The trip includes the very northern part of the island far beyond the luxury hotels at Hapuna at Mauna Lani, but begins and ends at the junction of Queen Kaahumanu, Akoni Pule Highway and Kawaihae Road and continues up and over the Kohala Mountains and down into Hawi and Pololu valley before heading back to the junction.
The drive begins at the base of the Kohala Mountains an ascent up Kawaihae Road through pasture land, clusters of homes along a winding two lane highway to the small ranching town of Waimea. The left turn onto Kohala Mountain Road (Highway 250)
where the road up along a dry arid landscape that will delight those who enjoy panoramic views.
Kohala Mountain Road approaches the crest of the mountain range, the open pastureland will quickly change to a highway lined with ironwood trees and underbrush before descending into a more tropical setting before intersecting at Akoni Pule Highway in North Kohala. The drive continues along Akoni Pule Highway to the very end of the road at Pololu Lookout. Here the valley offers a peek of the dramatic rugged coastlines for which Hawaii is famous.
Return to Kawaihae by following Akoni Pule Highway back to the starting point. The road offers spectacular views of the Alenuihaha Channel, glimpses of the summit of Haleakala on Maui and in the winter is one of the best places to spot wintering humpback whales.
Aside from Pololu Valley, there are several other points of interest along this drive that should be considered. They include the King Kamehameha statue in the small town of Kapaau, the largest war temple in the islands, Pu’u Kohola near Kawaihae Harbor and Lapakahi State Park which is a restored ancient Hawaiian fishing village for a self-guided tour. Those looking for a lunch spot will find the small town of Kapaau and Hawi offer several small casual eateries that serve up everything from lattes to sushi.
Allow a minimum of two and a half hours to complete this circle drive. Add another two hours if starting and ending in Kailua-Kona and another 40 minutes if starting and ending at Waikoloa. Bring your camera and driving skills and enjoy the afternoon in North Kohala.
GPS (Lat/Lon) Coordinates
Kawaihae Junction – right turn 20.03016 , -155.821409
Kohala Mountain Road - left turn 20.026661, -155.699294
Hawi Junction (right turn) 20.236751, -155.830765
Pololu Valley (end of road) 20.191888 , -155.717897
Kapaau (King Kamehameha Statue) 20.230389 , -155.798213
Kawaihae Junction – via Akoni Pule Highway 270, 20.03016 , -155.821409