Highways of Hawaii’s “Big Island”: A Guide

While you might not think of Hawaii as one of the top states to own a vehicle, there is actually a dedicated system of roads on most of the Hawaiian Islands to serve motorists, especially on the Big Island. O’ahu even has a system of federal highways and is the only area outside of the continental United States to have Interstate highways. In addition to encirclement by a system of state highways, each of the main islands of Hawaii has a public bus system.

Before you decide to take your next pleasure drive around the Big Island, it’s helpful to take a quick look into the network of roads and highways islanders depend on every day.

State Routes

Often referred to as the “Hawaii Belt,” three state routes encircle the main island, 11, 19, and 190. 19 and 190 serve as the northern route through Waimea, while state highway 11 is the southern route through the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Most of the northern highways of Hawaii were built into the existing roadbeds and bridges of an old, now defunct rail line that served the island. This route was heavily damaged during a tsunami that struck the northeast coast of the Big Island in 1946.

Hawaii’s Scenic Byways

Many people that visit Hawaii are more interested in the beautiful scenic byways that form a significant portion of the transportation means available on the Big Island.

Mamalahoa Highway: The Mamalahoa Highway once served as a popular trail for ancient Hawaiians, but now serves as a crucial transportation artery above 1,400 foot elevation. From the two-lane highway, drivers can experience the scenic and cultural views that Hawaii has to offer.

Royal Footsteps Along the Konz Coast: This highway is one of the most traveled in Hawaii for tourists, primarily drawn by the historic sites, points of interest, and scenic stops that dot nearly the entire span of the road.

Kau Scenic Byway: The Kau Scenic Byway is the main artery that travelers use to reach the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This route is notable on the island as it offers the longest continual stretch of unaltered natural views throughout the island.

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