Enjoy the journey to Hilo, Hawai’i

15 01 2010

Hawai’i Nui means Great Hawai’i. The Hawaiian Islands are a great place to visit, from the Garden Island of Kaua’i to the Big Island of Hawai’i. This is the seventh post in a series of opinion pieces on the question, “What makes Hilo worth a special trip?”

Reason #7. Life has no finer journey than that to Hilo, Hawai’i

It’s so important to enjoy life’s journey.

In Hawai’i, we celebrate holo holo time, or journeys of exploration. Here is some inside scoop on what we consider to be one of the most enjoyable, interesting and varied journeys you can take.

While on the Big Island of Hawai’i, don’t miss the opportunity to drive from from Kona to Hilo and back. If you choose to do the whole trip in one day, you’ll be amazed by the variety of climate zones you’ll encounter. But of course the journey is even better with a stopover in Hilo, say to take advantage of an Aloha Sunday at the East Hawaii Cultural Center, a trip to Imiloa or the Lyman museum, and a visit to other Hilo attractions.

QueenKaahumanuHighway

This post discusses the journey from Kailua-Kona to Hilo. The next post covers the return.

If you’re starting from Kailua-Kona in the morning, we suggest you take the makai route to Hilo, as opposed to the mauka route. (Makai means toward the sea. Mauka means toward the mountain.) We recommend the makai route in the morning so you can reserve the mauka route, the Saddle Road over Mauna Kea, to view the Hawaiian sunset.

In the morning, drive north up the Kohala Coast on Queen Kaahumanu Highway, or Highway 19 . (Locals call this the “Lower Road” to Waimea, as opposed to the Mamalahoa Highway, or the “Upper Road.”) You will be traveling through black lava fields — a distinctively Big Island look.

Go North on Queen K./Highway 19 to Kawaihae. Kawaihae is well worth a stop. Here is a link to the Pacific Roots Project web site that provides a wonderful overview of Kawaihae — the setting, the sea, the land, the native history, and more.

Kids playing at Kawaihae Harbor, image courtesy of Richard Cohen

Kids playing at Kawaihae Harbor, image courtesy of Richard Cohen

Capturing an image of a cinder cone, just mauka of Kawaihae on the Big Island of Hawai'i

Capturing an image of a cinder cone, just mauka of Kawaihae on the Big Island of Hawai’i

At Kawaihae, you have a decision point. If you will be taking an overnight in Hilo, you will have time to explore North Kohala.

On a clear day, you can see Maui from North Kohala

On a clear day, you can see Maui from North Kohala

Looking inland from Upolu Point on North Kohala, you can see the observatories on Mauna Kea

Looking inland from Upolu Point on North Kohala, you can see the observatories on Mauna Kea

If you want to holo holo to Hilo and back to Kona in one day, bear right at Kawaihae. Follow Highway 19 to the right toward Waimea. Continue through Waimea and you will eventually begin to see the Hamakua coast on your left.

P1110769When you reach Honoka’a, you will have an opportunity to descend to the Old Mamalahoa Highway, a road reminiscent of the Road to Hana on Maui.

The windward coast of North Hawai’i is magnficent country. The cliffs that fall steeply into the ocean were formed out of eroded flanks of the now extinct volcanoes, Mauna Kea and Kohala. Between the cliffs you’ll see lush, stream-carved valleys, some with waterfalls.

There are many picturesque stopping places along this route from Kailua-Kona to Hilo. We hope this sampling of photos inspires you to make the trip.

Enjoy your visit to the Big Island of Hawai’i.  Hope you make it to visit the fairest little city in the Pacific, Hilo, Hawaii.

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