Hamakua Heritage Corridor, Hawaii's Big Island
Name: Hamakua Heritage Corridor
What: Scenic drive filled with gardens, waterfalls and small towns
- Where: Along the Hamakua Coast from Hilo to the Waipio Lookout
Take a memorable day trip along the Hamakua Coast and drive along sea cliffs, through lush valleys and tropical rainforests. The beautiful Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive begins in Hilo and ends at the Waipio Valley Lookout. On your trip you’ll explore old plantation towns, see amazing waterfalls and discover scenic detours along the way.
Begin your journey just north of Hilo by veering off Hawaii Belt Road to take the 6.4 kilometre Onomea Scenic Drive. This lush detour features moss-laden bridges, coastal views of Onomea Bay and the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on the way. This renowned botanical garden features 2,000 species of tropical plants from around the world.
Travel further north and turn west onto Akaka Falls road to discover Akaka Falls State Park, home to the Big Island’s most famous waterfall, the 135-metre Akaka Falls, and the 30-metre Kahuna Falls. Travel back to the coast and drive north to the World Botanical Gardens. This jungle playground features more than 5,000 species of Hawaiian and tropical flora, a magnificent view of Maunakea and an outlook that reveals the lovely Umauma Falls, a triple-decker waterfall.
On the road again, steer carefully through the hairpin turns, then pull over at the scenic Laupahoehoe Point. This peaceful area was once devastated by the 1946 tsunami. Today, Laupahoehoe Point is still a beautiful lookout showcasing a rocky shoreline, tidal pools and dramatic sea cliffs. Don’t forget to stop off at the Laupahoehoe Train Museum, which honours the old Hawaii Consolidated Railway that hauled goods and passengers up and down the Hamakua Coast. Grab a bite to eat and have a picnic at Kalopa State Recreation Area, which offers great hiking through native forests.
Or save your appetite for the little town of Honokaa. Here you’ll find a Saturday morning farmers market as well as an assortment of small restaurants and cafés including Tex’s Drive Inn, a famous spot for malasadas. These Portuguese doughnuts are a local favourite and Tex’s is one of the Big Island’s top spots to find them.
Reward yourself after a long journey at the Waipio Valley Lookout. One look and you’ll see why this valley was so important to early Native Hawaiians. The stunning view reveals a lush landscape, waterfalls and a black sand beach surrounded by soaring valley walls. As a child, King Kamehameha I was hidden in this sacred place to protect him from a rival chief who wanted to prevent his rule. This unforgettable view is the perfect way to end your trip along the Hamakua Heritage Corridor.