KAUAI, Hawaii The last thing most travelers look forward to during
a relaxing Hawaiian vacation is a wake-up call at the crack of
dawn, right? Well, if Kauai is on the itinerary, make sure your
clients pack a travel alarm.
The Canyon to Coast bike ride by Outfitters Kauai is an
adventure worth getting up for. It’s a bicycling journey that
begins at the rim of Waimea Canyon, and winds its way along 12
scenic miles on Koke’e Road. Four hours later, the odyssey ends
where it began, at the shores of the sparkling blue Pacific, 3,600
Check-in for the early morning tour is at 6 a.m. at the
Outfitters Kauai shop in Poipu, on the south side of the island.
Groups are limited to no more than 13 cyclists, although the
company will arrange special charter bike rides for as many as 39
“A lot of our riders aren’t avid bicyclists. So, at check-in, we
make sure everyone is comfortable operating the bikes,” said
Outfitters Kauai owner, Rick Haviland.
It’s hard not to be comfortable on the company’s fleet of
Raleigh Cruisers. The saddle seats are extra cushy, and the
handlebars are upright, eliminating the need to hunch over like a
contestant in the Tour de France. The bikes also feature
custom-made drum brake units in the hub, designed for easy stops,
Once everyone demonstrates basic bicycling skills, the bikes are
loaded into a trailer, and cyclists jump into the Outfitters Kauai
white van. A stop at the Kalaheo Coffee Shop produces freshly
brewed Kauai coffee and blueberry muffins for “in-flight beverage
service.” A guide talks about the natural history, folklore and
legends of the area, during the hour-long drive through sugar cane
fields and coffee plantations up to the Waimea Canyon lookout.
Mark Twain dubbed Waimea the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, a
description that hardly does it justice. The chiseled, undulating
walls of the enormous canyon are layered in reds, greens and
purples. It’s a scene that’s almost primordial, and a stunning
reminder that Kauai is the oldest island in the Hawaiian
After a pause to admire and take pictures of Waimea Canyon, it’s
off to the staging area, a short distance away. One more safety
briefing, and the bike ride begins in earnest. With a tour guide
leading the way, and the van driver bringing up the rear, the group
can meander at its own pace, down the two-lane highway. Unlike
downhill rides on neighboring islands, the “Canyon to Coast” jaunt
doesn’t require white knuckles clutching the hand grips at all
times. “Our idea is to make an experience that is like a nature
walk on a bike. Fun and exciting, but in a safe and controlled
way,” said Haviland.
Indeed, the pitch is never steep to the point of intimidating.
Most of the time, it’s a gentle, gliding coast along a gradually
sloping grade. Pedaling is hardly necessary, except in a few flat
stretches. It’s a unique, unobstructed view of paradise that no bus
tour can match. As the group winds through Waimea State Park,
there’s time to smell the flowers, or, rather, the fragrant
There are two designated stopping points along the way, selected
for quality of views and interpretive opportunities. But, the
guides are always free to improvise. “The guides pretty quickly get
a sense of what each group is interested in, and will tailor the
ride accordingly. Each trip is a little different,” said
What remains constant is the informative narration about the
native birds, plants and trees along the way. The guide is sure to
point out the legendary Koa, whose wood was once reserved only for
royalty; the Iliau flower that grows only in the Waimea Canyon
area; Hawaii’s state bird, the native goose, called the nene; and
native Hawaiian owl, called the pueo. It’s not unusual to spot
feral goats, pigs or a black-tail deer in the lush landscape. And,
the omnipresent Hawaiian chickens are sure to provide some amusing
antics as the group glides by.
On most mornings, the “forbidden isle” of Niihau is visible off
to the west, as cyclists descend Koke’e Road. Lucky visitors in the
winter months might even catch a glimpse of humpback whales,
breaching off the Kauai coast.
Outfitters Kauai offers the Canyon to Coast bicycle trek in the
afternoon, as well. But, it’s hard to beat the early morning colors
of Waimea Canyon, or the activity level in the critter community.
So, it’s best to sleep in another day.
Outfitters Kauai Poipu Plaza
Poipu Beach, HI 96756
The morning Canyon to Coast tour checks in at 6 a.m., and is
finished by 10:30 a.m. The afternoon tour checks in at 2:30 p.m.,
and is finished by 7 p.m.
Price for the tour is $80 for adults; $60 for children, ages
Riders must be at least 12 years old, and weigh less than 260
pounds to participate. Commission is 10 percent (negotiable, based