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    Scenic Drives on the Big Island of Hawai'i

    Unless you are driving to one of our infamous transfer stations to drop off a load of garbage, just about every other drive on the Big Island can be considered a Scenic Drive.

    The Big Island landscape changes about every 5 to 10 miles, as you go from one ecosystem to another. The sides of most roads have a diversity of flowers, trees and other plants and scenic vistas abound. Most visitors to the island stay to the main roads that loop around the island, and Saddle road, which divides the island between Hilo and Kona. However, there are many more fascinating roads just off the main roads that are well worth the time to see.

    This page is devoted to those lesser-known Scenic Drives. Some of them are great for the diversity and beauty you will see. Others are interesting for the history along the drive. Each is worth your time to check out.

    To view specific details about each Drive, along with photos - click the picture or Scenic Drive Title.


    John inspects a huge Lava Bomb
    Kahinahina Scenic Drive - The Upper Road Around Mauna Kea
    Distance
    37 miles
    (total)
    Length
    7 hours
    Best Time
    Clear Day
    Dirt/Rock RoadCar Type
    4-Wheel Only!
    Location
    Mauna Kea

    Two roads go around Mauna Kea, the lower Mana Road goes from the 6,500 foot level and comes out in Waimea. The higher Kahinahina Road starts at the 9,000 foot level and goes 37 miles, all the way around Mauna Kea and back out on Saddle road. The upper road is a diverse drive that ranges from 7,200 ft all the way to 10,000 ft. Since the tree line is at about 8,000 to 9,000 ft this drive takes you in and out of a variety of ecosystems interspersed with spectacular Mauna Kea vistas you can not see any other way. Several stops along this 7 hour excursion allow for short explorations and hikes.

    (click here for more about the above scenic drive)
     

    Trail marker at the end of the road
    The Scenic Drive To The Summit Of Mauna Loa
    Distance
    varies
    (one way)
    Length
    varies
    Best Time
    Clear Day
    Mostly PavedCar Type
    Any
    (see text)
    Location
    Mauna Loa

    A 17-mile (one way) scenic drive, off of Saddle Road, takes you up the side of Mauna Loa, the world's most massive mountain, to the 11,141 foot elevation where the road ends at the Mauna Loa Weather Observatory. Offering fantastic views, colorful lava and a number of interesting stops along the way, this drive can be done in any car. However, we also include in this drive a 4-wheel extension where we go from the Weather Observatory to as close as we can get to the summit, and then couple it with our Mauna Loa Summit Hike.

    (click here for more about the above scenic drive)
     

    Scenic coastline from the upper road
    The Kaalaiki Upper Road Scenic Drive in Ka'ū
    Distance
    15 miles
    (one way)
    Length
    1 hour
    Best Time
    Clear Day
    Mostly Paved
    Some Dirt
    Car Type
    Any
    Location
    Ka'ū

    Tired of taking the highway between Pāhala and Nā'ālehu? Looking for something new and different, a scenic alternative with a view? We have just the drive for you - Kaalaiki Upper Road Drive.

    This approximatly 15 mile road take you between Pāhala and Nā'ālehu on the top of the 2,000 foot pali (hill) that you see from the highway. This is a beautiful drive through fields, meadows, pastures, Koa and Kukui forests, lush green cinder cones, and offers breathtaking views of the ocean and land 2,000 feet below you.

    (click here for more about the above scenic drive)
     

    The Keck Observatory near the summit
    The Scenic Drive to the Summit of Mauna Kea
    Distance
    43 miles
    (one way)
    Length
    4 hours
    Best Time
    Clear Day
    Condition
    Fine to 9,000 ft.
    4-Wheel recommended after that
    Car Type
    4-Wheel
    recommended
    Location
    Mauna Kea

    A 43 mile scenic drive takes you from sea level in Hilo (or Kona or Waimea) up to the summit of Mauna Kea at 13,796 to the astronomical observatories at the top!

    The drive takes you through just about every ecosystem on the island. From the tropical rainforest atmosphere of Hilo on up through the 'Ohi'a forests of Saddle Road and then up the side of Mauna Kea, through ranch land and then up to the top, where little grows and the air is thin. Above 40% of the atmosphere you will have a stunning, 360° view. On a clear you can see Maui and the neighboring islands as well as the active Pu'u O'o vent in Volcano!

    This is a perfect day-trip as well as combining it with tours of the fascinating observatories at the top and a view of the sunset as it dips into the ocean.

    (click here for more about the above scenic drive)
     

    Green Sand from Road To The Sea
    Green Sand Beaches at Road To The Sea
    Distance
    6 miles
    Length
    3 hours
    Best Time
    Clear Day
    Condition
    Rough Unpaved Road
    4-Wheel last 3 miles
    Car Type
    4-Wheel
    Location
    Near South Point

    The Hawaiian Islands are known for many different colors of sandy beaches. Maui has pink sand beaches, Oahu is famous for the white sand beaches, and many of the islands, especially the Big Island, have stunning black sand beaches.

    The Big Island, however, also has green sand beaches created by volcanic activity. While most people are familiar with the beautiful green sand beach at South Point there are actually many pockets of green sand throughout the island, and that is the goal of this Scenic Drive, to get to the secluded green sand beach at the end of Road To The Sea.

    (click here for more about the above scenic drive)
     

    The beautiful Onomea Bay
    Onomea Bay Scenic Drive
    Distance
    4 miles
    Length
    30 minutes
    Best Time
    Clear Day
    Condition
    Narrow Paved Road
    Car Type
    Any
    Location
    Onomea

    While this is not exactly a little known scenic drive, being one of the more popular drives on the island, we think that this 4 mile scenic drive on the Hāmākua Coast is a must do drive. This beautiful road twists and snakes through a lush tropical rain forest lined with streams. Several stops allow for breathtaking views of the ocean, coast, and the collapsed Onomea Arch. The Hawai'i Tropical Botanical Garden can be found about halfway and a nearby interesting and short hike down the old donkey trail to the ocean provides you with stunning photographic and scenic opportunities.

    (click here for more about the above scenic drive)
     

    Cars line up for the scenic drive
    Kahuku Ranch Dedication and Scenic Drive
    Distance
    10 miles
    Length
    2-3 hours
    Best Time
    Clear Day
    Condition
    Dirt Road
    Car Type
    Parts Rental Car
    Parts 4-Wheel
    Location
    South Point

    On September 2nd, 2004 the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park held the official dedication of the acquisition of the 116,000 acre Kahuku Ranch near South Point. As a part of the ceremony the park opened up the Ranch and allowed us to drive through on a wonderful scenic drive.

    (click here for more about the above scenic drive)
     

    Lava overruns a No Parking sign
    Chain of Craters Road Scenic Drive
    Distance
    18.3 miles
    Length
    1-2 hours
    Best Time
    Clear Day
    Condition
    Paved Road
    Car Type
    Rental Car
    Location
    Volcano

    An 18.3 mile scenic drive in the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park has many scenic stops, side trails and other scenic drives. The drive starts at a fascinating stand of Lava Trees and continues through a large assortment of things to see and do including a huge petroglyph field, and then ends where the lava crosses the road at the ocean.

    (click here for more about the above scenic drive)
     

    Hilina Pali Overlook
    Hilina Pali Scenic Drive
    Distance
    8.2 miles
    Length
    1-2 hours
    Best Time
    Clear Day
    Condition
    Narrow Paved Road
    Car Type
    Rental Car
    Location
    Volcano

    An 8.2 mile scenic drive in the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park passes through the Koa'e Fault, an unusual geological feature. Brown lava flows and native plants can be found through out this drive that ends at the Halina Pali overlook - a breathtaking ocean view from a 2000 foot cliff. A number of interesting stops along the way offer a chance to stroll and investigate more of Hawai'i.

    (click here for more about the above scenic drive)
     

    Beautiful Tree Lined Drive
    Honolulu Landing to Kumukahi Lighthouse
    Distance
    6 miles
    Length
    1-2 hours
    Best Time
    Not Rainy
    Condition
    Dirt Road
    Car Type
    Rental Car
    Location
    Puna

    This beautiful drive is a nature lovers dream. Starting at the historical Honolulu Landing site, the road goes through wonderful native plant life with several interesting stops along the way. The drive ends at the Kumukahi Lighthouse and includes the short Kapoho Cemetery walk.

    (click here for more about the above scenic drive)

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