Bike Paths in Oahu for Beginners
Hawaiians love the chance to be in the great outdoors, as do many Mainlanders who visit Hawaii. While surfing does take the top spot as far as recreational activities are concerned in Hawaii, bike riding is catching up very quickly. In addition, car traffic on Oahu during the work week is horrendous which is prompting many locals to pedal to the office. The island of Oahu has a very extensive bike path system that is enjoyed by visitors and residents alike.
Bike Path Ratings
The good news is the State of Hawaii, Department of Transportation offers a collection of maps for the various island bicycle routes. A legend shows the ratings for the trails. Green trails are suitable for novice riders and include bicycle only pathways and roadways that have designated bike paths. It is often identified a green road if a roadway is considered wide enough for cars and bikes. Yellow paths have enough room for bikes and cars to co-exist, but are usually busier and best for more experienced riders. Red routes are listed, but are not considered bike-friendly because of excess traffic or narrow roadways. The legend also notes places to find food, water and restrooms, and advises if a path has a potentially steep grade and in some cases, the paved shoulder width is even noted.
Honolulu and Waikiki Bicycle Paths
Honolulu and the beach area of Waikiki are the busiest parts of the island of Oahu. Most of the roadways in Waikiki are marked red or yellow, but one nice scenic stretch of Kalakaua Avenue fronting the beach west of Kapiolani Park is a happy bike-friendly green. Kalakaua Avenue is one-way in this area, with a wide roadway and sidewalks which works well for bicyclists. Conveniently, the road around Diamond Head is a fairly popular green route, fronting the beach on one side and leading into the center of the crater on the other giving you great scenic views. Diamond Head State Monument (hawaiistateparks.org) has a park inside the crater and a hiking trail up to the summit. Green bicycle-friendly paths are available along Ala Moana Beach Park, west of Waikiki. Again due to traffic congestion, the pathways within downtown Honolulu fall exclusively into the yellow or the red category with a few exceptions around the University of Hawaii and a stretch of Young Street between McCully and Ward Avenues.
West Shore Oahu Bike Paths
The west side of Oahu is more arid and quite a bit less densely populated. The Farrington Highway runs the length of the shoreline, leading past condos and multiple deserted beaches, and eventually through the town of Makaha. Keep going and you end up at Barber's Point. Once a calm and peaceful part of Oahu, this area seems to be vying to be the next Waikiki. Upscale properties, including the JW Marriott Ihilani (ihilani.com) and Disney's Aulani (resorts.disney.go.com), split the beach space with plush golf courses and the home of the Paradise Cove Luau (paradisecovehawaii.com). The highway runs mostly two lanes up until Barber Point, and is designated a yellow biking route. East of here, in the Pearl Harbor area, are the West Lock Bike Path, the Fort Weaver Road Bike Path and the Nimitz Bike Path which fronts the Honolulu International Airport. Roadways leading from Pearl Harbor through the center of Oahu to the towns of Wahiawa and Mililani are yellow routes which some include some pretty steep climbs.
The Pearl Harbor Bike Path begins just beyond the Arizona Memorial parking lot and Pearl Harbor Marina. The good news is a new extension has been constructed, and the trail now crosses Waimano Home Road and culminates at the Waipi'o Point Access Road. This is one of the better Oahu rides that crosses some wooden bridges and has some long, straight stretches. It does pass by some industrial areas, making for some less-than-pleasant scenery in places though.
North Shore Oahu Pathways
Kalanianaole Highway remains a yellow route as it leaves the shoreline south of Kailua. Kailua Road leading east to Kailua Beach Park offers some green trails, particularly around the park and neighboring Lanikai Beach. The highway itself then runs north, going past remote Laie and Kapaluu Beach which is the site of the Polynesian Cultural Center (polynesia.com). Eventually, the roadway switches names to Kamehameha Highway and you will soon find yourself at beautiful Waimea Bay. This is the famed North Shore-- home to big wave surfing with super sized waves. The Ke Ala Pupukea Bike Path runs parallel to the roadway just north of the bay and is the only green route in this area. The North Shore bike path stretches about 4 miles from Sunset Beach to Waimea Bay. Along the way are lots of great places to stop and hidden paths to a number of less populated if not empty beaches.
Oahu East Shore Bike Pathways
East of Diamond Head, green bike-friendly trails lead through an upscale Kahala neighborhood and then to the Kalanianaole Highway. The highway remains green until you reach Hanauma Bay, then the four-lane roadway drops down to two and you are riding on a yellow route. If you want an alternate green route one travels up the hill to Hawaii Kai and is a bit of a climb. The views here are breathtaking, to say the least, as you work your way to Sandy Beach, a local surfing spot. Past Hanauma Bay, the Kalanianaole Highway hugs some of Oahu's most scenic and spectacular shoreline, taking you past Kaiona Beach Park, Makapuu Point and quiet and laid back Waimanalo. The roadway becomes narrow at some points, and there are blind curves and changes in elevation, but the views are nothing but spectacular.
Enjoy the ride.