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For those who have or are thinking about vacationing in and around Hawaii, AAA Travel Views has developed a list of “must experience” drives.  The views and opinions in this article are mostly those of Chuck Gross, travel and marketing manager, AAA Southern New England. 

1. MAUI: The Road to Hana
Possibly one of the most beautiful drives on the planet.  This drive will ultimately bring you into the tiny village of Hana, but be sure to plan a full day around the drive.  From Kahului take 36 east, just past Pauwela, the road will narrow and become State Route 360.  Sites worth seeing along the way include Keanae Arboretum, Waianapanapa State Park, Hana Coast Gallery, Red Sand Beach and the Hasegawa General Store.

2. KAUAI: Grand Canyon of the Pacific – the wettest spot on the planet
Head west from Kauai’s main town of Lihue along State Rte 50 to the Hawaiian village of Waimea.  Continue traveling north on Rte 550 running alongside the Waimea Canyon; known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  The road leads through Kokee State Park and ultimately the Kalalau Lookout. There are several spots on the way up with breathtaking views, and if your in the mood for some local cuisine, there is a small restaurant and a lodge…in addition, there is the Kokee Natural History Museum.

3. NORTH SHORE OAHU: Route Of The Surfers
Banzai Pipeline and 15-20 foot waves are notorious along this gem of a route.  A surfers haven, Waimea Bay has monstrous waves that can make the ground shake when they break.  Home to the Waimea Valley Audubon Society, stunning botanical gardens, nature trails and picturesque waterfalls, this hidden dream-land can be accessed from Honolulu traveling north on H-2 and then pick-up Route 99 (Kamehameha Highway) heading towards the North Shore. You meet up with  Route 83 which circles nearly all the way around the entire island of Oahu.

4. MAUI: Upcountry and Haleakala National Park
If you have ever wondered what it is like to experience euphoria…watch the sunrise over the edge of the crater of Haleakala…Maui’s dormant volcano that rises over 10,000 above the Pacific. You’ll need to leave quite early to get there in time plus remember to dress warmly as the temperatures will be in the 30’s at this altitude. Your return trip down the mountain could include a visit to the Tedeschi Vineyards and the Kula Botanical Gardens. To get to the top of the volcano, take the Haleakala Highway (Route 37), at Pukalani, Route 377 will branch off to the left and begin the steep climb to the top. After 6 miles, look for signs to the entrance to the National Park and its narrow winding road.
         
5. HAWAII: Big Island Circle Route (Volcanoes to Waterfalls)
The Big Isle of Hawaii is home to the two largest mountains on the planet; Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, also there is the active volcano of Kilauea.  As most hotels are on the West side along the Kona Coast…it will take a full day to make the grand circle of this diverse island. Highlights include the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Chain Of Craters Road, Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm, the town of Hilo, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Akaka Falls, and the Parker Ranch.

6. MOLOKAI
This island was the home to the Belgium priest, Father Damian, who spent years ministering to those suffering from Hanson’s Disease at the Kalaupapa.  There is no independent touring allowed at the former colony, however for those over 16 years old, there are organized mule rides that descend along the 1,700 foot precipice among the tallest sea cliffs in the world.  Just past the stables, the road continues to the Kalaupapa Lookout that offers incredible views of the cliffs and colony below.

7. NORTH SHORE OF KAUAI
The North Shore of Kauai is where Hollywood came to film the movie South Pacific. Driving north from Lihue on Route 56, there are many sights worth seeing on your drive such as the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge & Kilauea Lighthouse, the charming village of Hanalei, the Hanalei River and Hanalei Valley Lookout, and Lumahi Beach where the movie was filmed. 

8. Around The WEST MAUI MOUNTAINS
For those who are staying in the Lahaina and Kaanapali area, plan a day trip around the West Maui Mountains for an adventurous day of picnicking and swimming.  Head north on Route 30, just past Fleming Park there is a steep path down to Mokuleia Beach and its Underwater Marine Sanctuary, which offers great snorkeling. Further ahead is Honolua Bay with its black rocky beach.  Continuing around the Northwest tip of Maui, the highway becomes Route 340 with spectacular views and a sense that you have the whole island just to yourself.  Once you’re on the other side of the mountains, stop at the Ioa Valley State Park for glimpses of the famous Iao Needle.  

9. OAHU: Through The Tunnels Cemetery of The Pacific… known as the Punchbowl. Once on the highway, look for signs for the Pali Lookout, a small park offering breathtaking views of eastern Oahu. The highway travels under the Koolau Mountains through an impressive tunnel…keep heading south along Route 72.  For those with extra time Sea Life Park is along the way…the highway passes by Koko Crater and the stunning Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. 

10. HAWAII: Big Island Northwestern Tip
The Northwestern tip of the Big Isle, Hawaii, is rarely visited by tourists and for those staying along the Kona Coast, take Route 19 north…you’ll pass Hapuna Beach which is worth a stop when the waters are calm as it is frequented by endangered green sea turtles.  Continue onto Route 270 to Lapakahi State Park to get a glimpse of the Hawaiian ways of 600 years ago.  Heading all the way to the tip of the island you’ll discover Mookini Heiau—the birthplace of Kamehameha I and the site where legend says the priest Paao first arrived from Polynesia.

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