Road Trip: Scenic Drives on the Big Island

By Karen Rose

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pololu valley drive around the big island

When taking a drive around the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, there’s always a scenic view. With so many breathtaking vistas to choose from, it’s difficult to pick a favorite. With its varied landscapes of rainforests, warm sandy beaches, lava deserts, and majestic mountains, the Big Island is a road warriors dream come true. So fill up your gas tank, grab your camera and get ready to experience Hawaii like you’ve never seen it.

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Coffee Country

Kona coffee plantation road.  Photo:  jai Mansson.

Coffee lovers rejoice because South Kona is renowned for growing some of the most expensive coffee in the world. As you head south out of Kailua-Kona, you’ll head to higher elevation which is perfect for farming not only coffee but delicious tropical delicacies like passion fruit, guavas, Kona oranges and macadamia nuts. Stop by the Kona Coffee Living History Farm just outside Captain Cook at mile marker 110 and learn about how the rare beans are grown and enjoy some tasty samples as well. Afterward, turn down Napoʻopoʻo Road toward Kealakekua Bay/Captain Cook’s Monument and Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Park to take in a plethora of historical and culturally significant sites.

Pololu Valley Lookout

Pololu Vally.  Photo: member Marie G.D.

From Kona, drive north on the main highway toward the Kohala Coast where you’ll take Highway 270 north toward the little town of Hawi. The black lava fields will evolve into the rolling, lush pasturelands ofNorth Kohala. Keep going until the road ends – you won’t be disappointed! When you turn that last corner, be ready for the eye candy of a lifetime as you soak up the indescribable, dramatic view at Pololū Valley Overlook. It is without a doubt one of the most magnificent, awe-inspiring views on the island.

Waipio Valley Lookout

Waipio Valley.  Photo: member Ron F.

Of all the things we saw in 2 weeks of island hopping, seeing the Waipio Valley simply left me speechless. – Ron F., a member.

Sacred Waipiʻo Valley is located on the northern Hāmākua Coastline. Called “The Valley of the Kings,” Waipiʻo is not only dramatically breathtaking but is also an important historical and cultural site on the Big Island. Over five miles deep with cliffs reaching up to 2,000 feet high, Waipiʻo Valley is home to the island’s tallest waterfall, Hiʻilawe, which tumbles 1,300 feet to the valley’s floor. Take in the views from the overlook at the end of Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive. Driving down isn’t recommended, as the road is extremely steep and is prohibited by most rental car companies. To get to Waipiʻo Valley, turn off of the Hawaiʻi Belt Road (Highway 19) onto Highway 240 at the town of Honokaʻa. Follow Highway 240 for about 9.5 miles where it dead-ends at the valley’s lookout point.

Akaka Falls

Photo:  Shawn Clover.

Located along the northeastern Hāmākua Coast, Akaka Falls State Park, is home to two beautiful waterfalls. A casual, 0.4-mile hike takes you strolling through an orchid filled rainforest filled with lush ferns and bamboo trees. The paved footpath winds through this tropical haven toward the Big Island’s most famous waterfall, Akaka Falls, which descends almost 450 feet into the stream below. To get to Akaka Falls, take Hwy 19 north from Hilo for about 20 minutes to the turnoff for Hwy 220 (west). The Hwy 220 turnoff is between the 13-mile and 14-mile posts. Follow the Hwy 220 signs through Honomu Town for about 3 miles. Don’t forget to lock your vehicle and take valuables with you. Enjoy!

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