Royal Kona Resort

Driving on the Big Island

Hawaii's road rules are pretty much the same as those everywhere else in the US. However, there are things you can learn to make your island vacation more enjoyable. Small detours can show you Hawaii like you've never seen it before, and now is a great time to slow down and enjoy the view. By taking the scenic route, you will see places you never would have seen if you'd rushed around. These driving tips will help you see the real Hawaii in a safe and fun way.

Speed limit: Hawaii's speed limit tops out at 55 mph. That may seem a little low, but you're on vacation, so why be in a hurry? If the breathtaking views on the Mauna Loa Road have you slowing down to take a look, we recommend that you pull over to let other drivers pass. Those flying past you are either locals late for work, or tourists racing to make their flight home.

Police presence and road construction: There aren't any marked police vehicles on the Big Island; officers instead use their own vehicles. Instead of flashing red lights, you'll see blue lights when a police officer wants to get your attention. The Island's roads are always under construction, and traffic between Captain Cook and Kona's airport can move at a snail's pace. Allow yourself a bit more time to finish the drive, and please be careful as infrastructure is strengthened to suit the population.

Rules of the road: Unless a stop is otherwise marked, it's acceptable to make a right turn after stopping at a traffic signal. The Island's aloha spirit is alive and well, and drivers are typically laid-back and courteous so you shouldn't use your horn unless it's an emergency.

Gas prices: They're somewhere between "Holy cow!" and "Are you kidding me??" Savvy locals get their fuel at Costco near Kailua Kona's airport. If you already have a Costco membership, you can make your Big Island drive a little less costly.

Rental car risks: A rental car contract may place restrictions on vehicle usage. Read it carefully before taking the scenic drive down the South Point or Saddle Road. The weather there is unpredictable; rain, sleet, fog and even snow can occur as you're coming into or leaving Hilo. If you decide to take that route, be sure your gas tank is full as there aren't many places to stop on the Saddle Road.

Directions: When asking a local for directions, you'll likely hear the word "go", as in, "Go Kona". This simply means that you'll need to go in the general direction of Kona. You might also hear words such as "makai" and "mauka". The Big Island has huge mountains at its center, and locals often tell tourists whether their destination is on the makai (sea side) or mauka (mountain side) of the road. It takes almost six hours to drive all the way around the Island, and your passengers will have a much better trip if you drive in a clockwise direction. There are often jagged cliffs on the makai side, and going clockwise will leave you on the mauka side of the street.

When driving on the Big Island, the above tips will keep you safe and help you enjoy the scenery. The roads are rather narrow, and are full of sharp curves and one lane bridges. It doesn't make sense to be in a hurry, and by driving with aloha spirit, you'll soon be back at the Royal Kona with wonderful stories to tell.

Take a moment and book the start of your all-inclusive Hawaii vacation today!