Hawaii 2012 - Day 13: Mauna Kea - Waipi'o Valley
Hawaii Travel Blog› entry 876 of 1090 › view all entries
We had a bit of a logistical problem. As stated in the blog of last Sunday we arrived on Hawai'i on Hilo International Airport. We would fly back home, however, from the other side of the island, from Kona International Airport. Our car was rented at Hilo but would need to be returned in Kona. A one-way rental is not unusual and is free in several states. But not in Hawaii. Alamo would charge us a one-way rental fee of about 55 USD. Ridiculous! I once did a one way coast to coast from Miami to Los Angeles. And yes in such a case I can imagine a one-way rental fee. But for just 144 km (90 miles).
The best way to go from Hilo to Kona used to be following the coast around Mauna Kea and then cross over from east to west via the village of Waimea (not to be confused with the village on Kaua'i ). An alternative route existed, the Saddle Road (route 200). This road takes a more direct east-west approach climbing over the 2022-meter (6632-feet) high saddle point between the Giants Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Saddle Road was very badly maintained and at some points hardly paved at all. Besides that fog fields (due to the altitude) were a common phenomenon, making the road even more dangerous.
The ascend was slow. We noticed it only because at some point we broke through the clouds, leaving the infamous Hilo rain behind us. Saddle road leads right through beautiful lava fields. Due to the high altitude it does not give that tropical Hawaiian feeling. To me it felt more like we were driving in Scotland or Norway. Bare rocks, low clouds, a bit chilly, etc.
At the saddle point (2022 meter / 6632-feet) the road branches with two roads.
Not too bad a decision, we still had another follow-up mission to fulfill, the Waipi'o Valley! This important landmark is also called the Valley of the Kings.
On the 18th of August 2009 I wrote in my blog: "Descending into the valley is possible. Unfortunately the weather had turned rainy. So the only thing we did was just gazing into the valley." (see here). Hence our follow-up mission to hike into the valley. The road was indeed very steep, our calves and other leg muscles had to work hard. While we made our way downhill I was curiously worried about our return trip.
It took us about 20 minutes to walk down the steep section, and another 15 to walk on the valley floor towards the beach where we could enjoy the views on the steep valley walls, the lush green valley itself, and the blue sea.
While the sun was setting we made our way westward to Alamo Rental Car on Kona Airport where we picked up our car. We had carefully picked a time after the major airlines had arrived. And our strategy worked. All the economy cars had been rented out again, so we got (it was becoming normal) another double upgrade. From that moment in time we had the luxury of two rental cars! A personal car each!
After having dinner we decided to drive back following the longer coastal road. The Chevrolet was running out of gas and we did not like the idea of stranding in the deserted (and cold) saddle.
More pictures below.