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  1. #1
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    Planning a Tour in Hawaii

    My five year sabbatical is coming up this year, so I am planning to use it for a bike tour. One of the options I'm currently considering is a tour in Hawaii during September.

    I'm planning on starting in either Hilo or Kona, and then over the next 10-12 days, circumnavigating the island, possibly with side trips in Waipio Valley, South Point, and in Volcanos National Park. Then my wife will join me for about a week of non-cycling time on Big Island. We will then fly to Maui for another week of non-cycling time together. Then my wife will go home, and I will continue the bike tour on Maui. Next I plan to ride the road to Hana, continue around the southeast portion of the island, and then finish off the trip by climbing and then descending Haleakala.

    I plan to do a fully-loaded, self-supported solo tour, camping as much as possible. Most of my early planning has been based on Hawaii by Bike by Nadine Slavinski.

    I understand that transporting a bike by plane, especially to Hawaii is difficult and expensive. I am tentative planning to ship my bike to and from Hawaii and between islands via UPS in an IronCase. Will I be able to find a hotel or bike shop that will be willing to accept delivery of my bicycle and hold onto until I arrive? And to hold onto the case while I'm out touring?

    I understand that southeast Maui is quite harsh, sparsely populated, and with very poor quality "roads", made of gravel and potholes. Although I relish a challenge, I don't want to put myself at undue risk. Will I be able to navigate these roads on a fully loaded touring bike with 700x45c tires? I'm not too proud to push my bike, but if the distance I'd have to push is measured in miles, I'll choose a different itinerary. How much water will I need to carry? From what I understand, there is little or no potable running water in this area. If I run out, are there streams or springs that I could purify to refill? And if I run into serious trouble, is there any way to get help? Does anyone ever drive by? The area seems to be outside of cell phone coverage, and my greatest fear is that in case of a serious problem I'll have no way to contact any one, and it could be days before anyone passed by me.

    Does anyone know of a source for high quality maps suitable for cyclists?

    Thanks in advance for any help!

  2. #2
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    Hi,

    Some of the journals at crazyguyonabike.com might be helpful. Denise Goldberg put together a great Big island tour, and her journal is helpful. I believe she used a folding bike, however. Another journal (if I recall correctly) involved shipping a bike to a shop in Kailua, Kona, where it was assembled and held for his arrival.

    Maui: The area you reference is rough enough that going there in a rental car voids your agreement. I've been out quite a ways, but not all the way around, so I can't be much help.

  3. #3
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    Several years back, some friends & I biked on Maui & the Big Island. I had previously biked on Kauai (which is wonderful, though you can't do a loop on that island). On Maui, we rode to Hana, which is a superb ride. Waianapanapa State Park is a great place to camp, with gorgeous black sand beaches. The next night we camped in the beach portion of Haleakala National Park. I think there was water there but little else. We thought we'd continue west to do a loop. Here's what happened. First of all, we were riding touring bikes, not mountain bikes, and there had been a recent washout (a frequent occurrence, I was told) where we had to carry our bikes a bit. It is astonishing how quickly you go from the wet windward side of Maui to the dry leeward side. It was faster there than on any of the other main islands. In the national park campground, you're still in dense tropical vegetation. As you ride westward, the vegetation quickly disappears and the road starts to deteriorate. You suddenly realize you're in a desert, with no trees in sight, and a very hot sun beating down. At least the road quality eventually improved again. As I recall, you have to not only ride a considerable distance thru the desert landscape with no services, you also have to go from virtually sea level to, I believe, about 4,000 ft before you reach civilization again. There was no traffic. This was several years ago, but at that time, there was one small shop which was open sporadically, and it was closed with no sign of life when we were there. After the washout area (a stream coming down Haleakala), there were no other streams that I recall. We realized that with the progress we were making, we wouldn't reach civilization before sundown, and there weren't any campgrounds there anyway, nor motels either at that time. Off in the distance, we saw a pickup truck by the lone tree visible in all directions. As we approached it, we saw a man sitting under the tree. We decided we were going to ask the man for a ride (before anybody gets started, we weren't trying to prove anything, we were paying our own way, and we weren't trying to score any expensive camera equipment or appear on Oprah after our trip). We asked him where he was headed and he said west. We asked him if he could give the 3 of us & our 3 bikes a ride. He said sure, after he finished eating his sandwich. He told us he had been out hunting feral goats, which were cut up in the huge ice chest he had in the back. To make a long story short, just about when we were reaching civilization, his pickup died. This was in the days before cell phones. We were actually going to leave him to go seek help for him on our bikes, when he managed to get the pickup started again. He was afraid to keep stationary, plus it was already completely dark out. He ended up driving all the way downhill to Kahului (near the airport) before he stopped, knowing he could get help there if it died again. He lived near Lahaina, the westernmost part of Maui. We took our bikes out, thanked him profusely, and said goodbye. We found a nearby motel and happily watched the World Series in our room that night.

    The loop around the western half was easy but there was a fair amount of traffic everywhere except the pretty north coast. A small portion of the NW coast was unpaved but was quite ridable.

    There are different rules for the county park campgrounds on each island, plus different rules for the state park campgrounds, as well as in Haleakala. You need permits in advance for county & state park campgrounds (at least back when we were there), and permits were occasionally checked. I imagine you can get them online now. We had to go to a government office on each island after we arrived.

  4. #4
    mev
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    Quote Originally Posted by Icycle View Post
    I understand that transporting a bike by plane, especially to Hawaii is difficult and expensive. I am tentative planning to ship my bike to and from Hawaii and between islands via UPS in an IronCase. Will I be able to find a hotel or bike shop that will be willing to accept delivery of my bicycle and hold onto until I arrive? And to hold onto the case while I'm out touring?
    I've taken my bicycle to the big Island of Hawaii three times (1997, 1997, 2005). The last time was a bit expensive, but the earlier two were not particularly expensive compared to flying within the lower 48 states. I've been to bike shops in Kona and would suggest you search a bit more on the internet since there are a bunch of folks flying out for events such as Ironman that have a similar need.

    My first trip to Hawaii was a circumnavigation and just a week long. http://www.mvermeulen.com/hawaii.html I stayed in B&Bs and hotels.

    My second trip to Hawaii was over Thanksgiving when I initially had intentions to ride from Kona to top of Mauna-Kea and back. My job had changed both a month before and become extremely busy (6am-8pm type workdays) and in the first day riding got a first chance to stop and think for a bit. While riding the first miles to junction with the saddle road, I came to the conclusion that while I would survive a trip to the summit - I'm not sure that was I needed in my life right then, so turned around went back to Kona and checked into a hotel and relaxed for the first time in over a month.

    My third trip to Hawaii was also over Thanksgiving. By then I had a brother living on the Big Island (and if your internet queries come up blank let me know and I can ask some more). The goal once again was to get to summit of Mauna Kea and back, but this time split over several days. First day we cycled to my brother's place at 1500ft. Second day to the cabins at 6500ft. Third day to the end of the paved road at 9200ft and fourth day we hiked to summit and back. On the fifth day we descended back for a Thanksgiving dinner.

    Overall a nice place to visit and ride, though on the Big Island the main roads didn't have much shoulder and in some cases had folks who didn't seem to have much experience driving alongside bicycles.

  5. #5
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    Wow. Your story about rounding the southeast portion of Maui is exactly the kind thing I'd like to avoid. Do you remember how early you left your campsite at Kipahulu when you did this trip? Given that this leg is at least 38 miles of rough road, with at least 3000 feet of elevation gain, I think I would like to get a very early start, to make sure I make it back to civilization before dark.

  6. #6
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    I spoke with my friends who I biked with 20 years ago in Hawaii and we have similar recollections. We got a fairly early start, but one of my friends had 2 flats that morning which slowed us down. There were significant stretches that were unridable at that time, and I believe we even had to carry our bikes over some rocks for short distances. The road improved significantly as we got further west, but it seemed unlikely we'd get more food & water before sunset. We did get water from a hose at the closed store. I don't know how useful this information is, given that we were there in October, 1988. One of my friends even recalls details from the World Series game we watched that evening. I have no idea what the road is like now, nor how much development may have occurred since we were there.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the followup. Information I have been able to glean about this part of Maui seems pretty sparse and very out of date. It seems like relatively few people do bike touring in Hawaii, and fewer still circumnavigate the eastern half of the island.

  8. #8
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    I wish I had more information to go on, but I guess if I've got full water bottles, spare food, a water filter, and some inexpensive signaling devices like a whistle and a mirror, I'll probably be OK in all but the worst of emergencies if I go around Pi'ilani Highway.

    In any case, if I do go, I plan to thoroughly document the experience, and post pictures and descriptions online, so that hopefully the next person who attempts this route won't be met with such a dearth of information.

    For maps, I've ordered the University of Hawaii Press reference maps of Hawaii and Maui. I figure these will be good for planning purposes and for back up on the trip. I also plan to bring my GPS pre-loaded with detailed street maps of my route as well.

  9. #9
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    Another option I hadn't considered is to take advantage of my home "support staff".

    If the AT&T wireless coverage map is to be believed, there is no coverage on the Pi'ilani Highway from just south of Hana to about Ulupalakua Ranch. This is the part of the trip I'm most concerned about, since I have minimal ability to request assistance in this very sparsely populated area. But I know approximately how long it should take me to get from Hana to Ulupalakua Ranch, so I can just contact my wife before I leave Hana and let her know when to expect my phone call when I re-enter cell phone coverage. And if she doesn't receive my phone call within a reasonable time after my expected return to civilization, she can call out the cavalry on my behalf.

    This plan isn't perfect, since it doesn't account for urgent emergencies very well, and there's a non-trivial chance for false alarms, but at least it would give me some additional peace of mind.

  10. #10
    Let's Coast! shakeelium's Avatar
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    Icycle -

    My GF and I completed a counter clockwise Hilo-to-Hilo circumnavigation just last November. We had a blast. We B&B'd all the way (these were my GF's first ever kind of long big riding days) so we wanted some cush-ness, and we didn't feel there were enough awesome campsites along the way to schlep camping stuff across the ocean. We flew United from SFO, and the bike charges were outrageous, $125 per bike per flight if I recall. We reassembled our bikes in our hotel room. For the trip back, we bought bike boxes from the LBS, and boxed our bikes right in their parking lot on our last day.

    Our itinerary was pretty similar to what was described in the Slavinski book. The territory in the Big Island changes so dramatically from wind-ward to lee-ward, that you're seeing like every type of terrain there is! The triatheletes in their pointy helmets thought we were cute as they zoomed by us near Kona. Our B&B hosts graciously offered us rides wherever we wanted to go (and thoguht we were crazy). Volcanoes NP was awesome! If you'd like B&B or a few restaurant recommendations, PM, and I can send you some. Have fun!

  11. #11
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    Do you have any suggestions as to whether it is better to start in Kona or Hilo?

  12. #12
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    Piilani

    Hi,

    Information is scarce for Piilani Highway! I did manage to find a pretty good link with lots of photos that links to other sites, including one by a mountain biker who seems to think it's do-able, even tame.
    http://www.hawaiihighways.com/photos-Piilani-Hwy.htm

  13. #13
    Let's Coast! shakeelium's Avatar
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    There are more bike shops in Kona than Hilo, and there may be more flights to Kona than Hilo. Other than that I don't think it matters too much. If you're going during Iron Man season, Kona may be packed. In general, we preferred the vibe in Hilo to Kona, so we made Hilo our start/stop point, and spent very little time in Kona (just stayed the night there).

  14. #14
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    I went to Maui a few years ago and took my road bike to ride up Haleakala and to ride around. Since that trip I've wanted to go back and take my touring bike to circumnavigate the island. Reading this has got me thinking about it more seriously again. Maybe I'll try to do it this spring.

  15. #15
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    I 'd want to tour more than one island. Yet, I hate multiple plane boardings.. Maybe the new State ferry system will enhance cycling in Hawaii.?
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