West Maui Loop - is it a safe ride?


#1

I’m heading to Maui and considering renting a bike. Wondering if anyone has done the West Maui Loop and if it is safe? The ride looks beautiful, but it seems like there isn’t much of a shoulder.


#2

@KennyC I have done a lot of riding on Maui - east and west side. Yes, the West Maui loop is safe. I have not done the full loop because the highway section of the ride down the center of the island doesn’t look very interesting, but I have done everything else on the loop several times. It is a very popular loop (my son did it on one of our trips). The north coast is spectacular - the views and especially a stop at Lorraine’s Banana Bread!

Of course, the most popular epic ride is the climb up Mt. Haleakala. If you haven’t done it and can climb, that isn’t to be missed (36mi; 10kft). I’ve done it about 5 times. You just have to check the weather to make sure it will be OK on top.

Another truly epic and spectacular ride, but not well known by tourists, is the East Maui Loop. It’s 100mi w/11k ft of climbing. If you have the legs and the time, it’s well worth it. btw: There are some that go even more epic (e.g. a figure 8 around the island).

I know several other rides of shorter duration if you are interested. Also, I can provide a couple of great bike shops to rent if you let me know where you will be staying.

It’s a great island. Have fun!!!


#3

I did the North side and Haleakala this year and can’t recommend enough. Very light traffic once past kapalua and lots of rollers with good elevation. Plenty of banana bread stops also. Haleakala was spectacular. There is some tourist traffic, but nothing crazy. Bring your lights. West Maui Bike Shop did a great rental.


#4

@KennyC I can’t speak to the West Maui Loop but just got back from a week in Paia on the north shore. I agree with @bobmac, it is spectacular! Did the ride to Lorraine’s for banana bread, a bit of Hana Highway to see the painted trees, a ride up to Haiku Town and of course Haleakala. There was a shoulder on most busier roads but no shoulder and narrow roads once on some of the “back” roads. It never felt unsafe. You just need to pay attention to the road (sometimes hard to do with all the beautiful scenery).



#5

Bob, We are heading out to Maui with the whole family, so I won’t be able to take the time to do Haleakala.
I am interested in any shorter routes that you’re familiar with that would leave from Kaanapali.
Thanks in advance! .


#6

West Maui loop is an incredible ride! I went out fairly early (sunrise-ish) and had no issues with traffic. I rented a Tarmac from West Maui Cycles, and it worked out great (you just need to bring your own pedals). I would highly recommend doing this one!


#7

@KennyC Hi Kenny, Sorry for the slow response. I’ll send a few separate notes. This first one includes links of my son and my Strava rides from Kaanapali to Lorraines. I included both because he has a few pictures, one of which will give you a sense of just how awesome the views on the north coast, and I can assure you that no picture will represent the real thing:

Kaanapali to Lorraines Banana bread
https://www.strava.com/activities/449188380

Michael’s ride: great pictures
https://www.strava.com/activities/449169179

ps. Similar to Doug’s ride above, this is the link of the ride from Hana to Lorraine’s. It connects into the ride above meaning that if you want to go further than we did, after Lorraines (a must stop!) go as far as you want before heading back (or go all the way around the West Maui Loop)
https://www.strava.com/activities/229146905


#8

@KennyC This doesn’t qualify as a real ride, but if you are going before the xmas week, the golf course in Kaanapali is fantastic to toodle around late in the afternoon when most golfers are gone (the few that were there didn’t seem to mind). There were some nice views and it allowed me to stretch my legs without going out on the main road.

Toodling around Golf course
https://www.strava.com/activities/449877607


#9

It’s the best! You can check my strava for the course I did. Northwest has no shoulder but you are going faster than the cars. It’s totally safe and beautiful, it’s my favorite place to ride.

Stop at Lorene’s banana bread, just google it. She’s super cyclists friendly and that’s where everyone stops. She even has a bike pump and sells tubes.

Have fun!! I’ll see if I can get a local to comment in here.


#10

@KennyC I “second” @pnstover suggestion regarding where to rent bikes from:
In addition to my son and I renting from them, a friend recently did so. They are great! and can provide all sorts of advice, suggestions. What I would do, however, is to call them up to reserve your bike (rather than online). They will make sure they have reserved the exact bike for you.


#11

@KennyC Another great ride is out of Rice Park in Kula. You bike South on Rte 37 which turns into Rte 31 (goes from highwayish to beautiful) and then you get some great views of the ocean from above as you descend to the coast. Of course the reverse requires climbing, but it is well worth it if you have the time. I can map it out for you if you want, but here is where you park/start.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Harold+W.+Rice+Memorial+Park/@20.7369111,-156.3354239,12z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x7954cf32b1839b1f:0xc691c642f6707896!8m2!3d20.741662!4d-156.332334


#12

@KennyC A final suggested route for now is taking Hana Highway to Ke’anae. Spectacular ocean views off Ke’anae Road. Best is if you park at the Haiku Center and bike from there. In addition to the great views, there’s Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread there for a delicious treat (I think you can gather the theme in my rides :).
BTW: One of the things you could do with your family is have them drop you off at the start and then have them drive to Ke’nae and meet you there. You could even start further up the road so they don’t have to wait too long. From there, you and your family could drive to Hana (or you could bike there and meet them there).
If any of the above is of interest, I could do a Strava route for you if that would be helpful.

. . . and not exactly a vacation bike ride idea, but Ka’anapali Parkway likely near/where you are staying is great for Threshold/V02Max sprints from the Sheraton to the Nohea Kai Drive :slight_smile:

Enjoy!!!


#13

You could pre-ride it on FulGaz (https://fulgaz.com/fulgaz-rides/?fg_ride=5c10a345f10ecda2578f5835), so you get familiar with the conditions/route.


#14

Thanks Nate. Heading out there this Sunday. Looking forward to some warm weather riding.


#15

Bob, thanks for all this! I’m heading there later this weekend. I really appreciate all this info!


#16

Had to chime in. I’ve ridden West Maui Loop probably a dozen times or so. It’s an absolutely stunning ride and one of my absolute favorites. The hilly part is such a blast with views that are out of this world beautiful.

I definitely recommended riding clockwise. The keeps you aways from the edge of the road should a car get too close. It also gets you very favorable winds behind you as you cut across the island, which is the least interesting part of the ride.

The portion up the coast can get narrow. The main thing is watching for cars coming at you where the road narrows. It can be windy with blind corners, so stay to the right side of the road.

There are a couple of steep climbs including one nicknamed “Mr. Steepy”. It’s not super long but usually is a pretty tough out of the saddle VO2 max effort for me. I’ve got my bike set up with fairly low gearing and this works great.

I always recommend a flashing rear light to draw attention. A Garmin Varia is even better.

I can do the loop with 3 bottles, but there are spots to get more water if needed.

There can be debris and rocks on the shoulders, so watch for this. I’ve never gotten a flat but I believe Nate got one on his ride.

Final tip - check the weather reports. If there is chance of rain, you might want to pack a light rain jacket. The weather can change quickly. If it does rain, be a little more careful. The red clay on the road becomes very slick.


#17

Hi! I know this discussion is a few months old but am hoping it still has some legs in it because it is very relevant to me. I am about to head to Maui for vacation and am from North Dakota so my experience climbing is pretty limited. ND is flat as a pancake. However, I am in good condition right now though and I will have just finished my build phase (Short Power Build-Low Volume; I am training for a season of MTB, not climbing or long endurance rides) and have a week for filler training in between the end of that program and my trip. When I was googling rides in Maui, I kind of got a wild idea that I wanted to try Haleakala. I have one day where my wife says she’s cool with me ditching her to ride so I have to pick one course and it’s either West Maui loop or Haleakala.

I feel like I’m in great shape. I have been really good at sticking to a dedicated TrainerRoad plan this season and honestly feel like I’m going to be a better rider in the spring than I was at the end of last outdoor season after hitting the bike hard all summer. I go out for longer rides every once in a while but my longest days in the saddle cap out at 4 hours of riding, so Haleakala would take me longer. I have no idea how long it would take me. Am I crazy for wanting to try Haleakala? Does it absolutely wreck your legs for days after the climb? If you had to pick one and you were in good shape, would you do Haleakala to knock it off your bucket list or would you do West Maui since it will be absolutely gorgeous and still a great ride, just not as much of a challenge? If I do Haleakala would it make sense to throw a few 3.5-4 hour low intensity rides in or do I need some crazy spikes in there? What is it like to climb it?


#18

Do Haleakala. It’s epic. I arrived and didn’t even know it was there. I rented a bike and started looking at rides and saw it and was so so so psyched to do it. Way more scenic than West Maui.
What’s it like? It’s like riding from here to Saturn. You traverse 4 completely different landscapes. It’s like a 4 hour mountain bike ride averaging around 10mph on the way up. The last .5 mile was by far the hardest bit. The lack of oxygen was pretty wild at that point. Then it takes over an hour I think to get back down. The descent is pretty fun and as the elevation drops you feel your power come back and you realize you had more in the tank.
My only advice, try not exert yourself before the switchbacks and you will be fine. There are plenty of areas that you will be forced to exert yourself so save it for those because they go for long durations. Get water before you make the left hand turn into the switchbacks at the market off the road to the right. Bring a windbreaker for the ride back down. Don’t forget sunscreen. I got roasted. Stay hydrated and stay fueled. West Maui cycles right at the base of the climb is a cool shop to rent a bike and get fuel. The bikes are geared for climbing. There are a couple of places you can make wrong turns so if you have strava you can open it to the map and the route will be highlighted in red. Just follow it.
West Maui is better as an out and back. It’s more dangerous. The switchback descents are super tight and the locals seem to drive a little bit faster than the tourists. Be careful. Half of it, the west and south sides are flat freeway riding that’s not that scenic with traffic and if it’s windy… well I wanted to die. I did W maui 2 days after Haleakala and felt pretty good. So you shouldn’t be too wrecked after the crater. But after those 2 I was getting tired on the rides that followed. On my last day I had time to do partial Haleakala and I was 20 minutes slower getting to the top of the first set of switchbacks, by the end my time probably would have been an hour slower than my first effort.

You have to do Haleakala. THE LONGEST PAVED HILL CLIMB IN THE WORLD!


West Maui


#19

@bdiederich24 Unquestionably, you should do Haleakala!. And based on your description of your fitness, you can do it!

Pending decent weather (check the forecast for the mountain), you will be treated to some phenomenal views. They are particularly great to enjoy on the descent. You can stop at the switchbacks. Living where you do, you probably don’t have a lot of descending experience, but the Haleakala descent is rated as the 3rd best in the world - wide, smooth turns, excellent pavement. Even without the skills to take them at speed, you will enjoy it.

Now, for the climb. It’s obviously long, but the gradient averages about 5%. Even as a non-climber, you will have no trouble. There’s no “steep stuff” other than a short 10% section near the top. A couple of suggestions, some a repeat of @thesupermarket comments:

  1. Pace yourself/take your time early on (conserve your energy). Above 6500ft, the air starts thinning out and you want to have what you will need at 8k and 9kft to the finish (it will take 10-20% more energy to climb the same distance).

  2. Stop at Kula Market on your way up. It is after Kimo Drive and just before you get to Crater Road. It’s a great place to refill your water bottles, get some food and take a 20min break at the picnic tables. There’s some bathrooms there as well (backside of the market). Here’s my ride if you want to zoom in on its location:
    https://www.strava.com/activities/450392293/segments/10827424414

  3. Of course, when you get to the top (ride through the parking lot up the path to the observatory) you need to get the obligatory photo of holding your bike over your head with the 10,023ft sign behind you. It’s a special memory!

If you are staying on West Maui, West Maui Cycles is a great place to rent a bike. They are a great shop, very friendly and very knowledgeable. While you can reserve online, I would strongly suggest calling them (ASAP). They will ear mark your exact bike and have it set up for you. The bikes they have include the Specialized Roubaix. It is a perfect bike for enjoying Haleakala. They may have pedals, but I’d recommend bringing your own. I also brought my own helmet.

If you are staying elsewhere, Maui Cyclery in Hana is a great place to rent bikes. I know the owner, Donnie Arnoult (former pro racer with Team Saturn), very well (I have ridden with him several times; he manages the annual “Race to the Sun” Haleakala race in August). They offer guided rides around Maui (for avid cyclists) and used to offer a ride up Haleakala (I did it twice with Donnie). However, Maui pulled all commercial licenses up the mountain inside the park due to a couple of deaths from those downhill bomber tours (extremely untrained riders in snow suits with motorcycle type helmets).

Parking: It’s pretty hard to find parking on the street near the entrance to Baldwin Ave unless you get there early. However, there’s public parking about 1/4 mile back on the inland side next to the Shell station. This time of year should be no problem getting a spot.

After the ride, you should stop in at Paia Fish Market at the corner of Hana Highway and Baldwin ave. Fantastic fish sandwiches and great beer in a lively atmosphere with bench seating (i.e. no problem being on your own). It’s a fantastic treat after a great accomplishment!

As for West Maui, I might suggest that you and your wife take a drive there. It is very windy, but if you take it slowly you can stop for some amazing views. It does get narrow as you go further so you can stop and turn around if she gets uncomfortable.

Let me know if you have other questions.


#20

@thesupermarket You are going to love Maui. Fantastic place.

I went back in January and rode up Haleakala for the third time. Also did Road to Hana for the first time, which is another spectacular ride, and did the West Maui Loop three times (overall my favorite ride in Maui).

Haleakala is all about steady state riding. The middle section is slightly more difficult and the final kicker is pretty steep but its a short segment. It’s definitely an epic ride worth doing, but it isn’t as “fun” as the up and down hills that run all the coast as part of the West Maui Loop or Road to Hana.

Maui Cyclery is the shop in Paia, where you start the ride up Haleakala. My suggestion is to call them (Donnie is the shop owner) and pay to do their supported ride. It’s a great way to do the ride the first time. You can get a bike rental as part of the package too.

https://www.gocyclingmaui.com/

West Maui Cyclery is another great shop, but its in Lahaina, not Paia, and on the West Maui Loop. They also rent bikes. If you buy CO2’s there, you can return them for store credit before heading back home. CO2 are not allowed on the plane.

If at all possible, try and do both the West Maui Loop and Haleakala. They are both great but so different. After Haleakala I took two days off and was good to go again. It’s really just a long sweet spot ride.