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Saddle Road

Celebration...
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Saddle Road

We are planning a day trip over to Hilo from the Four Seasons in Kailua-Kona. The trip via 19 includes Akaka Falls, the Botanical Gardens, Hilo, Rainbow Falls, with the last stop via Saddle Road at the Mauna Kea Observatory. We plan on leaving early as we will still be on EST, so we will be in Hilo around noon. We were told by the Four Seasons concierge not to take Saddle Road as it was under construction and not safe for travel. This is our first trip to the Big Island and we have 5 days here before we move on to Kauai and Maui. Can anyone please clarify if Saddle Road is safe in the evening to drive or is it just a precaution because of the renting car.

Big Island, Hawaii
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1. Re: Saddle Road

Make sure your rental car contract allows it, you don't want to drive without insurance anywhere here (which is what you'll be doing if you violate the contract) as you put both yourself and others at risk.

If that's not an issue, It's fine to drive it during the day. I wouldn't drive it at night, but it sounds like that's not an issue since you could do that whole trip easily in time to get back to the hotel by sunset.

Gainesville, Georgia
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2. Re: Saddle Road

Saddle Road is easy, Mauna Kea Summit Access Road past the visitor center really needs 4wd but is fine at 15mph in 2nd gear. Five miles is small gravel, then back to pavement. When no car coming, and no curve, stay on grounded side (no drop off) or middle. Very little traffic.

Big Island, Hawaii
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3. Re: Saddle Road

The OP wasn't asking about the summit road, which is prohibited by every rental agency except Harpers, but very ill advised nonetheless.

It appears you're on a mission to respond to every Waikoloa topic, no matter the age or current relevancy, with very little experience and knowledge. Spending some more time on the forum and on the island before attempting to give.... "advice" (that people skip VNP in favor of K-Mart, for instance), is suggested.

Edited: 05 April 2013, 18:34
Reedsport, Oregon
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4. Re: Saddle Road

When I checked before our trip last month Alamo and it's sister company did not allow Saddle road but Budget did. But Budget did not allow South Point when Alamo did so check with who you are going to use and where you plan to visit.

We did go over Saddle road and it wasn't bad at all. It slowed some near where the construction was but the construction is a new bypass not road repair on existing road. Now when they make the connection it could be bad for a while. But the road after the bypass construction is fairly narrow up and down road you just need to take slow and as many have said in the past I would not recommend this at night what so ever. I will admit though this route seems a bit faster but it's pretty boring IMO once you climb out of Hilo until you get towards Waimea.

San Carlos...
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5. Re: Saddle Road

Saddle road is a piece of cake in the daytime.

Big Island, Hawaii
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6. Re: Saddle Road

I drove the Saddle today from Hilo around noon. From about the 15-20 mile marker, fog reduced the visibility to about zero. Several rental cars were pulled over on the side of the road, which was probably where they belonged, but that can be a long wait....

Island of Hawaii...
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7. Re: Saddle Road

I wonder if dada drives all the way to Hilo.

As Shea said, the fog can obliterate visibility in the daytime just as well.

There can be serious fog from Waiki'i Ranch to Pohakuloa too, but it's less consistent than the Hilo side fog bank.

Big Island, Hawaii
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8. Re: Saddle Road

I do love the Saddle. I don't think it's boring at all with the beautiful ohia trees and that bright pink ground cover on the Hilo side, giving way to great views of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and then the green rolling hills and yellow flowers blanketing Waiki'i Ranch. Pue'o are often visible during the day sitting on fence posts, and short area hikes yield sightings of nene and other endangered and endemic birds. But it can also rear its ugly weather head at any time.

San Carlos...
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9. Re: Saddle Road

Yes I drove all the way to Hilo. It was a little wet on the east end coming into town but no big deal. I think living in the SF bay area with all the hills and fog make it easier than say someone from the midwest etc. I found Saddle road to be a unique and enjoyable drive. I'll do it again in August when we are back. YMMV.

Island of Hawaii...
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10. Re: Saddle Road

dada, I moved here from the Bay Area, and I lived many years in coastal California, and the fog on the Saddle is thicker than Bay Area fog. Itʻs not really fog at all. Itʻs a cloud bank that sits on the road. The loss of visibility is somewhat like the tulle fog on old Hwy 99 (Central Valley) that creates those 100 car pileups they have now and again.

From what you say, you didnʻt experience the white out conditions on the day you came over. One doesnʻt always. However, as regular drivers of that road know, itʻs fogged out more often than not.

I donʻt disagree with you that driving around fog regularly is helpful to adapting, but the Saddle fog is a problem in that it afflicts a high speed stretch of road, and itʻs pretty spooky driving fast with such poor visibility, and itʻs not too safe. The local Hilo drivers are really bad about not having working tail lights and not putting lights on when they should, so the chance of driving smack into an invisible car is quite real.

All that said, the new Saddle is indeed enjoyable outside of the cloudbank area, and I do recommend it for people. But I wonʻt downplay that one stretch, which is dangerous.