Big Island Driving Trips

By Karen Rose
driving on big island

Tree tunnel on the way to Pohoiki in Puna. Photo: jkiralyphotography.

In Hawaii, to holo holo means to go for a leisurely ride – to have an adventure. It’s about the journey, not the destination. It takes roughly eight hours to circle the island, so we’ve put together a few Big Island driving tips to ensure your travels are not only beautiful and exciting, but also safe and carefree. There’s so much to see and explore on the Big Island, so buckle up and prepare for a day of fun!

Looking to rent a car? Special rental discounts are available for Hawaii.com members. Check rental car rates here.

Drive with Aloha

driving on big island

Driving to Mauna Kea Resort in South Kohala, Hawaii Island (Big Island). Photo: apasciuto.

Of course the most important rule is to be a courteous driver. In other words, drive with Aloha. Big Island’s roads are shared by cyclists, as well as the occasional, but unexpected, goat or wild pig, so stay alert.

Night Driving

driving on big island

Chain of Craters Road, Volcanoes National Park, Big Island (Hawaii Island). Photo: Bonnie.

If you don’t care for driving in the dark, it’s important to note that the sun sets early in Paradise. Sunset is about 7pm in July and 6pm in December, so plan accordingly.

Cell Phones

driving on big island

Driving in sunny Kona with the mountain of Hualalai in the background. Photo: Radly J Phoenix.

Cell phone use is strictly prohibited while driving, and this law is strictly enforced. If you need to use your cell phone, it’s required that you pull over to the side of the road and turn the car engine off. Police cars on the Big Island are not marked. They are usually identified only by the blue light on top of their cars. So if you see that blue light go off behind you, it’s not the blue light special – pull over!

Gasoline

driving on big island

Driving the road to Pohoiki in Puna. Photo: Scott Carpenter.

Be prepared for a bit of sticker shock when filling up your rental car. The cost of gasoline is higher than the continental U.S. due to shipping costs. It’s best to not wait until you’re almost on empty, because some parts of the island have limited access to gas stations – especially on a Sunday afternoon.

Weather

driving on big island

Old Mamalahoa Highway in Waimea. Photo: Scott Carpenter.

Yes, weather in Hawaii is ‘practically perfect in every way,’ but we do get occasional fog, downpours and flash floods. When this happens, the water can get deep enough to go for a swim, and lava rock can wash into the road. Pay attention to those highway warning signs. They could save your life!

Speed Limits

driving on big island

Driving to Mauna Kea via Saddle Road. Photo: Wasif Malik.

It’s easy to get distracted by all of Hawaii’s natural beauty, but take note that Hawaii has an ‘excessive speeding’ statute that carries some pretty hefty penalties. Fines run between $500 and $1,000, which is money that would be more fun spent on a snorkel trip or sunset cruise. Also, be sure and pass carefully. Big city folks may not be used to traveling on two-lane highways, so remember it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Don’t forget – special rental car discounts are available for Hawaii.com members. Check rental car rates here.

See also: Road Trip: Scenic Drives on the Big Island

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