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Hilo to VNP to Kona

Claremont...
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Hilo to VNP to Kona

Hi, we're flying into Hilo and spending one night then getting an early start to VNP to see the sights on our way to Kona. We are traveling with 3 teenagers so we're not planning on spending lots of time at each place but would like to see the highlights. Can someone recommend a guide and time estimate? Thanks!

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1. Re: Hilo to VNP to Kona

If you need an early breakfast place check out Ken's Pancake House in Hilo.

Bring snacks, food, beverages cause there's no food at Volcano National Park.

Its about 30 minutes from HIlo to Volcano. If it is really foggy, cold, and raining you might even want to blow past Volcano National Park but the following can easily be done w/ an umberella or rain slicker.

You'll get a good map when you drive into VNP. If you want a good abreviated tour check in w/ the Rangers at the info desk can assist you as well.

I would just do the top half of the park and maybe spend 2 hours or so. Start at Visitor Center, Art Center, then short walk to sulfur banks, then short drive to steam vents and Jaggar Museum. Then back track to Thurston Lava tube and walk back across the road and take a good look at Kilauea Iki overlook as well.

I wouldn't go down to the bottom of the Chain of Craters road cause that's an extra 90 minutes of driving.

If you want to stretch your legs on the way, Black Sand Beach 30 minutes west of Volcano would be nice for maybe 45 minutes. Then if you have left over time

do a side trip at Captain Cook down to Painted Church 15 minute stop then down to Place of Refuge for an hour or so.

From Black Sand Beach to Kono will be another 2 hours of driving (not including side trips). Here's a good driving guide to help you plan your day trip out. www.alternative-hawaii.com/byotgdxb.htm

Island of Hawaii...
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2. Re: Hilo to VNP to Kona

It's about 45 minutes Hilo to Kona.

You may like to pick up snacks and drinks at a store in Hilo, as they will cost less and you'll have better selection, but you can get the basics in Volcano Village. As of right now, no food or drink options in the park. Be sure you each have a liter of water with you.

Before you go, check out the Plan Your visit page on the VNP website.

www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/index.htm

The Park is very simple to drive, and when you arrive and pay you'll receive a brochure and drive guide from the rangers. The VNP is very well staffed, so the rangers will take care of you.

Stop at the Visitor Center first for a quick orientation.

Chain of Craters is my favorite drive, so I wouldn't skip it as you have all day.

I would suggest that if weather is nice in upper park, you explore that first.

If weather is inclement but with hope of clearing, drive CoC first, because it's typically warm and dry.

You should leave the park by 2-3 pm if you plan to stop at Punalu'u black sand beach. It's not a pleasant drive at night. That is the only stop you need to make on the way. The area south of Kailua can be explored while based over there. You want to make the most of the places too far away to return to.

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3. Re: Hilo to VNP to Kona

I am also doing the Hilo-VNP-Kona route in one day, so thank you for the information. The last reply assumes that we would be going to Kona through the southern route 11, what about going through the northern route 19 which--I read somewhere--is more scenic? Is the latter too long? Or dangerous? I would plan on a return from VNP of around 3pm since I arrive to Hilo at 6am (so should be at VNP when they open). Thanks again.

Edited: 02 June 2012, 04:16
Big Island, Hawaii
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4. Re: Hilo to VNP to Kona

Butron, so your plan is to arrive at 6am at the Hilo airport, drive to VNP, spend the day, then drive to Kona around 3pm via the Hamakua coast? There are a couple of negatives of that plan, the primary one being that you'll miss some of the best aspects of the Park which occur after dark, namely the chance to see the glow and surfance lava flows, if any.

Aside from that, the northern route is definitely more scenic than the southern route, but it's also quite a bit longer going to Kona. If you leave VNP around 3pm, you won't even hit your first scenic points like Akaka Falls, Laupahoehoe, etc. on the Hamakua coast until about 4:30pm, there will be quite a bit of traffic, you won't really have time to go the botanical gardens, and the light will be really low at the Waipio Valley overlook. It's a good three+ hours to Kona from VNP via the northern route with no stops. You can do it, it's just not ideal. I would really consider spending the night in Volcano. Then you can see all the cool things at night in the park and take your time the next day driving to Kona via the Hamakua Coast and will have the benefit of being able to spend time at the botanical gardens, etc.

Island of Hawaii...
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5. Re: Hilo to VNP to Kona

good plan, Shea!

Agree, Hamakua is normally more scenic, but not good in late afternoon, in fact it can be downright crappy and stressful if the weather sets in. Also the long way round from VNP to Kona.

If you look at a topo map and note that this island has two huge mountains dominating it, and look where the highways are, think about the time of day and where the light source is.

You'll get longer light going around south. The sun disappears on Hamakua (on the highway) a good 30-60 minutes earlier than it does in Waimea and points west. (Only in high summer the sun is north enough in its arc to not be blocked by Mauna Kea.)

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6. Re: Hilo to VNP to Kona

Very unfortunately I only have the one day for this excursion. I am also afraid that this may be a "now or never" opportunity to visit VNP (I will spare you the details of the why). So, would you say that the trip is still worthwhile? I am thinking that since I will be there when the park opens at 7:30am, I may be able to leave the park area earlier than I said, say at 1:30pm, to try to avoid some of the potential problems with the Hamakua coast you mention. Your opinion is appreciated, specially since, as Shea points out, I will miss the glow and other night-time attractions :-(

Edited: 04 June 2012, 21:03
Island of Hawaii...
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7. Re: Hilo to VNP to Kona

Of course it is worthwhile. Just because you miss part of it doesn't mean the rest isn't good.

VNP excites some more than others.

It doesn't blow me away during the day, but more people love it than not.

Allow maybe an hour longer going to Kona via 19. Where are you staying?

New York
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8. Re: Hilo to VNP to Kona

Thanks for your reply. I have just reserved a night in Waikoloa beach. I saw in the map that this gets me close to Kona and may save me a few miles the day of the long excursion (I leave the following day at mid morning). I should also add that the date for the excursion is June 28 which should be close to the longest day, for whatever that is worth.

Edited: 04 June 2012, 21:43
Island of Hawaii...
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9. Re: Hilo to VNP to Kona

Oh, you are not staying in Kona! We are precise about locations on this forum, so if you say Kona we will give you the best route info for Kailua

Kona.

You are staying in South Kohala, NOT Kona, so you for sure don't want to drive Hwy 11. You want to take 19 or the Saddle, probably 19.

New York
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10. Re: Hilo to VNP to Kona

I am all set for the trip now and I am sorry I created confusion. My only excuse is that I had planned to stay in Kona but after reading your input and following your advise to look at the map, I modified my plans. So as you can see, this forum (and you in particular) helped me a lot. Thanks a lot.