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Experience Open Range Horseback Riding in the unspoiled upcountry Hawai’i at the Ponoholo Ranch on historic Kohala Mountain. This 11,000 acre working cattle ranch, stretching from the rain forest to the ocean, offers the most spectacular scenery on the Big Island. Awe inspiring views of the Kona and Kohala coastline, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai Volcanoes on the Big Island and Haleakala Volcano on Maui.

The Ponoholo Ranch on Kohala Mountain is one of the most beautiful ranches on the Big Island. This 11,000 acre cattle ranch covering 3 climate zones stretches from the rain forest at 4,800 feet to the ocean. It has the second largest herd of cattle on the island, 6,000 to 8,000, after the Parker Ranch. The ranch is operated in an environmentally sensitive manner through intensive rotational grazing which maximizes nutritional opportunities for the cattle thereby reducing damage to the land through erosion and overgrazing. The cattle raised on the Ponoholo Ranch are sent to the mainland in livestock ships after they are weaned from their mothers. They are then trucked to pasture or to feed lots primarily in Texas.

The Ranch offers awe inspiring views of the Pacific Ocean, the Kohala and Kona coastline and the Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai volcanoes on the Big Island and the Haleakala Volcano on Maui.

Paniolo Adventures is the Premier Open Range Horseback Riding operation on the Big Island. We have operated on the Ponoholo Ranch for more than 25 years. In riding the open range our guests get to experience what it was like to be a paniolo in the old days of North Kohala. The red lei lehua on the hat in the Paniolo Adventures logo is the traditional lei worn on the hats of the paniolos of the Big Island.

Feel like a real paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) when you outfit yourself with our boots, hats, chaps and Australian dusters and ride the range dotted with grazing cattle.

Rides vary from 1 hour to 4 hours.

Here is their contact information:

Paniolo Adventures: Hawaii Horseback Riding on the Big Island
1-808-889-5354  or check out their website @ www.panioloadventures.com
Mile 13.2 | Kohala Mtn. Rd. (Hwy. 250) | N. Kohala, HI 96743

 

 

 

A small detour to your destination can often open up a whole new face of Hawaii. These scenic drives are made to show some of the beautiful places on the Big Island that you would have missed if you rushed from destination to destination.

Take your time, drive slowly and enjoy the views. Stop on the way at a fruit stand of small cafe for refreshments and don’t forget your camera. These scenic routes will bring you closer to the “real Hawaii”.

Scenic drives and roads on the Big Island

map hawaii scenic drives

Click on Map to Enlarge

Almost all the roads on the Big Island are scenic in their own way, but, as always, some are more special than others. Here is a map our favorite scenic drives on the Big Island. We tell you why they are so scenic and give you recommendations on where to stop on the way.

If you already know where you want to go you can jump ahead the your destination.

 

In no particular order:

Mauna Loa Road scenic drive (Volcano Village)

Distance: 11.5 miles (one way)

Where is it? Follow highway 11 west from Volcano Village (towards Kona). Turn towards the mountain at the signposted exit to Mauna Loa road (between mile markers 30 and 31).

When to take: If you are staying at least one night in volcano village. Clear skies are a pro.

Recommended stops: Hike the 1 mile scenic trail at the Bird Park (see map), and don’t forget to stop halfway up to look back to the Kilaea Volcano.

Mauna Loa road climbs the slopes of Mauna Loa above the Kilauea Volcano. It takes you across old lava flows and through Koa forests, stopping at the trailhead of the red cabin hike. The unique selling point of this scenic route are the wide views you have of the Hawaii Volcanoes National park, and the always changing scenery.

The Mauna loa road scenic drive is the only route on this page that you cannot use to ‘go’ to another place on the Big Island. In stead, it takes you to the trailhead of the multi-day hike up Mauna Kea. We recommend that you go up this trail a few miles to get a feel for yet another face of the Big Island. The best views however, are on the way up.

Kapoho Kalapana road scenic drive (Puna, close to Hilo)

Distance: 14 miles

Where is it? Highway 137 between mile markers 8 and 22

When to take: While staying in Hilo of Volcano Village. E.g. when going to see the lava or visit the hot ponds.

Recommended stops: The Alahanui hot ponds, new Kalapana beach (Kaimu beach park).

This is our favorite scenic drive on the Big Island, and we can think of no excuse not to see it. It runs along the cost through tree tunnels in the lush Puna district, and passes by a few beach parks and hot ponds which make great stops to take in the surroundings.

Another must-see of this scenic road is Kalapana-Kaimu, where to road now terminates after it was overrun by lava in 1990. This lava also covered the world-famous Kalapana black sand beach. Right now (and a 15 minute hike from Kaimu), you can see a new black sand beach forming. This is a great start/ending of this scenic drive, and will leave a deep impression of the destruction that lava is capable of.

In the ‘town’ of Kalapana-Kaimu you can take a break and find vendor selling food, drinks, souvenirs and lava pictures.

Pepe’ekeo (Onomea) scenic drive (Hilo)

Distance: 4 miles

Where is it? Follow highway 19 north of Hilo. Between mile marker 7 and 8 take the right hand turn that is marked ‘scenic Drive”.

When to take: When staying in Hilo, when visiting e.g. the Akaka falls, or anytime you go to / leave Hilo over highway 11 to the north via the (on itself) incredibly scenic Hamakua coast.

Recommended stop: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens.

The Pepe’ekeo (also known as the Onomea bay) scenic drive is the most famous scenic routes on the Big Island. It is a 4 mile stretch of the old mamalahoa highway that snakes from scenic spot to scenic spot through lush tropical forest and gives some stunning views of Onomea Bay.

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens halfway the drive are a must-see if you like tropical plants and flowers, and are one of our favorite short hikes on the Big Island. They are often described as a “walk in paradise” and “stunningly beautiful”, and host a number of trails and over 2000 species of plants.

Please drive carefully. This road is a bit narrow, and has many sharp curves and some one-lane bridges. Drive slowly and with aloha, you are not in a hurry.

Chain of craters road (Volcano Village)

Distance: 20 miles (one way)

Where is it? The Chain of Craters road is almost impossible to miss. In the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, follow the crater rim drive towards the south and follow the signs ‘Chain of Craters road’.

When to take: While visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Recommended stops: Many: At least one of the now inactive craters along the road, the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs (if you are up for a few miles of hiking), the end of the road (where the lava flows begin) and as many stops on the way to take in the views.

The Chain of craters road takes you from en elevation of 4000 ft. all the way down to sea level over the lava covered flanks of the Kilauea volcano. The drive itself leads past many trails, old craters (hence the name), scenic spots, a largepetroglyph field up to the place where lava covers the road, and ends where 1996 lava flows covered the road.

Plan to use at least 2.5 hours (round trip) for this drive, preferably a bit more. You can literally spend weeks exploring all the sights and things to do along the Chain of Craters road. This drive is best taken when viewing conditions are clear. We like to make the drive either very early (good for hiking) or in the afternoon (sunsets are spectacular at the end of the road).

Coffee country (South Kona) scenic drive

Distance: 12 miles

Where is it? Coming from Kona, follow highway 11 south until the junction with highway 160, just south of the town Captain Cook.  Follow the road until you enter Napo’opo’o village. Here you can loop the scenic drive either by turning right (north-west) to first go to the Kealakekua bay state historical park or by turning left (south-east) to first go to the painted church and the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau national park.

When to take: When visiting Kealakekua Bay (Capt. Cook) or the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau national park, when you are driving over highway 11 between Kona and Volcano Village, when visiting green sand beach or when visiting coffee farmsnearby.

Recommended stops: St Benedict Painted church, Kealakekua Bay (Captain Cook) and the Pu’uhonua o honaunau national park.

South of Kona the landscape becomes greener and the skies more cloudy. The dry lava fields change into lush green forests and coffee plantations. There are many great snorkeling and diving spots along the coast, and this scenic drive connects two of our favorite snorkeling spots of the Big Island: Kealakekua Bay and Two Step.

There is much history in this scenic drive, with as highlight the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau national park. Pu’uhonua o Honaunau is a park of great historical and cultural significance, and worthy of a visit. The park is also a great place to wander, relax, picnic or snorkel (just outside of the park).

While driving the loop, you will pass some coffee farms and the very picturesque St Benedict painted church.

Painted church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Information for the above article provide by Lovebigisland.  For more information, check out their website at www.lovebigisland.com  We are a Big Island (Island of Hawaii) travel guide written by people with a passion for Hawaii.  We want you to have an active say in how you plan your vacation, in a sustainable way with minimum impact on the local environment (read more about our mission).

 

Looking toward the Captain Cook monument from Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park. Photo: Wikipedia.

Kona Boys’ morning history lesson by kayak on Hawaii Island

Though I’ve lived within walking distance of Kona Boys’ headquarters in Kealakekua’s high-elevation coffee country for almost a year, it was only recently, prompted by visiting family, that I popped in and signed up for its Morning Magic tour to the Captain Cook Monument. I’m so glad I did.

The iconic monument, nestled into the northern and not-road-accessible end of Kealakekua Bay, stands sentinel over some of the best snorkeling off Hawaii Island. But for me, that wasn’t the reason for the tour. I’d visited once before, via the only other mode of entry—the steeply sloped and little-shaded trail off Napoopoo Road—and spent hours tailing brightly colored butterfly fish as they nervously darted toward the drop-off. This time, aided by expert guide Anthony “A.J.” Johnson, one of Kona Boy’s managers, I was here to learn and see the place with new eyes.

 

An almost-empty Kealakekua Bay near the monument. Photo by the author.

Those eyes are bleary at our 7:45 a.m. arrival to Napoopoo Pier—unlike our small group, A.J. has already been up for hours, and is unloading our access-permitted kayaks, floatation devices, paddles and lunch cooler from his truck. We step down a homemade ladder, launch into the clear waters of the bay and receive a short orientation.

“Kealakekua Bay is one of the best protected harbors on Hawaii Island, and Hawaiians have known this for centuries,” A.J. tells us. Near our parked car at Napoopoo Beach he points out the lava rock platform remains of Hikiau heiau—a Native Hawaiian temple I had completely overlooked last time I drove this way. Hundreds of years ago, this was a site of human sacrifice and the center of a community—workers and common Hawaiians lived on this side of the bay, while the alii (chiefs) resided on the opposite side at our destination.

The Captain Cook Monument. Chain partitions designate British soil.
Photo by the author.

I can’t get over how clear the water is. The skies are cloudless and I can see down maybe 50 feet to yellow tang schooling on the bottom. We take a direct route across the crescent bay to the monument, about a mile away. Besides our mini flotilla, there isn’t a single watercraft around. Spinner dolphins, usually a common sight here, are noticeably absent—A.J. says it’s because they’ve recently given birth and steer clear of their usual haunts when they have very young calves.

Six-hundred-foot-tall cliffs tower above us along the water’s edge. I’d all but overlooked them before, but I never will again after what A.J. tells us. According to what is likely a mixture of Hawaiian oral tradition and local lore, the sheer lava tube-pocked rock face is the final resting place of countless chiefs. Upon the death of an alii, commoners would get to work weaving hundreds of feet of sturdy rope from plant fibers and head up to the top of the cliff with the remains. A crew at the top would swing the bone-bearer along the cliff face to a lava tube opening. Once everything was secured, the cave’s secret location would die with its finder: He would be cut free to fall to his death on the rocks below.

Kayaks hauled out on the rocks opposite the monument. Photo by charleschandler/Flicker.

We arrive alongside the monument in what feels like no time. A.J. helps us to time our exit via a shallow tide pool so we don’t tip—the mosquitoes swarm. We leave the kayaks and walk around through some jumbled brush to the monument. There are no facilities here, but A.J. tells us Kona Boys’ staff, along with a number of local volunteers, help to maintain the site and keep it trash-free during yearly cleanups. Old cattle-corrals made from the lava rock remains of even older temples, line the area behind the monument.

Here, we learn about Captain Cook’s arrival during the celebratory makahiki season, his departure and his fateful return after makahiki had completed. A.J. points out an “X” etched into stone that I had never noticed before—it marks the exact spot of Cook’s death. On the plaque from the Commonwealth of Australia near the monument that reads in part, “In Memory Captain James Cook, R.N. the Discoverer of both Australia and these Islands,” the word ‘discoverer’ has been scratched out and reapplied. A.J. tells us that despite the controversial historical events that occurred here, the 100-or-so-square-foot area partitioned by chain rope around the monument isn’t actually part of Hawaii at all, it’s a no-passport needed slice of British soil. In 1877, Princess Likelike deeded the land to the United Kingdom.

We spend almost two hours snorkeling and lounging in the sun nibbling on our early lunch. I swim around to a natural rock arch and watch the fish go through it with each wave. I hover above a moray eel and try to find fish I’d never seen before. I spot at least three. After we’ve been here awhile, the peaceful paradise that we first entered is shattered as several huge tour boats pull up bearing masses of noodle-wielding snorkelers, blaring reggae music and emitting smoke from onboard BBQ grills. Our cue to head home. We paddle back to our starting point hugging the coast.

I’d recommend Kona Boy’s Morning Magic tour to any Kona visitor—not only will you beat the crowds to one of the Island’s most popular spots, you’ll learn a lot in the process.

Moorish idols and yellow tang in Kealakekua Bay. Photo by the author.