Best Road Trip Routes in Hawaii
Hawaii is the ideal destination for anyone craving adventure and those who want to bask in the beauty of nature. While there are many things to do in Hawaii, a road trip should never be left off your bucket list. The breathtaking waterfalls and spectacular canyons lined by lush rainforests will have you saying, “Let’s stop there!” over and over again. On the Big Island, you can take your time, drive slowly, and marvel at the views. Stop along the way to a fruit stand or a small cafe for refreshments. These scenic routes will take you closer to the “real Hawaii.”
Almost all the roads in Hawaii are scenic in their own way. But some are more special than others. So, if you’re down for a Hawaiian road trip, we have the perfect routes!
Buckle up, keep your camera close, and enjoy the scenic drive!
The Hamakua Coast Drive
Hawaii Belt Road – the present name for the Māmalahoa Highway, is one of the most enchanting highways in Hawaii. It consists of the state route Highway 19, climbing above towering eroding cliffs that plunge to the Pacific’s sea foam deep below. The hill is lush and verdant above the road, thanks to the water from the nearby streams.
Beyond the road, on the sides of two volcanoes, Mauna Kea and Kohala, you’ll find a spectacular stretch of the windward shore of the island. The highway, dotted with small towns once sugar plantations, offers a magnificent view of untouched nature in all its glory surrounding the coastal route. This road connects Hilo to the Waipio Valley Lookout through the Hamakua Coast, which passes through the winding, leeward slopes of Mauna Kea.
The Hamakua Coast, also known as the Hamakua Heritage Corridor Drive, stretches for 45 miles (72 kilometers) through lovely ancient plantation towns, past roaring waterfalls, and scenic detours with vast views of the northeast coast of the Big Island. A tour down the Hamakua Coast is an adventure like nothing you’ve ever had, with scenery straight out of a fairy tale.
Parker Ranch was a United States Marine Corps training base during World War II before becoming one of the oldest and largest cattle ranches in the United States. It spans about half of the Big Islands—roughly 130,000 acres (53,000 hectares)—covering lush fields on the slopes of the massive Mauna Kea and Kohala Mountains.
The sight of wildlife roaming free on a sunlit meadow is a lovely view for a long drive! The Ranch has a cow-calf enterprise with around 10,000 mother cows. It also hosts an annual July 4 community event of rodeo and horse races at the Parker Ranch Rodeo Arena in Waimea, which serves as a fundraiser for several scholarships that the Parker Ranch sponsors.
Along the Hamakua Coast, you can find Honoka’a, once the third largest town in Hawaii after Honolulu and Hilo. This picturesque village is the entryway to Waipio Valley. Along its Mamane main street is the Art Deco Honokaa People’s Theatre, which screens films, features musical performances, and hosts the Hamakua Music Festival each October.
On Mamane street, you can also find timber-framed boutiques, antique shops, souvenir stores, and restaurants, including Taro Gifts for Hawaii-made gifts and Tex Drive for Portuguese doughnuts. This place is a perfect stop-over to take a break and relax while still experiencing authentic Hawaiian culture!
Hamakua Coast Waterfalls
Due to the abundance of rainfall and steep volcanoes, the Big Island’s north and east sides are dotted by remarkable waterfalls in the middle of the lush tropical jungle.
The 422-foot Akaka Falls in Akaka Falls State Park, north of Hilo and inland from Honomu on the Hamakua Coast, never fails to impress tourists. It is also a popular hiking site enclosed by a dense rainforest sprinkled with wild orchids, bamboo groves, and drooping ferns. In addition, the mesmerizing Kamae’e Falls, a huge waterfall that cascades nearly 100 feet down a sheer rock cliff covered with ferns and other native vegetation to a crystal clear pool below. Look for blooming gingers and hibiscus clinging to the steep slopes above the waterfall. Kamae’e Falls is one of Hawaii’s most beautiful waterfalls, and can be found at Botanical World Adventures. They’re both a postcard-perfect spot for you!
Laupahoehoe Train Museum
This train museum is situated along Highway 19 near mile marker 25, roughly 30 minutes north of Hilo and 25 minutes south of Honoka’a. Although it is a relatively small museum on the Hamakua Heritage Coast, it serves as the locals’ way of preserving, promoting, and protecting the island’s culture. In addition, it provides a wealth of fascinating information on the rich history of railroads in Hawaii, particularly highlighting the story of the Hilo Railroad.
The museum staff will lead you through the museum’s preserved photographs, railroad artifacts, and carefully conserved memorabilia while greeting you with Hawaiian traditions. During your visit, the museum volunteers will entertain you with local community stories emphasizing Hawaiian culture.
Furthermore, they always ensure guests leave with a keepsake to remember this once-in-a-lifetime experience. There is a small gift store inside the museum with a selection of creatively hand-crafted products by residents. Not only are the museum’s displays infatuating, but the museum grounds are landscaped with tropical fruit trees and ornamentals, making it a beautiful spot to stroll, picnic, or rest.
Hakalau is the next great place to go if you want to learn more about the island’s remarkable past. This small village is located on the Big Island’s Hamakua Coast, and it was a big sugar plantation until the early 1960s. The place is the landing location of the island’s first ruler, The Great Kamehameha, and his advisor, Kekuhaupi’o, in 1791 to fight the warriors of Maui – the key to Kamehameha’s rise to power and the Hawaiian Islands’ unification.
The historic railroad bridge to Hakalau Bay and long-defunct plantation towers are remnants of the village’s rich history. You can also find the ruins of the Hakalau Mill, which was destroyed by the tsunami in 1946. At present, several family farms grow tropical fruits, coffee, flowers, and cattle, while surfers and fishers frequent the bay. Also nearby are Hakalau Gulch and Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, which you can visit on your way!
Get The Best Hawaiian Experience From Botanical World Adventures!
At the end of the magnificent thrill of a road trip, you will find that the joy continues as this road brings you to us! We at Botanical World Adventures offer you another set of unique ways to enjoy the beauty of Hawaii!
Experience nature up close with our fun-filled activities like the 8-line zipline that soars at incredible heights and distances, touring the marvelous botanical gardens, or pedaling along old jungle plantation road on a bicycle. Plus, don’t miss our GIANT hedge maze located in the botanical gardens. Fun for the whole family, it covers an area larger than the size of a football field! The hedge is kept to a height of five feet, so adults don’t need to worry about losing your little ones within the hedges. Contact us now to assist you with your booking, and spend a wonderful trip to Hawaii!