A small detour to your destination can help you discover a whole new side of Hawaii. These scenic drives are made to show some of the beautiful places on the Big Island that you would have easily missed. Take your time, drive slowly and enjoy the views. These routes will bring you closer to the natural beauty of Hawaii.
Here are some of our favorite scenic drives on the Big Island.
Mauna Loa road
Mauna Loa road climbs the slopes of Mauna Loa above the Kilauea Volcano. It takes you across old lava flows and through Koa forests, stopping at the trailhead of the red cabin hike. From here you can view Hawaii Volcanoes National park. If you are staying at least one night in volcano village Hike the 1-mile scenic trail at the Bird Park and don’t forget to stop halfway up to look back to the Kilauea Volcano.
The Kalapana – Kapoho road runs along the coast through tree tunnels in the lush Puna district, and passes by a few beach parks and hot ponds which make great stops to take in the surroundings. Kalapana-Kaimu where the road now terminates after it was overrun by lava in 1990. This lava also covered the world-famous Kalapana black sand beach.
Onomea (Pepe’ekeo) scenic drive
The Pepe’ekeo, or onomea bay scenic drive is the most famous scenic routes on the Big Island. It is a 4 mile stretch of the old mamalahoa highway that snakes from scenic spot to scenic spot through lush tropical forest and gives some stunning views of Onomea Bay. The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens halfway the drive are a must-see if you like tropical plants and flowers, and are one of our favorite short hikes on the Big Island.
Chain of Craters Road
The Chain of Craters road is almost impossible to miss. It is located In the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The Chain of craters road takes you from an elevation of 4000 ft. all the way down to sea level over the lava covered flanks of the Kilauea volcano. The drive itself leads past many trails, old craters scenic spots, a large field up to the place where lava covers the road.
Coffee country (South Kona)
South of Kona the landscape becomes greener and the skies more cloudy. The dry lava fields change into lush green forests and coffee plantations. There are many great snorkeling and diving spots along the coast. There is so much history in this scenic drive, with as highlight the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau national park. Pu’uhonua o Honaunau is a park of great historical and cultural significance. While driving the loop, you will pass some coffee farms and the very picturesque St Benedict painted church.