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The Saddle Road viewed from Mauna Kea - Hawaii (Big Island)

The Saddle Road viewed from Mauna Kea

The Saddle Road: Is it Wise? Is it a Shortcut? Roads of Hawaii Review

Chances are that you've looked at a map of the Big Island and thought: Hmmm...the Saddle Road looks like a short and scenic way to get from Hilo to the Kona side (or vice-versa). And it can be. Cutting through the lava-strewn saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, it is definitely the shortest path between Hilo and Waimea. On the sunny morning I drove it, I caught a view of snow-covered Mauna Kea, dotted with observatories, as it played hide-and-seek through the clouds. The barren landscape was pocked with cinder cones and Mauna Loa rose boldly to my left. It was a great drive!
However, exercise caution. First and foremost, realize that most rent-a-car companies FORBID you to drive on the Saddle Road. If you damage your car there, you should lie about it unless the vehicle's undriveable or requires a police report -- then you're screwed and your insurance will probably be void. The one company that I know of that allows this, Harper's, is expensive but worth it if you want to drive this road (or head to the peak of Mauna Kea). The Saddle Road is windy and narrow in spots, and the blankets of fog that settle on it are so thick that you cannot see two median reflectors in front of you (I know -- this is what I experienced in the afternoon return trip). And locals recommend staying off it after dark -- and there's no scenary then any way.

Mode: AROUND

Type: Car/Motor Home

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Jan 4, 2008
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