Just returned from a family trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, as well as the Hawaiian island of Kauai. My bride had planned this trip for the three boys and I for pure “R&R”, so I went having committed to them that I would not spend time alone on the bicycle, but instead simply enjoy family time, the panoramas, the beaches, and the ocean that is Hawaii. I obliged without hesitation.
Over the years, Hawaii has become our favorite vacation spot. We have spent a fair amount of time on the islands Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, with the latter being our go-to paradise. This particular trip was unique in that we spent the first half of the vacation on the Big Island, which was our inaugural visit to this unique place. While I kept my promise to stay off the bike, I spent five days in reconnaissance mode for my next trip to this island, which will most certainly be accompanied by Surly Pearl.
I was impressed by the sheer number of cyclists on the roads on the drier West side of the Island, in and around Kona. This side of the island is famous not only for the wonderful Kona coffee, but for the annual Ironman World Championships. The running and cycling courses both take place on the epic Kona Coast, where black lava fields dominate the landscape and heavy crosswinds make even driving sometimes hazardous. Every morning, I witnessed plenty of cyclists, most on road-bikes, some on touring rigs, making their way up and down the rugged coastline.
What is unique about this island, which is about the size of the state of Connecticut, is it’s geographic diversity. On a ride around the island (which could be done on a series of state highways around the full perimeter), a fortunate cyclist would be exposed to incredible mountain ranges, some of which are close to 14,000 ft above sea level, jungles, warm beaches, lava flows from active volcanoes, cool highlands, and quaint Hawaiian villages. And views! It seems that every corner of the island is replete with views that cannot be replicated.
A Big Island perimeter ride would cover approximately 250 miles and present the hearty rider with an immense amount of climbing. I would estimate that the route would take five or six days to complete, which would also give one ample time to gasp at the panoramas (and at the high altitude in certain areas). Not surprisingly, National Geographic classifies this route as one of it’s “Drives of a Lifetime“, a series which details 500 of the world’s most spectacular trips. While this narrative assumes travel by car, after having viewed this route through the lens of a cyclist, I firmly believe it applies to cyclists as well.
For those that don’t want the logistics of a full-blown cycling tour, there are plenty of road bike rental companies offering daily rides in and around this unique place. For me, it should be no surprise that I’m adding this perimeter route to my cycle touring bucket list.
Mahalo and Aloha!
It’s All Good.