Riding Shirtless Along the Kona Heritage Corridor

On any vacation we are forced to consider an array of settings, activities and attitudes.  Will we chose to be sightseeing adventure seekers who take multi-mile hikes and wake up before 8 to beat the crowds?  Or will we spend our time respitting from work and study by sleeping late, reading on the beach and relaxing with our families?  It can be a constant struggle.  All your sister wants to do is lie by the pool soaking in the sun and you’re dying to hop the bus to the most fascinating snorkeling spot.

To combine these two seemingly conflicting ideologies, go see the friendly dudes at Kona Bike and Beach and rent a 50cc gas powered scooter for $40 a day.  They’ll let you take them wherever you want as long as you’re back by 6:30.  Drop your snorkel mask into the compartment under the seat (if you don’t own, you can rent from Jordan or any of the guys at Kona Bike and Beach for only four bucks).

Head south down Ali’I Dr, the street that follows the coast through this section of Kona.  Along Ali’I Drive, Kahalu’u Beach Park offers space to relax on the beach and some of the most esteemed snorkeling around.  You won’t have to leave your towel though to experience sea life, as honu (sea turtles) often break the surface where the waves lap the gray sand beach (a mixture of the yellow sands of quartz and the black sand from lava rock).  If you do snorkel, avoid entering from the left side of the beach where shallow waters hide stinging urchins and slicing coral.  After you’ve gotten your fill of relaxation or adventure, hop back on your scooters and continue south.

Ride shirtless to Lako St, crossing Route 11 and heading up into the hills above the coast.  Elevation gain is significant and looking back over your shoulder the view of the beach quickly seems miles away.  Weave through suburban neighborhoods until you turn left onto the Kona Heritage Corridor, a narrow, winding road at an elevation high enough that you’ll notice the temperature change.  Along this route that runs for several miles until its intersection with 180, you’ll pass gorgeous mountain top homes, postcard vistas and picturesque inns.  One stop along the way is a stretch of several small independent artist galleries.  The speed limit along this road fluctuates from 15 to 35 mph, so you can comfortably ride without the pressure from other drivers.  The curves through some sections are tighter than others and at full throttle you may mistakenly assume you’re on the back of a racing bike with knee pads strapped on for leaning.

When you reach the intersection with Route 180, turn around and follow the ridgeline back the way you came.  Enjoy the tree-lined drive from a different angle.  Catch new vistas of the ocean below.  Notice signs for local butcher shops and cafes.  Stop at a free gallery.  Let your back cool while the sun strikes your open chest.  Imagine Mai Tai’s at Lulu’s down on Ali’I Drive.  They’ve got the best we tasted on the Big Island.

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