Road Warriors

A two-wheeled adventure from canyon to coast

By: Ana Figueroa

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 feet below.

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 cyclists.

“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, without skidding.

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 archipelago.

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 eucalyptus trees.

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 Haviland.

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
fax: 808-742-8842

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 12-14.

Riders must be at least 12 years old, and weigh less than 260 pounds to participate. Commission is 10 percent (negotiable, based on volume).