Hawaii - Top Bike Climbs

#1
Mauna Kea
USA, HI
#2
Haleakala
USA, HI
#3
Kaloko Dr
USA, HI
#4
Mauna Loa
USA, HI
#5
Waipoli Rd
USA, HI
#6
Stainback Road
USA, HI
#7
Baldwin - Olinda Roads
USA, HI
#8
Waimea Canyon - Kokee Road
USA, HI
#9
Waimea Canyon - Hwy 550
USA, HI
#10
Waipio Road
USA, HI

Climb List: Hawaii
(sort by distance, difficulty, elevation and more)

Cycling Hawaii

 

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

Riding bike at the top of Mauna Kea above the clouds.

Mauna Kea -- THE hardest bike climb in the world.

Cycling Top US Bike Climbs - road, volcano, clouds on Mauna Kea 

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 . . . .

Top US Bike Climbs - Mauna Kea elevation profile

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.

13,767’ 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’.

Bike climbs in US - Top US Bike Climbs - video clip of Mauna Loa - cyclist riding on road on volcano 

Mauna Loa Observatory Road (the last 17 miles at 5% to 10,989’).

US #2 / #15 WORLD MOST DIFFICULT BIKE CLIMB

HALEAKALA, MAUI, HAWAII

PJAMM Cycling - Haleakala Crater and summit - drone photo

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

Bicycle climb of Waipoli Road - cyclist and bike sign at start of Waipoli Rd 

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

Cycling The World's most beautiful bike climbs - Mt. Lemmon - cyclist riding past bike sign on road, hoodoos 

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.  

Cycling the Road to Hana - 3 PJAMM cyclists with bikes at waterfall

The Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaii

44 miles, gain 4,625’ from Paia to Hana.