Molokai on Two Wheels: Mountain Biking Molokai
"Phenomenal!" shouts Randy Peterson as he wheels back into the Activity
Center at Sheraton Molokai and unclips his cycling helmet. "This is
five-star mountain biking. One of the best places in the world."
He should know. He and his wife Jennifer love to travel and they love
mountain biking. San Francisco residents - he’s in money management,
and she works for an Internet start-up - Randy and Jennifer take several
trips each year to places where they can play hard outdoors. They’ve been
to Moab, to the Hood River, to Costa Rica, and repeatedly to Maui. But
this is their first experience of Molokai, and they can’t believe their
good luck for having discovered the place.
"Our friends thought we might get bored here," says Jennifer. "But I’ve
never seen Randy so happy."
They’re staying a week at Sheraton Molokai, dividing their time between
the Beach Village and the elegant Lodge. And they’ve been out biking
"I had no idea how great the trails were going to be," says Randy.
Sheraton Molokai’s network of some sixty trails originates at the activity
center next to the Lodge. The system was designed by off-road cycling legend
Bob Ward of HairBrain Adventures. Each trail has its own name and personality.
Each is clearly signposted and color-coded, just as at a ski lodge, according
to the challenge it presents. Green is easy - flat roads and beginner’s trails.
Blue means intermediate (that is, fun) singletracks like Keoki’s Trail, nearly
three miles long and full of speed, dips, and surprises. Red signs mark the
advanced trails, and a dozen are marked orange for the experts - trails chock
full of obstacles and narrow switchbacks, with names like Ditch of Doom, Eager
Beaver, and Lunar Descent.
The Activity Center rents a variety of two-wheelers - from Rocky Mountain
hard tails to Martin full suspension bikes - by the day or week, as well as
trailers and other accessories for children. Bikes come with a trail map, a
spare tire, and a bike pump. (Yes, diehard enthusiasts can bring their own bikes.)
Experienced guides are available every day to lead single-track excursions.
For example, the Gravity Bike Ride (daily 10 am or 1:30 pm) takes beginners
on a no-sweat downhill course that drops 1,100 feet in elevation, ending at
the Kaupoa Beach Village. From there, riders can get a shuttle lift back to
Sheraton Molokai. Advanced Course tours are available by arrangement.
For an experience to be found nowhere else on Earth, intermediate and
advance-level bikers should take the Na‘iwa sea-cliff ride. No, this doesn’t
involve riding straight down Molokai’s three-thousand-foot north-shore sea
cliffs (the tallest in the world).
But it’s close - very close. A guide trucks the bikers to the island’s upper
ranchlands, the district called Na‘iwa, inhabited these days only by goats
and egrets, wind and cloud. Bikers conquer several mountain climbs, then
dodge their way through a single track course in a koa forest. The trees
here stand not much more than a handlebar’s width apart, so the need for
acrobatic maneuvering is extreme. If riders get through the first such maze
and still want more, they can opt for an even tougher course that the guides
call "The Grinch."
The Naiwa ride then emerges from the forest, and bikers find themselves
sailing along the brink of those sea cliffs, looking straight down at distant
Kalaupapa Peninsula. For once, the word "incredible" is no exaggeration -
and the trail goes on for miles. Near the end, true extremists can choose
to shoot themselves into "The Hobbit" - a fifty-foot drop into a gulch that
demands a hard right turn at the bottom (either that or a face-to-face with
a rather stout tree trunk).
In short, Molokai offers mountain biking for all levels of bravado. Says
Jennifer: "This is Moab without the crowds. And there’s a lot more variety
here. You can have tropical green cliffs or the desert. You go through little
tree stands where the trail’s just as wide as your handlebars, and then
you’ll be in grassland where it’s just fields and fields and fields."
For the Petersons, the Sheraton Molokai experience with its designer bike
courses makes a perfectly satisfying one-week adventure - they don’t even have
to rent a car. But cycling opportunities on Molokai extend far beyond the
Sheraton itself. In fact, you can stay anywhere on the island and rely on
two wheels, whether for street cycling on car-free tropical roads or for
exploring wilder terrain wherever the pavement ends.
Molokai Outdoors, located in the Hotel Molokai lobby, rents "beach cruisers"
as well as all-terrain and mountain bikes by the day or the week. This company
makes it easy to set up a custom schedule of two-wheel adventures with a single
phone call. They’ll lead your excursions, too, if you like.
Molokai Bicycle Shop in Kaunakakai provides road and mountain bikes, car racks,
trailers, and child carriers. For small pick-up fees they’ll let you leave the
bikes at various island locations (for example, the airport). Bike shop owner
Phillip Kikukawa himself leads custom cycling adventures when he’s not busy
teaching at the high school. The best way to get a bike through Phillip is by
personal contact (email, mail, or phone). Personal contact is Molokai style.
Both of these outfitters offer truly sensational trail rides at Pu‘u O Hoku Ranch.
This small-scale cattle ranch and organic farm covers 14,000 acres of the wild east
end and the hills above beautiful Halawa Valley. Here, you can get any kind of
excursion you want, from an easy hour-and-a-half for the whole family to all-day
outings with some hair-raising terrain. These trails take in waterfalls, secret
swimming holes, and views never seen by motorists - for example, the North Shore
sea cliffs, other islands, and (in winter) a natural nursery where humpback
whales cavort with their newborns.
Cycling author John Alford called his experience at the east end of Molokai:
"Epic - a must for every adventure traveler!"
It’s simply true. The island of Molokai is one of the finest cycling destinations
in the world. And here’s what makes it better - not many people have discovered
yet just how good it is. No matter where you are on the island, you have all the
elbow room and freedom of choice that you want.
"Plus, there’s something else," says Randy Peterson. "This is Molokai. It’s
low-stress and easy. Here we are, doing all this great biking -- and we still
feel like we’re having a vacation."
Article Courtesy of the Molokai Visitors Association
Mountain Biking on Other Islands
All Activities on Molokai
Attractions on Molokai
Molokai Island - Main Menu
Islands of Hawaii
Hawaii for Visitors