Kauai is a labyrinth of cane-haul roads, which are fun for exploring on two wheels. The challenge is finding roads where biking is allowed and then not getting lost in the maze. Maybe that explains why Kauai is not a hub for the sport... yet. Still, there are some epic rides for those who are interested—both the adrenaline-rush and the mellower beach-cruiser kind. If you want to grind out some mileage, the main highway that skirts the coastal areas is generally safe, though there are only a few designated bike lanes. It's hilly, but you'll find that keeping your eyes on the road and not the scenery is the biggest challenge. "Cruisers" should head to Kapaa. A new section of Ke Ala Hele Makalae, a pedestrian trail that runs along the East Side of Kauai, was completed in the summer of 2009, totaling 6½ mi of completed path. You can rent bikes (with helmets) from the activities desks of certain hotels, but these are not the best quality. You're better off renting from Kauai Cycle in Kapaa, Outfitters Kauai in Poipu, or Pedal 'n' Paddle in Hanalei.
Ke Ala Hele Makalae. For the cruiser, this path follows the coastline on Kauai's East Side. Eventually, it will run some 20 miles and offer scenic views, picnic pavilions, and restroom facilities along the way—all in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. For now, there are 2.5 miles of path in Lydgate Beach Park to secluded Kuna Bay (aka Donkey Beach). The easiest way to access the completed sections of the path is from Kealia Beach. Park here and head north into rural lands with spectacular coastline vistas or head south into Kapaa for a more interactive experience. Trailhead: 1 mile north of Kapaa; park at north end of Kealia Beach, HI, 96746.
Moalepe Trail. This trail is perfect for intermediate to advanced riders. The first 2 mi of this 5-mi, double-track road winds through pastureland. The real challenge begins when you reach the steep and rutted switchbacks, which during a rainy spell can be hazardous to attempt. Moalepe dead-ends at the Kuilau Trail. If you choose to continue down the Kuilau Trail, it will end at the Keahua Arboretum stream. From Kuhio Hwy. in Kapaa drive mauka on Kuamoo Rd. for 3 mi and turn right on Kamalu Rd. It dead-ends at Olohena Rd. Turn left and follow until the road veers sharply to the right., Wailua, HI.
Powerline Trail. Advanced riders like this trail. It's actually a service road for the electric company that splits the island. It's 13 mi in length; the first 5 mi goes from 620 feet in elevation to almost 2,000. The remaining 8 mi descends gradually over a variety of terrain, some technical. Some sections will require carrying your bike. The views will stay with you forever. Trailhead is mauka just past the stream crossing at Keahua Arboretum, or at the end of the appropriately named Powerline Road in Princeville, past Princeville Ranch Stables. When it's wet—in summer or winter—this trail is a mess. Check with a knowledgeable bike shop for trail conditions first and be prepared to improvise. HI.
Spalding Monument Loop. For the novice rider, this loop offers a good workout and a summit ocean view that is not overly strenuous to reach. If you pick up a bike at Kauai Cycle in Kapaa, you can ride a mile up Ke Ala Hele Makalae path to reach the head of the loop, and even make a snack stop at the Kealia Store without a detour. From Kealia Store, ride up a gradual incline 2 mi through horse pastures to Spalding Monument, named for a former plantation owner, although there is no longer any signage. Palms circle the lava-rock wall, where you can picnic while enjoying a 180-degree ocean view. Behind you is the glorious mountain backdrop of Kalalea. Follow the paved road north toward Kalalea for 2 more mi. Turn right at the highway, and it's another 2 mi south to a parking lot for Donkey Beach on the ocean side. The lot is not far from mile marker 12 and sits on the top of a hill. Follow the path down to the beach and turn right on Ke Ala Hele Makalae, following what was once an old cane-haul road that heads right back into Kapaa town. The loop begins at the Kealia Store, past mile marker 10 on the mauka side of the road, HI, 96746.
Wailua Forest Management Road. For the novice mountain biker, this is an easy ride, and it's also easy to find. From Route 56 in Wailua, turn mauka (toward the mountains) on Kuamoo Road and continue 6 mi to the picnic area, known as Keahua Arboretum; park here. The potholed four-wheel-drive road includes some stream crossings—stay away during heavy rains, because the streams flood—and continues for 2 mi to a T-stop, where you should turn right. Stay on the road for about 3 mi until you reach a gate; this is the spot where the gates in the movie Jurassic Park were filmed, though it looks nothing like the movie. Go around the gate and down the road for another mile to a confluence of streams at the base of Mt. Waialeale. Be sure to bring your camera. Kuamoo Rd., Kapaa, HI, 96746.
Waimea Canyon Road. For those wanting a very challenging road workout, climb this road, also known as Route 550. After a 3,000-foot climb, the road tops out at mile 12 adjacent to Waimea Canyon, which will pop in and out of view on your right as you ascend. From here it continues several miles (mostly level) past the Kokee Museum and ends at the Kalalau Lookout. It's paved the entire way, uphill 100%, and curvy. There's not much of a shoulder on either road—sometimes none—so be extra cautious. The road gets busier as the day wears on, so you may want to consider a sunrise ride. A slightly more moderate uphill climb is Kokee Road, Route 552, from Kekaha, which intersects with Route 550. By the way, bikes aren't allowed on the hiking trails in and around Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park, but there are miles of wonderful 4WD roads perfect for mountain biking. Check at Kokee Lodge for a map and conditions. Off Rte. 50, near grocery store, Waimea, HI, 96796.
Equipment and Tours
Kauai Cycle. This reliable, full-service bike shop rents, sells, and repairs bikes. Cruisers, mountain bikes (front- and full-suspension), and road bikes are available for $30 to $60 per day and $110 to $250 per week with directions to trails. The Ke Ala Hele Makalae is right out their back door. 4-934 Kuhio Hwy., across from Taco Bell, Kapaa, HI, 96746. PHONE: 808/821-2115. www.kauaicycle.com.
Outfitters Kauai. Hybrid "comfort" and mountain bikes (both full-suspension and hardtails), as well as road bikes, are available at this shop in Poipu. You can ride right out the door to tour Poipu, or get information on how to do a self-guided tour of Kokee State Park and Waimea Canyon. The company also leads sunrise and evening coasting tours (under the name Bicycle Downhill) from Waimea Canyon past the island's West Side beaches. Rentals cost $25 to $45 per day. Tours cost $102 plus tax. Stand-up paddle tours are also available. 2827-A Poipu Rd., near turnoff to Spouting Horn, Poipu, HI, 96756. PHONE: 808/742-9667 or 888/742-9887. www.outfitterskauai.com.
Pedal 'n' Paddle. This company rents old-fashioned, single-speed beach cruisers and hybrid road bikes for $15 to $20 per day; $60 to $80 per week, with a discount for more than one week's use. In the heart of Hanalei, this is a great way to cruise the town; the more ambitious cyclist can head to the end of the road. Be careful, though, because there are no bike lanes on the twisting and turning road to Kee. Ching Young Village, 5-5190 Kuhio Hwy., Hanalei, HI, 96714. PHONE: 808/826-9069. www.pedalnpaddle.com.