On the way up to Waikolu, we come upon a lua na moku ‘iliahi, known locally as the “sandalwood pit.” It dates back to the reign of Kamehameha the Great and the sandalwood trade he established with China around the early 1800s. The seventy-five-foot hole was dug to the dimensions of the hold of a ship so that men commissioned to harvest the trees could measure exactly how much they’d need to fill the cargo hold.
If you follow Phillip’s directions—or he joins you and leads the way—you can continue along Makakupa‘ia Road, which descends the mountain and connects with the highway just a few miles east of Kaunakakai. It’s easy to get lost on the network of side roads, but as long as you stick to what you’ve been told, the result is a seventeen-mile loop that takes four to five hours to complete. And while there isn’t any singletrack riding, you’re still in store for 3,500 vertical feet of downhill. (Translation for non-bikers: “Singletrack refers to a trail that’s only a few inches wide. And “vertical feet of downhill” isn’t a perpendicular drop, but a steep ride down, just the same.)
Having to catch our flight back to Maui, we choose to return the same way we came and ride down to Homelani Memorial Park. We zip around turns while racing through the forest and eventually swap the canopy of trees for views of the southern coast. The dirt road is graded and smooth, and it takes us less than hour to make the nearly ten-mile descent.
Even though Philip rents close to forty bikes (and also stays busy with repairs), we don’t encounter another biker over the course of our three-day stay. Biking on Moloka‘i, like beach going and hiking here, provides plenty of space to yourself. The island is one of my favorite Hawaiian escapes, and this adventure has me energized to return and bike trails I’ve not yet explored.
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