Biking The Big Island

October 6, 2015

Stepping off the plane in Kona is a massage to the senses. Planning to get yourself and your gear to Hawaii requires some gyrations, but close your eyes for a moment, breathe, listen, feel the breeze. Your shoulders just dropped out of your ears. Your mind-chatter just melted into the background. The mainland just became another world. It’s your time. You’ve just combined your love of biking with one of the most beautiful and diverse places on earth.

There is some serious biking to be had on this island of over 4,000 square miles. Contrary to the popular idea that the Big Island is all about the high speed Ironman Triathlon, or Hawaii time means rolling around on a beater bike with a straw hat, I found touring the island, with its incredible diversity of climates, terrain, food, and lovely folk, matches the bike-travel lifestyle really well. I could see staying two weeks the next time I go, easily.

No research came close to capturing the constant, spectacular, changing scenery, the mostly gentle weather with its different microclimates, the challenge of both undulating and long pull climbs, and the best coffee I’ve ever had. After about a day, I began to pick up the language and had fun with the flow of pronouncing words like Laupahoehoe (La-oo-pa-ho-ay-ho-ay). And I began to expect something might pop into view and feed my fun soul with each pedal stroke.

Laupahoehoe Point Park

There are lots of online ways to find out what to do in Hawaii, but here’s my personal take away:

  • I learned to increase the off-bike activities more than I would in other places with so much to do and see.
  • Stop by Bike Works in Kona. They'll ready your steed and point you to good local places to ride.
  • The Punalu’u Bake Shop and TEX Drive In are well known for a reason. As a foodie, I got a big lesson in Hawaiian baked goods like malasadas and sweetbreads, and great food and a nice view from TEX.
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must see, hints of sulfur and all, and well worth the climb to get there. The eerie glow and the smoke plume make you know you are riding on an evolving piece of real estate.
Kilauea Crater - note the walking path
  • Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. Just very cool.
  • See the high ranch country. It’s like Wyoming up there, cool, dry and full of livestock. Sorta surprised me that I was still in the tropics.
  • If you ride the Kona Highway from the hip little town of Hawi back to Kona, not only are you treading ground where many world class athletes have been, but you may see a whale or two.
Along the Kona Highway

 Take the island in. Ride it all. Relax. Get into the local rhythm. You’re on aloha time.



Have you had your own experience riding the Big Island?  Please share in the comments section!

Adventure Cycling offers a guided, self-contained Hawaii Big Island tour in 2016. Join us!

Photos by Linda Baldwin


ON THE ROAD is written by the tours team— Paul, Mandy, Emma, Mike, and Arlen — tours specialists and intrepid bicyclists, helping you bring your cycling dreams to fruition. Check out our 2018 Guided Tours today!




Joel Gerwein October 8, 2015, 4:23 PM

Loved your blog post!

My son and I went on a couple of awesome day rides on the Big Island a couple years ago. We biked from Kona out to Pu'u Honua O Honaunau one day and found the ride from the highway down to the park past coffee plantations and a lava field to be magnificent. We also rode up from Kona to the top of Kaloko Drive- beautiful and a fun way to feel the different climates on the island. It was mild and warm at the marina in Kona and we got drenched in cold rain 3,500 ft and 10 miles later at the top of Kaloko! The only other people we saw up there were some Jehovah's Witnesses who congratulated us on the climb before proselytizing us.

Deb Fennell October 6, 2015, 8:46 PM

I was a VBT tour leader on the Big Island in the late '80's. You captured riding there perfectly! And REALLY made me want to be back there again! Thanks for a great stroll down memory lane; and encouragement to get back there again one day!

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