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Cycling Maui – Paia, Hana Bay, Haleakala

Friday, November 27th, 2009 at 03:58 PM

Flying to Hawii was the easy part. The hard part was avoiding the oversize luggage penalty with our bicycles. What’s in the box?

The solution: Disassembling bikes completely and fitting them into a 62 linear inch maze of cardboard. Fortunately, small enough folding bikes and smart designed racks and panniers were key to fit this task. The Streamliner Road DLX rack was perfect thanks to its narrow profile and sturdy construction. Worry about carry on? The one-piece double-sided Appalachian bike panniers were ideal to keep essentials handy while keeping the FSA at bay. Gear was also at a minimum—who needs much for Hawaii?

Bike Box

We landed in Kahalui airport on the island of Maui. It was a windy and hot day in early October. Going through customs and putting the bikes together was faster than we expected. We were glad to be on our bikes and riding out from the airport. Our first stop was Paia, an artist colony east of the airport. The first few miles were shocking in compared to riding in Eugene, Oregon drivers seem more impatient and aggressive than we typically see around Eugene, OR. Although Hawaiians are very laid back in some respects this mentality did not hold true when it came to driving.

The road to the town of Paia was a pleasant; fortunately the wind was at our back. Temperature was nice and the sky was adorned with a rainbow. Six miles later and some patchy rain here and there we found ourselves at our first destination. We spent the night at a surfers hostels, frequently awakened by a leaking roof. This would become the omen of what was waiting for us for our next day on the road to Hana.

By multiple accounts we heard this was a beautiful ride, winding roads with lush and beautiful scenery. The road to Hana is one of the main attractions of the island, most tourist do it as a day trip, taking several hours to complete. On our bikes it was a full day of cycling, with some challenging uphill’s and white-knuckle downhill’s. The first leg we found ourselves meandering along rolling hills that hugged coastline. Halfway along the road shifted into a narrow winding road with picturesque waterfalls dotting nearly every corner.

In addition to enjoying the ride we enjoyed the free fruits you could pick on the side of the road; guavas, coconuts, passion fruit. You didn’t even have to get off the bike to grab and eat the guavas. Most of the ride was under heavy rain which was pleasant in the hot tropical environment. Our worries centered on keeping our few pieces of clothing dry. Fortunately our Axiom Appalachian panniers held up pretty well against the rain. After a full day of riding, a few inches of rain, and beautiful scenery we arrived to the small town of Hana. Looking forward to getting out of the rain we decided to spend the night at one of the local cottages.


The text day we explored Hana Bay its surroundings before our departure. We would later find out that leaving this side of the island was a mistake. Immediately after leaving Hana, we could see a dramatic change in the landscape from lush and tropical to dry coastal landscape. The rain was no longer an issue and in fact rain would have been a welcome break from the heat. We passed several tourist traps that kept the traffic high.

After about 15 miles, the traffic all but disappeared as the road became rougher and almost disappeared in some places. Some sections could barely fit a car and were bordered by steep cliffs dropping hundreds of feet to the sea. Many spots were marked by crosses signaling the fate of the unfortunate.

Before adventuring onto the hostile, barren road, surrounded by dry landscape and lava fields we stopped at the last general store to refuel. One of the “locals” that stopped by lifted our expectations by telling us that the rough rode would end in 6 miles. “No worries” He said, “you will have only about 7 miles of bad road until you get to the new paved road.” Twenty miles later as darkness was throwing its mantel over us, no signs of new road appeared. The continuous vibration became a torture only subdued by the beauty of the landscape. We rode well into the night hoping to find a camping spot beyond the lava fields.

The wind picked up and we could smell the rain approaching fast. “Guess we are camping over here”, I said. As we laid out the tent the first rain drops started to hit us. Few minutes later I was taking a shower in full blown rain while Deven enjoyed the protection of our new found home for the night.

We woke up early to the sound of birds. The wind from the sea barged into the tent as I opened the door. A dense fog was covering the sea on the horizon.  Out of the tent the view was spectacular. We could see the rim of Haleakala crater for the first time. Later we would find out it would be also the last. The fog vanished as the sun rose into the sky revealing a unobstructed 360 degree view. We took our time packing up and enjoyed a satisfying breakfast of fresh fruit.

Collage Maui

We departed with the sun warming up the landscape. To our surprise we found the brand new paved road only few hundred yards from our camp. The relief of riding on a smooth surface was undeniable. Even more so considering that we were trending uphill, entering Maui’s upcountry. Lava fields and cinder cones dominated the landscape for the few first couple hours of our ride. The landscape started to change as we climbed into the mountains. Eucalyptus trees crept into the landscape signaling our entrance into the upcountry.

Maikey Lopera and Deven Smith

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