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Mamalahoa Scenic Highway

38.7 miles: 0 hours, 50 minutes

Connecting Waimea and Kailua-Kona, the old Mamalahoa Highway (SR 190) is part of the Big Island-encircling Hawai’i Belt Road. It’s known as a mauka route (meaning “toward the mountain”). The prevailing features of hardened lava fields and grassy hillsides lack the lush tropical look of tourist Hawai’i, but there’s a bucolic peacefulness to these rural landscapes.

flickr/Steve Boland

In Kailua-Kona, stop at a coffee shop for a cup of famed Kona coffee, grown on Big Island plantations. The highway climbs from sea level to nearly 2,500 feet as you enter wide-open cattle country; pullouts along the way offer sweeping vistas of distant mountains. The 40-mile drive ends at Waimea, surrounded by ranches and farms—and there’s nary a palm tree in sight.


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