Best Mountain and Road Biking on Maui – HOP to it
Whether you bring or rent a bike, there are many options for those looking to bicycle on Maui. For the best mountain biking, you’ll want to head upcountry. For road biking, you’ll find plenty of bike paths or roads with wide shoulders to accommodate you. In this article, we will recommend three road and three mountain bike rides that you can do without going through an activity service. Click here to download a (slightly outdated) PDF map of Maui with bicycle paths highlighted. The map is only a photo of a map, so it’s not all that clear, but it’s fine for an overview. Stop by a bicycle shop to pick up an actual map.
Maui has some outstanding mountain bike paths, but if you want to ride on the best, you’re going to need to head upcountry.
Kahakapao Loop (Makawao Forest Reserve)
Drive just past Makawao Town (be sure to visit Komoda’s for some tasty baked treats in Makawao before or after your ride) and you’ll find this popular mountain bike trail. It’s roughly six miles long with around a 1000′ elevation gain. Unless it’s wet, which creates a sloppy terrain, it’s a good trail for all levels, from strong children to adults. If you have kids, we recommend doing the trail counter-clockwise. Otherwise, go clockwise, the descent will be a little more fun. (Kahakapao Loop)
Polipoli Springs Loop (Kula)
Located in Kula, the Polipoli Springs Loop is one of several mountain bike trails in the Polipoli Spring State recreational area. This loop covers the popular Mamane trail, which many consider to be the most fun part of the Skyline Trail (listed below). This ride can get technical, with some areas of rocks and boulders, so make sure you’re prepared. The Polipoli Springs area is generally quite nice before 10:00 AM, but after 10, it is almost always covered with clouds. So we recommend waking up early and hitting the trail first thing in the morning. (Polipoli Springs Loop)
Skyline Trail (Haleakala Summit)
The crown jewel of mountain bike rides on Maui, the Skyline trail up at the summit of Haleakala is a once-in-a-lifetime ride so fulfilling you may do it twice. You start at the summit, where it’s freezing (literally) cold, then you head down. As such, unless you plan on riding back up, you’ll need to park one car at the summit and another at the Rice Memorial Park pick-up point in Kula. You’ll encounter different terrains on the ride including loose volcanic cinder, forest, grass and gravel. One of the nice things about this trail is that tour operators are not allowed to go up there. So you won’t find yourself behind a large group when the trail turns to single-track. Before you do this one, make sure you do your research. It can be tricky at spots, but it’s so worth it! The views are simply breathtaking. (Skyline Trail)
Some people don’t like road biking on Maui because dedicated bike lanes are rare. But, most of the roads do have wide shoulders and biking is legal on highways.
Haleakala (Paia to the Haleakala Summit)
Amazingly, Haleakala is not considered a steep climb by avid bikers. We’ve only done this ride once (once is enough!), but we think it’s pretty darn steep. With that in mind, even experienced bikers say the climb is relentless. If you’re going to do this ride, know that roads are well paved and drivers are on the lookout for riders (mostly going downhill) so it’s fairly safe from a traffic perspective. One issue is the weather. If you start in Paia, you’re basically starting at sea level and ending up at 10,000 feet. Along the way, you may encounter heavy winds and even sleet, especially in the winter months. The ride from Paia is about 35 miles to the summit. (Haleakala Summit Ride)
Maui North Shore Greenway Trail (Kahului to Paia)
Compared to the other two rides in the “road” section of this article, this one is a piece of cake, but it’s also quite cool. The ride from Kahului to Paia is only about 7 miles. You can stay on the trail, which takes you behind the airport, if you want to beeline to Paia, but we recommend you veer off the trail into the neighborhoods along the ocean. Spreckelsville and Baldwin Beach are amongst the stops you can make. This ride is flat the entire way and is safely tucked away from the highway, save for about a 100 meter stretch just prior to hitting Paia, making it a great family ride. The way Paia traffic is nowadays from Kahului, riding a bike may actually be faster than driving a car! (Maui North Shore Greenway Trail)
West Maui Loop
You can start this loop, really, anywhere between Kapalua and Kahului. Even from out in Kihei/Wailea, though from there it isn’t technically a loop. The ride essentially goes around the West Maui Mountains, affording you incredible views of the ocean and the mountains. In total, the loop is about 60 miles. Outside of the mountain part of the ride, it’s relatively flat. If you do it, the folks at West Maui Cycles recommend you start early in the morning and go clockwise from Lahaina and counter-clockwise from Kahului so you’ll avoid the heavy afternoon winds.
Do you have a favorite bike ride on Maui? Tell us about it in the comments below.