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Big Island roads

Started by Max Rockatansky, June 22, 2024, 02:14:46 PM

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Max Rockatansky

I just finalized a trip to the big Hawaiian island this coming October.  Aside from knocking out a National Park and hiking Waipio Valley Road I don't have much of an itinerary of "must do" road stuff.  Thoughts from the board on what other roads are notable enough to prioritize? 

Worth noting, I'm not looking for a full island clinch.  I "probably" won't have a high clearance rental, but more to come on that.


Dirt Roads

Great plans!  We rented a small 4X4 just to get down into Waipio Valley Road, but we loved it so much that my son and I ended up hiking it later the same day.  Note that much of the property in the valley is private, so it generally takes some outside help to get access to Waipio Falls.  We went on the cheap and couldn't go that far.  You might want to take a tour bus. 

The Big Island is really not so big.  If you like to drive all day, the Hawaii Belt Road (H-11/H-19) is only 260 miles all the way around.  We split it up into two trips:  one on the southern part of the Belt and the other on the northern part of the Belt, then returning over Saddle Road (H-200).  I wasn't trying to clinch the Big Island routes, but came very close catching all but H-132, H-137, H-250 and the northeastern spur of H-260.  The new route of Saddle Road bypassing Kaumana Homesteads was under construction, so H-200 is now "unclinched".

If you are into waterfalls, you will want to catch all of the parks that have them.  The one at Akaka Falls State Park requires a 1/2-mile hike; you can drive right up to Rainbow Falls in Hilo, but you'll also want to keep going a couple miles upstream to catch Peʻepeʻe Falls.  The parks often have a small entrance fee, but Rainbow is a freebie.

If you want to catch the local culture and exotic fruits/veggies, make sure you spend time at the "Farmer's Markets" in both Hilo and Kilua-Kona.  I recommend that you try everything you can afford to eat.  The "Farmers Market" in Waimea was more oriented towards transplants and tourists, but had a lot of fancy local arts and crafts.  We're cheap, and didn't get much there (but it was worth the visit, as well). 

Everything at Volcanoes National Park is now gobbled up by Kiluea, and I'm assuming have now been replaced.  But while you are in the area, head down to Punaluʻu Black Beach.  We are not known as good swimmers, but we took swim gear everywhere and went snorkeling everywhere that we could get in the water.

Plutonic Panda

Quote from: Max Rockatansky on June 22, 2024, 02:14:46 PMI just finalized a trip to the big Hawaiian island this coming October.  Aside from knocking out a National Park and hiking Waipio Valley Road I don't have much of an itinerary of "must do" road stuff.  Thoughts from the board on what other roads are notable enough to prioritize? 

Worth noting, I'm not looking for a full island clinch.  I "probably" won't have a high clearance rental, but more to come on that.
No Unimogs for rent?

Max Rockatansky

Quote from: Plutonic Panda on June 22, 2024, 03:51:42 PM
Quote from: Max Rockatansky on June 22, 2024, 02:14:46 PMI just finalized a trip to the big Hawaiian island this coming October.  Aside from knocking out a National Park and hiking Waipio Valley Road I don't have much of an itinerary of "must do" road stuff.  Thoughts from the board on what other roads are notable enough to prioritize? 

Worth noting, I'm not looking for a full island clinch.  I "probably" won't have a high clearance rental, but more to come on that.
No Unimogs for rent?

Haven't even looked for a rental in general.  Usually the rental part isn't a big deal for me given I have a family member at Enterprise.  I'm only interested in high clearance if I'm going to actually use it.

Plutonic Panda

Quote from: Max Rockatansky on June 22, 2024, 03:59:10 PM
Quote from: Plutonic Panda on June 22, 2024, 03:51:42 PM
Quote from: Max Rockatansky on June 22, 2024, 02:14:46 PMI just finalized a trip to the big Hawaiian island this coming October.  Aside from knocking out a National Park and hiking Waipio Valley Road I don't have much of an itinerary of "must do" road stuff.  Thoughts from the board on what other roads are notable enough to prioritize? 

Worth noting, I'm not looking for a full island clinch.  I "probably" won't have a high clearance rental, but more to come on that.
No Unimogs for rent?

Haven't even looked for a rental in general.  Usually the rental part isn't a big deal for me given I have a family member at Enterprise.  I'm only interested in high clearance if I'm going to actually use it.
I'm not even too familiar about the topography or terrain on the big island. I know you can get around Maui in Oahu for the most part and a lot of different types of vehicles. The Unimog was a. Though I do wonder if it is possible to rent one there. I think I've seen maybe two of those in my entire life and both of them were in California. They weren't off-road either. They were on interstates.

oscar

Quote from: Max Rockatansky on June 22, 2024, 03:59:10 PMHaven't even looked for a rental in general.  Usually the rental part isn't a big deal for me given I have a family member at Enterprise.  I'm only interested in high clearance if I'm going to actually use it.

The only significant roads where you need 4-wheel-drive, you'll also need low range. Waipio Valley Road is one of those roads (low range is crucial on that steep paved road), but is hikeable for people in good shape. The steep access road to the Mauna Kea observatories (and Hawaii's high point) also requires 4wd and low range. It isn't really hikeable, though I've heard the local Army base marches troops on that road as part of their high-altitude training.

I've rented 4x4s from Harper's. Pricey, but worth it if you need it (don't know if there are any alternatives).
my Hot Springs and Highways pages, with links to my roads sites:
http://www.alaskaroads.com/home.html

Max Rockatansky

^^^

I'll be staying close to Waipio Valley Road.  Given that low range is necessary my thought is that is just better to hike it. 

I'll have to look into the Mauna Kea observatory.  I haven't kept a good account on what has been going with that since the recent eruptions.

Quote from: Plutonic Panda on June 22, 2024, 04:35:14 PM
Quote from: Max Rockatansky on June 22, 2024, 03:59:10 PM
Quote from: Plutonic Panda on June 22, 2024, 03:51:42 PM
Quote from: Max Rockatansky on June 22, 2024, 02:14:46 PMI just finalized a trip to the big Hawaiian island this coming October.  Aside from knocking out a National Park and hiking Waipio Valley Road I don't have much of an itinerary of "must do" road stuff.  Thoughts from the board on what other roads are notable enough to prioritize? 

Worth noting, I'm not looking for a full island clinch.  I "probably" won't have a high clearance rental, but more to come on that.
No Unimogs for rent?

Haven't even looked for a rental in general.  Usually the rental part isn't a big deal for me given I have a family member at Enterprise.  I'm only interested in high clearance if I'm going to actually use it.
I'm not even too familiar about the topography or terrain on the big island. I know you can get around Maui in Oahu for the most part and a lot of different types of vehicles. The Unimog was a. Though I do wonder if it is possible to rent one there. I think I've seen maybe two of those in my entire life and both of them were in California. They weren't off-road either. They were on interstates.

The only road I was interested in on Maui which may have required 4WD and high clearance was Piilani Highway.  Trouble was the dirt segment was closed due to a mudslide when I visited.  Had it been open I was going to make an attempt.

oscar

#7
Quote from: Max Rockatansky on June 22, 2024, 04:46:57 PMI'll be staying close to Waipio Valley Road.  Given that low range is necessary my thought is that is just better to hike it. 

I'll have to look into the Mauna Kea observatory.  I haven't kept a good account on what has been going with that since the recent eruptions.

Mauna Kea is a long-dormant volcano. Mauna Loa, on the other side of the Big Island, is still active (and occasionally threatens the cross-island HI 200, from which the Mauna Kea access road branches), as is the really-active but more distant Kilauea volcano.
my Hot Springs and Highways pages, with links to my roads sites:
http://www.alaskaroads.com/home.html

Dirt Roads

Quote from: Max Rockatansky on June 22, 2024, 04:46:57 PMI'll have to look into the Mauna Kea observatory.  I haven't kept a good account on what has been going with that since the recent eruptions.

Quote from: oscar on June 22, 2024, 04:56:23 PMMauna Kea is a long-dormant volcano. Mauna Loa, on the other side of the Big Island, is still active (and occasionally threatens the cross-island HI 200, from which the Mauna Kea access road branches), as is the really-active but more distant Kilauea volcano.

Things may have changed, but access to Mauna Kea Observatory is restricted.  The 4X4 tours to the top apparently take months to get on the list.  But the Visitor Center is easily accessible, and is still at a high enough elevation that it is worth the trip.  My first try, we got stuck in the clouds so we came back again.  If you go on the right night, there are dozens of volunteers with high-powered telescopes helping you look at various parts of the sky.  Amazing find.  Note that the Visitor Center is subject to occasional boycotts from groups trying to shut down the observatories (and get tourists off of the mountain).

Bonus, you'll get to see this gem:



cl94

Getting inside the observatories is damn near impossible, but if you just want to get up to the summit area, there are several commercial tour operators. The waiting list is not long at all; in fact, several tour operators have availability tomorrow and on most days in the next month. When I booked a tour for July (actually, a month from tomorrow (the 23rd)), the schedule was wide open and the bigger issue was finding a day with enough people already registered to guarantee the tour will happen.

As far as roads and "what exists now", I'll have a ton of up to date intel in about a month from now, as I'm spending a week on the Big Island and generally will shy away from the expensive touristy stuff in Kona.
Please note: All posts represent my personal opinions and do not represent those of my employer or any of its partner agencies.

Travel Mapping (updated weekly)

RZF

The drive between Kona and Hilo (HI 190/200) traverses a vast difference in microclimates and elevations from what I remember. It basically cuts through the island West to East.

Rothman

Quote from: cl94 on June 23, 2024, 12:51:09 AMGetting inside the observatories is damn near impossible, but if you just want to get up to the summit area, there are several commercial tour operators. The waiting list is not long at all; in fact, several tour operators have availability tomorrow and on most days in the next month. When I booked a tour for July (actually, a month from tomorrow (the 23rd)), the schedule was wide open and the bigger issue was finding a day with enough people already registered to guarantee the tour will happen.

As far as roads and "what exists now", I'll have a ton of up to date intel in about a month from now, as I'm spending a week on the Big Island and generally will shy away from the expensive touristy stuff in Kona.

I was wondering what Dirt Roads was talking about.  In travel clubs I belong to, getting to Mauna Kea's summit is generally considered an easy thing to do.  Glad to see my memory wasn't wrong on this.
Please note: All comments here represent my own personal opinion and do not reflect the official position(s) of NYSDOT.

oscar

Quote from: Max Rockatansky on June 22, 2024, 04:46:57 PMThe only road I was interested in on Maui which may have required 4WD and high clearance was Piilani Highway.  Trouble was the dirt segment was closed due to a mudslide when I visited.  Had it been open I was going to make an attempt.

The Piilani Highway in southeastern Maui doesn't require 4WD or high clearance. I saw many tourists on that road, in white rental convertibles. (But roofs are a good idea, with pebbles falling onto the road from adjacent cliffs.)

The unpaved parts of the Piilani can be impassible when wet, even with 4WD. That can happen even when the rest of the road is dry, as the unpaved part of the road is in its own microclimate. The Oheo Gulch ranger station (in the coastal part of Haleakala National Park) can report on the latest Piilani road conditions.
my Hot Springs and Highways pages, with links to my roads sites:
http://www.alaskaroads.com/home.html

mgk920

Are there still active cross-country ski areas at the higher elevations on the Big Island, too?

Mike

Max Rockatansky

Quote from: oscar on June 23, 2024, 12:03:16 PM
Quote from: Max Rockatansky on June 22, 2024, 04:46:57 PMThe only road I was interested in on Maui which may have required 4WD and high clearance was Piilani Highway.  Trouble was the dirt segment was closed due to a mudslide when I visited.  Had it been open I was going to make an attempt.

The Piilani Highway in southeastern Maui doesn't require 4WD or high clearance. I saw many tourists on that road, in white rental convertibles. (But roofs are a good idea, with pebbles falling onto the road from adjacent cliffs.)

The unpaved parts of the Piilani can be impassible when wet, even with 4WD. That can happen even when the rest of the road is dry, as the unpaved part of the road is in its own microclimate. The Oheo Gulch ranger station (in the coastal part of Haleakala National Park) can report on the latest Piilani road conditions.

Right, nothing in GSV suggested that would be the case but that is what is running through normal people circles.  The fact that GSV was there are all with somewhat modern images alone is enough to suggest a low clearance road.  The rental car prohibition wasn't true either.


Dirt Roads

Quote from: cl94 on June 23, 2024, 12:51:09 AMGetting inside the observatories is damn near impossible, but if you just want to get up to the summit area, there are several commercial tour operators. The waiting list is not long at all; in fact, several tour operators have availability tomorrow and on most days in the next month. When I booked a tour for July (actually, a month from tomorrow (the 23rd)), the schedule was wide open and the bigger issue was finding a day with enough people already registered to guarantee the tour will happen.

Quote from: Rothman on June 23, 2024, 09:10:20 AMI was wondering what Dirt Roads was talking about.  In travel clubs I belong to, getting to Mauna Kea's summit is generally considered an easy thing to do.  Glad to see my memory wasn't wrong on this.

We were on the Big Island in early June back in 2016.  We couldn't get a tour operator to the Mauna Kea summit with two weeks notice.  Not sure why, but I understood that the climate then was perfect for visibility.  Often the climate will having you look down on dense clouds to the east and north.  ...Which would still be a really great view.

Rothman

Quote from: Dirt Roads on June 23, 2024, 01:05:07 PM
Quote from: cl94 on June 23, 2024, 12:51:09 AMGetting inside the observatories is damn near impossible, but if you just want to get up to the summit area, there are several commercial tour operators. The waiting list is not long at all; in fact, several tour operators have availability tomorrow and on most days in the next month. When I booked a tour for July (actually, a month from tomorrow (the 23rd)), the schedule was wide open and the bigger issue was finding a day with enough people already registered to guarantee the tour will happen.

Quote from: Rothman on June 23, 2024, 09:10:20 AMI was wondering what Dirt Roads was talking about.  In travel clubs I belong to, getting to Mauna Kea's summit is generally considered an easy thing to do.  Glad to see my memory wasn't wrong on this.

We were on the Big Island in early June back in 2016.  We couldn't get a tour operator to the Mauna Kea summit with two weeks notice.  Not sure why, but I understood that the climate then was perfect for visibility.  Often the climate will having you look down on dense clouds to the east and north.  ...Which would still be a really great view.

Weird.  The mentality of it being easier to get up there has existed amongst my travel clubs since before my trip to Hawaii in 2012.
Please note: All comments here represent my own personal opinion and do not reflect the official position(s) of NYSDOT.

SSOWorld

I did all the Big Island roads in a matter of a few days (even going in on the roads off the belt). The Waipo Valley road was closed to all but residents at the time I was there.  Drive to the southernmost point.  I did it in a Camaro convertible without issue. October is best because the Hilo side has less of a chance of being in constant rain.  I was able to get the "family portrait" of the volcanoes (Kia, Loa and the two lesser known ones) from Waikola's resort area.
Scott O.

Not all who wander are lost...
Ah, the open skies, wind at my back, warm sun on my... wait, where the hell am I?!
As a matter of fact, I do own the road.
Raise your what?

Wisconsin - out-multiplexing your state since 1918.

Max Rockatansky

#18
Fair chance I might hit you up for gaps I have in photo stock when the time comes to start creating highway blogs.  Seems the Waipio Valley Road issue might be a thing still unless you are on a guided tour.  If that is the case I'll probably just grab some photos from the overlook and the accompanying signs.  Being stuck on a vehicle I don't control seems lame compared to hiking the grade.

I did have an entire day to sit down and kind of plot out in my head what I want to do.  3.5 days seems like plenty of time to see everything I'm interested in.

cl94

Yeah, I've done some rough planning and I should be easily able to grab everything on the island in my week there, even with doing stuff. It's a remarkably sparse system. Of course, it helps that I'm basing out of two different locations.
Please note: All posts represent my personal opinions and do not represent those of my employer or any of its partner agencies.

Travel Mapping (updated weekly)



Opinions expressed here on belong solely to the poster and do not represent or reflect the opinions or beliefs of AARoads, its creators and/or associates.