A scenic drive along the Hamakua coast of Hawaii’s Big Island takes you through the Hilo-Hamakua Heritage Corridor from Hilo to the Waipio Valley Lookout.
Because we make the Waimea-Hilo commute on a regular basis (a little over 50 miles and about an hour and a half), we’ve come up with several ways to break up the drive, when time permits extra stops. When you’re visiting the Big Island, if you can, you’ll want to be sure to do the same—there are too many treasures along the way that you won’t want to miss.
Laupahoehoe is the perfect stop along the Heritage Corridor because it is at about the 25 mile marker and by the time you get there, you’re probably beginning to reach the “Are we there yet?” stage. Keep in mind that Highway 19 has some twists and turns and elevation changes. For the first-time coastal route driver, you’ll probably be thankful for a break!
When you reach Laupahoehoe, you can do a short stop at the scenic overlook, or you can turn toward the ocean and venture down for a visit at Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park, site of a memorial honoring the memory of those killed in 1946 by the “April Fools Day Tsunami” that was generated by an earthquake off the coast of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.
After visiting the park, you’ll probably be ready for something to eat. And does Laupahoehoe deliver? Of course—50’s style! The “Back to the 50’s Highway Fountain” is one of those must-see-to-believe surprises on the Big Island.
It looks a bit dusty from the outside, but we have stopped several times and have yet to have a complaint. The staff is friendly and the food is good. The diner is on Facebook and Yelp, so you can check out both their daily specials and other traveler’s reviews if you’re a little daunted by the modest exterior. It’s really a fun stop!
A post about Laupahoehoe wouldn’t be complete without telling you about the Laupahoehoe Train Museum. A stop at the museum will give you insight into the history of Hamakua during the sugar era and you’ll learn about the railway that used to run along the Big Island’s eastern coast. This is a fascinating part of Hawaii’s history and will put a lot of what you see and experience here on the island into context for you. The video you see at the beginning of your Train Museum tour is worth the stop in and of itself!
My last few posts here on the Hawaii Vacation Blog have focused on exploring Hawaii at higher elevations. In the next few posts, I’d like to “take it down a notch” geographically-speaking and share a few of my favorite things to do along the scenic Hilo-Hamakua Heritage Corridor.