Tantalus Drive, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii.
Hawaii is one of the most scenic locations in the world and has multiple Top 100 World Bike Climbs. The Big Island is home to the most difficult bike climb in the world (Mauna Kea), and the longest (Mauna Loa). Maui boasts the second most difficult climb in the US (Haleakala), and one of the most enjoyable bike rides (Road to Hana). While Kauai is home to one of the locations for the filming of Jurassic Park (Waimea Canyon). And though it’s the most commercial island, Oahu still offers a set of lovely climbs accessible from Honolulu (Tantalus and Round Top Drives).
The Hawaiaan Islands (specifically Island of Hawaii and Maui) have the highest concentration of Top 100 US Bike Climbs of any other US state:
US AND WORLD MOST DIFFICULT BIKE CLIMB
MAUNA KEA, BIG ISLAND, HAWAII
Mauna Kea -- THE hardest bike climb in the world.
Mauna Kea, on the “Big Island” of Hawaii, is the hardest bike climb in the United States, and also by far the most difficult bike climb in the world. Mauna Kea has it all: length (42.5 miles), altitude (sea level to nearly 14,000’), and gradient (the last 10 miles are from 8,120’ to 13,779’ at 10.7% average grade).
That’s all you need to know about Mauna Kea . . . .
The gradient ramps up at mile 30 and averages 10.4% for the final 12 miles from 7,200’ to 13,811’ at the finish.
PJAMM has climbed Mauna Kea four times (2011, 2013, 2014, 2018).
US AND WORLD LONGEST BIKE CLIMB
MAUNA LOA, BIG ISLAND, HAWAII
4 views of Mauna Loa
Just across “the saddle” from Mauna Kea is the great shield volcano Mauna Loa. Beginning from the opposite side of the island from the start of Mauna Kea (coming from Hilo is shorter, but steeper) in Waikoloa we climb 62.2 miles at 3.4% average grade gaining 11,848’ from near sea level to 11,848’.
Mauna Loa Observatory Road (the last 17 miles at 5% to 10,989’).
US #2 / #15 WORLD MOST DIFFICULT BIKE CLIMB
HALEAKALA, MAUI, HAWAII
Cycling Haleakala Volcano, Maui, Hawaii
Aerial Sphere Photo:
Center - Haleakala Crater; center right - Summit and approach to summit
This is one amazing place to ride your bike 👍🚲🌋🚲👍
We have ridden Haleakala four times from Paia, and once up Highway 37 from near the airport in Kahului. We recommend the Paia route as it is more scenic with less traffic. This climb is so difficult because it just wears you out with 36 miles of straight climbing, and generally between 5-7% average grade (the steepest mile averages only 7.8%). There are some of the greatest hairpins in the US on this climb -- most are unobstructed (we are on a volcano after all), and the eight starting at mile 25 rival the Horseshoe Meadows Hairpins in length. The five longest average 1.25 miles each! The wind is almost always blowing along the big hairpins, causing you to ride into the wind and suffering for one leg, then turn and will be loving life for the next mile and a quarter with the wind at your back.
Start the climb at sea level and finish 10,000’ later!!
Top 3 photos are upper hairpins and bottom 3 are lower hairpins.
As with so many of the Top 10 US bike climbs, this is a must do if you are on any of the Hawaiian Islands (either as tourist or resident). Yes, it’s worth the flight to Maui just to ride this spectacular volcano!
US #5 / WORLD #52 HARDEST BIKE CLIMB
KALOKO DRIVE, BIG ISLAND, HAWAII
Kaloko Drive, Kona, Maui, is a beast of a climb -- not surprising for #5 on the list. While, at 11.6 miles, it is not the length of some of the other Top 10s, its 8.7% average grade (10.4% last seven miles/14% last 2.3 miles) edges this cycling ascent into the US Top 5. This is the first of the Top 10 that does not fit the subjective “epic” criteria. The first 4.5 miles are along an uninspiring busy road, and the last seven miles (while trafficless and in a rainforest setting) are not in the “extraordinary” category that Mauna Kea, Haleakala, Mt. Washington, and Pikes Peak are. Nonetheless, this is a must-do for cyclist interested in a top US climb by bike.
US #9 / WORLD #70 TOUGHEST BIKE CLIMB
WAIPOLI ROAD, MAUI, HAWAII
This is greatest “unknown” bike climb in the US. Very few cyclists have ever heard of Waipoli Road. This one climbs the backside of Haleakala Volcano on a paved road which ends at Skyline Trail (this trail is manageable on a gravel bike with thick tires, but we end at our Top 10 climb at the pavement). The full climb is 12.7 miles at 7.8% but the most fun (well, if you like this kind of stuff) is on the 20 hairpins over the last 4.7 miles which average 10%.
STEEPEST ROAD ½ PAVED MILE+ IN THE WORLD
WAIPOLI ROAD, BIG ISLAND, HAWAII
Cycling Waipio Road
Big Island, Hawaii
Cycle at a 19% average grade for about a mile.
It’s a trek to get to - but . . . it’s worth it!!
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BIKE CLIMB IN HAWAII
WAIMEA CANYON, KAUAI
The #1 reason to ride Waimea Canyon by bike:
You can stop anywhere you want!
Photo: Waimea Canyon Lookout
Waimea Canyon is one of the most beautiful places on earth, in our opinion anyway! The canyon is about 10 miles in length and 3,000’ deep. “Waimea” means “reddish water” in Hawaiian. The canyon has a unique and spectacular reddish hue to it, giving the views a unique and scenic quality. This bike climb is through Waimea Canyon State Park, which consists of 1,866 acres. Waimea Canyon is referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”.
Some of the most spectacular views you will ever experience on a bike climb come from the top of the Waimea Canyon climb by bike: The Waimea Canyon Lookout (mile 10.5), Pu’uhinahina Lookout (mile 13.8), and Pu’u O Kila Lookout (end of the climb, mile 19.2).
OUR TOP PICK FOR OAHU
TANTALUS DRIVE, HONOLULU, OAHU
THE GREATEST BIKE RIDE IN THE US
ROAD TO HANA, MAUI
If someone put a gun to our head and demanded we choose just one favorite out of all the exceptional bike rides in the United States, we would probably have to choose The Road to Hana. That being said, there are so many other amazing and diverse options in these vast United States we call home.
The Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaii
44 miles, gain 4,625’ from Paia to Hana.