Cycling Off The Beaten Path

  • When on a Big Island Bikes tour, cyclists have exclusive access to private land in Waipio Valley Rim, Pololu Valley and Parker Ranch. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SHAWN MICHIENZI)

Alex Candelario, a professional bicyclist in the US peloton for 13 years, opened Big Island Bike Tours in Waimea nearly a year ago. More than an aficionado of the sport, it only seemed natural for him to build a business around his passion.

Originally from Las Vegas, Candelario traveled the world as a competitive cyclist. In 2014, he accrued more than 4,000 miles in 47 races through Mexico, Portugal, Canada and the US, and then answered the call to get off the bike, come to Hawaii and make North Hawaii his family’s home.

“When you’re racing, you’re basically an absentee father. I was fortunate to have a long career racing and it was my decision to stop, which is a nice way to end your career. Lots of racers never get to make that choice; it gets made for them,” Candelario says.

The sign outside Big Island Bikes Tours’ headquarters at Anna Ranch reads, “Bicycles. Culture. Hawaii.” There, visitors and locals alike can sign up to ride with the experts and experience an authentic, unforgettable experience.

“I love to ride bikes and it’s a great component to build into a business that you love as well,” Candelario says.

The initial idea for the business was to focus mostly on long “camps,” however over the last year Candelario has seen strong interest in one-day rides. Having ridden bicycles all over the planet, he feels nothing compares to the breathtaking beauty and cultural uniqueness of Hawaii.

When on a Big Island Bikes tour, cyclists have exclusive access to private land in Waipio Valley Rim, Pololu Valley and Parker Ranch.

“We give you a backstage pass to the best show in Hawaii,” Candelario says. “When you ride with us, you ‘know the band,’ so you can be sure you will see remote country roads and single-track through hidden valleys, rim trails and pastureland, past ancient volcanoes, waterfalls and stunning ocean views.”

So far, 80 tours have been completed. The median age of riders is around 50 years old, and to date Canadians are the most frequent cyclists. The route from Waimea to the Hawaii Vanilla Factory in Paauilo is the most popular tour.

Next steps include creating more day tours to all parts of the island, and developing youth cycling programs. The next six-day camp, March 21 through 28, takes riders to Hawi, Holualoa, South Point, Kapoho and Kau. Along the way, cyclists taste coffee, jump off cliffs and even soak in heated tide pools.

“After a week with our guests, they begin to feel like ohana and it’s often sad to see them go,” Candelario says.

Beyond his business, he also hopes Waimea can tap into other benefits from bicycling, such as helping to reduce traffic and increase exercise in the Blue Zones community.

“I’m excited about our community involvement. I’m now a board member at Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii (PATH) and I want to work to develop better bike routes and options for everyone, most importantly kids going to school,” he says. “We live in such a small community that there shouldn’t be any reason why every kid in Waimea isn’t riding bikes to school.”

Big Island Bike Tours is located at 65-1480 Kawaihae Road, Waimea, at Anna Ranch. For more information, go to, call 800-331-0159 or e-mail [email protected].

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