A Day Exploring The Hilo-Hamakua Heritage Coast Drive
Updated: Oct 4, 2018
From The "City of Rainbows" in Hilo, the drive to Waipi'o Valley is approximately 55-miles depending on which way your heart takes you.
With each twist and turn bringing new awe struck moments of sheer magnificence to your adventure as you wind through old sugar plantations, beautiful rain forests and valleys full of rare and exotic flora, making your way to unforgettably stunning vista views.
This heritage highway is a must see while visiting The Big Island and the views in the Waipi'o Valley are your gold at the end of the many rainbows you will see on the Island of Hawaii.
Just 6-miles outside of the small town of Hilo, Hawaii you will find a history spread from the 1880s through the mid 1990s at The Hawaii Plantation Museum. With a meticulous passion for Hawaiian history, Wayne Subica, the curator of the incredible Sugar Plantation Museum set out to preserve the history of the Plantation era with an incredible love that he shares with passion through this unique museum.
Two miles north on the highway between mile maker 7 and 8 you will see the turn off for the must see "4-mile scenic drive." The lush green vegetation and incredible views will leave you stunned around every corner, when you experience this total submersion of beautiful tropical forest.
Around one of the final bends awaits a surprise commonly referred to as one of the most beautiful areas in the entire state of Hawaii, The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. The garden is protected in a deep valley from the Hawaiian trade winds with extremely fertile volcanic soil, creating one of the best natural greenhouses available and also serves as a living seed bank attempting to save the disappearing rain forests. With just over a mile of walking through ebullient brooks, waterfalls, exotic flora and stunning vista and valley views of Onomea Bay, it will be hard to believe all this magic could be in one place. The Botanic gardens attracts, scientist, botanist, photographers and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world but somehow manages to stay an incredibly tranquil experience.
Back on the main drive of Highway 19, west of the heritage coast drive at Honomu you will find the Akaka Falls State Park with its incredible double waterfall. This short 30-minute short hike will leave you in awe of this 400' cascading falls and it's partner Kapuna Falls a large 100' falls that pales in comparison. As you twist and turn through bamboo forests, vines, fern and orchids among other exotic and rare plants that you will only find here on The Big Island.
On the 5-mile road to Akaka Falls State Park be sure to stop by the Honomu Plantation Store to try samples of the local foods, and stock up on fresh macadamia nuts, fruits and other snacks, as you take a short history brief of the area and it's plantation era, before heading onto the park.
Past old plantation towns and a few miles inland about 40 miles north of the town of Hilo is Kalopa State Park, with an arboretum of native trees, among many rare and endangered plants. The Nature Trail is less than a mile hike, but the park offers over 5-miles of trails throughout, one of the most popular being the Gulch Rim Trail. Being about 2,000' above sea level, this park is cooler than other parts of the island and sees a lot more rain, so bring waterproof mud-boots.
Enjoy the charm of the small towns along the drive, including Papaikou, Hakalau, Ninole, Laupahoehoe, Ookala and Kukuihaele to name a few as you pass through on your way to one of the most inconceivable view points on the island. Trust me it will be worth every twist and turn along The Heritage Drive as you make your way to Waipio.
Finally the moment we have all been waiting for, the reason this drive is a must see on the Big Island; The Waipio Valley Lookout. So much more than just an amazing photo opportunity, this valley will leave you fully submerged in the history of the culture that once lived here, while fully taking in each present moment.
A deep lush valley with cliffs that jut over 2,000' high into the blue Hawaiian sky, The Waipio Valley is home to the tallest waterfall in all of Hawaii; the 1300' cascading wonder Hiilawe Falls. Explore the deepest, most fascinating hidden secrets of the valley best by taking it all in on horseback, that way there will be something holding you up when your knees buckle at the awe-inspiring sights.
You are rewarded handsomely for your time commitment on the Hamakua Coast Heritage Drive, this is a day you'll remember for the rest of your life. Can't get enough of The Big Island? Our post "Birthing New Earth" will take you deeper into this amazing new island beyond the magic of The Heritage Drive. Buckle up!
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In love of Travel,
Independent Travel Consultant
Summit to Sand LLC