressure needed to close the quick release should be enough to leave a small mark on the palm of your hand but not so much you need to apply all your strength and all the strength of your cycling partner to close it.
  • For the back wheel, you may need to ease back the derailleur a little before the wheel drops into place.

My Customized Itinerary

If you’ve made it this far, there’s likely an Oregon cycling trip in your future. We’d love to create the perfect custom itinerary for you! Please submit your request below for a no-obligation personalized cycling vacation to be created for you.

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