A Sensory safari, from Coffee to Flowers

Hilo - Puna: Smell the Flowers

Liliuokalani Garden
Liliuokalani Garden
© HVCB / Kirk Aeder
Tropical Hilo, the gateway to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is exceptionally lush with sweeping views from the sea upslope to Mauna Kea (elevation 13,796 feet above sea level). Named as one of America's best places to live, Hilo offers activities, cultural attractions and natural beauty.

Bayfront Hilo is a greenway lined with picturesque parks and picnic spots. Highlights are the Liliuokalani Gardens, Banyan Drive and Coconut Island (Moku Ola).

The district of Puna exports most of the exotic tropical flowers to all parts of the globe. From south Hilo through Mountain View, Keaau and Pahoa, you'll glimpse tropical blossoms everywhere. Many of these gardens and nurseries are open to the public for tours and retail.

Southernmost Point in the United States

Ka Lae, the southernmost tip in the USA, contains remnants of the oldest Hawaiian settlement - the earliest voyagers who landed here from Polynesia and settled. Over windswept lands, the narrow road travels 12 miles to the shoreline cliffs and you can still see the holes carved into these cliffs where fishermen once launched their canoes.

Kona Coast

Ever since the first western visitors arrived at Kealakekua Bay in 1779, the Kona coast has lured those is search of adventure and culture. Visitors today continue to make discoveries of their own, long after the days of Captain Cook.

Kona Coffee Country: Milolii to Macadamia Nuts

Five miles off Highway 11 you'll discover the tiny and remote Hawaiian fishing village of Milolii where generations of fishermen have harvested the ocean's bounty from this coastline. Today fishermen still flock to the waters off Ka Lae (South Point) in search of their catch.

Coffee Tree
Coffee Tree
© HVCB / Kirk Aeder
Drive through the famed Kona Coffee Belt that produces the finest coffee in the world. Many family farms and coffee mills offer tours and tastings. In the spring, Kona coffee trees turn white with "Kona Snow", fragrant and fragile white blossoms. In the fall, you'll see green berries turn to bright red cherries when they are ready to harvest. And while you're in the area, don't miss the collection of art galleries in Holualoa, right in the heart of Kona Coffee Country.

The Big Island is one of the world's largest producers of the prized gourmet macadamia nut, with the acres upon acres of the trees flourishing in this Hawaiian climate. Manuka Natural Area Reserve provides a wayside picnic area and visitors to the area can walk the two-mile nature trail.

Drier than other areas on the island, you'll immediately notice changes in its terrain and vegetation as you drive through this diverse southern region. You'll pass over rivers of lava that once consumed villages, all now safe and silent, tropical forest reserves, orchards, dairies, the eerie Kau Desert and vast fields that formerly produced sugar cane are being transformed into diversified agricultural ventures.

Kohala Coast

North Kohala
North Kohala
© HVCB / Kirk Aeder
Fields of lava cover these coastal plains. As you drive along Queen Kaahumanu Highway (Hwy 19) you'll witness this curious collection of different lava flows, each unique in colour and texture. Indeed, some say it's not landscape, but moonscape.

Waimea - Kohala

Cool upcountry ranch lands extend up and over the Kohala Mountain range and into the colourful 19th century town of Hawi in North Kohala. If it's art you're after, you'll find yourself a true gem in one of the many galleries here.

Bronze Statue of Kamehameha
Bronze Statue of Kamehameha
© HVCB / Kirk Aeder
King Kamehameha was born in North Kohala, just to the west of Mookini Luakini Heiau. Hawaii's first national historic landmark, take the turnoff to Upolu Airfield to view this heiau built in AD 480. The original gilt and bronze Kamehameha statue fronts the former courthouse in Kapaau and has quite a past — completed in 1880 by an American sculptor working in Europe, it was lost at sea and eventually recovered! Another King Kamehameha statue was recently installed near bayfront Hilo.

Follow the highway to the end of the road and you'll find breathtaking views at the Pololu Valley Lookout. Strong currents and rough seas restrict shoreline access. Beautiful scenery, but no swimming please.

Paniolo Country

Paniolo are Hawaiian cowboys and the Waimea — Kohala region makes up the heart of Paniolo country. The town of Waimea (also called Kamuela) is home of Parker Ranch, one of the largest ranches in the USA. Waimea, a community steeped in ranch tradition, also boasts an international scientific community, state-of-the-art medical facilities, cosmopolitan culture and impressive cuisine. Don't miss Parker Ranch Visitor Centre and Historic Homes or Imiola Church.

Hamakua: Rainbows and Waterfalls

This lush, rugged coastline is stamped with fields where sugar cane used to grow. Where sugar plantations once prospered in this Hilo — Hamakua Heritage Corridor, diversified agriculture and local handicrafts now thrive, wit macadamia nuts, produce and forests having replaced sugar. Honokaa, Paauilo and Honomu are classic examples of plantation towns so why not take the time to linger.

Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls
© HVCB / Kirk Aeder
Waterfalls come in all sizes along this stretch of the island, from the smallest roadside run-off to impressive Akaka Falls, where the water plunges over a 420 feet precipice. Be alert as you drive through these valleys and you may be rewarded with a glimpse of Hawaii's hidden waterfalls.

The Waipio Valley Lookout is stunning with cliffs dropping away 2,000 feet to the valley floor. Waipio Valley, once a major Hawaiian settlement, now supports taro farming and only a handful of people reside in the valley today.

Waimanu Valley
Waimanu Valley
© HVCB / Kirk Aeder
Just above the fields and ranchlands in this area, 100 acres of native forest have been preserved at Kalopa State Recreation Area. Spot the majestic koa and legendary ohia lehua on your nature walk.

Take the four-mile Onomea scenic drive as it winds along a pristine section of coastline with sweeping views. Laupahoehoe Point, the site of a once devastating tsunami, makes for an excellent picnic stop, and be sure to stop by the Laupahoehoe Train Museum.