Bicycle tourism is becoming more popular, and bicycle infrastructure in the state of Hawaii is growing apace
With a warm, temperate climate, unique fauna and flora, and some of the world’s most magnificent ocean scenery, bicycle tourism is growing in popularity in Hawaii as the state is expanding bicycle infrastructure to accommodate more cyclists.
Bicycling Infrastructure in Hawaii
With a wide range of cycling terrain, and an endless choice of spectacular ocean views, Hawaii is an obvious choice for a bicycling getaway. Despite its mild weather and gorgeous backdrop, the state does have some work to do to improve cycling infrastructure. Hawaii ranked 38 out of 50 states in a 2019 assessment of the state’s bike friendliness by the League of American Bicyclists. The good news is that Hawaii is working to create better cycling infrastructure for tourists and residents alike, with a series of new bicycle routes planned or in the works.
The Benefits of Bicycle Tourism
Cycling grew in popularity throughout the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the ease of participating while still maintaining social distance. (Between 2018 and 2019, bike and bike parts sales increased by a third.) According to a state survey, more than half of Hawaiian’s residents consider themselves experienced or confident cyclists, with only 4% of the state’s population expressing no interest in cycling. The number of cyclists already in the state combined with the opportunity to increase visits from bike tourists makes investing in bike lanes, paths, and bike parking (including bike racks and bike lockers) a good choice for the state’s economy and for the environment.
Cyclists are increasingly making use of new infrastructure connecting residential areas and business districts in areas like Honolulu and bike-sharing services like Biki have grown in popularity. Expanding bicycle amenities and infrastructure, including bicycle parking, also makes economic sense for states that want to draw more tourist dollars. Bicycle tourists tend to be older and wealthier than other tourists, stay in a region longer and spend more money per day. Small businesses in rural areas needing an economic boost can particularly benefit from working to attract more bicycle tourism.
Popular cycling destination routes in Hawaii
Hawaii’s islands and islets offer a wide choice of bicycle tourism routes with distinct terrain, from paved urban routes to volcanic mountain biking.
The Big Island
The Big Island (Hawaii) offers enough diverse terrain variety to satisfy any cyclist, from busy urban roads and quiet sugarcane farm backroads to sharp, vertical ascents to challenge the most ardent mountain biker.
Kona, on the west side of the Big Island, is a popular resort destination offering flat cycling routes with a beautiful ocean views. Bikes can be a wonderful way to explore the area’s business districts, where parking is often at a premium. Kona is home to the world-famous Ironman triathlon, and those looking for a more challenging ride can cycle part of the legendary competition route. Bike shares and bike rentals are widely available, and locals are accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
On the east side of the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers dramatic landscapes, active volcanos, and the opportunity to view the island’s incredible natural diversity. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park has paved roads and open trails, but keep in mind you will have to share the road with cars and park admission will apply.
Maui, the state’s second largest island, has bicycling routes for every cyclist, from beginner to advanced. Maui’s bike routes include family-friendly routes, as well as routes with steep and rolling hills for more developed cyclists. The Maui Bicycle League organizes a series of unique, scenic, scheduled exploratory bike rides supported by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, giving you the option to take in the island’s stunning views with the help of a trained volunteer guide.
Often called the heart of Hawaii, O’ahu offers routes for both novice and experienced cyclists. There’s a chance to see sea turtles and surfers along the Ala Pupukea bike path, as well as many other routes on the island.
No matter which Hawaiian visit you’re on, there are lots of opportunities to commute and explore by bicycle. Getting residents and tourists alike out of cars and onto bikes will help reduce traffic congestion and lower vehicle emissions, helping to combat climate change and preserve Hawaii’s natural beauty.