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Captain Cook to Volcano

Canberra, Australia
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Captain Cook to Volcano

We are planning to stay in Captain Cook in December for 4 nights, and look at sights such as the Mauna Kea observatory and Kohala Coast. After this we want to travel to Volcano for 3 nights. Which is the better route to drive - along the south Highway 11, or through the centre of the island? I have read in other posts that Highway 11 is not a great road to drive along; however going the other way means backtracking some of the route to Mauna Kea.

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Denver, Colorado
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1. Re: Captain Cook to Volcano

Well from Captain Cook its just 2 hours to Volcano and the shortest/most ugly route but you can stop at Black Sand Beach on the way to stretch your legs. My suggestions is to do that route when heading to Volcano but leave a full day coming back around to see the Hamakua Coas sites (the way more scenic route around the island).

The other part of your plan seems to leave out South Kohola. I would do a mix of 11 nights would be better w/ maybe 5 nights South Kohala to Waimea, then 3 nights in Volcano would be good, then back around 3 nights in Captain Cook to Kona would be a better trip (or reverse that direction as needed).

If you are doing a Mauna Kea adventure for sure then an accomodation in South Kohola, Waimea, or Hilo via the Saddle Road.would be easier than Captian Cook.

Edited: 09 August 2012, 18:51
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2. Re: Captain Cook to Volcano

As you can see, Captain Cook is not a practical base for exploring Kohala coast or for Mauna Kea and you will be driving a lot.

The only route to Volcano that makes sense from there is Hwy 11.

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Kohala Coast
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3. Re: Captain Cook to Volcano

Your plan is not practical. With seven nights in December, I would not allocate three of them to Volcano which will likely be rainy and cold. As stated above, Captain Cook is not a good base for the west side given your interests, especially given the time of year. I would stay six nights on the Kohala Coast and one night in Volcano, and be prepared for the weather with warm clothes and jackets. Fly into Hilo and out of Kona or vice versa, and transit between Volcano and the Kohala Coast via the Hamakua Coast.

For Mauna Kea, if you want to visit the sunmit, you will want to take a tour, the weather will be freezing and the road very possibly treacherous and snowy. You will want someone else to drive and supply the parkas, and have updated weather info so they will cancel if it's not safe or the summit is closed, which it is frequently in December. Hawaii Forest and Trail is a good option. I personally would not include Mauna Kea in a winter itinerary to Hawaii, even just to the VIS. Brrr.

Edited: 09 August 2012, 20:29
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4. Re: Captain Cook to Volcano

I second Shea's opinion.

As she said, Mauna Kea may not be an option at that time of year.

December is a marvellous time of year to come enjoy our west side sun, weather, beaches, hike the shoreline. Not a good time to do the higher elevations, although a trip to VNP is typically part of any visit. It is the extended visit that is questionable. One night should suffice.

As you are coming from Australia, I assume you fly in and out via HNL, and can arrange your inter-island flight airports to suit your itinerary.

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5. Re: Captain Cook to Volcano

Where are you staying in Captain Cook? I agree that it's not the best center for visiting Kohala and Mauna Kea, but if you're locked into a nice spot there, your day trips plan is do-able, although not ideal. The Kohala Coast would be a better bet if those places are your major focus.

Mauna Kea will indeed be a challenge in December. You'd have to catch it on just the right day (clear, sunny, no recent heavy snow) and the chances of doing that on a tight schedule are slim.

I can't for the life of me see how anyone could call the south route from Captain Cook to Volcano "ugly!" Although for many it's not the preferred route, we love driving that road. It's breathtaking in so many places, and completely avoids all the larger towns and traffic. The sweeping views to the top of Mauna Loa, the dramatic vistas of the white-capped seas as you head out of Na'alehu, the mysterious hills above Punalu'u - and Punalu'u itself - the climb up to Volcano through the Ka'u desert; we just love it.

But if it works out that you don't go to Mauna Kea, you will be missing a lot of gorgeous scenery in the northern districts of the island if you then you go the south route to Volcano. So there's no easy answer if you do stay in Captain Cook. As KK says, you'll be driving a LOT.

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6. Re: Captain Cook to Volcano

We just drove from captain cooks to volcano park and back today and it was a beautiful drive!

Denver, Colorado
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7. Re: Captain Cook to Volcano

The "ugly" part of the drive going south from Captain cook is going thru all of the lava fields w/ pretty ragged looking trees. To me the route along the Hamakua Coast is way more scenic but what do I know anyways :)

California
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8. Re: Captain Cook to Volcano

I agree. Rather a boring drive (and winding) until you get to Naalehu, then a nice view of the ocean. The drive does show the diversity of the island.

Big Island, Hawaii
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9. Re: Captain Cook to Volcano

I've always found the southern route boring and much less pretty now given all the vog. Plus that first, long, slow windy section is not particularly pleasant for passengers prone to car sickness.

10. Re: Captain Cook to Volcano

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