About two miles down the Chain of Craters Road in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hilina Pali Road shoots off to the southwest (to the left) over a narrow, roughly paved road all the way to the end at Hilina Pali Lookout—about nine miles.
For those looking for isolation and a special vantage point, this could be it.Soon after you leave the Chain of Craters Road, the vegetation turns drier and you enter the semi-arid Ka‘u Desert. The road picks its way around and over old volcanic flows, and you can see the vegetation struggling to maintain a foothold. On the way you pass the Mauna Iki trailhead, Kulanaokuaiki Campground, and former Kipuka Nene Campground—closed to help the nene recover their threatened population. You should see geese here, but leave them alone and don’t feed them.
The road ends right on the edge of the rift, with expansive views over the benched coastline, from the area of current volcanic flow all the way to South Point. From here, one trail heads down the hill to the coast while another pushes on along the top of the cliff and farther into the dry landscape. At the pali lookout is a pavilion and restrooms, but no drinking water.
This is not a pleasure ride, as the road is rough, but it is passable. For most it probably isn’t worth the time, but for those looking for isolation and a special vantage point, this could be it. If you drive just slightly past the turnoff for Hilina Pali Road, you’ll arrive at Devil’s Throat, a pit crater formed in 1912. It’s not directly off the road, so you’ll have to park your car at the small gravel area by the side of the road, cross the street, and walk back about 50 feet to catch a glimpse.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.