Road Trip to Puna on the Big Island Hawaii

tree lined road

Picture perfect for a Sunday drive (Pohaiki Road)

The trees look as if they have plotted a slow attack to take over the road. Vines hang down trying to slyly block my way and hinder my vision. The road isn’t straight nor does it have any defined shoulders or boundaries. The asphalt is laid around each tree trunk making the road look like a frayed ribbon blowing in the wind.

The drive around the Puna region of the Big Island is what Sunday drives are made of; curves, views, and solitude all requiring you to slow down and enjoy each minute ticking away in the day.  And yes, rather than playing golf in Hawaii like most tourists, I’d much rather spend my day driving down the open road!

Puna is located on the eastern side of the Big Island nestled between the rainy town of Hilo and the volatile Volcanoes National Park. The region is full of energy, both above and below ground. Above ground are the creative, funky residents of the region; the region is home to the artists and the hippies. Below ground is the rumbling lava flow; the region is in the path of the lava flows when the Volcano Goddess, Pele, decides to get angry.

The town of Pahoa is worth a visit and a stop for lunch, however my real joy is simply driving down the secluded coastal roads (Highway 137 and Pohaiki Road). The views are phenomenal and I hardly see another person or car. I am able to pull over, walk out on the rocky coast, and sit taking it all in with no one around.

This road trip through Puna is peaceful, spiritual, and something not to miss. You can see why below.

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coastal bench

A perfect place to sit and take in the view (Hwy 137)

coastal memorial

A memorial along the coast. (Hwy 137)

sunday drive

The trees go in every direction, just like the road (Pohaiki Road)

big island puna

An approaching storms can’t even dampen my day! (Hwy137)

life guard stand

A life guard stand along the coast near a thermal pool (Hwy 137)

Hawaii Big Island

A tree sticks out among the lava rock (Hwy 137)

crashing waves

Waves crash into the Puna coast (Hwy 137)

road trip

Puna – the perfect road trip…yes, I think so! (Pohaiki Road)


Your Comments

34 Comments so far

  1. How do you define gorgeous? These photos :-)

  2. Wow, those photos are mesmerizing!

  3. Really great photos! Thanks for sharing them!

  4. Abby says:

    So beautiful and serene. I’ve never seen that side of Hawaii — a road trip there sounds amazing. Only in Costa Rica and Borneo have I felt like I was the only one on the beach, which these photos relay as well!

  5. Ted K says:

    Stunning photos Sherry. They are absolutely beautiful. Nice shooting!

  6. Calonie says:

    Wonderful post & photos! This is absolutely the sort of place I’d love to see before I die! I hope I do : )

  7. Kara says:

    Wow – those are some GORGEOUS photos. We head to the Big Island w/ my kiddos in March. :-)

    • Sherry says:

      Kara – I hope you have a great time there. I fell in LOVE with the Big Island. I had many great adventures there – I’ll be writing more about them in Jan. In addition to the great drives, I also did cattle herding, and visited honey and vanilla farms (yum!), and also did a great and informative tour about Volcanoes. Stay tuned and let me know if you have any questions!

  8. Ah, the memories! I used to live in the Puna area, have lunch in Pahoa (great mexican food), and swim at Pohoiki beach. There’s a road called Papaya Farms Road, where you can get all sorts of really fresh tropical fruits (many of which I couldn’t identify before I lived there) for pennies on the dollar.
    And Ecstatic Dance on Sunday mornings at Kalani yoga resort, with stunning ocean views, before migrating to Kehena black sand beach for drum circles and a picnic lunch….what a day! :-)

  9. Ooooh, We love the Big Island and your photo capture its essence perfectly. Beautiful.

  10. Lovely! Having the chance to visit these places would really make you enjoy the place. It looks very peaceful making you closer to the environment. A perfect place for you to live in that would surely give you more reason to keep the area clean.

  11. Love the drive on the #11 to Puna and towards South Point! Great photos, Sherry!

  12. Jaclyn says:

    Sherry-Your pictures are breathtaking! I especially like the one with the lifeguard stand.

  13. Gorgeous photos! Hawai’i is dreamy and your photos show that it is also quite dynamic.

  14. Andrea says:

    Beautiful! Looks like such a dynamic place

  15. Lots of gorgeous views on this road trip.

  16. Kurt says:

    Hawaii, Hawaii, Hawaii. Never yet, maybe this year when we are back in the US. Like everyone else said…these are great photos. Please continue to share great shots like this.

  17. matt says:

    just bought a house here in puna HPP subdivision as a vacation rentel nice place

  18. Denise says:


    Glad you like my neighborhood. Just one note: the correct spelling is Pohoiki NOT Pohaiki.
    Might seem minor, but a single letter can make a major difference in a word!

    Wondering what time of day you were on 137 to not find any cars? lol My boyfriend surfs Pohoiki regularly and we frequently drive on the road (especially for Sunday cruises with the dogs). There is always traffic on the road. lol

    • Sherry says:

      Thanks for the correction – I find all of the spellings quite difficult! :) I was there around noon I think – but it was in November – so maybe not as many people at that time of year. I was completely alone once I got past the little warm water pools.

  19. Denise says:

    “so maybe not as many people at that time of year.”
    ….we who live here are here year round. LOL
    At noon most of us are in town working.
    Again, glad you liked our neighborhood.

  20. Jill says:

    I lived off of Pohoiki Road for five months at an eco-village and was astounding each and every time we took the trip down the road toward the coast. The trees are mesmerizing and the air is so fresh and clean. I will never forget the dynamic coastline and the blue of the water. Living in Lower Puna was like living in a dream world. I would pause to view the expanse and be breath taken every time, pinching my arm in a surreal “Is this real life?” sort of way. I think your photos do GREAT justice to the pristine beauty of this place. It’s unlike any other!


  21. Amy says:

    I grew up here way back in the late 60’s. Your pictures really do capture a place that in many ways,time has forgot. Don’t you love that spot in the road that is being eaten away by the waves. You feel like you will quite literally fall in the ocean. There used to be a old coffee plantation building in the jungle near Pohoiki, you had to know where it was because it had been consumed by the vegetation. So great that coffee production is coming back to Puna. Great pictures, great website. You are inspiring.

  22. Neysa Otts says:

    I ran across this on Pinterest. Can’t wait to see this on our trip. Cooler thing is we are Otts too. Don’t see much people w/this last name:)

    • Sherry says:

      Hello Otts! This is still one of my favorite day drives I’ve taken – I hope you enjoy it! There are so many wonderful things to do on the Big Island…I loved Volcano’s Park and the cowboy country area. I did a cattle drive there that was quite memorable! Enjoy!

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