4 Wheel Drive in Big Island?

Old Oct 7th, 2003, 05:41 AM
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4 Wheel Drive in Big Island?

Do I really need 4 wheel drive to fully enjoy the Big Island? My wife and I currently have a reservation for a convertible. In doing research for the trip, it seems like there are a number of beaches, observatories, portions of parks, etc. that are only accessible with a 4WD vehicle. I have read some postings that would indicate that you really do not always need a 4WD vehicle and that you would do just fine with front wheel drive. Should I consider switching from a convertible to a 4WD vehicle? Thanks for any advice!
pjfels is offline  
Old Oct 7th, 2003, 05:46 AM
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No, you don't need a 4-wheel drive. The convertible will be fun.
Old Oct 7th, 2003, 06:16 AM
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I think your best source of info. about where to go and if you need 4WD is in this guidebook:http://www.wizardpub.com/bigisland/bigisland.html

We have been to the BI a few times and have not required a 4WD to visit outstanding beaches, volcanoes national park, or for driving around the island.
The guidebook "Hawaii-The Big Island Revealed" states that 4WD is required to get to the Capt. Cook Monument/beach for example, however "there is more than one way to skin a ", if you will pardon the expression, and we took a boat trip there aboard the Fairwind II for no hassle extraordinary snorkeling.

Other areas where 4WD is indicated include the Waipio valley and reaching the summit of the observatories. I have read on this site that it is easy to run into trouble with 4WD in Waipio valley, and with regard to reaching the observatories, some people may require oxygen to reach a summit at 13,000 feet or there may be snow across the road. Fortunately there are tour options available for visiting these rugged areas, and if I was considering going to these areas, I would consult the above guidebook for suggestions, you may find info. if you search this website also.

Below is a link with pictures of waipio valley, we drove there and took a look at the entrance and decided we did not want to drive our jeep rental into this area, after previously seeing how others on Maui had gotten stuck in their jeep just driving around on sandy beach.

Hope this helps.
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 06:18 AM
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I agree - the vast number of sites are easily accessable with front-wheel drive. We had a sub-compact, and drove all around the island with no problems!
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 06:21 AM
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Also, there is a {steep} trail leading to the Captain Cook Monument.

John is correct; Mauna Kea and Waipio Valley, both must-sees, are best experienced through a tour IMO.
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 08:23 AM
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It really depends on what you're planning to do. We were there 2 weeks ago for 5 days and had a 4 WD (we had a convertible on Maui for a week this trip and really loved it). Drove down a few lava roads, including the one to the "Champagne Pool" at Puna, and really needed it for that.
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Old Oct 7th, 2003, 08:47 AM
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I've been to the BI many times, and for the most part, you do not need a 4WD. However, on one trip we rented one for a DAY (left our rental car at the different rental lot where we rented the 4WD for the day) and took the 4WD up to the top of Mauna Kea. I am sooooo glad we didn't go with one of those tour groups up there. We had a wonderful experience talking to several people who work up there and it was nice not being pressed for time. Also, there's a place to stop for information and to take a quick break on the way up, so it's not like you're COMPLETELY on your own. After driving up there, we realized we would never had made it all the way to the top in a car.

The only other time we needed a 4WD, we did the same thing and rented one for the day (again we left our rental car at the secure lot where we picked up the 4WD). We took it down a VERY ROUGH "road" (not really a road by ANY stretch of the imagination) to where the lava was flowing at the time (near where Kalapana and Royal Gardens subdivisions used to be). Of all our different visits to the lava on the Big Island, that one was by far THE BEST!!! Wow!!! But the lava changes direction all the time, and sometimes it's actually better just to drive the paved road down to the coast inside Hawaii Volcanoes Natl Park. (I think that's where the lava is flowing now.)

Otherwise, your convertible is just fine. Personally, I prefer a car (as apposed to a SUV or something) because I want a trunk to hide luggage/valuables. Unfortunately, there ARE vandals in Hawaii.
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Old Oct 8th, 2003, 05:42 PM
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It depends what you plan to do, we used the 4 wheel drive, as we went to some off the beaten path spots that the guide book said you should have 4 wheel drive for. If you go to the mainstream places, it will not be needed.
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Old Oct 8th, 2003, 07:42 PM
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4WD is only necessary for those who want to tear up the environment.
jor is offline  
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