The Big Island is ideal for cycle touring if you don’t mind the price tag of shipping (or renting) your bicycles there. I did see a few places here where you can actually buy bicycles under $200 but I’m not sure if it’s worth it.
Food at the store is generally expensive, costing twice or more than it does on mainland, but fresh fruit and vegetable you find in the farmers market can be cheap (especially if it’s a bit bruised) and is well worth the price.
All managed parks on the island need a permit, and they need to be purchased beforehand. Some people sneak in after dark or risk it, but I wouldn’t suggest it. It costs four times more to book a campsite than it does for a resident, about $20 per person.
Roads are generally wide with shoulders on highways but considerably narrow on side roads, sometimes just one-way. Shoulders are littered with broken glass. Thorns will get you if you wander off-road. We found drivers generally courteous.
We travelled counter-clockwise which I think gives you a better experience since you will be on the coast side and won’t have to cross the road to get a view. Wind seems to generally blow from northeast but you will be travelling all around the island so I don’t think it matters which way to go in terms of wind direction. The west is dry and the east is wet. There is a surprisingly well defined border between two climatic zones and you will experience a dramatic change when you cross to the other side.
When to go? We chose April, since it’s kind of off-season and not too hot yet. I think it would be a totally different experience (and I don’t mean better) if we had gone in December or some other high-season time. Beaches were crowded on weekends and some even on weekdays, but most were deserted when it was windy or rainy.
If we get a chance to do it again, I would want to venture into the side roads and explore more of the coast and so-called hidden beaches instead of trying to reach the next destination on the main road. Of course that means climbing a lot of hills sometimes. Also, I would try do more hikes, since cycling does not help you to get to certain places.
Photos of the trip by Bengul: Big Island, HI, Apr 2016
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