Winding through green, grassy grazing lands, tangled tropical forests, past quaint villages and distant sea views the primary roads in North Kohala—Routes 270 and 250—take the visitor through ocean-side communities and ranch country, once the governing seat of Hawaiian royalty, as far as Pololu Valley. Beaches along this coast can be beautiful but swept by surf in the winter months and many secluded coves are rocky and rugged.
Steer north along the coast from Kona up Route 270 to make a loop through the region, stopping at Lapakahi State Historical Park to wander a fishing village based on the historical Hawaiian model. When the surf is cooperative, jump in the water at one of the county parks up the road and, and if skies are clear, spot Maui on the horizon. Rough roads lead out to the shore on the Big Island's northernmost tip; if your vehicle can handle the drive, visit the temple structure Mookini Luakini Heiau and walk to the birthplace of King Kamehameha I before continuing on the main road east to Pololu Valley.
Pololu Valley is about 12 miles northwest of Waipio Valley on the Hamakua Coast as the crow flies. Hike up to a lookout for lush vistas but for the truly unique, book a kayak trip down the Kohala Ditch, a 22.5 mile irrigation system that winds through the land—the flumes and tunnels are carved into the sides of very steep mountains. For those who want to keep dry, take a safari through the tropical jungle on a HMV instead.
Head back to Kona or Hilo on Route 250, Kohala Mountain Road, for some views of ranching Hawaiian-style. Hawi, the northernmost village, is about 50 miles from Kailua-Kona.