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The spectacular waterfalls, mysterious jungles, emerald fields, and stunning ocean vistas along Highway 19 northwest of Hilo are collectively referred to as the Hilo-Hamakua Heritage Coast. Brown signs featuring a sugarcane tassel reflect the area's history: thousands of acres of sugarcane are now idle, with no industry to support since "King Sugar" left the island in the early 1990s.
The 45-mi drive winds through little plantation towns, Papaikou, Laupahoehoe, and Paauilo among them. It's a great place to wander off the main road and see "real" Hawaii—untouched valleys, overgrown banyan trees, tiny coastal villages. In particular, The "Heritage Drive," a 4-mi loop just off the main highway, is well worth the detour. Signs mark various sites of historical interest, as well as scenic views along the 40-mi stretch of coastline. Keep an eye out for them and try to stop at the sights mentioned—you won't be disappointed.
Once back on Highway 19, you'll pass the road to Honokaa, which leads to the end of the road bordering Waipio Valley, ancient home to Hawaiian royalty. The isolated valley floor has maintained the ways of old Hawaii, with taro patches, wild horses, and a handful of houses.
Hamakua Coast at a Glance
- Akaka Falls State Park
- Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
- Honokaa Town
- Honolii Beach Park
- Kalopa State Recreation Area
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