Published: February 2009
Play Ironman Without the Blood and Tears
Hawaii's The Big Island
Text by Meg Lukens Noonan
If all you know about cycling the Big Island comes from that televised lava-field grind known as the Ironman, it’s time to take a closer look. There are more than 350 miles of smooth paved roads on Hawaii’s largest island; by joining Orchid Isle’s eight-day Tour de Paradise, an inn-to-inn circumnavigation trip, you’ll spin—mostly grimace free—along 300 of them. Push off from Kona on the dry west coast and head north on the wide shoulders of the Ironman highway. Over the next few days, you’ll climb into the Kohala Mountains and cross the rolling grasslands of the 150,000-acre Parker Ranch before reaching the Hamakua Coast on the island’s wet, green side. It’s a fun, snaky cruise past waterfalls and rocky coves into Hilo, the island’s biggest town (and home to its best shave-ice vendor, Itsu’s Fishing Supplies). From here you’ll crank 30 miles to the Kilauea crater in Volcano National Park, then spend your last day cruising 4,500 feet down to Punaluu on the island’s south shore and roll north along the Kona coast. Of course, it’s not all about the bike; you’ll quit riding at around 2 p.m. every day, leaving ample time to sample the goods at small coffee plantations, hike, body surf, and loll on the black-sand beaches. A sag wagon trails the group, but Orchid Isle’s owners Oliver and Julia Kiel say only two people in seven years have ever taken the lift. "We really baby you around the island," Oliver says. The company also offers a much faster paced four-day circumnavigation with five and a half hours of cycling a day for cyclists who want to reach out and touch those Ironman dreams.

The Lure: Biking

Vitals: Orchid Isle, eight days, from $2,495 per person, including bike rental;

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