Depending if you start from Kona on the West side of the Island or Hilo on the East side of the Island, you will experience a different road experience. East bound traffic will find the road narrows as you drive further East, there are numerous curves and rough stretches until you get by the Army base. Down the East side there have been great improvements to the road.
One of the most important things to remember is to make sure you have plenty of gas as there are no gas stations on the road.
Make sure your car rental contract does not exclude driving on the Saddle Road. In the past there was an exclusion if you drove the road. I believe now most car rentals have removed the exclusion.
The scenery changes from a dry volcanic field of grass on the West side to dense tropical vegetation on the the West slope.
The big treat is the close up views of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, assuming the low clouds are not obstructing your view.
If you have the opportunity to drive both ways, I think you will find each drive very different.
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