Start your day with a caffeine hit at Kaua’i Coffee Company, the largest coffee farm in the US. From Līhu’e head west on Highway 50 before taking a small detour through the coffee fields via Route 540. Route 540 will take you back to Highway 50 and into “Kauai’s Biggest Little Town” of Hanapēpē. Visit the unique art galleries or enjoy a stroll on the swinging bridge.
Continuing west, you will reach Waimea. This historic seaport town can be found not far from where the famous Captain James Cook first landed in Hawai’i in 1778. Visit the statue of Captain Cook in the centre of town, a replica of the original statue found in Whitby England.
Take a right at Waimea Canyon Drive (550) and keep driving until you reach one of the islands biggest attractions: Waimea Canyon. Stand in awe at the sweeping views of lush valleys and tropical forest canopies, creating a kaleidoscopic landscape of green, orange, red and purple.
You can also choose to visit Koke’e State Park. Visit the Koke’e Lodge and Museum to get a glimpse of the area’s history, rare and unique foliage and wildlife. Be sure to travel to the end of the road, where a lookout offers visitors a glimpse of the amazing Kalalau Valley.
Head back down Highway 550, leading to route 50 then 530. Soon you’ll arrive at Kōloa, home of Hawai’i’s first productive sugar plantation established in 1835. Many plantation buildings still decorate this historic place, so the area is a treat to the eye.
Stop at Spouting Horn Park and bear witness to the Po’ipū surf shooting through a natural lava tube and up to 18 metres into the air during large swells, listen for the hiss and roar of the water that follows!
Head east back along Lawai Road and Po’ipu Road to finish your day at the inviting ocean waters off Poʻipū Beach Park. From December through May you might even spot humpback whales. It’s also a well-known spot for endangered Hawaiian monk seals to sunbathe on
ʻĪao Valley State Park is a peaceful, lush area around Kūkaemoku, also known as ʻĪao Needle, a towering rock pinnacle. Kūkaemoku soars 365 meters high and can best be seen in the early morning. From West Maui, follow Honoapiʻilani Highway then turn left onto Main Street, which becomes ʻĪao Valley Road.
The next stop is Ho‘okipa Beach Park, a great spot to watch pro-windsurfers race around in the winter or swim and sunbathe in the calmer summer months. Simply follow Main Street east, which will become W Kaʻahumanu Avenue. Turn right onto the Hāna Highway and drive along the coast for twenty minutes. Note that during the winter, wave conditions can be extremely dangerous so read the signs on the beach.
Head back down the Hāna Highway the way you came, turn left onto Baldwin Avenue and follow the road to Pā‘ia. The picturesque plantation-era storefronts of Pā‘ia are home to several ethnic eateries and dozens of colourful boutiques offering unique gifts, surf gear and a variety of locally produced art, jewellery and clothing.
Continue up Baldwin Avenue and you will discover another small town, Makawao. The combination of pineapple plantation and paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) heritage along with a thriving arts community make Makawao a uniquely enjoyable place to go for a wander.
Next check out the Surfing Goat Dairy. Follow Makawao Avenue, head south on the Kula Highway and drive to the town of Kula. In Kula, you’ll uncover fruitful farming communities that harvest some of Maui’s freshest produce (including the famous Maui onion). The delicious Kula onion is sweet, flavourful and appropriately mellow.
Re-join the Kula Highway driving south, turn left onto Kekaulike Avenue then take a right onto Waipoli Road to visit Ali‘i Kula Lavender Farm. Go on a tour of the farm that is home to approximately 55,000 lavender plants and 45 different species of lavender. Have lunch overlooking the beautiful lavender fields or wonder the shop full of lavender products.
Haleakalā volcano at Haleakalā National Park is also one of Maui’s most memorable attractions. Rising more than 3,050 meters from the sea, a Maui trip is not complete without a visit to the “House of the Sun”. Plan to arrive before sunset, the views will be unforgettable. To drive there make your way to the Haleakalā Highway and follow the signs to reach the visitor centre and summit. You might like to take motion sickness tablets with you as the road winds back and forth up the mountain.
Begin your morning bright and early driving from Kahului to join Hāna Highway. At Ho‘okipa Beach Park watch the pro-windsurfers race around in the winter or swim and sunbathe in the calmer summer months. During winter, wave conditions can be extremely dangerous so read the signs on the beach.
If you’re a confident driver, continue along the Hana Highway, also known as the ‘Road to Hāna’. With over 600 hairpin turns and 54 narrow bridges, the famous Road to Hāna is a bit tricky. Slow down and enjoy the ride, there’s a surprise around every corner. Plan at least 3 hours each way.
The Wai‘ānapanapa State Park is located just a few minutes’ drive past Hāna Airport, where you’ll see a beautiful black sand beach and great coastal hiking trail.
Re-join the Hāna Highway and continue heading east for 10 minutes until you reach the town of Hāna. A magical little hamlet of simple homes and quiet gardens, Hāna’s isolation is the source of its charm. Make sure to fill up your car with petrol here as you won’t find any petrol stations until you drive back past Hāna on your way home.
Haleakalā National Park stretches from upcountry Maui, down the mountain’s flanks all the way to the ocean in the east and to our next stop, the Pools of ‘Ohe‘o. A 30 minute drive along the highway from Hāna, the Pools of ‘Ohe‘o is made up of dozens of beautiful pools fed by fresh water streams from Maui’s famed Haleakalā volcano.
The Kīpahulu side of Haleakalā National Park features lush rainforests, a visitor centre and various hiking trails. If you decide to hike, be prepared for hot and humid weather year round. Kīpahulu is an important cultural site where you will discover waterfalls and coastline views. You might even spot sea turtles, monk seals and dolphins!
Head back towards Kahului, driving west along the southern coast of Maui. Follow the Hāna Highway, which soon becomes the Piʻilani Highway and drive up through scenic Upcountry Maui.
Start your morning early and head east of Waikīkī taking the Kalanianaʻole Highway out to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Here you can snorkel at Hawai‘i’s premier marine conservatories, sheltered in a curved bay of a breached volcanic crater. On arrival you will need to pay a small entrance fee and watch a short educational video. Opens daily at 6am, closed Tuesdays.
Continuing along the Kalanianaʻole Highway stop off at Hālona Blowhole, a lava tube that can shoot water up to 9 metres in the air when the tide is high. Five minutes’ drive up the road you will find Makapu’u Point & Lighthouse, the easternmost point on O‘ahu, known for the Island’s best body surfing.
Return to the highway and drive up the coast to Waimānalo Beach, perhaps the prettiest stretch of pristine white-sand beach on O‘ahu. The shoreline fronts views of the Ko‘olau Range and is perfect for picnics.
Make your way along Kāneʻohe Bay Drive and onto the Kahekili Highway. Go for a wonder around the Byodo-In Temple, which can be found at the base of the 610 meter Ko‘olau Range. A replica of a 900-year-old Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan it was built in memory of the first Japanese immigrants that came to O‘ahu to work on the sugar plantations.
Carry on driving north on the Kahekili Highway (turns into Kamehameha Highway) until you reach Kualoa, which was one of the most sacred sites on O‘ahu and is today included in the National Register of Historical Places. Heaps of famous movies were filmed here, including Jurassic Park and The Hunger Games.
Head back towards Honolulu along the Kamehameha Highway and at the end join the Pali Highway. You will soon reach the Nu‘uanu Pali Lookout, one of O‘ahu’s finest views of the sheer Ko‘olau cliffs. Perched over 900 meters above the O‘ahu coastline is the site of the battle of Nu‘uanu, where in 1795 Kamehameha I won the struggle that finally united all islands south of Oʻahu under one rule.
Start your day driving for approximately 40 minutes north-west of Honolulu. Take the Queen Liliʻuokalani Freeway, the Veterans Memorial Freeway and then Kamehameha Highway and you will soon reach the turnoff for Dole Plantation. Make a quick stop for some delicious DoleWhip (pineapple ice-cream) before setting off for Haleʻiwa Town.
Continue along the highway until you reach Haleʻiwa. This laid back surfing town is filled with local style and rustic ambiance, as well as quaint shops, understated restaurants and charming art galleries.
Our next stop is Laniākea Beach, one of the best places on Oahu for spotting green sea turtles (honu). To get there, head back onto the highway driving northeast for five minutes. Please remember to be respectful and keep your distance from these amazing, endangered creatures.
A bit further up the road you will find the turn off for Waimea Valley. Wander through this 1,800 acre rainforest and botanical garden to a beautiful waterfall. Situated at the base of the majestic Ko‘olau Range, this valley was once a heavily populated Hawaiian village.
Get back on the highway to discover Waimea Bay. In the winter, ocean swells rising above the North Shore pound the Bay with 10 meter waves. Summers find the bay quiet and gentle-perfect for swimming, snorkeling or diving. Parking at Waimea Valley and walking to the beach is an option.
Make your way onto Pūpūkea Road to explore Pu‘u o Mahuka Heiau State Park. This is a national monument and state historic site, and O‘ahu’s largest Hawaiian heiau (temple). Today, this sacred temple boasts a magnificent view from Waimea to Ka‘ena Point.
Continue driving on the highway to Kahuku, where you will find an array of delicious shrimp trucks. Alternatively, stop at Turtle Bay Resort for beautiful views and a lovely meal. To return to Honolulu, either take the H2 highway through central Oʻahu, back the way you came, or the more scenic coastal route via Kamehameha Highway.
Prepare yourself for a day or two full of excitement and exploration! The big island is one of the most wonderful attractions in Hawaii, with so many things to see and do on both sides Kona & Hilo it will have you busy throughout your whole stay. A suggestion of many tourists who come to stay on the big island is that you try to have a few days on each side of the island to get a real feel for the surroundings.
Collect your car and begin your day by venturing north along the Kona/Kohala Coast on the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway (Hwy 19). You will soon reach the entrance to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park located on the ma kai side between mile marker 96 & 97. This is an 1160-acre national park which was established in 1978 to preserve, shelter and understand the traditional Native Hawaiian activities and culture that thrived on the site.
Keep driving north along the highway for approximately 32 kilometres until you reach the intersection of Hwy 19 & Hwy 270. Turn left and continue for 3 kilometres to the entrance of Pu‘ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. Around 1790, this “place of worship” was constructed by King Kamehameha I as an offering to the gods to ask for success in his campaign to unite the Hawaiian Islands.
From here head back east until you come to the town of Waimea where you will find several cattle ranches including parker ranch which was once the nation’s largest privately owned ranch. Continuing east, you will come to the town of Honoka‘a. Take a 16 kilometre detour from the highway onto Waipi‘o Valley. This will take you to a beautiful photo spot of this immense valley with the black sand beach below. This was the home of many chiefs and an important centre for political & religious life in Hawai‘i.
Once you’re back on Hwy 19, keep driving toward Hilo for approximately 48 kilometres to the small town of Honomū, where you will see the turn off for ‘Akaka Falls State Park. Once at ‘Akaka Falls, take the waterfall loop hike where you will first see 60 meter Kahuna Falls. Continue along the loop to witness towering ‘Akaka Falls, plunging 135 meters from the cliffs above. The hike takes less than an hour and there is a small entrance fee.
Travel back to the main highway for about 6.5 kilometres and continue south to the picturesque town of Hilo. Take your time and discover the art galleries, restaurants, local shops, attractions and don’t forget to check out the popular farmers market which is open 7 days a week; however Wednesday and Saturday are the most popular days.
Only a short distance from Hilo is the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center where the connection between Hawaiian culture and the universe is showcased through a colourful variety of displays and interactive exhibitions. There are daily Planetarium shows, an extensive Exhibit Hall, landscape tours, and a restaurant. The centre is open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Tues-Sun (closed Mondays).
Overnight in Hilo town or, if you need to get back to the Kona side of the island, take Kaumana Drive to Saddle Road for a shorter drive across the centre of the island and allow approx. 2 hours for this.