We spent our last day exploring the sights just north of Kona, and came to some conclusions about cycling in Hawaii, which I’ll share at the end of this post. But first, our final ride on The Big Island…
Kona’s “Bike Lanes”
The day began with us cycling north on Ali’i Drive. Traffic is heavy but not fast on this road, and there are wide shoulders shared between bikes, pedestrians and parked cars, and a few bike share stations (like in the photo). But once in the downtown area, the shoulders become very narrow, though the traffic isn’t moving fast so we felt safe.
We were stopped at a red light when a woman on a city bike pulled up behind us. This in itself was a rare occurrence; we didn’t see many people cycling in Kona who weren’t spandexed up for a training ride. Our fellow casually-clothed cyclist said hello and asked if we had a blog. We said we did, and she replied that she reads it! She and her partner had recently bought Bromptons and were soon taking them to Japan. Our blog had inspired them!
Traveling by bike is the best. 😀
Where Ali’Drive ends, we turned left onto Kuakini Highway, which has bike lanes and a pedestrian lane.
It’s great to have dedicated spaces for pedestrians and cyclists, and we appreciated these lanes very much, but I’m sure our European friends are cringing at this photo and the fact that there is no physical separation between us and fast-moving motor vehicles.
Old Kona Airport Beach + Gardens
Not far outside of Kona at the end of the old Kuakini Highway is the old Kona Airport, which is now a State Recreation Area.
There’s a sandy beach, bathroom facilities, and gardens on what’s called the Maka’eo Walking Path.
All in all, a pleasant place to hang out, especially if you’re looking for some peace and quiet. We saw maybe half a dozen people in the hour we spent there.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
To get to our next sight, the National Park, we had to cycle on the big Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway for 3 kms. It has wide shoulders, but isn’t a particularly pleasant or safe-feeling ride. At least it was a quick ride and there are traffic lights at the intersection with Kealakehe Parkway so we could cross safely. Once on Kealakehe Parkway, it’s a short jaunt to the harbour, and we soon found this gated entrance to the park:
There was also an information board with the usual “No Bikes” sign. More on that later. Suffice to say, we walked our bikes in the park.
This trail led to the Ai’opio Fishtrap where there are lots of turtles and a canoe house.
At the bathrooms between the Fishtrap and the Fish Ponds, a park worker told us we couldn’t have bikes in the park even if we were walking them. (He said there was bike parking at the entrance, but we hadn’t seen any. But that’s a story for later.) So we locked the Bromptons to a sign and walked on. And when the path turned into beach sand, we were glad we’d left our bikes locked to that sign.
That fishpond is as far as we got. Traveling by foot is slow and we only had a few hours before our friend’s wedding. It was time to turn back. Unfortunately, that means we missed most of the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. If you’re coming for a visit, plan to spend an entire day here in order to see it all!
Being a Cycle Tourist in Hawaii
Tourism on The Big Island doesn’t really accommodate cycling. Everything is geared towards people driving to destinations and walking around the sights. And there are “No Bikes” signs everywhere. The frustrating part of these signs is that at some sights, there’s no reason for the ban, yet at other sights, like the Kaloko-Honokohau National Park, bikes don’t make sense because the paths aren’t bikeable. However, there’s no way to tell which is which before entry. On top of that, there’s rarely bike parking at any of these sights, so we ended up ignoring the signs most of the time and walking our bikes around. To us, this seems perfectly reasonable, but not to the worker at the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. He wanted us to leave immediately. He said there was bike parking at the entrance. We hadn’t noticed a bike rack, but when we returned we saw this:
Yeah, that’s a wooden rack. That is not a secure place to lock one’s bike.
But it got me thinking… What’s wrong with walking our bikes through a no biking zone? The only answer I could come up with is that the perception of cycling in Hawaii is either racing or mountain biking, both of which authorities don’t want happening on hiking trails. We understand that. Still, there was no convincing that park worker we did.
In conclusion, The Big Island doesn’t make it easy to be a two-wheeled tourist, which could be why, during our entire 11-day trip, we only met one other couple who was bike touring. On top of the lack of cycling infrastructure, it’s a big island and the sights are spaced pretty far apart and not connected by public transit. To see everything, you either need a car or a month or two by bike.
Still, I’m glad we went the “bike + bus” route. Because we were riding the bus with the locals, we experienced a side of Hawaii most tourists don’t. Everyone was so friendly and happy to give us tips on bus routes, sights to see and places to eat. Incredible Hawaiian hospitality!
But it must be noted that we made the “bike + bus” thing work because we have Bromptons. Some of the Hele-On buses have bike racks on the front, but most don’t. Folding bikes were pretty darn essential.
Home for Quarantine
Our trip to Hawaii was a year ago! We arrived home five days before the WHO declared Covid-19 a worldwide pandemic on March 11, 2020. We’re grateful that we biked The Big Island before the lockdown. Thanks for the memories, Hawaii!