Mary and I did our third bike tour of the year and second with Bicycle Adventures in October 2010. Called the Hawaii Classic Plus, this seven-day tour circled the Big Island. Besides us, there were four other energetic and enthusiastic guests – Cliff and Kathy from Wisconsin, Paul from Washington, and Yvonne from Saskatchewan – plus our fun-loving guide, Wyler Boulé from Washington.
Here is the itinerary for the tour.
Day 0 (Saturday, October 9): Arrive at the Kona airport and shuttle to the Waikoloa Beach Marriott in Waikoloa. Along the way we pass cyclists participating in the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon! In a few days we will bike this same route. Day 1 (Sunday, October 10): Bike 49 miles from Waikoloa to Waipio Valley Overlook. Then shuttle toward Hilo and get dropped off partway to meet long-time friend Tom Burton, who gives us a snack and a tour of his farm. Afterward he drives us to Hilo where we rejoin the rest of the tour for dinner. We spend the night at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. Day 2 (Monday, October 11): Shuttle to Pahoa and bike two loops in the Puna District for 50 miles with a swim in the Ahalanui Hot Pond along the way. Then shuttle to Kurtistown and bike another 20 miles to the Kilauea Lodge in Volcano. We spend two nights there. Day 3 (Tuesday, October 12): Hike in the Thurston Lava Tube and Kilauea Iki Crater in the morning. Bike 31 miles to the end of the road up Mauna Loa and back in the afternoon. Day 4 (Wednesday, October 13): Bike 100 miles (!) to the Keauhou Beach Resort in Kona. Day 5 (Thursday, October 14): Bike to Greenwell Farms where we tour a coffee farm and then to Puuhonua O Honaunau, the Place of Refuge, for lunch. Afterward, bike all the way to the Waikoloa Beach Marriott where we spend another three nights. We bike a total of 74 miles. Day 6 (Friday, October 15): Bike a 70-mile loop along the coast to Hawi with a return via Waimea to complete our circumnavigation of the Big Island. Day 7 (Saturday, October 16): Ride a catamaran and snorkel to officially end this classic tour! We also run 5 or 6 miles on our own at sunrise and hike in the Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve in the afternoon. Day 8 (Sunday, October 17): Run 6 miles again at sunrise and then catch our flight home.
Photos and commentary follow.
Day 1: Sunday, October 10. Mary and I are ready and eager to start biking from the Waikoloa Beach Marriott. We bike east toward Mauna Kea on Waikoloa Rd until it ends and then turn north on Mamalahoa Hwy, where Mary is here. She has just passed the Saddle Road junction. Mauna Loa is in the distance to the south. We turn east at Waimea and bike in a cloud much of the way from there to this Waipio Valley Lookout. We end our biking for the day there, have lunch nearby, and shuttle south on the road to Hilo, which is too dangerous for bikes. Partway through the shuttle, we get dropped off to meet Tom Burton, who drives us to his farm. This is his two-part house. Mod 1 on the left is finished, while Mod 2 on the right is livable, but largely unfinished inside. This is the dining room and kitchen in Mod 1. Tom cuts up the farm-grown papaya on the table and serves it to us as a snack. Afterward we walk around the farm. Papaya trees are in the foreground, while his two-part house is in the background. Here is a closeup of a papaya tree with a row crop behind. Tom, shown here, has some goats and built this A-frame for them to climb 🙂
Day 2: Monday, October 11. After a shuttle to Pahoa, we bike south on Hwy 130 and pass the Star of the Sea Painted Church. It used to be in the town of Kalapana at the end of the road but was moved here in 1990 just ahead of the lava flow that overran the town. Soon afterward we see steam from new lava entering the ocean in the distance! The road ends at the hardened lava from the 1990 eruption. Mary and I sat on a black sand beach here in 1977! We bike east on Hwy 137 past green palm trees, black rocks, white surf, and bluegreen ocean. We swim in the geothermal Ahalanui Hot Pond. Sadly, this beautiful pool was covered by lava in 2018 😦 I bike back to Pahoa on a tree-lined road. The road steepens as we near Pahoa. We shuttle from there to Kurtistown, where Paul, Mary, and I get on our bikes again to do the long, gradual climb to Volcano on Hwy 11.
Day 3: Tuesday, October 12. We begin the day with a hike through the 500-year-old Thurston Lava Tube. Our guide Wilder clearly enjoys his job 🙂 Next we hike down into Kilauea Iki, a pit crater next to the large Kilauea caldera. As we climb out of the crater, we have this view looking west across the crater to Halemaumau, another pit crater steaming in the distance. Here is our team on the rim of Kilauea Iki: Cliff, Kathy, Wilder, Yvonne, Paul, Mary, and me. We shuttle to the Jagger Museum next to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to get a closer view of Halemaumau. Both the museum and observatory were damaged in the 2018 eruption and have been closed since then. In the afternoon, Paul, Mary, and I bike up Mauna Loa to the end of the road. A hiking trail goes higher, but we turn around here. Mary puts on her jacket since the descent will be cooler than the climb. A faint rainbow appears in the vog, a mixture of volcanic gases and fog. We have the road to ourselves since there is a locked gate at the bottom. We meet a ranger who asks us why we went past the “Road Closed” sign. We tell her that we thought that only applied to cars 🙂
Day 4: Wednesday, October 13. We start the day going southwest on Hwy 11 and bike 30 miles downhill! We reach the coast at Punaluu Black Sand Beach where we have a snack. We see green sea turtles there. Then we have to do some climbing. This is the view back as we leave the coast and turn west toward Naalehu. We cross some relatively recent lava flows from Mauna Loa and head north for the rest of the day. It is amazing that trees can grow out of the lava so soon after an eruption. We finish the day at the Keauhou Beach Resort. I have a flat tire not far from the finish but fix it myself. The day’s distance from the start to finish is 95 miles, so Mary and I bike another 5 miles to make it a full century ride 🙂
Day 5: Thursday, October 14. We bike a round-about way to this coffee farm in Kealakekua to avoid riding very much on busy Hwy 11. We take a tour through the farm and see trees like this that are full of beans. Their harvesting and processing is very labor intensive, which makes the coffee from here expensive. Mary enjoys a nice downhill to the ocean. Soon we have this beautiful view of Kealakekua Bay. When we get to the water’s edge, Mary points to the monument to Captain Cook across the bay. It is close to where Cook was killed in a skirmish with Hawaiians in 1779. We bike south to Puuhonua O Honaunau. Also known as the City of Refuge, it was a safe haven for those that broke the Kapu laws in olden times. We have lunch at the City of Refuge and enjoy its beautiful setting. After lunch we pass the Painted Church as we climb up from the coast. We then have a long ride north, including 21 miles on the famous Iron Man cycling route, until we reach the Waikoloa Beach Marriott. This is the sunset from there.
Day 6: Friday, October 15. For our last day of biking, we head north along the coast to Hawi following the Iron Man route. This is the view of Mauna Loa behind us to the south. Hawi, the turnaround for the Iron Man, is a quiet little town. A colleague of mine at SDSC grew up here! We climb out of Hawi on Kohala Mountain Rd for our return trip south. Mary rides on a flat stretch after the climb. Much of this northern part of the Big Island is devoted to cattle ranching, so we are surprised to see these donkeys. This ranch house near Waimea suggests that the ranching is profitable. Each day Wilder marks the day’s route on this map on the door of the trailer with our gear. Here he proudly displays the finished map at the end of the last day’s ride! This closeup shows that we circumnavigated the Big Island 🙂
Day 7: Saturday, October 16. Mary and I go for a run at sunrise to get some aerobic exercise on our easy last day of the tour. Mauna Kea is on the right skyline. We show off our bike-hardened legs before boarding the catamaran behind us. We motor offshore until we find a pod of spinner dolphins. They swim beside our boat and jump out of the water spinning! We motor into shallower water and get ready to snorkel. Paul has an underwater camera and takes some stunning photos! Here is another one! Paul and Mary relax on the bow of the boat as we head back to shore. A kiteboarder takes advantage of the strong wind. We disembark from the boat to officially end this truly classic tour! In the afternoon Mary and I go for a hike through the Waikaloa Petroglyph Preserve next to the hotel. This patch of petroglyphs looks abstract. A lava tube is behind Mary. This petroglyph looks like an animal with a big head and long tail!
Day 8: Sunday, October 17. Mary and I go for for one more sunrise run in Hawaii. This sign by the water’s edge warns about a shark that was seen after we returned from boating and snorkeling the day before. We were lucky to have gone earlier. Mary waves from the balcony of our room as we pack up to leave. We board our flight home after a very special tour!