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Please help--shortest route to go from Kailua-Kona to Hilo?

Mission Viejo...
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Please help--shortest route to go from Kailua-Kona to Hilo?

My DH and I leaving for the BI tomorrow and are planning a helicopter ride on Friday, July 2 at 11:30. I had planned to go the northern route and now Google is telling me to go the Saddle Road. With so many posts saying how difficult that route is, is it wise if we have a time crunch? Otherwise, we will go to Waimea and then around to Hilo. Thanks for your advice.

Sally in Seattle

Island of Hawaii...
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1. Re: Please help--shortest route to go from Kailua-Kona to Hilo?

Hi, I would ignore Google. It looks at miles, not the roads. Saddle climbs up 6000 feet into the clouds and down again, but does Google care? No. It's not the thing you want when you first arrive.

It is definitely NOT a road to drive in a hurry when you've never driven it. It is only faster when you go 80 mph like I do and you shouldn't drive 80 on it when you don't know the road. It is a totally unforgiving road if you make a slight handling error -- nothing but hard sharp lava off the side of the road.

Take 19 ...

Michigan
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2. Re: Please help--shortest route to go from Kailua-Kona to Hilo?

I'm like a kid, when someone tells me not to do it, I want to even more. After several trips to the Big Island, and being told by the car rentals not to travel Saddle (do they still do that?), we finally drove it to Hilo from Waikoloa. It wasn't nearly as exciting as I had hoped. I think the other routes would be more scenic. I'm assuming it used to be more dangerous and isolated but when we drove it there was quite a bit of construction and a lot of the road was in great shape. It was also very interesting to leave the dry side of the island, crossing the high and somewhat barren interior and come into green lush side. I would suggest listening to KK or you may find yourself slowing them down.

Denver, Colorado
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3. Re: Please help--shortest route to go from Kailua-Kona to Hilo?

Saddle road isn't a good short cut road cause its real winding on both ends and and the fog rolls in most days and if you get a impatient local behind you then they will just be pissed off at you. Either route is about the same but the route thru Waimea is more scenic. BTW its a shame to drive that far just for one event. Better plan is to stay two nights in Volcano and loop the island for three full days to see all of the must see places.

Island of Hawaii...
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for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
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4. Re: Please help--shortest route to go from Kailua-Kona to Hilo?

Rono,

it's true that the Saddle has changed a great deal. It wasn't so very fun before, though, because any time you didn't drive straddling the center line the potholes would jar the heck out of you ... I don't think potholes are especially exciting, more annoying.

Now the potholes are gone. The descent or ascent from Waikoloa side is still dangerous in that you aren't as much a master of your own fate as on some other roads. If some idiot doesn't see you coming and doesn't yield on a one lane bridge, there's nowhere to take evasive action. I always say a prayer on that section.

Used to be the one lane bridges weren't so dangerous because the road was so bad surface wise that the ongoing traffic was coming slowly. Now the surface is good and people are going 60 and not prepared to stop dead and yield when they come around a curve or over a rise and meet a car.

In a few more years when they have the bypass which will eliminate that whole section, it's going to be great to have a very nice highway. There will always be the chance of thick fog and clouds, especially on the Hilo side.

Right now they have part of Hilo side torn up and it's rough dusty gravel that's slow going, so I don't recommend it.

I think the Saddle is an interesting road that has some unique scenery, but it's not the FIRST highway people should drive on a first visit. Especially not in an attempt to make good time, because the curves are very tricky.

They aren't well engineered like all the curves on Hamakua coast, which have all been redone in such a way that the driving is very smooth. Even the three gulches are way better than they used to be; they used to be literal killers, but the highway dept. has improved them in recent years. There's no reason to fly off the road on 19 unless you're driving recklessly, whereas the Saddle can get you for making a tiny mistake with your steering and braking.

Maybe if you're new to the road you don't see the engineering issues and you just look at the surface and you think it's a fine road, but those who drive it enough to know it well understand it is rather treacherous.

5. Re: Please help--shortest route to go from Kailua-Kona to Hilo?

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