Most scenic route from Kona to Hilo

The short route between the two most significant towns on the island, Kailua-Kona and Hilo, will take well over an hour. Saddle Road is an option to travel from Kona to Hilo as quickly as possible. The straight-line trip needs roughly 1.5 hours. By saddling Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, the road brings you to a height of 6,700 feet. It would be considered the picturesque route to travel the 125 miles along the Hawaii Belt Road and Mamalahoa Highway, which takes around seven hours. 

Fortunately, there is much to see between Kailua-Kona and Hilo if you have the time and the energy. Your day excursion could be lengthy, but it won’t be tedious. There is a lot to see and many places to stop along the road to rejuvenate. Here is a list of things to watch out for while traveling.

Kailua Kona, HI

7 minutes, 4 miles

Regarding visitor traffic to the Big Island of Hawaii, the Kona Coast receives the most attention. And it’s not for nothing; Kona is stunning, vibrant, and unquestionably a great spot to hang out. Additionally, it is a great starting place for an island road trip. Beginning in Kailua Kona, go towards the Big Island.

Between Kona and the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, tourists can enter ancient regions that have been mostly spared from modern development. Hawaii Belt Rd (HI-11), an 83-mile picturesque journey between Kona and the national park with spectacular coastal views by your side nearly the entire route, is the primary entrance to the area.

Be sure to halt at the Donkey Balls Chocolate Factory in Kainaliu when driving there to purchase some of its renowned Donkey Balls (macadamia nuts encased in lots of chocolate).

Big Island

5 hours 17 minutes, 254 miles

Visit the Big Island and take some time on its most beautiful drives. Nearly every road on the Big Island is picturesque in some way, but, as always, some are more noteworthy than others.

Mauna Loa Road scenic drive (Volcano Village)

Drive west on Highway 11, starting at Volcano Village (towards Kona). Turn left toward the mountain at the Mauna Loa road exit (between mile markers 30 and 31) if you intend to spend at least one night in the village of the volcano. Pluses include clear skies. Don’t forget to pause halfway up the one-mile scenic route at the Bird Park to view the Kilauea Volcano. 

You can take a short stroll west from the parking area when you reach the peak to witness the rare and imperiled Mauna Loa silversword. Overlooking Kilauea Volcano, Mauna Loa Road ascends its slopes. It stops at the start of the red cabin climb after taking you past historic lava flows and through Koa woods. The expansive vistas of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the constantly shifting landscape make this picturesque route special.

Kapoho Kalapana Road scenic drive ( Puna, close to Hilo)

The Kalapana-Kapoho road, also known as the “red road,” travels along the coast through tree tunnels in the verdant Puna district. It passes a few beach parks and hot ponds that are great places to stop and take in the scenery before coming to an abrupt halt at the Isaac Hale beach park, where the most recent lava flow has trimmed it off. There is no reason not to experience this trip, our favorite picturesque journey on the Big Island.

The town of Kaimu, where the scenic road ends presently after being inundated by lava in 1990, is another must-see along this route. Additionally, this lava engulfed the well-known Kalapana black sand beach. From Kaimu, it takes about 15 minutes to reach a brand-new black sand beach. And this is a great beginning and finale to this scenic trip that will powerfully evoke the devastation that lava may cause.

Pepe’ekeo (Onomea) Scenic Drive, Hilo

Follow highway 19 north of Hilo. Take the right turn marked “Scenic Drive” between mile markers 7 and 8. The most well-known picturesque drives on the Big Island are those along Pepe’ekeo and Onomea Bay. It is a 4-mile section of the former Mamalahoa Highway that winds through luxuriant tropical forest and offers some breathtaking views of Onomea Bay as it passes picturesque locations. One of our favorite short treks on the Big Island is at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens, which are a must-see if you enjoy tropical plants and flowers. They are home to numerous pathways and more than 2000 plants and are frequently known as “stunningly gorgeous” and “a walk in heaven.”

Chain of Craters Road (Volcano Village)

Follow the signage for “Chain of Craters road” on the crater rim drive toward the south in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It’s nearly hard to overlook the Chain of Craters road. The Chain of Craters Road traverses the Kilauea volcano’s lava-covered sides as it descends from 4000 feet to sea level. The drive itself passes by numerous trails, historic craters, picturesque locations, a sizable petroglyph field, and comes to a conclusion where lava flows from 1996 filled the road.

For this drive, allow at least 1 hour, ideally a little longer. The sights and activities along the Chain of Craters road are so numerous that you could easily spend weeks discovering them all. It is ideal for taking this journey while the weather is clear for viewing. We prefer to travel either exceptionally early in the morning for hiking or in the afternoon.

And Finally Hilo

1 hour 36 minutes, 82 miles

The oldest county in the Hawaiian Islands is Hilo. Hilo is the ideal location to discover local boutiques, a renowned farmers market, stunning beaches, and impressive waterfalls. With a total size of 58.4 square miles, Hilo has a tropical rainforest climate. Kalakaua Park, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, the Lyman Museum, and Haili Church are a few beautiful places to visit.

King David Kalakaua, a Hawaiian king, inspired the historic park known as Kalakaua Park. The tranquil atmosphere of this green area is a welcome change from the bustle of the city. Visitors to this park can also see the statue of King David Kalakaua and the stone commemorating the time capsule buried in July 1991.

The island of Hawaii and its culture are well-explained in the Lyman Museum. There is an excellent range of Videos, and the staff is very informed. Hawaii’s educational history is told at the Lyman family home next door, accessible as part of the museum admission fee. Aside from cutting-edge exhibitions on numerous facets of Hawaiian natural history and culture, visitors to the two buildings can observe the historic Mission House and life 150 years ago. Look into the Big Island’s museums if you want to give your trip to Hawaii a solid cultural foundation.

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