by Heath “Da Chief” Cofran
Long before Don Ho had the famous tune of “TINY BUBBLES” in 1966, Motorcycles have been gracing the beautiful roads of Hawaii. Although it’s very hard to track the actual time or dates motorcycles have been showing up on the island, motorcycle clubs on the islands have been around as early as 1947!
I am very fortunate enough to have been to the Hawaiian islands many times in my life, as my dad and mom both grew up there. My Dad, being Hawaiian, has tons of family on various islands. Although I have only been riding motorcycles since 2004, I had never ridden a bike on the islands before!
Jumping ahead to the Hawaiian Islands in general, there are 8 different islands in the chain – Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, Kahoolawe and the big island of Hawaii. For the most part we tend to visit Oahi, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii the most. We all know Hawaii for the amazing sunsets, incredible food, tiki huts, tropical drinks, hula girls, surfing, coconuts and oh yea… NO HELMET LAW. That’s right, the Hawaiian Islands have a helmet-optional roadway system. I know you like the top-optional beaches too, but this is almost as cool.
In setting up this trip to the big island of Hawaii, I was able to work out spending some time with the KOA PUNA motorcycle club. KOA PUNA has been riding strong since 1979. Founded in the Puna District on the big island of Hawaii, KOA PUNA members can be found throughout the Hawaiian Islands. They also were the guys that I got to borrow a bike from and ride around the island with! As we were organizing the first meeting up with the guys I found out that one of the members was celebrating a big birthday. He called me personally to invite me to meet the guys and have some food and fun with the guys. For those of you who don’t know, the people of Hawaii really have a sense of “EVERYONE IS FAMILY” mentality. They will invite random people they have never met (ME) to hang out and eat and drink with them. The people of Hawaii truly are a special breed that I think more of us need to emulate.
Anyway… I met up with the crew at the beach and got to know some of the guys. They asked me, “So what bike are you gonna ride with us?” I said “Umm… well, I was hoping to maybe borrow an extra bike?” and smiled. As the day went on, the birthday boy said he would let me borrow his lady’s Harley and we’d be good to go! What a guy! Girls bike, kids bike, I didn’t care, I was super stoked. He also told me that he runs the MANTA RAY night diving program down by our hotel and he would take care of getting us a good deal. See what I mean about friendly? Yeah, I was down to do some diving with my lady to see that!
The morning of the ride we met up at a local ride stop. We had some local breakfast (Spam and rice, Manapua – which is a dough ball filled w/ yummy pork, Portuguese sausage) loco moco –which is rice with ground beef an egg and brown gravy! Yea. It was a great way to start da am. Sorry, when you get to hang out with Hawaiian locals you start to pick up on their Hawaiian slang (Pidgin) Da is THE, Da Kine is kinda like a whatchamacallit. You know it’s da-kine? Shoots is sure or yea. Pau is done. So on and so on, there are tons of words that the locals say that you catch onto real quick. So anyway… back to my story. We were eating breakfast and I had been waiting to hear back from the birthday boy on news of my bike. Come to find out he was really hung over from his B-day and kinda forgot about the whole bike thing. So, one of the other guys tony said I could use his bike and he would ride in the chase car. I was thinking no way man, I couldn’t let him do that, I told him I would ride along and shoot photos from the car. He said “No way bra, let’s let you experience riding Hawaii, we get to do this all the time, it’s your turn bra.” (Bra is like calling someone dude or man.) I was so honored he let me borrow his bike and soon enough we were on our way.
Riding in Hawaii really is something that you HAVE GOT to do before you kick the ‘ol bucket. The air just smells incredible, the ocean and the views you get to see are unlike anything you have ever seen. The thing I like about riding in Hawaii it that is so different from riding in California, are the speed limits and how other cars drive. For the most part on the tour of the big island the average speed is about 45-55mph. And really, people stick to it there. It’s not like California as where the sign says 55 and so we go 75, rarely happens in Hawaii. For one, the cop cars in Hawaii for the most part are NORMAL CARS with a blue light on top! So you can’t really tell or see if a car is a cop or not! You know the normal mentality we have, see a cop, slow down. HAHA. Well, it’s not that easy to do here. Just keep it mellow like everyone else and you will be just fine. You don’t come to Hawaii to be rushed all over the island. You come to Hawaii to relax, “CRUISE” as they say and enjoy every turn and view you get to see.
Our ride around the bike island started in Kailua-Kona right across the street from the airport on Hwy 19. We headed north up the road to meet up with some more of the KOA PUNA members at the Kekaha Kai State Park area. Along this road you see the Ocean on your left and your surrounded by Lava that at one time had covered the road! If you look off to your right just a few miles after leaving the airport, you can see a big lava tube just off the road. From there we took the road up and long the coast up the 270 fwy. Up here in Kohala we stopped to take a group photo and visited the ORIGINAL statue of the first king of Hawaii. (King Kamehameha) The guys told me that this statue is the one that sunk with the ship carrying it in 1883! It was recovered and placed here to honor their first king.
Speaking of getting wet; What I was also told it’s rare to not get rained on at least once or twice riding around the island. There are tons of spots that get some tropical rain for a few minutes then it goes away. And really, the rain dries up so fast it’s nothing to worry about. Hell, ½ of the guys were just wearing a tee shirt, vest and pants. So, leave the $400 rain suit at home, adventure rider buddies. HAHA Not to bag on any adventure riders but sometimes they get a little crazy with the gear.. JUST SAYIN….
Ok, so back down the 250 we came and connected back with the 19 hwy in Wiamea. The 19 will take you to the east side of the island and this is where all the waterfalls are. Akaka Falls is really awesome and you have to stop there and check it out! There are some other waterfalls that you can see right off the hwy. To jump around a little the scenery changes so much as you go from one side of the island to the other. For one moment you looking at the ocean and palm trees, then an hour later you are riding through some open prairies then an hour later your riding through a jungle then an hour later your on top of a mountain over looking the entire island with 2 volcanoes on each side of you! It’s nuts! And man, it’s so beautiful it will be a ride you will never forget. Ok back to the roads we took, Hwy 19 will take you to the awesome little town of Hilo. There are tons of really good restaurants there. They make some amazing burgers too! Happy belly indeed! From that point we take Hwy 200 which is Saddle Rd. Now, this road is truly unbelievable. It will be the one road on the island that you will never forget. It’s just magical how the roads changes and really how smooth it is! They just recently re-paved most of the road so it’s awesome! Saddle road takes you between the 2 volcanoes on the big island. (Mauana Kea and Mauana Loa) There are really cool volcano tours you can take to see the active Halamaumau Crater that currently has a volcano pool you can see glowing at night! There also is the Kilauea Volcano that currently has lava going into the Ocean that you can see too! Once we took Saddle road back to the west side of the island we met up with some of the other members of the club had a few Primo Beers and some good moonshine. (Not only does Hawaii make rum but they also make moonshine) I got some Hawaiian Moonshine called OKOLEHAO, it’s a Sugar Cane with TI Root drink. I had to buy a bottle and take it home. I had a great time with the Koa Puna members and really they treated me like Ohana. Thanks to Big Bradda Frank, Bradda Tom, Tony, Angus and the Ocean Safaris crew, Jason my new island connection.
And as always when you leave a place like Hawaii, you never want to get on that plane to go home. Make sure you spend some extra time getting to know the people of Hawaii as they really are open to aloha.
You give aloha.. you get aloha.