In the New Jersey area, we have just emerged from a hurricane and are now looking at a snow storm. As huge flakes of snow stick to the grass and I sit here feeling really cold, all I want to do is get away to one of our favorite places, Oahu. There is something absolutely magical about this island in Hawaii. Each time we go there, we feel a massive surge of excitement and walk around with humongous smiles plastered on our faces and contentment in our hearts. Take a look at these pictures and you’ll know why all I want to do is go back.
Yesterday, Siddhi posted her exhilarating experience riding from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay on a tandem bike with her sister. My husband and I happened to be part of this family voyage separated by a couple of bikes, several miles and a few adventures along the way.
Our ride like our daughters’ started off along bustling Waikiki. We rented our solo bikes from the same place that we had rented a few days before. As we huffed and pedaled up the road leading to Diamond Head, we day dreamt about which of the lovely homes dotting the way would be the perfect place to live. Moving on we were greeted by Diamond Head Lighthouse, a beautiful red capped building, adding the perfect touch to the picturesque landscape ahead. A few sips of Gatorade and we were incredibly joyous taking in the seascape vistas. A few miles of biking and my husband stopped at a gas station reporting his gears were not functioning.
We knew that our rental bikes were not conducive to steep journeys, but we certainly did not anticipate our gears failing. So, there we sat in the corner of a gas station, bike upside down, trying to fix the chains. Some time later, we emerged victorious, our victory sign being black grease that now coated both our hands and a bit of our faces. Thankfully, we were at a gas station, so after cleaning up and texting our kids, we went on.
The ride was smooth sailing, with the defective bike riding decently. That was till we got to the steep uphill climb to Hanauma. We lumbered our way to the top and were ecstatic to speed downhill towards the bay. Except my husband did not stop and kept going. When we finally stopped, he said the brakes were no longer working. Two gifts in a single day!
So, we texted our kids again, telling them we would be delayed as we tried to fix the bike. Our first call to the rental place met with a cold response. We can’t come after you. Try walking gently downhill with your bike and make it back to Waikiki. Knowing the downhill descent, that was not going to be a solution.
I left my husband to fix the bike and was checking in to see the safety video at Hanauma, when I mentioned our predicament to the person at the register. What transpired next was Hawaiian hospitality at its best. The woman asked a colleague who asked yet another person and before I knew it, they had paged a life guard who regularly rode our path and knew about bikes.
A few minutes later, there appeared our savior and after examining the brakes declared that both the front and back had stopped functioning. He disappeared only to reappear with a toolkit and within 20 minutes, we had a bike that could be navigated safely back to Waikiki.
Need I say that we thanked the park professionals profusely for their help and could not have been more ecstatic to finally return to the beauty of Hanauma Bay. The rest of the afternoon was indeed idyllic, filled with snorkeling and lazing.
We biked back after sunset and enjoyed our ride all the way through, stopping at one of the most amazing Whole Foods to refuel our starving bodies. The food and service at Whole Foods was exactly what we needed at the end of a challenging day and as we dropped our bikes back swore that we would probably rent from a different place and carry a tool kit the next time.
Just a couple of thoughts for those intending to do a similar ride. Make sure you carry adequate water/Gatorade. The weather gets hot and you get thirsty very quickly. A towel to wipe your sweat would be great and if you can stop for some fresh fruit and veggies at Whole Foods along the way, your ride can be so much more gratifying.
Irrationality is a lovely little devil that never seems to leave my blood. The first time I climbed on a tandem bike, I rode over 40 miles on a rackety cycle whose tires kept squeaking signs of impending death. Somehow, my sister and I covered over 40 miles of rather hilly terraine across all of the island of Manhattan with no directions, water, or food in our stomachs. Even after being chased by a shady figure for miles of abandoned side streets somewhere in Harlem, all we could do was grin that we had pulled off another “typical” adventure, at least the way we saw it in our family dictionary. Fast-forward about ten months and my sister and I found ourselves on a tandem bike yet again. But instead of the Hudson and New York City skyline for scenery, we had the highways of Honolulu. Our ride was only about half the distance as our Great Apple journey. So the adventure? We were riding up a gear-crippling mountain on a bus-only lane.
This was take two of our bike ride from Waikiki Beach in Honolulu to Hanauma Bay, a significant natural park and preserve that devotes itself relentlessly to the protection of one of the most precious coral reefs and underwater wildlife hubs on the island of Oahu. On our first attempt earlier in the week, I was riding solo. After an incredibly scenic ascent, I realized that Hanauma Bay was closed on Tuesdays, and so I met my family ten miles down at the base of the highway and we rode back to Waikiki, promising that we’d do the ride again. On our second try, my sister and I decided to relive our city tandem experience and power up to Hanauma together. And just like our ride in New York, the decision proved to be an indelible bonding experience.
After a trail of breathtaking, close up views of the Diamondhead Lighthouse which we could only see in a silhouetted form when we actually climbed the crater to layers of cozy mountain houses that more than tickled our temptations to burn those return tickets and permanently call this paradise home, the backdrop of our ride changed rather abruptly when we hit H1-72. Cars, mopeds, motorcycles, and monster 18 wheel pineapple trucks sped so close to the designated “bike route” that every moment on the highway was a hairline encounter with serious danger. Then, somehow, the bike route signs vanished (and I know I didn’t miss anything because I did the ride twice) and the markings outlining the cycle lane had merged into a “BUS ONLY” lane. It was exhilarating beyond belief, and we had some very close incidents with trucks. The risks aside, I don’t think there was any way for us to get a better gauge of the street of Oahu. Every mile of progress became an increasing admiration for the Hawaiian willingness to embrace and live life instead of waiting to live it, something so characteristic of where I’m from in the east coast.
Our thighs and calves were pumping with lactic acid buildup as we finally unmounted the bike and wheeled it over to a marked “Scenic Point” overlook, which gave us a stunning view of not the typical Honolulu shoreline postcard, but a snapshot consisting of many stratas of hilly urban life. A sign ahead signaled that Hanauma Bay was just a couple minutes away. The closeness of our destination was enough to make our final few pedals some of our most enthusiastic.
Cycling from Waikiki Beach to Hanauma Bay seems easy if you look at it from a purely distance based scale. The round trip ride is about 23 miles. But couple that distance with an almost entirely uphill endeavor one way and cycles that most definitely aren’t designed for mountain biking (which is what you’ll get at most local rental shops unless you’re going to a specialist), and the adventure is one heck of a workout. By the end, we wanted nothing more than to run into the cool waters of Hanauma and laze, and that’s exactly what we did.
If you find yourself in Honolulu and want to explore Oahu while getting a good workout, consider the pedals and ride from Waikiki to Haunauma. In all my years of adventuring it’s one of the most serious travel highlights.