To access the coast, head out from Hilo and venture north toward Akaka Falls, continuing past the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden to the town of Laupahoehoe. Continue along a serpentine road oft likened to Maui’s Road to Hana. The road terminates at the scenic Waipio Valley. If you’d rather leave the driving to someone else, book a circle island tour, which will pass through this part of the coast.
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Things to know before you go
- Remember to drive carefully there are lots of hairpin bends in the area and parts of the road are very narrow.
- Obey the speed limits, not only for safety, but to avoid getting a ticket (it’s not uncommon for tourists to get pulled over on this road for going too fast).
- Note that parts of the coast lack adequate cell phone coverage.
How to get there
Most people approach the coast via Hilo, the largest town on the Big Island, located about a 90-minute drive from Kona. If driven without stopping, the road that stretches along the Hamakau Coast from Hilo to Waipio takes a little over an hour.
When to get there
This stretch of coastline is windy and wet, although the 80-some annual inches of rain keep the waterfalls and valleys alive. To avoid the rain and beat the wind, mornings are often the best time of day to see it before the afternoon trade winds arrive.
Stop in Laupahoehoe
Laupahoehoe is a good spot to stop to stretch your legs, with a thriving artist community and some health food shops and restaurants. Here, you’ll find the Laupahoehoe Train Museum, a small building that showcases the history of the Hawaii Consolidated Railway. The train was vital for transporting sugar from the fields to the port of Hilo, although a devastating tsunami in 1946 obliterated the tracks.
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