Road-Tripping in Paradise

What better way to explore Hawaii than with the promise of road trip adventure ahead and everyday hubbub receding in the rearview mirror


Photo: Marco Garcia


Distance: 60 miles from Kahului to Hana

What to Expect: Whoever said it’s the journey that matters must have taken this spectacular road trip into Maui’s lush countryside. Spy verdant rainforests, rushing waterfalls and the perfect coastline along this curvy, narrow road interspersed with more than 50 bridges.

The Stops:

  • Slurp on a shave ice in Paia as you wander this artsy town with a hippie vibe and lots of little boutiques and eateries.
  • Garden of Eden Arboretum and Botanical Garden, just past mile marker 10, is an oasis of indigenous flora that provided the opening scene in Jurassic Park.
  • Stretch your legs on a walk to Wailua Falls, which splashes 80 feet down into a jungle of luscious green.


Distance: 24 miles from Waikiki to Kailua Beach

What to Expect: Leave the glitz of Waikiki behind and head along Oahu’s southeast coast to famed Kailua Beach. Between stretches of verdant landscape along Route 72 and the Kalanianaole Highway, you’ll encounter funky beach towns and jaw-dropping beach views on this road trip.

The Stops:

  • Just off Hanauma Bay, stop to see Halona Blowhole, a lava formation that casts sea spray as high as 30 feet into the air.
  • The two-mile paved trail to Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse is well worth the detour to see the dramatic coastline and the island of Moloka‘i jutting up from the sea.
  • Grab supplies for a picnic lunch at the quirky Kalapawai Market in Kailua before staking out on the creamy white sands of Kailua Beach for some quality windsurfer watching.

Halona Blowhole

Photo: Thinkstock


Distance: 38 miles from Lihue to Ha‘ena State Park

What to Expect: It’s hard to keep your eyes on the road along the Kuhio Highway (Highway 56). Eight one-lane bridges keep the pace measured as you wind through dense rainforests and past beach after spectacular beach on this road trip.

The Stops:

  • Fuel your adventure with a Local Boy burger (teriyaki, pineapple and cheddar) at Duane’s Ono-Char Burger in Anahola.
  • Visit Hanalei Town, a village lined with art galleries, historic sites and a pier that draws locals for fishing and impromptu jam sessions. But it’s the red-footed boobies and other seabirds that take center stage at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Soak up the sunset over Hanalei Bay at Ke‘e Beach. This popular spot can get crowded in the afternoon, so plan on arriving early. For amazing views, hike the first mile toward the Napali Coast.

Hanalei Bay

Photo: Thinkstock


Distance: 30 miles from Hilo to Volcanoes National Park

What to Expect: The Big Island is out of this world, thanks to its active volcanic heart and ecosystems that range from scorched deserts to black-sand beaches. The section of Highway 11 on this road trip definitely delivers on all accounts.

The Stops:

  • Pick up a plate lunch at Blane’s Drive Inn in Hilo for a picnic along the way. Early risers will enjoy a caffeine pick-me-up made with locally grown and roasted beans at Hilo Coffee Mill.
  • Stop at the Kilauea Visitor Center before visiting the park’s active pair of volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, and moonscape of steam vents, lava tubes and petroglyphs.
  • Traverse the Kilauea Iki trail for a four-mile round-trip adventure to the crater floor.

Volcanoes National Park

Photo: Getty

 Planning to travel with kids in the back seat? Check out our favorite family-friendly Hawaii activities.

Map out your Hawaiian adventure today. Book flights and accommodations online or call 877-396-7159 to speak to a AAA Travel Counselor.

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Heidi Kazemi, AAA Travel Counselor, Roseville, Calif.

Customization is always my top priority when planning a client's vacation. I ask about their family and where they've been before. Their preferences guide our planning so the vacation is perfectly tailored for them.

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