Cycling Moloka‘i’s Less-Traveled Trails

Exploring Moloka‘i on two wheels, rather than four, encourages you to slow your pace and connect with the island’s rhythms.

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Story by Kyle Ellison | Photography by Kyle & Heather Ellison

bicycling Molokai Hawaii
There are spots near the island’s eastern end where the road is so wonderfully close to the ocean that waves may splash on your pedals.

The thought hits me somewhere along Honouliwai Bay on Moloka‘i’s eastern shore: The signs say I’m on a single-lane road—but it’s more like a really wide bike path.

bicycling Molokai Hawaii
The forest reserve’s quiet beauty can leave you breathless—and so can the ten-mile climb.

Even though I’m on the main highway (which out here is the only road), it’s been seven, eight . . . maybe ten minutes since I last saw a person or car. Waves crash within inches of the asphalt, and I find myself pedaling past sandy coves that are completely free of footprints. I spot a turtle, then a humpback whale, and cross over wooden bridges whose planks rattle beneath my two wheels.

With its miles of open road, minimal traffic, and no stoplights, exploring by road and mountain bike is arguably the best way to experience the island.

From Kaunakakai, Moloka‘i’s main town, it’s twenty-eight miles to Hālawa Bay, where the road dead-ends at the beach. I’ve opted to drive the first fourteen miles and pedal the second half—though, had I biked the entire way, I’d have ridden through shady mango groves and passed ancient fishponds before climbing 800 feet through the pastures of Pu‘u O Hoku Ranch. (The name means “Hill of Stars.”) I could have stopped for breakfast at Mana‘e Goods & Grindz—located at mile marker 14—and gazed across the Pailolo Channel to West Maui’s serrated peaks.

This eastern section where the road narrows is possibly one of Hawai‘i’s best bike routes, and I never would have been able to enjoy it without Phillip Kikukawa. The owner of Molokai Bicycle has been outfitting visitors with road bikes, mountain bikes, and cycling routes since 1994. He was born and raised on Moloka‘i, and ever since 1961, when he got his first bike for Christmas, he’s been hooked on cycling the roads and trails right here in his own backyard.

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