Drive the Red Road on Big Island
What’s the Red Road, you ask? This amazing roadway is located in Puna on the Big Island, giving you an opportunity to see all the beautiful things Hawaii has to offer while enjoying the ride. It’s not just the destination: it’s the journey to get there that makes the Red Road, also known as Kapoho-Kalapana Road, so cool.
Despite the name, it’s not actually red. (Well, the very end of it still is at Kapoho.) It used to be red many years ago thanks to its red cinder pavement; however, that was replaced by blacktop in 2000. This scenic coastline drive in the Puna district is quite narrow at eight feet wide and it hugs the coastline as it meanders through lava fields and green vegetation. Be careful as you drive the route, as there are many curves over hill and vale, but enjoy the scenery here as well. There’s nothing quite like it in all of Hawaii.
Renting a car on vacation is your best bet. That way, you can traverse the road at your leisure. You can begin in Hilo and follow routes 130, 132 and 137 before looping back again to end up where you started. Devote a couple hours if you’re just riding through; up to four hours if you plan to hit all the stops. There are many points of interest along the way, such as Ahalanui Pond, MacKenzie State Park, Kehana Beach and the Kaimu Beach Eco-Path. Grab some local fare in Pahoa town when you get hungry, treating yourself to anything from Thai to pizza to Mexican.
Check out these side spots:
Kapoho Tide Pools
These interconnecting tide pools leading up to 200 yards offshore are quite stunning, and great for small children. You can swim and snorkel here, getting up close and personal with a variety of marine life. Some of these pools are actually heated volcanically and can get as warm as 90 degrees F. You’ll encounter fish, crabs, shellfish and sea cucumbers, but don’t go too far out so as not to get stuck in one of the strong currents. Stick to the inner pools which are pretty calm all year long. Along the shoreline, you’ll see black lava rocks that take the place of sand. Don’t forget water shoes or flip flops so as not to hurt your feet.
Ahalanui Park, also referred to as Pualaa County Park, offers a unique swimming and bathing experience unlike any you will ever have. It’s essentially a spring-fed, walled-in pool — volcanically heated to 90 degrees just like the tide pools above. Ahhh, paradise! It’s a cool blend of part natural and part man-made pool sitting right next to the sea, connected by an inlet that provides a way for tropical fish to get in and swim among the humans. You get a swimming pool and snorkeling experience in one! The water isn’t deep so it’s perfect for less-confident swimmers and small kids. Take a break for lunch and have a picnic under a palm tree for shade.
Kaimu Beach Eco-Path
If you’re up for a quick five- to 10-minute hike, stop at this scenic eco path created by the 1990 eruption of Kilauea volcano. Take a stroll across the hardened lava field right out to the ocean, where you’ll be amazed to find plants growing up out of the black sand and lava. It’s an easy hike, so small kids and older adults can easily handle it.
Enjoy your journey along the Red Road! Call us when you get to Oahu and our Hoku Hawaii Tour guides will bring you on a Circle Island Tour.
Check out our Circle Island Tour video!