Visitors and residents alike are drawn to the sun, sea, sand and sky along the Kohala Coast, but those wanting to explore a more local and perhaps wilder aspect of the Big Island should not miss taking a drive along the Hamakua Coast.
Taking route 19 from north to south begins by heading north-east through the ranching town of Waimea toward the coast.
Those who love scenery will be delighted with views of the Pacific Ocean, pastures, eucalyptus forests, small plantation towns and striking valleys and gorgeous waterfalls.
The turn off to Waipi'o Valley is well marked along the highway, and the road passes through the quaint, historic town of Honokaa. Those who chose to take this side trip will be rewarded with a glorious views of one of Hawaii’s most sacred valleys. One some days several I’o or Hawaiian hawks can be seen floating in the skies over the lookout. The lookout is as far as any rental car is allowed to go.
Headed south from Honokaa a little further down Hawaii Belt Road and not as well marked as Waipi'o is the turn off to Kalopa State park. The quiet park is a magnificent collection of cabins, clustered in a native ohia lehua forest. It’s the perfect place to picnic or to follow the easy hiking trail to explore the park.
Beyond the park and further down the highway, signs mark the entrance to the Four Mile Scenic Drive. Starting at the 4 mile marker along Mamalahoa Highway, this tropical byway is a short stretch of narrow scenic canopied roadways with views of picturesque Onomea bay.
One of the best walks on the island can be found just a few miles further south. Akaka Falls State Park is home of a delightful paved loop trail that brings you front and center to the Big Islands' two most handsome waterfalls. The lookout will have you bathed gently in the mist of Akaka and neighboring Kahuna Falls. The dramatic sound of the rushing water combined with the floral scented air should not be missed.
Another 20 minutes south along the Hamakua Coast Road, the highway crosses Hilo’s famous singing bridge signaling the official arrival into Hilo. Downtown Hilo is filled with shops, eateries, museums and parks where one can stroll and explore the rest of the day.
A morning or afternoon should be set aside for a proper exploration of the Hamakua Coast, a road trip gem on the Big Island of Hawaii.
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