Hilo to Laupahoehoe
Sea Level to 280 feet, 25.6 Miles
This route requires Advanced Bicycling Skills: Mastery of bicycle handling and avoidance maneuvers due to challenging conditions. Routes requiring advanced bicycling skills may include little to no shoulder, steep hills, curves and high levels of traffic.
Prevailing tradewinds put the wind at your back and help you climb most of the hills along this route. Mile marker mileage starts where Highways 11 and 19 intersect. Hilo has many tourist features that you will not want to miss so consult a travel guidebook before leaving Hilo. If it is Saturday or Wednesday morning don’t miss the Hilo Farmer’s Market.
Take Highway 19 (Hawaii Belt Road) north. The first obstacle is the Wailuku River Bridge still in Hilo where a sign tells you that you must walk your bike across. After that the shoulders are in good condition and wide with the exception of a few turnout lanes.
You will be climbing gradually for the first few miles with just a little over 1 % grade. Caution should be taken at the many bridges that are along this very scenic stretch of Highway. Each bridge is a little different. Some of the bridges have pedestrian sidewalks on both sides, some on just the right side and some have none at all. The bridges that do have pedestrian walkways have them in various widths and in different states of repair. Some bridges have enough room to ride beside the right lane marker and some force you to ride in the traffic lane. Check behind you for traffic before entering each bridge.
The first of three gulches that you will encounter on your ride to Honoka’a is at mile marker 21 and is Maulua Gulch. You will pick up speed going down into each gulch and have a moderate turn at the bottom and a hard slow climb out with the prevailing tradewinds blowing head-on.
Laupahoehoe is a small town just past the 25 mile marker with services and an interesting Train Museum.
After the 4 mile marker is a cemetery on your left and Alae in white letters on a rock wall on your right. Turn right here on Nahala and then left at the dead end to go past Honoli’i Beach Park. This route takes you under the highway and across a beautiful bridge and through a small housing area and back out on the highway again. After the 7 mile marker on the right is the Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive which will reconnect you with the Highway after 4 miles.
After mile marker 13 is Akaka Falls (a long hard climb). After mile 14 is Kolekole Park to the left and down to a nice stream, park and campground. Going the opposite direction? Watch for the shoulders disappearing at the many bridges and check traffic behind you before crossing. You’ll be moving downhill in most areas but will have the prevailing tradewinds countering your speed.
Biking Safety Tips
- Wear a helmet every time you ride. Even if you just ride on bike paths or for a short distance, make sure you put on your helmet before you go.
- Obey traffic laws. Your bike is a vehicle, and just like a car, you must stop at stop signs and red traffic lights.
- Always ride with the flow of traffic. Even if you are riding a short distance, it is never safe to ride against traffic. Also, it is unlawful to ride facing traffic in Hawai‘i, as it is in all 50 states.
- Stop at the end of the driveway. Many crashes between a car and bike happen when riders don’t stop at the end of their driveway to look for cars. Always look left-right-left before entering or crossing a road.
- Be predictable. Don’t do anything that would surprise drivers, such as swerving in and out of parked cars or traffic.
- Look behind you, and make sure it is clear, before making a left turn or moving into the roadway. You should be able to glance over your shoulder without swerving. Also, let motorists know what you’re doing by using proper hand signals for turning and stopping.
- Be visible. Wear light-colored clothes when you ride, and try to get a bright helmet. If you ride at night, you must have a white front light and a red rear reflector.
- Don’t use headphones when riding. You need to be able to hear the traffic around you. Save your radio and tapes for relaxing after your bike ride.
- Don’t ride too close to parked cars. A driver may suddenly open the door in your path. Leave at least 3 feet of distance when passing parked cars, and be alert for cars that may be pulling out into the road.
- Make sure your bike is safe. Before you leave home, check to make sure that the brakes work, the seat and handlebars are tight, and the tires are properly inflated and in good shape. Also, make sure your bike is the right size. A bike that is too big is more dangerous than one that is too small.
Bring the Following Items
- Spare tire
- Spare tubes
- Bike-mounted tire pump or co2 cartridges.
- Equipment to change flats
- Lite Jacket
- Lite Rain Jacket
- Layers for the east side and Volcano.
- Special Needs Nutrition
- Carry at least two water bottles on each ride, 3 or 4 is better
It should be understood that participation in physical activity can be potentially harmful and can include inherent risks for individuals who are both healthy and those who have special health needs. It should be understood that participants undertake activity at their own risk and that they are responsible for making sound judgments regarding what activity is appropriate. The recommendations listed in this bicycling guide are in, no way, meant to replace medical advice or recommendations. All participants are encouraged to seek medical clearance before beginning an exercise program or enhancing an existing activity program. Anyone under the age of 16 riding a bike in Hawai`i must wear a helmet [ß291C-150]
Automobile drivers in the state of Hawaii are multicultural and have diverse attitudes, skills and experiences when it comes to dealing with cyclists on the road. Caution: Cyclists must take a proactive and defensive posture in riding in Hawaii.
Bicycle Riders follow basic traffic rules: i.e., Ride on the right side of the road. Exercise judgment toward safety and ride on the right shoulder if possible. Stop at traffic signals and stop signs. Move into left turn lanes when safe to do so.
Take care. The Island of Hawaii is split into road sections either by topography or by small urban centers as necessary to accommodate safe and fun bicycle excursions. Comments are made at each boundary of those sections. Comments are about: shoulder conditions, traffic choke points, times that cyclists should exercise extreme caution due to traffic/work/school patterns.
PLEASE NOTE: This guide is published as an aid to bicyclists, hikers and other users. PATH in no way warrants the safety or suitability of the routes indicated on this guide for shared use with motor vehicles or for use by young and/or inexperienced users. Users assume the risk for their own safety at all times when traveling on the indicated routes and trails. Although PATH has made a reasonable effort to ensure that the information contained in this guide is correct as of the date of publication, the actual conditions riders encounter may vary, and the organization in no way warrants its accuracy.
PATH assumes no liability for personal injuries or property damage suffered by users. Mahalo to John Luchau for his careful research of cyclng conditions around the island. Information for this guide was obtained from Na Ala Hele (www.hawaiitrails.org), the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources State Parks (www.hawaiistateparks.org) and Mountain Bicycling the Hawaiian Islands by John Alford (2010).
FOR FURTHER QUESTIONS OR TO SUBMIT FEEDBACK: Please contact PATH by mail at
PATH PO Box 62 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96745,