Driving the scenic Saddle Road in Hawaii

Saddle Road is a very scenic drive located on Hawaii's Big Island, in the USA. Along the way, the road tops out at 2.062m (6,765ft) above sea level by Humuula Saddle.

Saddle Road

How long is Saddle Road in Hawaii?

The road (Hawaii State Highway 200, also known as Ala Mauna Saddle Road) is 52.7 miles (84.8 km) long and links downtown Hilo and the junction with Hawaii Route 190 near Waimea. Two roads intersect Saddle Road close to Puʻu Huluhulu at its crest near mile 28 at 6,632 ft (2,021m) above sea level, the Mauna Loa Observatory Road to the south, and the Mauna Kea Summit Road to the north.

When was Saddle Road built?

Carved out of the lava, Saddle Road was initially built as a one-lane road by the U.S. Army in 1942 to connect military training facilities to better defend the island in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

How long does it take to drive Saddle Road in Hawaii?

To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 1.15 and 2 hours. The highway reaches a maximum elevation of 2.062m (6,765ft) at Humuula Saddle and experiences heavy use as it provides the shortest driving route from Hilo to Kailua-Kona and access to the slopes of Mauna Loa and the Mauna Kea Observatories. Saddle Road cuts through some of the best scenery on the Big Island.

Is it safe to drive Saddle Road?

It was once considered one of the most dangerous paved roads in the state. The road was marginally maintained. But now it has been enhanced and improved a lot. It feels like a highway and reduces the trip to around an hour. The paved road features excellent conditions. There have been major improvements to most stretches of this road over the last few years. Since 1992, there has been increased attention on the road, with efforts to rebuild and renovate the highway into a practical cross-island route. This resulted in repaving some sections and complete rebuilding of others. There is a portion of windy and narrow two-lane road at mile marker 11. 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. One section of the road tends to be extremely foggy after dark for some reason (signage will alert you to that). The road is said to be haunted: the witness accounts included a variety of strange phenomena, including sightings of ghost lights.

Are rental cars allowed on Saddle Road?

It’s the shortest connection between both sides of the Big Island. The road features dangerously unpredictable weather. 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. Pavement edges can be rough, and head-on collisions are still a real problem. A newly paved road makes this a lot easier and saves time getting to the other side of the island. It's no longer off-limits to rental cars (but check your contract to be sure) and it's smooth and has adequate shoulders the whole way. In the uphill sections, there is a separate lane for trucks and slower cars.