For a third day of driving, it’s time to explore the east side of the Big Island. Hilo is known to be one of the wettest cities in the U.S and tropical rainforest extends from the Puna district, south of Hilo, all the way to the northern tip of the island. Here, Tour Guide will show you the favorite sights and the out-of-the-way places as well.
Super tip: For this leg of your tour you should bring some rain gear. Umbrellas or panchos are the easiest ways to get a little protection. It tends to rain off and on throughout to day on the east side.
Leaving Kona, take Hwy 190 up the mountain for some panoramic views of the Kohala Coast. It’s about a 45 minute drive to Waimea, which is a good place to stop for breakfast or at the grocery store if you haven’t stocked your cooler already. Tour Guide will have all the info on museums, an arboretum as well as shopping and up-country activities in Waimea. Here you’ll also connect to Hwy 19.
Continue on Hwy 19 north and view the scenic rolling pasturelands of the Parker Ranch, one of the largest privately owned ranches in the U.S. About 20 minutes drive brings you to the town of Honoka’a. Turning left, and going through town, you’ll find more great shops, antique stores and restaurants. Nine miles on Hwy 240 brings you to Waipi’o Valley. This is one of the most photographed areas in the state. This 20 mile stretch between Waipi’o and Pololu is often called “Hawaii untouched”, boasting the largest waterfalls in the state, but can only be viewed by air tours or multi-day hikes. Tour Guide will tell you why this area was sacred to the ancient Hawaiians. You can also find out about air tours in Tour Guide’s activities section.
Head back toward Honoka’a Hwy 19 and turn southbound toward Hilo along the Hamakua Coast. This area was once all sugar cane fields but now many diversified agricultural crops are grown here. The first crop you will see is eucalyptus. Acres and acres of this fragrant tree yield sap for medicines and perfumeries all around the world. There is a rainforest preserve, Kalopa Park, just 3 miles upslope from the hwy. It’s tricky to find, but Tour Guide will show you the way to this peaceful cabin camp spot with horseback riding and bird watching.
As you continue driving south, you cross many bridges over gorges and valleys, many of which have viewable waterfalls and rivers that empty into the ocean. Don’t forget to stop and get some pictures this unique scenery. The terrain is lush and green with a huge variety of tropical flowers. Other crops also come into view such as mangoes, papayas, ginger and bananas. Tour Guide will tell you about the trains that used to transport sugar cane to the mills near Hilo and you can stop and see the train museum along the way.
Next up is one of the most famous and beautiful waterfalls in Hawaii, Akaka Falls, a 420 ft. fall, which is just 3 miles off the hwy, but worlds away. The one mile hike on a paved trail through the rainforest will pass two smaller waterfalls as well as orchid, heleconia, plumeria and other tropical plants. Tour Guide will tell the history of this area as well.