Bicycle in paradise!
There are a number of bicycling opportunities on the beautiful island of Kauai, as well as some limitations.
Kapaa Bike Path
PHOTO: The Kapaa Bike Path near Kealia Beach.
The most popular bicycling activity on Kauai is the Kapaa Bike Path on the island’s eastern side.
Photo: At the end of the Kapaa Bike Path past Donkey Beach.
Officially known as Ke Ala Hele Makalae and the Kauai Multiuse Path, the path is a scenic, paved path that follows the coastline from South Kapaa to a cove beyond Donkey Beach. A walk or ride on the path is a relaxing way to see and experience Kauai’s beautiful “Coconut Coast.”
PHOTO: The Kapaa Bike path at Kapaa’s Baby Beach.
The Kapaa Bike Path is approximately 4.5 miles long. There is another section of bike path that leads from Lydgate Park to Wailua Beach Park that is about 2.5 miles long. There are plans to eventually extend the path all the way from Nawiliwili to Anahola.
PHOTO: Bicyclists at Kauai Juice Co. in Kapaa.
In addition to the bike path, the town of Kapaa is a nice place to ride a bike locally.
PHOTO: The Kapaa Bike Path in Kapaa.
Overall, bicycling in Kapaa is easy and enjoyable and there are several bicycle rental places in Kapaa to rent bikes.
Kauai Bicycle Trips
At first glance, Kauai would seem to be the perfect place for a bicycle road trip. A single highway basically rings the island except for a section of the island’s rugged Na Pali Coast. However, the highway, only two lanes in many sections, is generally not bicycle friendly. Heavy traffic and narrow shoulders (or almost no shoulders) make bicycle trips problematic and dangerous.
Despite the drawbacks, more than a few bicyclists successfully make road trips on Kauai. Many bicycle the parts that are more advantageous, then use the public bus system to bypass problematic areas. Problematic areas include Hanalei Hill, the steep hill between Princeville and Hanalei.
Bicyclists may find more success on the road in Kauai’s less-traveled western region (Hanapepe, Kekaha, Waimea Town areas).
The steep roads to Waimea Canyon present a special challenge for bicyclists. A bicycle trip up the roadway here is a grueling challenge that few undertake. It’s better to be dropped off at the top and bicycle down, but good brakes are a must. There are a few bicycle tour companies that offer tours from the top down at Waimea Canyon.
For those intrepid and fit individuals who seek a challenge, Waimea Canyon does present a unique opportunity. The ride from Kekaha (at the bottom) to the very top (Kalalau Lookout) involves a trip of about 19 miles with a 4,200 foot elevation gain! Every May there is a race called Pedal to the Meadow (P2M) – “the bicycle hill race on Kauai” – where competitors cycle from sea-level at Kekaha up to Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow in Kokee State Park.
Bicycling Locally on Kauai
We’ve already mentioned Kapaa as a good town for bicycling. In addition to Kapaa, several other towns present nice opportunities for bicycling.
The sunny town of Poipu is a nice place to bicycle. In Poipu, bicycling is not only an enjoyable experience along the coast, but it can be a practical method for getting around town.
PHOTO: An electric bicycle at the Hanalei Pier.
Hanalei, on Kauai’s North Shore is another nice place for a bicycle ride, especially around town and to the Hanalei Pier. Bicycles can be rented at several places in Hanalei, including at Pedal ‘N Paddle at the Ching Young Village Shopping Center.
Also in the area, the resort community of Princeville is a relaxing place to ride a bike.
The highway from Hanalei to the end of the road at Haena is one of the most beautiful rides in the world. But narrow shoulders and heavy traffic during the day make bicycling this beautiful section difficult. However some bicyclists find better conditions in the early morning before the heavy traffic.
In the evening hours, after the traffic subsides around 4-5PM, the far North Shore area around the town of Wainiha comes alive with local bicyclists who make their way to and from beaches (including Tunnels Beach) and to places such as the Wainiha General Store. Local kids like to ride their bicycles in this area, so watch out if you are driving through.
Cruise Ship Options
For cruise ship passengers debarking at Nawiliwili Harbor, there are few bicycling options. This area, which includes Kalapaki Beach, is somewhat enclosed and not expansive enough for bicycle rides. At one time, a company offered bike tours to the Menehune Pond area, but that initiative caused traffic problems and local resentment and the initiative was ended.
Kauai Mountain Bike Trails
Mountain biking on Kauai depends a lot on the weather and trail conditions. Frequent rains contribute to sticky, muddy trails that are often impossible to ride.
Kauai has a variety of mountain bike trails scattered throughout the island. Notable mountain bike locations on Kauai include the Kalepa Ridge Mountain Bike Trail near Lihue and various trails off the Powerline Trail on the Princeville side of the trail.
The Kalepa Ridge Mountain Bike Trail (MTB) shares the same name as the famous trail (Kalepa Ridge Trail) that starts at the Kalalau Lookout, but the MTB trail is located on the opposite side of the island in the hills between Hanamaulu (Lihue) and Wailua. The area can be seen in this Google map of the Kalepa Mountain Forest Reserve area. Several miles of mountain bike and hiking trails can be found here. See this video for more information about the area. The trails can be best accessed from the back of the Hanamaulu neighborhood.
PHOTO: A mountain biker on Kauai’s Powerline Trail.
Volunteers, working together with the Bike Doktor in Hanalei, have created several miles of mountain bike trails in the vicinity of the Powerline Trail on the Princeville side. Use caution in this area. It’s easy to get lost in the myriad of trails, and there are some precipitous drops to watch out for. See the Bike Doktor for details about these trails.
PHOTO: Loop Road Kauai
Another location we have identified as a mountain biking opportunity on Kauai is Loop Road between the Keahua Arboretum and the weir stone dam at the end of the road. This is a maintained dirt road, but due to heavy and constant precipitation in this area, the road is often in poor condition. Though the road is problematic for vehicles (except for locally modified off-road vehicles), the road presents an opportunity to ride in a jungle setting. Bring rain gear along for the ride and don’t attempt to cross any streams during heavy flows.
One other area we would like to mention for mountain biking are the dirt roads in the Mahaulepu area near Poipu, the Old Sugar Mill east of Koloa and the Waita Reservoir (seen in this Google map). Many of these roads are on the private property of Grove Farm. Though Grove Farm provides a fair amount of latitude for visitors to the area, we do not recommend riding on roads that are marked closed with a gate.
Kauai Zip Line Bike Tour
For a unique bicycle experience, the Kauai ZipBike allows participants to ride a bicycle on a zipline 700 feet across water (the Waita Reservoir) to a platform, then turn around and ride another 700 feet back to the launching platform. Book now at Hawaii Activities!