Home Traveling Adventures Hawaii: Cycling to Hilo’s Beaches

Hawaii: Cycling to Hilo’s Beaches

by bromptoning

AUTHOR’S NOTE: We travelled before the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic and the world went on lockdown. So rest assured we’re blogging post-travels and currently self-isolating at home. Quarantine safe, everyone. — Heather & Pier

We did this easy ride in one afternoon at a leisurely pace with lots of breaks for sightseeing, relaxing and watching the turtles. Yes, the reward for making it to the end of Kalanianaole Ave is turtles!

RIDE STATS – HILO, HAWAI’I – Town to Beaches

  • Distance (Round Trip) – 36 km
  • Average Speed – 16 km/hr
  • Top Speed – 33 km/hr
  • Time Spent Cycling – 2 hrs 13 mins
  • Total Trip Time – 5 hrs 30 min

As you can see from the elevation profile, this ride is totally flat. The beginning descent and the end climb is because we stayed at an AirBnB in a residential neighbourhood uphill from downtown Hilo. 

Before heading to the beaches, we had lunch at Tina’s Garden Cafe. We ordered a Combo Summer Roll (Tina’s take on spring rolls), the Heart of Palm salad, and Tina’s Thai Pizza. That sounds like a reasonable amount of food for two people to share before a bike ride, right? Not at Tina’s. The portions are HUGE! Those rolls can’t be popped in your mouth in one bite; more like three! Same with those giant slices of palm hearts in the salad. And the Thai Pizza is made with a big tortilla stuffed to bursting!

All the food was incredibly delicious, but we still couldn’t finish it in one sitting. So we took half of everything to go. Good thing we brought an extra dry bag to put the food in and make it easy to strap to the Brompton’s back rack!

From Tina’s, we crossed Kamehameha Ave and took the bike path that runs between it and the Bayfront Hwy. The path ends at a parking lot but continues on the other side and leads to the bay-side sidewalk of the bridge over the Wailoa River.

Bike path in Hilo.
Bike path in Hilo.
Bridge over Wailoa River. Hilo, Hawaii.
Bridge over Wailoa River.

As you can see in the photo above, there are painted bike lanes on this stretch of Kamehameha Ave, but where the path ended, there’s no way to cross this busy highway! So instead of cycling the wrong way in the bike lane, we stayed on the sidewalk until the intersection where we turned left. There were no pedestrians, though we did encounter a couple other cyclists taking the sidewalk for the same reason as us. This is definitely a cycling infrastructure fail, but as North Americans, we’re used to it.   

From this bridge you can see Suisan Fish Market. 

We’d planned to stop here and share a poke bowl, but we were way too full! However, we went a few days later before catching the bus to Kona and ate some poke.

Just past Suisan Fish Market is Lili’uokalani Gardens, a beautiful and serene ornamental Japanese garden.

We spent almost an hour in Lili’uokalani Gardens just hanging out and wandering around before continuing on to Coconut Island, which is a tiny islet connected to The Big Island by a pedestrian bridge. It’s quiet and lovely! There are lots of picnic tables here, a secluded beach, and bathrooms.

Brompton and pretty tree on Coconut Island.
Coconut Island
Swimming area on Coconut Island.

Then we headed back to Banyan Drive, which goes around the golf course, past the Ice Pond, and connects to Kalanianaole Street – aka the road to the beaches!

But first, Kalanianaole Street goes through an industrial area. This section is an unpleasant ride, but luckily it doesn’t last too long, and soon we were out of Hilo and cycling on a smooth road with a decent shoulder and not too much traffic. 

Kalanianaole Street outside of Hilo, Hawaii.
Kalanianaole Street outside of Hilo.

There are many beaches along this stretch, but we chose to check out these three: 1) Onekahakaha Beach, 2) Carlsmith Beach, and 3) Richardson’s Ocean Center.

Onekahakaha Beach Park

This beach has a boulder-enclosed pool that is popular with local families because it’s protected from the strong surf of the ocean. And the shallow water is a bit warmer!

Pier in the calm, shallow waters of Onekahakaha Beach.
Pier in the calm, shallow waters of Onekahakaha Beach.
Onekahakaha Beach Park, Hawaii
Onekahakaha Beach Park

There are lots of picnic tables, BBQ pits, and bathrooms. Plus a truck that sells ice cream! But we were still too full to partake.

Carlsmith Beach Park

This place is more park than beach, but that’s what makes it so lovely! Lots of lawn space to lounge about on, and full facilities. The swimming is marginal, though there is a small lifeguard tower and the chance to see turtles. 

Carlsmith Beach Park
Carlsmith Beach Park

Richardson’s Ocean Center

At the end of Kalanianaole Ave is Richardson’s Ocean Center and the county Aquatics Division. This is an excellent place for a picnic; lots of tables and washroom facilities. There are even a couple bike racks – a rare amenity on The Big Island. The site has freshwater pools, a black sand beach, and turtles!

Bike racks at Richardson's Ocean Center.
Bike racks!
Between the ocean and the freshwater pools. Richardson's Ocean Center.
Between the ocean and the freshwater pools.
The black sand beach at Richardson’s Ocean Center.
The black sand beach at Richardson’s Ocean Center.
Swimming turtle!

There were about a dozen turtles swimming in the pools in the rocks, then swimming back into the ocean. Very cool!

End of Day…

Overall, this ride didn’t take us as long as we thought it would. On the way back, we stopped again at Onekahakaha Beach Park and ate our leftovers from Tina’s. Then we returned to Hilo and relaxed in the Lili’uokalani Gardens until it was 5pm and we could head to Miyo’s Very Homestyle Japanese Restaurant. To our shock, there was already a line-up when we arrived! And lots of reservations. By the time they seated us, there was one table left. Take note—people in Hilo like to eat supper early! And end it early too, since most restaurants close by 9pm. 

Up next… a big 70km ride around Puna!

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