Road Trip Around the Big Island of Hawaii

The Big Island is not the main island of Hawaii, but it is the biggest and most geographically interesting. It has strange lava rock on the west side, tropical rainforest on the east side, and lush farmland in the middle. A road trip around the island is a fantastic experience!

Map View Back To Road Trips

Kona town and restaurants

You will probably be flying in to Kona, so start your stay there. Spend a night or two recovering from the flight and enjoying the lovely main strip along the crystal clear water, backed by high mountains, with historic buildings, oceanfront casual restaurant, and touristy shops.

Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort, Kohala Coast

Drive through the lava fields on Highway 19. You can visit and walk around the luxury resorts on the Kohala Coast. This one is crowded but has dolphins in a lagoon.

Queens' Marketplace and Kings' Shops, Kohala Coast

Have a meal at one of these two outdoor malls with cafes, live music, and shops. You could stay the night in Waikoloa Village, in order to have more time swimming at the beaches on this sunny side of the island. Or stay at one of the big resorts like Hilton Waikoloa, Mauna Kea Resort, or Mauna Lani,  if you have lots of $$.

Ala Kahakai Coastline Trail, Kohala

Stretch your legs on this lovely trail along the lava rock Kohala coast, up above the ocean! It starts at Hapuna Beach State Park and ends at Mauna Kea Hotel Beach. 

Hapuna Beach State Park, Kohala Coast

This beach has vibrant turquoise water, some shade by the rocks in the morning, and fairly big waves. The Ala Kahakai Coastline Trail starts at this beach, and ends at Mauna Kea Hotel Beach.

Mauna Kea Hotel Beach, Kohala Coast

A wonderful beach to swim by day, and to watch manta rays by night! Check out the art and sculptures on the hotel grounds and in the lobby. There are amazing views from the lobby. 

Pololu Valley Lookout

If you're up for a detour, take a long, lazy drive through misty green fields high above the sea- take the Kohala Mountain Road to Hawi and then head east to the Pololu Valley Lookout. See a stunning black sand beach below steep cliffs covered in lush rainforest.

Waimea town

Or continue (this involves a right turn) on Highway 19 to the lush countryside town of Waimea. The town has misty green hills, two adorable churches, a wooden playground with gorgeous views, and lovely countryside drives. Don't miss a cup of tea at Parker Square. It is usually raining lightly in Waimea town. You could stay the night in Waimea if you like quaint, country towns and fine, misty rain.

Waimea Nature Park, Waimea

You can pick up a pizza at Pau Pizza and have a picnic at this small park with picnic gazebos. A stream and trail runs through it, and kids like to chase the chickens.

Anuenue Playground, Waimea Park

Don't miss a stop at this amazing playground with everything a kid could want, plus gorgeous views of green hills. Even if you don't have kids, you will want to walk around and admire the green hills. 

Waipio Valley Lookout

A detour you can take is Highway 240 to Waipio Valley, a strange spooky place with steep cliffs and stunning views of coastline.

Lapahoehoe Beach Park, Hamakua Coast

When you get to the east side of the island, you are on the Hamakua Coast. It is a rainy, lush, heavily tropical area. The roads are winding, so plan to drive in daylight and between rain showers. Stop at this rocky beach park with so much atmosphere. You can pick up a picnic or have a meal at this wonderful store first...

Papa'aloa Country Store and Cafe, Hamakua Coast

If you stay nearby, come on a live music night to this cafe with breezy windows and ocean views! The friendly locals gather to hear the awesome bands! This store is also a great place to buy a hot meal from the cafe to bring on a picnic- there is an ordering window at the back of the store.

Akaka Falls State Park, Hamakua Coast

Do not miss Akaka Falls, an easy walk and one of the most beautiful spots on the island! After Akaka Falls, stop at What's Shakin' for a snack.

Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden

This is an expensive place to visit but worth it- a lush botanical garden with ocean views, waterfall, tropical flowers, huge trees, and paved path.

Onomea Bay Trail, Four Mile Scenic Route

A free hike in the same area as the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden. This is a beautiful hike above the ocean with waves crashing below.

Drive up Hamakua Coast from Hilo

You are almost at the end of the Hamakua Coast Drive now. 

Honoli'i Beach Park, Hilo

Just before you get to Hilo, you can enjoy the scene at Honoli'i Beach Park- a beautiful headland, tropical vegetation, and popular surfbreak.

Hilo town and farmer's market

Hilo is a good place to stay for two or three nights, to rest from your long drive and check out all the sights.

Grand Naniloa Hotel and Banyan Drive Cafes, Hilo

The area by the Grand Naniloa Hotel is a good place to find a hotel, walk around, and have meals. 

Coconut Island, Hilo

From this area, you can walk along a banyan tree-lined street to this beautiful little park on an island with a white pedestrian bridge.

Reed's Bay Beach Park, Hilo

In the early morning you can walk to this beach park, enjoying the views of boats and kayaks in the water, and mossy rocks at the shore.

Lilioukalani Gardens, Hilo

Best of all, you can visit this garden on a long walk more than once on your stay. You will never tire of it! Green, green gardens with Japanese bridges and ponds, and views of silvery Hilo Bay and Mauna Kea. Eat at the Hilo Bay Cafe nearby.

Rainbow Falls, Hilo

Take a morning to visit these four quick sights: Rainbow Falls, Boiling Pots, Kaumana Caves Lava Tube, and University Heights Park, where your kids can run around. Rainbow Falls is a beautiful spot with waterfall, flowers, and forest with amazing tree roots.

Boiling Pots Lookout, Hilo

Lookout at a distant waterfall and turbulent river, from a nice neighborhood.

Kaumana Caves Lava Tube, Hilo

Beautiful lava tube with lush foliage. Bring mosquito repellent or you will pay! Bring flashlight!

University Heights Park, Hilo

Park at the top of town, with greenest grass and little hill to run up. Kids enjoy running here, and adults love the views. After, have a meal at Ola Brew Taproom.

Richardson Ocean Park, Hilo

Take a sunny afternoon to have a swim at one of the rocky beaches such as Richardson Ocean Park- a tiny black sand beach, emerald green springs, picnic pavilions on the water, and rocky oceanfront spots along the road.

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo, Hilo

I don't really like zoos but kids will like this zoo with a playground, beautiful vegetation, and flowers.

Pahoa town and surrounds

Now, you leave Hilo and continue the road trip! Visit this hippy town with cafes, a small lava museum, and a Sunday farmer's market full of exotic fruits. This town, Lava Tree State Park, and Kehena Black Sand Beach are a detour. If you want to take this detour, you might need to stay the night at a vacation rental in Volcano, in order to have enough time for all the stops on Highway 11 to Kona.

Lava Tree State Park

Continue on to this state park with giant monkeypod trees, lush rainforest, and tall black tree stumps where lava once flowed. After, have a fun time at rustic Uncle Robert's Awa Bar (closed Fridays) and visit Kehena Black Sand Beach.

Lava Flow at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Head onto Highway 11, the way back to Kona. Stop at the Kilauea Volcano. When it's flowing, the most unusual and wonderful sight you may see in your life! Red lava flowing into the ocean. When it's not flowing, there's still a lot to see! You could stop and stay the night at a vacation rental in this unusual area.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

Stop at this beautiful black sand beach!

South Point Cliff Dive

Take a short detour from Highway 11 to watch the cliff divers at South Point, a barren, exposed, windy area where people jump off cliff and then climb a rusty, windwhipped ladder back up.

Pu'uhonau o Honaunau Place of Refuge

If you can get there before they close at 4:30pm, this is a lovely stop. Tranquil pale green waters and palms, and an ancient Hawaiian place of refuge. Check out also Saint Benedict Catholic Church, a painted church. 

Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park

Barren, rocky bay to walk to. Have a meal at Shaka Tacoz, with amazing views. Stay the night in Kona again.

Kahalu'u Beach, Kona

Snorkel at this sheltered beach with warm clear water and magical snorkeling!

Saint Peter by the Sea Mission, Kona

Next to Kahalu'u snorkeling beach is this cute wooden church perfectly matched to the blue-green sea. While in Kona, do a tour of a coffee farm nearby as well.

Text and Image copyright: © 2006-2024
Copying prohibited. Contact the editor | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram
Blog | The Official Mug | Privacy Settings | About Us