looking down at Kailua

Biking Oahu’s Pali highway Over the Koolau Mountains

(This is a repost of one of my favorite simple adventures)
Koolau Range on Oahu, Pali

The Pali Highway is one of those incredibly scenic places that most people only see when they zoom along it in their car and perhaps when they stop at the Pali Lookout. It was a beautiful day in Hawaii today and I decided to bike from Kailua to Waikiki.

It wasn’t an easy ride since Pali means cliff in Hawaiian and in this case refers to the mountains that rise between the windward side of Oahu and Honolulu. No bike lanes and uphill at least half the way. Only about 20 miles total, but man, what a workout.

There was a Mind, Body, and Spirit Expo at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu that I wanted to check out, so it seemed like a good time to go.

Anyway, I’m feeling sort of proud of myself for biking. It’s not a huge distance, I know. It’s just that I had to cross the Koolau Mountains to get from where I live in Kailua to Honolulu and Waikiki. As I started out, I thought to myself…”Have I ever noticed anyone doing this?” I hadn’t.

looking down at KailuaTons of people have done it though. I mean. Why not? Well, actually, the Pali Highway is a busy road. There aren’t any shoulders over much of it. The grade is fairly moderate but doesn’t give you any breaks for five miles or so. Peaks out at 1200 ft which is just about where the above photo was taken. That’s looking down towards my little town of Kailua, by the way. The freakiest part of the ride is the tunnel where the shoulder is still narrow and on a raised “sidewalk” roughly two feet wide. Just enough room for the bike with heavy traffic speeding by on one side and a solid wall on the other. No room for error. Add to that the fist sized chunks of lava on the shoulder and the brush that completly obstructs the shoulder when you come out of the long tunnel and just before you go into the short tunnel.

Super dangerous. And that’s on the downgrade (Kailua Bound) the upgrade is almost worse.

Incidentally, that little gap between tunnels is where, in 1795, King Kamehameha forced the Oahu warriors to plunge to their deaths after a viscious series of skirmishes up the Nu’uanu Valley.

The Nu’uanu Valley itself is beautiful. Town bound from the tunnels you pass protected areas with wide mountain walls reaching heights of around 3200 feet. If it has been raining you see dozens of waterfalls. I missed the rain but still saw a few falls.

The rainforest portion of my ride was turning off of the Pali Highway and winding through the Old Pali Road. Bamboo forests, roadside waterfalls, rope-swings (careful of leptosprosis though), and grand old houses in colonial style.

Well…the ride is done now…I’m going to go get a beer.