Big Island’s Four Mile Scenic Drive

Let’s take a scenic drive today. You’ll find a beautiful drive off Highway 19 less than 10 miles north of Hilo. The drive is commonly called the “Four Mile Scenic Drive”, but it’s original name is Old Mamalahoa Highway.

So, what makes this scenic drive scenic? The best way to explain it is with pictures. Let’s start with a photo of the road showing how it carves its way through the rainforest.


Next we stop off to take a peek at the beautiful Onomea Bay. (Note that there are no official parking areas here. You have to find a clear area for parking along the side of the road.) If you visit Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens, you can get a great view of the bay.


The following photo shows a stream along the road. Notice that the water appears to be flowing from a lava tube. We’re not geologists and we didn’t traipse up the stream to tell for sure, but it really looks like a lava tube. (Here’s a closer view.) What do you think?


Here are some tips for seeing the Four Mile Scenic Drive:

  • From Waimea, you access the drive from Kulaimano Road which is between mile markers 10 and 11. From Hilo, you access the drive shortly after mile marker 7.
  • The road is narrow, curvy, and has about a half a dozen one-lane bridges and hidden driveways, so do drive slowly and keep your wits about you. You know how those crazy tourists drive. 🙂
  • There aren’t any official parking areas along the road, though there are a couple of unofficial points where you can pull off beside of the road. Just be careful that you don’t park in someone’s driveway or trespass. Again, keep your wits about you if you get out of your car and to be on the safe side, always lock your doors.
  • Did you know that the word rainforest is synonymous with the words “mosquito haven”? 🙂 In other words, it’s a good idea to have your mosquito repellant applied if you are going to step out of your car.
  • If you have the interest and time, there’s a gorgeous tropical botanical garden along this drive that I highly recommend. An admission fee is required.

See more ideas of what to see and do on your Big Island vacation.

  1. It’s an easy turn off to miss, so keep your eyes open for the signs. It’s definitely worth the detour!

  2. This is such a timely article. When our NCL cruise makes it’s first stop in Hilo in early June, we’ve reserved a car for just several hours. Given that we would have to make those unauthorized stops to take photos and get a breath of the forest air, misquitoes and all, can you estimate how long to allow for this 4 mile trek?

  3. Hi Sheila B. – It will probably take you less than 20 minutes.

    Another pretty stop for you to consider is to drive a bit further on (away from Hilo and towards Waimea) to the Akaka Falls waterfall. It’s less than 10 miles away from the Four Mile Scenic Drive. Here’s my article on it:

    I’ll be writing about 2 more articles on waterfalls that are in Hilo. I’ll try to get those written before the end of next week so you’ll have the information well before your trip. The name of those two waterfalls are Pe’e Pe’e Falls and Rainbow Falls.

    After you’ve seen these places, I’d love for you to come back to the website and tell us what you thought of them.

    Thanks for your comment. It’s always music to my ears to hear that I’ve provided a timely article for the Go Visit Hawaii readers! 🙂

  4. When people are visiting us on the Big Island, we always take this scenic route. Everything is always lush, green, and the ocean is always beautiful. We have never stopped at the Botanical Garden however because of the expense. However, my Uncle raved about it despite the massive amount of mosquitos!

  5. I though the change in flora on the Big Island was amazing, from lush rainforest to absolute deserted black lava rock. We drove from Hilo to Kona along the northern coast and made this great detour. I think everyone has to do it, it’s hardly a detour at all. What’s also amazing was the last hour of the drive into Kona where everything was black lava rock and people leaving names and “I love XYZ” message in white rocks (I don’t know what that was place was called but it was HUGE).

    The Big Island was a stunning place to visit.

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