Road Tripping on Island of Hawaii
Updated: Jan 26
Some people don't necessarily think of Hawaii as a road trip destination, but we beg to differ. Each island has their own unique driving experience and since we encourage most of our clients to rent a car while they are staying on the islands, why not take advantage of these holoholo kaa (driving) adventures? Check out our suggestions below for travelers going to the Island of Hawaii and then read about Oahu, Kauai, Maui in upcoming posts.
Island of Hawaii - Watching the vast and varied landscape of the island of Hawaii change on a leisurely road trip is one of the most mesmerizing ways of exploring the island. Start out and explore the island's northeast Hamakua Coast by starting your drive in Hilo town. You can walk the historic Downtown Hilo, with its museums, art galleries, retail shops and restaurants, then stop at Wailuku River State Park to take in Waianuenue Falls (Rainbow Falls). On the way north up the coast on Route 19, make sure to stop and see one of the island's most majestic waterfalls. Akaka Falls is a 422-foot cascade water located in Akaka Falls State Park.
As you drive further up the coast, make sure to explore the former sugar plantation town Honokaa before heading to Waimea. It is a historic paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town whose cool, misty ranch lands offer a sharp contrast to the sun-baked lava landscapes of the next destination on the South Kohala coast. Head on over for a chance to soak in the sun and surf at Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, which is one of the island of Hawaii's largest white sand beaches.
You can continue to drive north to explore some other great historical sights on Routes 19 and 270. The first stop should be Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site which is home to one of the largest restored heiau (temple) in Hawaii. Heiau were sacred places of worship for Native Hawaiians and Puukohola Heiau was a site built to fulfill a historic prophecy.
As you drive between the lava fields of the Kohala Coast and the lush surroundings of North Kohala make a stop at Lapakahi State Historical Park. It is a partially restored fishing settlement that dates back over 600 years. This rugged coastal park will give you a glimpse of what it was like to live like the Native Hawaiians of the past.
Finally, as you drive north on Highway 270 where the black lava landscapes of the Kohala Coast give way to the flourishing, green pastures of North Kohala, you’ll be rewarded at the end of your journey with an unforgettable view from the Pololu Valley Overlook. Park your car in the small parking lot that is literally at the end of the road and treat yourself to an inspiring view of the verdant cliffs of Pololu Valley and the dramatic northeastern coastline.
Check out the map with driving directions!