There’s something breathtakingly adventurous about exploring the best routes on the Big Island on two wheels. This largest Hawaiian island boasts an eclectic mix of terrains, from white sandy beaches to lush rainforests, rugged mountains, to volcanic landscapes. Discovering this beauty at a leisurely pace on a bike or motorcycle allows for an immersive experience that four-wheel travel simply cannot offer. It’s not just about the destinations, but the journey itself, the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin, and the vibrant colors and sounds of nature all around.
The Big Island Terrain
The Big Island, true to its name, offers a large and varied terrain that can be both a cyclist’s dream and a challenge. Its unique landscapes feature everything from coastal roads with panoramic sea views to lush tropical rainforests teeming with exotic flora and fauna. Then there’s the stark beauty of the island’s volcanic regions, the dramatic topography of the mountains, and the expansive grasslands of the interior. This diversity means that a two-wheeled journey around the Big Island can provide a wide range of experiences, each with its unique charm and challenge.
Preparation is critical to navigating these terrains. Knowing what to expect can help you choose the right equipment, plan your route efficiently, and ensure you’re prepared for any possible weather conditions. Additionally, understanding the terrain is not just about physical preparation. It’s also about appreciating the island’s natural beauty, being mindful of the environment, and preserving its integrity for future generations.
Preparing For The Ride
Before setting off on your two-wheel adventure on the Big Island, it’s crucial to ensure that your equipment is in top condition. For cyclists, this means checking your bike’s tires, brakes, and gears. For motorcyclists, it includes a more thorough inspection of your machine, including engine oil, coolant, and brake fluid levels. Regardless of your mode of transportation, helmets and appropriate riding gear are a must for safety.
In addition to equipment checks, consider the weather conditions. The Big Island has various microclimates, so it’s not uncommon to experience more than one weather type in a single day. Pack for possible rain showers when in the higher elevations or the windward (eastern) side of the island. Remember, a well-prepared rider is not just a safe rider but also one who can truly enjoy the journey, regardless of what the road throws at them.
Route 1: Kona Coastline
The Kona Coastline is a haven for cyclists and motorcyclists alike. This route stretches along the western coast of the Big Island, offering stunning ocean views and glimpses of white sandy beaches. It’s ideal for those looking for a relaxed ride, as the road is generally flat and well-maintained. The Kona Coastline is also dotted with cafes and rest stops where riders can take a break and indulge in local Hawaiian cuisine.
The most rewarding part of this route is the gorgeous sunset view. As the day comes to a close, riders can watch the sky transform into a symphony of colors reflecting over the Pacific Ocean. Riding the Kona Coastline is not just a journey but an experience that engages all senses, making it a must-try for all two-wheel enthusiasts visiting the Big Island.
Route 2: Hamakua Heritage Corridor
The Hamakua Heritage Corridor, situated on the northeastern coastline of the Big Island, offers a rich cultural experience. This route takes riders through the lush rainforest, across old plantation towns, and past historical landmarks. The route provides a glimpse into the island’s past, making it a journey as informative as it is scenic.
This route is also home to several natural wonders, such as the Akaka Falls and Waipio Valley. A pit stop to admire these sites is highly recommended. Remember, the true joy of exploring the Big Island on two wheels lies in stopping at will, breathing in the beauty around you, and carrying forward memories that a hurried tour can hardly provide.
Route 3: Volcano National Park
For those seeking an adrenaline-filled adventure, the route through Volcano National Park is a perfect choice. It offers a chance to ride around the rim of the Kilauea Volcano’s active craters, providing a thrilling experience. This route takes riders through unique volcanic landscapes, surrounded by native Hawaiian vegetation and the unique beauty that only volcanic terrain can offer.
Keep in mind that this route might be challenging for some due to frequent changes in elevation and weather conditions. However, the spectacular views and the excitement of riding near an active volcano make this journey worthwhile. Just don’t forget to visit the Volcano Art Center and the Thurston Lava Tube, popular attractions in the area.
Route 4: Saddle Road
For seasoned cyclists and motorcyclists, the Saddle Road presents an exciting challenge. This route, also known as Daniel K. Inouye Highway, stretches across the island, providing a shortcut between the east and west coasts. It’s known for its steep inclines and sharp curves, making it a route where riders can test their skills and endurance.
However, the ride is not just about the challenge. Saddle Road offers stunning views of the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. Moreover, this route is less frequented by tourists, offering a sense of serenity and a closer connection with the island’s natural beauty. Despite its challenges, or perhaps because of them, the Saddle Road route is a rewarding experience for those who dare to take it on.
Route 5: The Kohala Loop
The Kohala Loop is a testament to the Big Island’s rural charm. This circular route, located in the northern part of the island, allows riders to explore the historic town of Hawi, the beautiful Pololu Valley, and the striking cliffs of North Kohala. It’s a ride through some of the island’s oldest landscapes, offering a sense of peace and tranquility that’s hard to find in the more touristy areas.
One of the highlights of this route is the panoramic view of the sea from the Pololu Valley Lookout. This view, coupled with the gentle breeze, the smell of the sea, and the calls of local birds, makes for a truly immersive experience. If you’re seeking a route that offers both scenic beauty and a deep connection with the island’s history and culture, the Kohala Loop is the one for you.
Tips For Cyclists
Cycling around the Big Island is an enriching experience. However, the varied terrain and weather conditions call for careful preparation. One crucial tip for cyclists is to stay hydrated. With Hawaii’s tropical climate, getting dehydrated is easy, especially on long rides. Carry a water bottle and refill it at every opportunity.
Secondly, wear appropriate clothing and protective gear. A helmet, knee pads, and a good pair of cycling shoes can make your ride safer and more comfortable. Remember to use sunscreen, and consider wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s glare. Lastly, always carry a map or GPS device. While getting lost might be part of the adventure, it’s essential to be able to find your way back.
Tips For Motorcyclists
Motorcycling around the Big Island comes with its own set of challenges and rewards. As with cycling, hydration, and sun protection are paramount. Additionally, ensure that your motorcycle is in good condition before you set off. This includes checking the tires, brakes, engine oil, and other essential components.
Given the island’s diverse terrain, motorcyclists should be prepared for different road conditions. A change in weather can quickly turn a smooth road into a slippery one, especially at higher altitudes. Always ride within your limits, and adjust your speed according to the conditions. Finally, don’t forget to take breaks. Riding a motorcycle can be physically demanding, so make sure to rest, hydrate, and take in the beautiful Hawaiian scenery.
Where To Rent Equipment
Renting equipment on the Big Island is easy, thanks to numerous bike and motorcycle rental shops. Some popular options include Bike Works in Kona and Hilo Bike Hub in Hilo for bicycles and Big Island Harley-Davidson in Kailua-Kona for motorcycles. These shops offer a range of options to suit different skill levels and budgets.
Before you rent, ensure that the equipment is in good condition. Check the tires, brakes, and other crucial components. Also, ensure the rental company provides helmets and other safety gear. Lastly, ask about their policies on damages and late returns to avoid any unexpected charges.
Follow These Routes To Explore The Big Island On Two Wheels!
Exploring the Big Island on two wheels offers a unique and intimate experience of Hawaii’s beautiful landscapes. Whether you’re cruising along the Kona coastline, navigating the challenging Saddle Road, or taking in the rural charm of the Kohala Loop, every route has its unique allure. This journey is about more than reaching your destination. It’s about embracing the island’s diversity, immersing yourself in its rich culture and history, and truly connecting with nature. So, gear up, get on your bike or motorcycle, and let the Big Island’s enchanting roads lead you on an unforgettable adventure.