Driving Hawaii Saddle Road

West Hawaii to East Hawaii between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa

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This site has photos and descriptions of Saddle Road (Hwy 200) on the Big Island of Hawaii. It includes a photo tour of a side trip to the Mauna Kea Visitor's Center , which is 6 miles up above Saddle Road. The west side has two entrances(6 miles apart) on Highway 190 between Waimea and Kona. The east side entrance is in Hilo at Komohana and Puainako Extension.

Saddle Road has been completely transformed in the past 7 years with rerouting, expanding and repaving on both sides of the road. Old photographs are replaced on this page as new ones are taken.

UPDATE:
The new section of Saddle Road, named after Senator Daniel Inouye, is complete. This addition bypasses the slowest portion of Saddle Road on the west side. The new entrance to Saddle Road is near mile-marker 14 on Mamalahoa Highway (Hwy 190). It decreased our drive time to Hilo by over 30 minutes.

The new Daniel K Inouye Highway is a 3 lane road which bypasses the rough road and single lane bridges. The 6.5 mile road has a 55 mph speed limit, wide shoulder, and ramps for trucks to slow down.

Saddle Road on Hilo side is mostly newly paved and in excellent condition. There is a portion of windy and narrow two-lane road at mile marker 11.

Cautions:
There are areas on the road with no cell service, though call boxes have been placed along the highway;
There are no gas stations or stores or manned places to get help - take the number of an island tow company with you in case you need help;
During bad weather or heavy cloud cover, visibility can be close to zero;
Wild animals and birds can be a hazard by running across the road - drive cautiously.

Near the top of Saddle Road, from mile marker 35 to 44, is Pohakuloa Military Training Grounds. This section of road was completely rebuilt and moved to bypass the airbase.

Military buildings in Hawaii

Gate of the Military Facility.

Saddle Road top

Mauna Kea State Park is past the gate on the Hilo side. There is a bathroom there. Bring a coat, it can be really cold.

Emergency telephone boxes are along the side of the road where cell service is unavailable.Mauna Kea Access Road sign

A huge green rock erupts from the ground almost directly across from the Mauna Kea Access Road. There is a bathroom there. The temperature there was 49 degrees at 7:56AM in March.

Green rock on Saddle Road Bathroom on Saddle road

Past the Mauna Kea Access Road, toward Hilo, there are huge lava fields. . The road has three lanes and has been upgraded.

Saddle Road towards Hilo

Clouds over Hilo

After mile 11, at 8:13AM the road narrows toward Hilo and becomes wiggly; the speed limit is 35mph. Houses are located on the road above Hilo and at mile marker 7 is the top of the Kaumana Road. From there the highway spreads out, the speed limit increases and the road ends at Komohana in Hilo.

Note: If you want to get to the Afook Civic Auditorium or Edith Kanaka'ole Stadium from Saddle Road we usually take this route:
From Saddle Road, turn left onto Komohana Road. Go past Nowelo Street (where Imiloa Astronomy Center is located) and turn right on Mohouli Street. Take Mohouli Street all the way to Kilauea Avenue, where it ends, and turn right. From Kilauea Avenue, turn left at Kekuanaoa Street. To your right is Hilo Shopping Center (where Island Natural Foods is located) and to your left is the County Water Building. Turn left at Manono Street and the Civic Auditorium will be on your right past Love's Bakery. If you stay on Manono Street, it will intersect with the Bay Front (Highway 19). Manono Street becomes Banyon Drive on the other side of Hwy 19 (where Liliuokalani Gardens and Hilo hotels are located).

 

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Mauna Kea Visitor's Center above Saddle Road
The road from Saddle Road to the Visitors Center is at the 28 mile marker on next to the Mauna Kea Access Road sign. The Center is 6 miles up a relatively steep road at 9000 feet. It has a bathroom, displays, and a gift store. Most evenings there are star gazing programs at the center. The Mauna Kea Visitor Center website has information and a real-time camera.

Mauna Kea Visitor Center

Below is a picture of housing for Astronomers and telescope workers located next to the Visitor Center.
Visitor Center View

Visitor Center parking lot.
Mauna Kea Visitor center

Visitors Center from the parking lot.
Mauna Kea Visitor Center

Bathroom in Visitors Center - uses filtered lights
Visitor Center bathroom

The international telescopes are located at 14,000 feet accessible by a dirt road next to the Visitor's Center. A Road Barricade was set up this day due to ice and snow on Mauna Kea. The road up to the summit is rugged to drive over. Four wheel drives are required. At the top of the summit, the roads are paved.
road closed Mauna Kea

Campground near Visitors Center
Mauna Kea Road view

Below is a photo tour of the road from the Visitors Center down to Saddle Road. It was driven in the lowest gear going about 20mph (17% grade).
Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

 

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

 

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

Saddle Road view

 

Saddle Road view

 

Saddle Road and MaunaKea road intersection

Near the intersection of Saddle Road and Mauna Kea Access Road is an emergency telephone.

Saddle Road at road to visitors center

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