Road Trip in Hawaii

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If you're traveling in Hawaii, you'll say “aloha" to a natural paradise unlike any other. As a state, Hawaii consists of the following major counties/islands:

  • Hawaii, also known as “the Big Island."
  • Oahu.
  • Maui.
    • Lanai and Molokai are smaller islands included in this county.
  • Kauai.

You can take a short plane ride if you want to explore multiple islands, but will still have plenty to do if you choose to stay in a single county.

Make sure you bring sunscreen and a relaxed attitude as you embark on journeys in Hawaii that will have you hoping your vacation never ends.

Hawaii Rules of the Road

Once you've touched down in one of Hawaii's counties, you will probably want wheels and a general knowledge of Hawaiian road rules.

In addition to Hawaiian traffic laws, it's also helpful to know the driving styles and customs of native Hawaiians; the “unwritten rules of the road," so to speak.

HI Traffic Laws

The following is a list of general Hawaiian traffic laws to familiarize yourself with:

  • You must drive on the right side of the road.
  • Use your turn signals whenever turning or merging lanes, even if you don't see other cars around.
  • If you're behind a school bus with its flashing red lights on, you must come to a complete stop and cannot attempt to go around it.
  • Give pedestrians the right of way.
  • Do not drive so slowly that you become a driving hazard to others on the road.
  • Always wear a seatbelt.
  • Never drive under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Never use your phone (call, text, etc.) while driving.

Check out our section on Hawaii's driver handbook for more information.

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The Big Island

As you might have guessed, the Big Island is Hawaii's largest county. Known for its active volcanoes, black sand beaches, and loads of luxurious accommodations, you're sure to find your own little slice of paradise on the island.

Major Roads

  • Route 11—Runs along the island's southern circumference.
  • Route 19—Runs along the island's northern circumference.
  • Route 130—Intersects with Route 11 on the island's southeast corner.
  • Route 190—Intersects with Route 19 on the northwest part of the island.
  • Route 220—Intersects with Route 19 on the island's east side.
  • Route 240—Intersects with Route 19 in the island's northeast.
  • Route 270—Intersects with Route 19 on the island's northernmost part.

Things to Do on the Big Island

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
    • See some of Hawaii's still-active volcanoes up close—if you're lucky, you'll witness lava flowing down the volcano ridges.
    • Numerous hiking trails will take you through rainforests and deserts alike.
    • Crater rim luaus and festivals.
    • Observatory and museum.
  • Snorkel in Kealakekua Bay along the Kona coast.
    • A marine life conservation district said to be the best snorkeling location in the entire state.
    • Kayaking and hiking also available.
  • Waipi'o Valley—Hamakua, HI.
    • Enjoy views of breathtaking waterfalls or spend the day on black sand beaches.
    • Wild horses call this valley home.
    • You can get to the valley by hiking, horseback, mule-drawn buggy, or kayaking.
  • Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park—Honaunau, HI.
    • Considered a sacred site, you can explore ancient temples and relics belonging to some of Hawaii's first human inhabitants.
    • See sea turtles up close in the surrounding waters.
  • Zipline over the Kohala canopy—near Hilo, HI.
    • Choose between various zip lines and suspended bridges to see an unforgettable bird's eye view of the Kohala canopy.
  • Kona coffee tours.
    • Located on the Hualalai volcano is the Kona Coffee Belt, providing some of the world's tastiest coffee.
    • Hike through rainforests and volcanic mountain ridges, all while enjoying ocean views.
  • Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and GardensHilo, HI.
    • Located in the heart of the Pana'ewa Rainforest.
    • See all sorts of animals, including tigers, pygmy goats, Capuchin monkeys, and a variety of exotic birds.
    • Petting zoo for the little ones to enjoy.
  • W.M. Keck ObservatoryKamuela, HI.
    • Located atop Hawaii's famous Mauna Kea volcano, this observatory has the world's largest optical and infrared telescopes.
  • Night dives with manta rays along the Kona coast.
    • Take an unforgettable swim with wild manta rays.
  • Rainbow FallsHilo, HI.
    • Great for a romantic day hike, swimming, and cave exploration.
  • Ocean Rider Seahorse FarmKailua Kona, HI.
    • Dedicated to seahorse conservation and public education, see countless species of seahorses.

Oahu

Oahu, Hawaii's most populous county, is the perfect blend of ancient and modern Hawaiian culture. From the palaces of past Hawaiian royalty to the Pearl Harbor memorial, you'll never encounter a dull moment on the island.

Major Roads on Oahu

  • Interstate H-1—Runs along the island's southwest.
  • Interstate H-2—Intersects with Interstate H-1 at the island's center.
  • Interstate H-3—Intersects with Interstate H-1 in the island's southeast.
  • Route 61—Intersects with Interstate H-1 in the island's southeast corner.
  • Route 72—Intersects with Interstate H-1 and Route 61 on the island's southeastern-most corner.
  • Route 83—Intersects with Interstate H-3 and Route 99 and runs along the circumference of the island's northeast.
  • Route 92—Intersects with Interstate H-1 in the island's southeast.
  • Route 93—Intersects with Interstate H-1 and runs along the island's western coastline.
  • Route 99—Intersects with Interstates H-1 and H-2 and runs through the island's center.

Attractions & Sightseeing on Oahu

  • Dole Plantation—Wahiawa, HI.
    • Originally opened by James Drummond Dole, who saw pineapple distribution as a way to make a fortune.
    • Tour the plantation on the Pineapple Express locomotive.
    • Take a walking tour of the gardens.
    • Get lost in the world's largest maze.
  • Iolani Palace—Honolulu, HI.
    • Now a National Historic Landmark, this palace used to house Hawaiian royalty.
    • Exhibits on artifacts and restored living spaces of the Hawaiian monarchy.
  • Pearl Harbor tours—Honolulu, HI.
    • Guided tours of the Pearl Harbor and the infamous battleship USS Missouri.
    • Exhibits and collections documenting life during WWII and the Korean War.
  • Waikiki Aquarium—Honolulu, HI.
    • See a variety of sea life from seals to squid, jellyfish to giant sea turtles, and exotic fish to colorful corals.
  • Honolulu Zoo—Honolulu, HI.
    • Home to a number of endangered species.
    • Walk in the zoo's gardens and experience a huge variety of native plant life.
  • Hanauma Bay State Park—Honolulu, HI.
    • Popular for snorkeling and sunbathing.
    • Tremendous conservation program to restored the bay to its natural state.
  • LOST filming site—Haleiwa, HI.
    • If you're a fan of TV's LOST, you'll recognize this rocky beach as the location of the survivors' camp.
    • Surfing and shoreline fishing.
  • Byodo-In Temple—Kaneohe, HI.
    • This beautiful temple was first built in commemoration of the first Japanese arrivals on Hawaii.
    • Ornate carvings and ornamentation display the true artisanship of Japanese artists.
  • Laie Point—Laie, HI.
    • Just a short distance from the shore, see a natural sea arch carved out during a tsunami.
    • Great place to spend a peaceful day on a smaller Oahu beach.
    • Cliff diving.
  • Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail—Waimanalo, HI.
    • Relatively easy hike where you can experience WWII history up close.
    • Splendid ocean and Oahu coastline views (where you might even be able to spot a humpback whale!).

Maui

Known as “The Valley Isle," Maui will dazzle you with its verdant landscapes and rich natural wonders. It's an ideal destination if you're looking for that right mix of the Hawaiian wilderness, local culture, and lavish visitor accommodations.

The county of Maui also includes the smaller islands of Lanai and Molokai, which you may choose to visit if you're looking for a more low-key vacation destination.

Major Roads

The county of Maui is comprised of the islands of:

  • Maui.
  • Lanai.
  • Molokai.

Listed below are the major roads on each island.

Maui (Main Island)

  • Route 30—Runs along the northwestern most part of the island.
  • Route 31—Runs along the western part of the island.
  • Route 36—Runs along the central northern circumference of the island.
  • Route 37—Intersects with Route 36 and runs along the central part of the island.
  • Route 360—Intersects with Route 36 and 31 and runs along the island's eastern coastline.

Lanai

  • Route 440—Runs along the island's southwest corner.

Molokai

  • Route 450—Runs along the island's southeast circumference.

Road Tripping Through Maui

Since Maui county includes the islands of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai, you'll have a unique selection of activities to choose from depending on which island you visit.

If you want to experience Maui county as a whole, you're in luck. Each island is just a short boat or ferry ride away, meaning you can explore Maui to your heart's content.

Maui (Main Island)

  • Maui Ocean Center—Wailuku, HI.
    • See all of your favorite aquatic animals, including turtles, sharks, coral, and many more.
    • Certified divers can hop in the Open Ocean Exhibit and swim with the sharks.
  • Iao Valley State Park—Wailuku, HI.
    • See the iconic Iao Needle—a towering natural outcropping covered in thick foliage.
    • Site of the historic Battle of Kepaniwai, which took place in an effort to unite the Hawaiian Islands.
    • Easy hiking trails make this state park a great place for kids and novice hikers.
  • Lahaina historic trail—Lahaina, HI.
    • Once home to the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
    • Self-guided walking tour that will take you past a wide variety of historic sites, including a retired whaling port, plantations, and an old jail.
  • Kula Botanical Garden—Kula, HI.
    • Countless varieties of plant life, waterfalls, koi ponds, and Hawaiian wildlife spread across several acres of land.
    • Carved Tiki sculpture exhibit.
  • Haleakala National Park—Kulu, HI.
    • Home to Maui's tallest mountain peak, where watching the sunrise is a must.
    • Features the Pools of Ohe'o, known as the “Seven Sacred Pools."
    • Campgrounds and cabin lodging.
  • Wai'ānapanapa State Park—Hana, HI.
    • Located along the scenic Hana Highway.
    • Cabin lodging and campgrounds with hiking trails, caves to explore, and black sand beaches.
  • Nakalele Blowhole—Pohelua Bay, HI.
    • This geyser-like effect is a result of sea water being pushed up by the heat of lava below.
    • Hiking trails run along the coastline and by the blowhole.
  • Old Lāhaina Luau—Lahaina, HI.
    • Enjoy an authentic Hawaiian feast while being entertained with music, Polynesian dance, and hula.
    • Learn about the history and culture of Hawaii.

Lanai

  • Hulopoe Bay—Lanai City, HI.
    • Once voted America's best beach, you can explore tide pools in cooled lava rock, rich with sea critters.
    • Great for swimming and snorkeling, with views of dolphins and humpback whales.
    • Hiking trails along the coastal cliffs.
  • Polihua Beach—just north of Lanai City, HI.
    • The ideal destination for those looking for a more secluded beach.
    • Get an up-close view of Hawaii's sea turtles on the shoreline.
  • Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods)—Lanai City, HI.
    • An unexpected rock garden looking like it's straight out of a movie, complete with hiking trails to explore.
  • Munro Trail—Lanai City, HI.
    • This hike takes you up Lanai's tallest mountain, where you'll get awe-inspiring views of the surrounding canyons and islands.
    • Hike through a rainforest, filled with a diverse selection of trees.
  • Kanepuu Preserve—just north of Lanai City, HI.
    • Protected by the Nature Conservancy, this preserve is home to a large number of rare, native Hawaiian plant species.
    • Self-guided and docent-lead tours and hikes.

Molokai

  • One Ali Beach Park—Kaunakakai, HI.
    • Great for camping, a family picnic, or day of fishing.
  • Pala'au State Park—Ho'olehua, HI.
    • Several acres of lush forests and meadows.
    • Home to Phallic Rock.
  • Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove—Kaunakakai, HI.
    • An ancient coconut grove located on the island's southern coastline, planted when Hawaii was still ruled by the Hawaiian monarchy.
  • Molokai Plumeria Farm—Kaunakakai, HI.
    • Experience sprawling fields of plumeria trees in colors you'll only see in Hawaii.
    • Farm tours and lei making workshops.
  • Purdy's Natural Macadamia Nuts—Ho'olehua, HI.
    • Acres of land covered in macadamia nut trees.
    • Sample nuts right off the trees.
  • Kamakou Preserve—Kaunakakai, HI.
    • This rainforest is part of the Nature Conservancy and home to a huge variety of native plants and animals.
  • Ililiopae Heiau—Kaunakakai, HI.
    • The largest and oldest Hawaiian temple on the island.
    • See the ruins of a monument once used for important ceremonies and human sacrifice.

Kauai

If you're a nature lover, then Kauai's for you. Known as “The Garden Isle," you'll find no shortage of magnificent foliage and natural wonders. Hikes on the island will take you through rainforests, past waterfalls, and up mountains that you won't experience anywhere else in the world.

Major Roads

  • Route 50—Runs along the island's southern coast.
  • Route 56—Runs along the island's northeast corner.
  • Route 550—Runs along the west part of the island through the Puu Ka Pele Forest Reserve.
  • Route 560—Intersects with Route 56 and runs along the island's central northern coast.

Things to Do in Kauai

  • Koke'e Natural History Museum—Kekaha, HI.
    • Exhibits on the history and arts of Hawaiian culture.
  • Waimea Canyon State Park—Waimea, HI.
    • Sweeping views of the vast and beautiful Waimea Canyon, covered in all sorts of colored foliage.
    • Seasonal fishing and hunting, plus hiking trails for all levels of hikers.
  • Kilohana Plantation—Lihue, HI.
    • This luxurious repurposed plantation estate is now considered an Historic Landmark.
    • Take a one-of-a-kind tour of the plantation grounds aboard the Kauai Plantation Railway.
  • Koloa Heritage Trail—Koloa, HI.
    • Self-guided tour will take you to a number of cultural and natural historic spots along Kauai's southern coastline.
  • Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park—Kapaa, HI.
    • Find yourself surrounded by lush mountains, cascading waterfalls, and ocean-carved cliff sides.
    • Hiking trails, campgrounds, and boat/kayak tours.
  • Kauai Museum—Lihue, HI.
    • Rotating exhibits on Kauai's cultural history, with artifacts dating back to its original, indigenous inhabitants.
    • Weekly hula classes and storytelling.
  • Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge—Kīlauea, HI.
    • View protected birds, sea mammals, and reptiles in this peaceful wildlife refuge.
    • Tour the historic Daniel K. Inouye Kīlauea Point Lighthouse.
  • Kauai Coffee—Kalaheo, HI.
    • A visit to this fully functioning farm is well suited for coffee connoisseurs.
    • Enjoy coffee tastings of a wide selection of roasts.
  • Sacred Falls Paddle and Hike—Kapaa, HI.
    • Begin by kayaking through the picturesque Wailua River, then take a short hike up to Sacred Falls, an awe-inspiring waterfall cascading into a pool below.
  • Tunnels Beach—Hanalei, HI.
    • Great location for snorkeling, surfing, scuba diving, and sun bathing.
    • White sand beach surrounded by a serene mountain landscape, with a vibrant reef located just offshore.
  • Lydgate Beach Park—Wailua, HI.
    • Great for scuba diving and snorkeling.
    • Natural swimming pools (free of ocean waves) right on the shoreline.

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