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Driving / Getting around

Burnaby, Canada
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Driving / Getting around

Hello all!

Wondering if i can get your advice.

We are arriving in Kona On April 12, 2017. We would like to venture over to the Hawaii National Volcano Park. We are planning to take the southern route from Kona, Is this highway lit? Street lights? I really want to see the Volcanic Glow but understand that this is only visible during the night. What time does it get dark out there in April?

I am a total planner and need to get all this sorted before i even step foot on the Big Island.

Any helpful hints or advice would be greatly appreciated!

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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1. Re: Driving / Getting around

How many days total do you have for the Big island? It is best to stay right at Volcano - to see the glow as well as enjoy the park. :)

Burnaby, Canada
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2. Re: Driving / Getting around

We have 8 nights booked in Kona.

We had only planned on a day trip. To take the Crater Rim Drive and make the stop to see the glow before heading back.

Oahu, Hawaii
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3. Re: Driving / Getting around

I noticed a distinct lack of streetlights on the highways of the Big Island while I was there this week. Mostly I noticed them pop up at intersections (presumably so people would be able to see them coming in the dark). That's a long drive to make from Kona in the dark. I agree that it might make more sense to stay overnight in Volcano (or even Hilo) if at all possible. That also gives you more time to enjoy the park in general instead of just the crater.

If you don't feel comfortable doing the drive at night, you _can_ go during the day and you _might_ see some of the lava from Jagger. We were able to see a bit of a glow while we were there during the day (we went back at night to REALLY see it) but it was nothing compared to what you see at night.

Either way: I'd strongly suggest bringing binoculars along. :)

Burnaby, Canada
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4. Re: Driving / Getting around

Excellent! Thanks for your advice!

Hawaii
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5. Re: Driving / Getting around

The Big Island doesn't have bright highway lighting and only those orange sodium streetlights even in towns, so as not to create light pollution that will interfere with astronomy. As a result, it is extremely dark between towns.

The highways now have a lot of reflectors along the side and marking the lanes, which work well except that they need replacement in spots. I find the trouble spots to be where the lane marking paint is worn nearly off and no good reflectors.

The weather on Hwy 11 (southern route) averages the best of the three ways across the island. However, there can be heavy fog between VNP and Pahala, and it does rain (there is even a flash flood area past Punalu'u, but only during heavy storm activity).

The drive is doable on the south at night, but it feels twice as long as it is due to no light and nothing to see, and nowhere open or any place to stop, until you get to Kailua-Kona, which is a one hundred mile drive from Volcano. Speed limits range from 25 passing through villages to 45 or 55 on the highway.

Edited: 22 February 2017, 19:56
Burnaby, Canada
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6. Re: Driving / Getting around

Thank you. This is really informative. Do you know when it usually starts to get dark in April?

Big Island, Hawaii
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7. Re: Driving / Getting around

Book at least one night on the east side, probably in Volcano, cross island drives at night are best avoided for a variety of reasons, including the extreme darkness, roads without shoulders, high numbers or impaired and speeding drivers, and fatigued visitors who lack familiar with the roads. Also if you have one overnight you can sightsee in daylight both ways and take two different routes which lets you see a lot more of the island.

Bear in mind if you're interested in biking or hiking to the ocean entry, you cannot reasonably do both that and see the highlights of VNP in one day, you'd need at least an overnight.

Sunset will be around 6:45pm.

Edited: 22 February 2017, 21:08
Bellingham...
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8. Re: Driving / Getting around

I also want to encourage you to double book a night in Volcano. On my recent first-time visit, I would have been so disappointed had I not allowed myself time (two nights in my case) for a fuller experience at VNP. Chain of Craters Road (different than Crater Rim Drive) is phenomenal and warrants time. As well, you want to be able to stretch your legs a bit, meander, really *be* there, not just drive over, see a couple of things quickly, and drive back, kwim?

Also, as mentioned, driving on the Big Island is rather different (understatement!) than what you're used to on the mainland. The lack of light pollution is really noticeable and the darkness just different altogether. I also think you may be surprised by how quickly and early it gets dark. When you're on the Big Island, day length will actually be an hour less than back here. (I say "here" because I'm just across the border from you. : ) )

~ Colleen

Hawaii
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9. Re: Driving / Getting around

As an example of one tricky driving feature -- there is one stretch with a few elevated roadway portions that have a drop off on both sides of the road onto black lava. The road is black, and do is the landscape. The shoulder is 1-2 feet beyond the lane on either side, before it drops into nothing for 10-20 feet down onto jagged lava rock. There is no guardrail, and no highway signage indicating caution.

If you are local and you know the stretch, you know to pay more attention, but a first time driver has no clue, and it is, as noted, pitch black.

Bellingham...
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10. Re: Driving / Getting around

What stretch is that, KK?