The Horizon Bicycle Diaries Horizon Guest House – Captain Cook – Big Island – Hawaii

4 Scenic Lookout, Kohala Mtns in back
At Scenic Lookout, Kohala Mountains in the background

Cycling is a big part of my life and a great way to keep fit. Here on the Big Island of Hawaii there are plenty of places to cycle. One of my favorite routes is from Kona, north to Waikaloa. It’s approximately 50 miles and it takes me about 3 hours to complete the ride.

Bicycle diary

1 On the Go FoodHorizon Big Island Hawaii

8 P.M. (previous day)

Preparation is key, so the night before a ride I get everything ready for the next day. One of the most important factors is staying hydrated and having quality nutrition post-ride.

Two bottle of ice-cold water with electrolytes? Check.

Protein shake with banana? Check.

Tuna sandwich? Check.

Homemade museli bar? Check.*

Assorted gels, Cliff bars and salt pills? Double check.

Alarm set for 4 A.M. and early to bed!

(*Look for the recipe in an upcoming blog!)

2 Staging at 6 amHorizon Big Island Hawaii

6 A.M. 

After rising early I drive into Kona to park the car and get the bicycle ready. It gets warm first thing in Kona so I find it’s important to get out as early as I can after sunrise.

3 Kohala MtnsHorizon Big Island Hawaii
Kohala Mountains in the distance

7 A.M

Wide shoulders and long stretches of highway make the route from Kona to Waikaloa (and behind to Kawaihae – if you’re feeling adventurous!) perfect for road cycling. It’s a popular route with local cyclists and is used as part of the Iron Man each year.

5 Maui in distanceHorizon Big Island Hawaii
Scenic Lookout with Maui in the distance

8 A.M.

A quick stop at the Scenic Lookout on the way back from Waikaloa. Time to refuel with a snack and make sure I’m hydrated. Great views are guaranteed for the ride, and on a clear day you can even see all the way to Maui.

6 Kona Coffee and TeaHorizon Big Island Hawaii

9:15 A.M.

Finish line! I arrive back at the car and refuel with a post-ride milkshake and sandwich. The ride is over and I now need a shower (at the local gym) and then a coffee at my favorite local cafe Kona Coffee & Tea.

7 Coffee Time Horizon Big Island Hawaii

9:25 A.M.

We all need a little treat and post-ride mine is a mocha! It’s getting hot in Kona and getting out and riding in the early part of the day has been worth it – time to head back home to Horizon Guest House.

Big Island Cycling

Regardless of your level of cycling, Hawaii is ideal. Riding is possible 365 days a year. Most of the time the weather remains within a very narrow temperature range. Here on the Big Island, we have some of the best cycling conditions to match anywhere else in the world.

Kua Bay, Kona
Kua Bay, Kona

The annual Sea to Stars race is from sea level to the 9,000 ft. level of Mauna Kea. Or, staying along the coast, you can enjoy relatively flat riding (the Kona to Waikaloa route, and also the Ironman route). The scenery goes from lush, dense tropical forest to wide open vistas – my favorite cycling conditions.

Waipio
Waipio Lookout

Rentals

Bicycles can be rented on a daily or weekly basis from Bike Works: http://www.bikeworkskona.com

Or why not have a catered, concierge type experience with Lifecycle Adventures https://www.lifecycleadventures.com As a bonus, if you’re booking with LifeCycle, you can choose to stay at Horizon Guest House as one of your destination points.

e-bike RotoruaLooking for an e-bike? My partner and I tried these out in New Zealand and they were a lot of fun. In Kona these can be rented from a number of outlets including Kona Sports Center.

 

Iron Man

It’s Ironman Triathlon race week here in Kona. The 3-part race on October 12th, is a 2.4 mile ocean swim, followed by a 112 mile bicycle run, and then a full marathon of 26 miles… all done in the same race day! It’s an incredible feat. When people hear that I ride 50 miles in a typical cycling day, they’re amazed – but that is not even half of the bicycle portion of the Ironman!

https://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/world-championship.aspx#/axzz6258oldoC

Cycling on Maui and Kauai

A cycling trip around Haleakala on Maui is memorable. It should definitely include Hana. There’s something about cycling the Road to Hana that’s even better than doing it by car – it brings you that much closer to the natural environment.

Back side of Maui
Cycling on Maui

Kauai also has some great cycling. Until recently, I participated regularly in the Paradise Ride, an annual charity cycling event to benefit Malama Pono Health Services and their work providing essential support and education services for those living with HIV/AIDS.

Since the highways on Kauai are generally coastal, there isn’t much climbing. Also, the county has recently completed a wonderful coastal, paved cycle path of about 8 miles, starting in Lihue and heading toward Princeville.

Charity Fundraiser Kauai
Kauai

Cycling in NZ

In the past few years I’ve been traveling to New Zealand, where I meet my partner, Angus. Luckily, Angus has a passion for fitness, so introducing him to cycling was easy.

Mt. Eden lunch

Also, easy, is the cycling in Auckland. The city has spent hugely on cycle paths to encourage commuting and cycling enjoyment in general.

Auckland

And lastly, what would a cycling blog be without a short video of me and my shadow – shot in Kona.


For more details on Horizon Guest House:

• Check out our suites here

• Information on our rates are available here

• To make a booking use our contact form to make a reservation request

Koa: The Big Island’s Magnificent Wood Horizon Guest House – Captain Cook – Big Island – Hawaii

3 Pig board curly Koa Horizon Guest House Big Island Hawaii
Pig board showing example of ‘compression or fire’ very rare even for curly koa

To the casual visitor, Hawaii is sunshine and beaches. But it’s more than that. If you visit often, or for long enough, or are lucky enough to live here, you’ll discover a unique product that is grown only in Hawaii (endemic) – and no, it’s not taro, lilikoi, or even lychee: it’s Acacia koa, simply known here as koa.

6 Plant stand Horizon Guest House Hawaii Big Island
Plant stand by Russ Johnson

In ancient times, it was so prized that it was made kapu, prohibited for anyone to possess except for the royal class (ali’i), by King Kamehameha in the late 1700’s. Upon his death, the kapu was removed, which allowed all Hawaiians to possess this unique wood.

5 Hawaii bowl umeke Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Classic Hawaii bowl or umeke

Similar to black walnut and known for its hardness and extraordinary beauty, the Hawaiians found a wide range of uses for koa, from canoes to household dishes and utensils. When malihini settlers arrived, they discovered that it is also a ‘tonewood’ and could be used to make stringed instruments, such as the ukulele.

7 Curly Koa Pen Horizon Guest House Hawaiijpg
Curly koa ball point pen

Koa trees can attain a height of 50-75 feet and a trunk circumference of 20 feet. They are one of the fastest-growing Hawaiian trees, capable of reaching 20-30 feet in five years.

2 detail of Koa Horizon Guest House Big Island Hawaii
Detail of fine-grained koa

Ideally adapted to volcanic conditions, the larger Hawaiian islands supported huge forests of magnificent koa trees. However, the introduction of cattle, and the resulting clearance of huge swaths for pastures, severely reduced it’s habitat.

Koa trees are not endangered and recent restrictions on cutting, and protecting the seedlings from grazing cattle, sheep, and goats, have increased its population.

BUT! The only koa that can be harvested are dead or decaying koa trees on public lands.

1 Headboard Horizon Guest House Kona Big Island
Headboard, part of 4-poster bed patterned from King Kamehameha’s bed

It can take more than 25 years before a seedling grows into a tree large enough to be useful. In the meantime, it’s a premium wood selling for as much as $150/board. A fine piece of koa furniture, such as a dining table will set you back as much as a small car. There are several galleries on the Big Island that showcase koa pieces, Hawaii Treasure Mill and Harbor Gallery among others.

8 Koa leaf pattern Big Island Hawaii
Quilted bedspread in koa leaf pattern by Sig Zane

I’ve been lucky enough to have lived on the Big Island for years surrounded by McCandless Ranch. Their preservation techniques, practiced over many decades, have resulted in some of the best stands of koa in the state. The trees are stately and beautiful, and the wood from this island is particularly dark and red. The rarest is called ‘curly’, named for its swirly grain patterns. Curly koa is found in only 1% of koa trees.

4 Curly Koa Horizon Guest House Big Island Hawaii
Curly koa

For more details on Horizon Guest House:

• Check out our suites here

• Information on our rates are available here

• To make a booking use our contact form to make a reservation request

Diving on the Big Island Horizon Guest House – Captain Cook – Big Island – Hawaii

White Sea Urchin
The rare white sea urchin. Kona Coast. 40 ft depth. Photo credit: Clem Classen

Diving in Hawaiian waters, whether it’s snorkelling or scuba, has always been regarded as one of the must-do diving experiences. But if you have ever dived in other locations around the world it may not be what you expect… *hint: it’s even better than you could imagine.

Nudibranch Big Island Horizon Guest House
Nudibranch. Big Island. 1 ft depth. Photo credit: Clem Classen

What’s different about diving in Hawaii?

The Hawaiian Islands are one of the most remote areas on earth. Not only are the islands isolated but the main Pacific Ocean currents do not intersect around the Hawaiian Island chain. This has meant that there hasn’t been the same current drift that other islands have had, and as a result the islands don’t have the same level of bio-diversity as some of the other island chains. In fact, we are missing the large amount of invertebrates found in other tropical waters.

Soft corals Kona Coast Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Soft corals. Cave diving, Kona Coast. 30 ft depth. Photo credit: Clem Classen

Around all the Hawaiian Islands are steep drop-offs into deep water and because of this there are very few shallow reefs to harbor and protect the sensitive sea fans and soft corals.

Juvenile Frog Fish
Juvenile frog fish. Kona Coast. 30 ft depth. Photo credit: Clem Classen

Having been a professional diver for many years, I was astounded when I first dived other tropical locations. When I dived in French Polynesia, in particular the Tahitian Islands, I was amazed to see the variety of marine life. Vast fringing reefs formed lagoons rich with colorful clams, soft corals, sea fans, shrimp and crabs.

Green Turtle Honaunau Big Island Horizon BnB
Green turtle. Honaunau, Kona Coast. 15 ft depth. Photo credit: Clem Classen

So what IS special about diving in Hawaii?

The Hawaiian Islands not only have indigenous and unique marine life, but of the known 24,000 species of fish in the world:

  • The Hawaiian Islands are home to over 1,100 species
  • Among this number, 149 are native to Hawaii (these include the Hawaiian Whitespotted Puffer and the Potter’s Angelfish)

Diving along the Kona Coast means you’ll be able to see over 40 percent of these native species of fish, almost all of the native corals, as well as the Hawaiian green sea turtle, and all just minutes from entering the ocean – and in as little as 5 feet of water!

Flame Angel Big Island Hawaii
The rare flame angel fish. Big Island. 40 ft depth. Photo credit: Clem Classen

Safer Diving

Diving in the Hawaiian Islands is some of the safest diving in the world. There are no sea snakes, box jellyfish or other toxic creatures. The water is warm and clear and the currents are generally slow or non-existent.

Crown of Thorns Starfish
Crown of thorns starfish. Kona Coast. 25 ft depth. Photo credit: Clem Classen

The geology can be spectacular, with wondrous caves and beautiful drop-offs.

Manta Kona Coast Big Island Hawaii Horizon BnB
Clem with Manta. Kona Coast. 50 ft depth.

Deep water, pelagic sea creatures can be found relatively close to shore. These include manta rays, dolphins, and even giant whale sharks – don’t worry they’re not dangerous, they’re in fact a docile, plankton feeder. For more detail on the whale shark: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/bigfish.html

Tinker's butterfly Horizon Guest House Big Island
The rare tinker’s butterfly fish. Big Island. 135 ft depth. Photo credit: Clem Classen

And there’s always the famous humpback whale! You’re unlikely to encounter this mammal during a dive, but the spectacular displays topside, put on by the whales when they breach, is not to be missed if you happen to be on the island during ‘whale season’ (December to March).

Masked Butterfly Honaunau Big Island Horizon BnB
Masked butterfly fish. Honaunau, Kona Coast. 15 ft depth. Photo credit: Clem Classen

Where to dive?

Horizon Guest House is just minutes from one of the best local snorkeling spots – Two Step. We also have masks and snorkels on hand for guests to use.

Big Island Divers

But if you’re looking for a more comphrensive diving and/or snorkeling experience we recommend Big Island Divers. Corrine and the team will help you decide on what experience best suits you, whether it’s snorkeling, either with dolphins or as part of a whale watching trip, or one of the many scuba diving packages. Don’t forget their legendary Kona Manta Ray Night Dive – it’s not to be missed!

For more information on Big Island Divers check out their website www.bigislanddivers.com  and their amazing Instagram https://www.instagram.com/bigislanddivershawaii/


For more details on Horizon Guest House:

• Check out our suites here

• Information on our rates are available here

• To make a booking use our contact form to make a reservation request

Wild Birds of Horizon: Part I Horizon Guest House – Captain Cook – Big Island – Hawaii

Kalij pheasant Horizon BnB Kona Big Island
Kalij pheasants

It’s not just domesticated animals you’ll see at Horizon Guest House. We have abundant wild bird life here on the property and in this post, part I of II, we’ll feature some of our favorites.

Kalij pheasant

The kalij pheasant was first introduced to Hawaii in 1962. The males are black with grey and the females are light brown. The males have a distinctive red colouring around the eyes with a plume of feathers on their heads.

They grow to be between two to three feet in size. Originally from the Himalaya region in Nepal, it was the owners of Pu’u Wa’awa’a Ranch who first brought the kalij pheasants to the Big Island. You’re most likely to see these birds in forested upland areas, which is why we often see them here at Horizon due to the altitude – we’re at 1,100 feet.

Did you know? Despite it’s size the kalij is sometimes targeted as prey by the io, the Hawaiian hawk!

Red Cardinal
A friendly red cardinal
Red Cardinal

This colorful bird is fairly common on the Big Island. Also known as the northern cardinal, or redbird, it was introduced to Hawaii in 1929.

Cardinals are common in pairs and you’ll often see them in the garden at Horizon. The male is easily identified by his bright red color. The females are brown in color. When you hear birdsong first thing in the morning at Horizon it’s likely to be the cardinal as they are among the first birds to sing at dawn.

Zebra Finch Horizon BnB Kona Big Island
Zebra finch on the lanai
Zebra finch

The zebra finch is a common bird on the property and it might take you a moment to see them. The zebra finch is very small. So-called because of its zebra-like stripes on its neck and chest, and also because of the coloring of its black and white tail.

There can be great variation in the coloring of zebra finches. Generally the male is gray with a black shading around its eye and patches of red on its cheeks as well as a red beak. The female’s beak is more of a pale orange.

Turkey Horizon BnB Kona Big Island
Turkeys in the garden
Turkey

You’ll often see turkeys at Horizon moving in herds. Turkeys were released on the Big Island at the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Ranch in the early 1960s when some wild Rio Grande turkeys were introduced.

Turkeys like the higher elevations and their population has grown significantly since their introduction. Their numbers are estimated at more than 15,000.

Did you know? Turkeys are found on all islands but are more common on the Big Island, Molokai and Lanai than the other islands.

Bird in
Bird in the hand!
Saffron finch

One of our favorites, the saffron finch is commonly found on the Big Island but especially on the Kona Coast. Often seen in large flocks, you’ll find saffron finches congregating around the pond at the entrance to the B&B.


The species of saffron finch on the Big Island are originally from Columbia/Venezuela and were introduced to the Big Island around the same time as the turkeys to the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Ranch.

Did you know? A group of finches has many collective nouns, these include a ‘charm’, a ‘company’ and a ‘trembling’ of finches!

Look out for part II of our feature on the wild birds of Horizon in the future!


For more details on Horizon Guest House:

• Check out our suites here

• Information on our rates are available here

• To make a booking use our contact form to make a reservation request