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Hawai’i (The Big Island) Road Trip

DAYS STYLE BUDGET
7 Leisure $$
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Vishal Iyer

Introduction

There are few places on earth like the island of Hawai’i. The largest island in the namesake archipalego (the king of Hawai’i conquered the other islands) . Skip the crowds and spend a perfect week in what can sometimes feel like the edge of the world. Island Fever? What island fever? Hawai’i is big and diverse— you’ll find mars like landscapes, rainforests, deserts, and mountains all in one spectacular package.

The road trip starts and finishes in Hilo (also where the airport is), and you’ll circumnavigate the entire island over seven days and just over 200 miles. Most flights from the mainland connect at Honolulu, which is a 90 minute flight away. Rental cars in HIlo are plenty and reasonable priced Let’s get started!

FLIGHTS TO HILO

HILO CAR RENTALS

Hawaii Map

Itinerary

Day 1

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park- Part I

We’re going to spend a day and a half in one of the hidden gems of all of Hawaii. Two active volcanoes— Kilauea and Mauna Loa keep this park very interesting, almost other wordly. There are plenty of hikes and two scenic drives to indulge in. Today we’ll drive down the longer Chain of the Crater Road. There are no food options inside the National Park, save a souvenir store, so pack your lunch from the town of Volcano!

The 38 mile round trip drive from the park entrance to the Holei Sea Arch where lava flows in 2003 has blocked the road is sure to pack a punch. Recommended hikes (all easy- moderate) along the way are Thurston Lava Tube, Devastation Trail, Mauna Ulu and the Pu’u Petroglyphys. There are also a few pit craters along the way. Plan on spending the whole day driving/ hiking.

Return at night along the Crater Rim drive to see if you can catch a glimpse of the smoldering Kilauea Caldera. Always be sure to check current volcano conditions since its an active volcano, and things can change rapidly.

HAWAII VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK

Hale Ohia Cottages

Hale Ohia is a historic property with 8 charming cottages. The setting is serene, with a beautiful lawn to stretch your tired legs after a long day of hiking. Located just a mile away from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, its a perfect base for your excursions. A pretty decent breakfast is included with the stay. The small town of Volcano is half a mile away, where you’ll find a few very good restaurants. Keep in mind that they do tend to close pretty early. Our recommendations are Cafe Ono and Tara Thai.

HALE OHIA COTTAGES

VOLCANO HOTELS


Day 2

car icon Drive to Waimea

The eastern coast is the wet side of the island, so you’ll find beautiful rainforests on the way to Waimea, which crosses over to the dry wide. Take the slightly longer Hawaii Belt road for a leisurly rest of the day. Do not miss the detour at Old Mamalahoa Hwy, a few miles after Laupahoehoe for a spectacular scenic drive. There is a wonderful fruit juice stand on the way. And take a quick stop at Hamakua Forest Reserve to check out the waterfall before heading to Waimea.

Aaah The Views

Just a couple of miles from Waimea, Aaah the Views is a wonder B&B

This small B&B has only 2 roooms, both of which are beautiful and spacious with decks and windows with Mauna Kea volcano views. Continental breakfast (with banana bread!) is delivered in-room daily .

Guests have access to a shared lanai overlooking the seasonal Kohakohau Stream. There’s free use of boogie boards and beach gear.

AAAH THE VIEWS

WAIMEA HOTELS


Day 3

car icon Kohala Coast

Prepare yourself for some amazing scenery— the Kohala Coast is one of those places you want to move to when you see it. And don’t forget to pack your swim suit, you’ll soon be taking your first dip (two of them!) at the beach. Drive west on Waimea to hit 270. Take a quick turn South to hit the Hapuna Beach State Part or the adjoining Mauna Kea Beach for some Vitamin D. Then head North on 270 for a beautiful drive all the way to Keokea Beach Park. You’ll pass a couple of historic towns along the way as well.

Its a half mile walk from the parking lot to the Keokea Beach. The black sand beach is rocky, but secluded and pristine. Take the Kohala Mountain road on the way back to pass lush rolling hills and farms.

Aaah The Views

Just a couple of miles from Waimea, Aaah the Views is a wonder B&B

This small B&B has only 2 roooms, both of which are beautiful and spacious with decks and windows with Mauna Kea volcano views. Continental breakfast (with banana bread!) is delivered in-room daily .

Guests have access to a shared lanai overlooking the seasonal Kohakohau Stream. There’s free use of boogie boards and beach gear.

AAAH THE VIEWS

WAIMEA HOTELS


Day 4

Horseback Riding at Waipio

This will be one of your best days on the trip! Book a horseback ride with Na’alapa Stables at Waipio Valley, which is a 45 minute drive from Waimea. The road ends at the Waipio Valley Lookout, after which there is a steep dpwnhill road only accessible by a 4x4 into the valley.

The tour will pick you up from the top, but walk down on your own to spend some time at the more or less untouched Waipio Black Sand Beach. The beach itself isn’t the most comfortable to spend a lot of time in, but the scenery is spectacular. There is a hike in the valley that you can do a part of.

Walk over to the stables to do the 3 hour horseback ride, its a lot of fun! There are a small number of people who call the valley home.

NA’ALAPA STABLES

Aaah The Views

Just a couple of miles from Waimea, Aaah the Views is a wonder B&B

This small B&B has only 2 roooms, both of which are beautiful and spacious with decks and windows with Mauna Kea volcano views. Continental breakfast (with banana bread!) is delivered in-room daily .

Guests have access to a shared lanai overlooking the seasonal Kohakohau Stream. There’s free use of boogie boards and beach gear.

AAAH THE VIEWS

WAIMEA HOTELS


Day 5

Best Beach in Hawaii

Drive back South on 270 towards Kona. First, spend some time at the Holoholokai Beach Park, checking out the nearby Petroglyphys. Grab lunch at Waikola, and pack some snacks before driving further South until you almost hit Kona to spend the rest of the day at the Kekaha Kai State Park. The beach next to the parking lot is not to bad, but take a 10 minute walk along the lava path (bring shoes!) to reach Makalawena Beach. This is argubly the best beach in the Island of Hawaii. Secluded enough to go skinny dipping, this one’s a beauty.

The next hotel is an hour drive from the beack. Skip the touristy Kona and surrounding resorts.

Ka'awa Loa Plantation

The Ka’wa Loa Plantation is one of my favorite hotels with the nicest innkeepers you’re likely to meet. The views of the South Kona coast are sweeping, and the property is charming. The breakfast is delicious and you’ll find plenty of home made goodies to chomp down.

KA’AWA LOA PLANTATION

CAPITAIN COOK HOTELS


Day 6

I'm on a Boat

Kona has plenty of boat tours. We recommend doing two of those on day 6. Head over to Big Island Divers for an excellent day trip around the bay, including a couple of snorkeling trips. You might see some dolphins and other wildlife.

After a leisurly lunch, check out the incredible Manta Rays of Kona (after dark tour) for what is sure to be one of the highlights of the trip. We highly recommend Manta Rays Hawaii. Beware of tours that don’t respect the Manata Rays, which is an endangered species.

BIG ISLAND DIVERS

KONA BOAT TOURS

MANTA RAYS HAWAII

Ka'awa Loa Plantation

The Ka’wa Loa Plantation is one of my favorite hotels with the nicest innkeepers you’re likely to meet. The views of the South Kona coast are sweeping, and the property is charming. The breakfast is delicious and you’ll find plenty of home made goodies to chomp down.

KA’AWA LOA PLANTATION

CAPITAIN COOK HOTELS


Day 7

car icon Hawaii Belt Road

On your last day, you’ll drive through the remote southern tip of the island to head back to Hilo via the Hawaii Belt road. Note that this isn’t the shortest route to Hilo, but not longer by much. The drive is scenic, rugged and you’ll even reach the southern most tip of the United States!

First, stop at the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. Its a historical place of refuge for those who broke the law (kapu), and wanted to avoid being sent to the gallows (who wouldn’t?). Two Step is a nearby snorkeling/ diving spot.

Keep heading south, things will get pretty remote soon. Make sure you have enough gas to go all the way to Hilo. There are a couple of small villages with basic supplies and food trucks.

Towards the southern tip of the island, take the detour to South Point Road to hit South Point Historical Lighthouse, which is the southernmost point in the U.S. Nearby is the excellent Papakolea Green Sand Beach with, well you guessed it— green sand! The beach is a 20 minute walk from the end of the road. But you’ll likely find local kids who will give you a ATV ride to the beach.

Continue on the Hawaii Belt road, now going North. Take a final stop at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. Soak in the sun before soon reaching Volcano Natiional park on the way to Hilo!

You are likelly to spend a night at Hilo. The town of Pahoa (45 minutes south of Hilo) might be a more interesting choice, but there are limited hotel choices there.

HILO HOTELS

PAHOA HOTELS


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