As you drive down miles of highways, you’ll travel through eight climate zones and witness a range of landscapes – from black volcanic-sand beaches to snow-capped mountains to rolling green pastures and dramatic seaside cliffs.
And the Big Island also provides some of the most scenic drives in all of Hawaii.
Witness the immense power of Hawaii’s volcanic landscape with this day trip from Kailua-Kona. It will take you around 2.5 hours to reach the entrance of the park, but you may want to stop along the way to see the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.
You’ll want to spend at least three hours exploring the park, which will give you time to see some of the attractions and do a few hikes. Be sure to check out the steam vents, the Thurston Lava Tube, the Holei Sea Arch and the Chain of Craters Road. Stay until sunset so that you can watch the lava lake in Kilauea’s Halema’uma’u Crater glowing as the sun goes down.
Drive back to Kailua-Kona the same way and don’t attempt to do more than Volcanoes National Park in one day — you simply won’t have enough daylight. Save the full circle drive of the island for another day.
If want to make sure you don’t miss any sights on this route, check out the GyPSy Guide app for Volcanoes National Park.
Total driving time: 2-3 hours
On this gorgeous drive you’ll make your way through the coffee plantations of Kona, known throughout the world for their superb quality beans.
Breathe the lush, humid air as you make your way to the famous Kealakekua Bay. This is the site where Captain Cook was killed and it is also known for its fantastic snorkeling. Bring your snorkeling gear and pop your head under the water to reveal a dazzling display of colorful underwater life.
Then, continue to the historic Place of Refuge and discover more fantastic snorkeling at Two Step. Your journey continues to the Painted Church, before you turn around and head back to Kona.
This drive can be completed with half a day, but if you plan to stop and enjoy snorkeling along the way then give yourself more time.
Total driving time: 2-3 hours
This tour begins in the tranquil sandy cove beaches of the Kohala Coast and will give you a wonderful taste of many quintessential Hawaiian scenes: cattle grazing on a mountain slope, waves crashing against steep sea cliffs, sugary-sand beaches and ancient volcanoes.
You’ll cruise north along Highway 270, hugging the coastline. Take your time, stopping in the peaceful sleepy towns of Kapaau and Hawi. At the viewpoint above the Pololu Valley you can look down on the steep cliffs and the bay. On your return trip to the Kohala Coast you’ll drive over the Kohala Mountain, the oldest volcanic mountain on the Big Island.
Chill out in the laid back cowboy town of Waimea before you drive back down to your beach resort on the Kohala Coast. This drive will take approximately half a day, or more if you decide to linger on the beaches and explore the small towns.
For the true adventurers, a full Island Circle itinerary adds touring to the green or East side of the Island. From the panoramic views along the Hamakua Coast and the 442ft Akaka Falls State Park to peeks into the lush Waipio Valley. Not much has changed since it’s plantation days, though you won’t see donkeys plodding down to the shore with sugar bags strapped either side anymore.
Plan for time in and around Hilo with it’s Liliuokalani Gardens, nearby waterfalls and lava tube caves.
Hawaii is made for road tripping because its winding roads offer up a new adventure and a stunning view with every twist and turn. And there is a lot to see along the way.
If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of the incredible roadside sights and attractions on these trips, check out the GyPSy Guide Driving Tour Apps for the Big Island, Hawaii. They automatically play commentary as you drive, sharing entertaining tales and cool facts about the landscape around you.