Salt spray flavors the breeze as it brushes a sun-soaked path that winds along Kauai’s east coast.
It’s a seven-mile trek well-loved by both tourists and residents, a place where families go for a stroll, where keiki try out training wheels and where runners go to put down a few miles.
It’s also a thoroughfare for commerce, with coconut stands parked a stone’s throw from Ke Ala Hele Makalae.
Another activity is pushing into the top spot — bicycling.
The number of people renting bicycles and cruising back and forth next to the Pacific Ocean is rising.
The path was opened in phases starting at Lydgate Park in 2003. By 2009, the portion leading past Kealia Beach was completed.
Bicycle rental businesses Hele On Kauai and Kauai Cycle were both renting out rides to the community and to visitors before the path was built, and owners of both say it’s a popular gig.
“We definitely saw an increase after the path,” said Jason Barth, owner of Kauai Cycle. “We’re busy all the time with renters.”
Barth says he averages renting about 50 bikes out daily — which is right at what the little shop can handle.
Down the street, Richard and Franny Johnson at Hele On Kauai have been renting out cycles for nine years, and just moved to a new street-front location in Kapaa in September.
Franny Johnson didn’t disclose how many bicycles they rent out of their shop daily, but she showed off a full schedule on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. Customers flowed in and out of the shop as she talked about the first days they were open and told stories of growing up in Kapaa.
The local family started the business to be able to generate their own income and stay rooted on the island.
“We’re a family business,” Franny Johnson said. “Especially in the summer when everyone’s home from college, we’ve got all the nieces and nephews. Everyone in here.”
As she talked, visitors Marianne and Ken John wandered through racks of clothing and candles to rent a couple of bikes.
Former residents of Paradise, Calif., and new residents of Sandpoint, Idaho, the duo were on the last leg of their vacation and looking for something memorable and affordable to start wrapping up their stay.
“For $5 each, it’s a great thing,” Marianne John said as Ella Caisey set them up with bikes outside the shop.
About half an hour later, the Johns were looking over the turquoise water as they cruised through Kealia Beach Park and off toward the remnants of the historic pineapple dump bridge, where the local industry would dispose of pineapple waste. Now, it’s a picturesque stop for a rest along the path.
For the past few years, Kauai Path, a nonprofit, has conducted counts of path users. Volunteers tally walkers, cyclists, skaters and runners they see at set points and at certain times of the day.
In 2017, the Ke Ala Hele Makale count was conducted at 11 sites on a weekday evening and a weekend afternoon. It found 1,843 trail users, and recorded it was a 50/50 split of bicyclists and pedestrians.
Tommy Noyes, Kauai Path director, said he believes there are more people riding bikes on the path than in years past.
He also said bicycling activity in rising not just on the path, but in neighborhoods.
There are at least five bike-rental shops in the Kapaa area.
“There’s more bicycling activity, in my opinion,” he said.
Also bike-riding through Kealia Beach Park that afternoon was Linda Read, an Arizona visitor who was back on the path for the first time in eight years.
“It was just being built then,” Read said. “One of our servers told my husband and I about it. Now, I’m back, but my husband, he passed last year.”
She was thrilled to be seeing the progress on the path, and to be sharing the experience with a few other family members. They found a two-person bike at Coconut Coasters so father-and-son duo Scott and Alder Wallace could ride together.
Also out enjoying the sun was the Goodman family from Indiana: Josh and Fern with sons Nate and Jude. They got a bike trailer from Hele On Kauai for Jude, their youngest.
“We’ve already been swimming and doing other things,” Fern Goodman said. “Now, we’ll get out on bikes and enjoy the weather.”
Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or email@example.com.