Off the Road Again: America's Top 4x4 Destinations
If you're planning a vacation to Hawaii, take time out for a little tropical four-wheeling. The two best islands for off-roading are Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii. Both have high peaks, lush valleys, and rugged coastal sections that can only be reached by 4WD vehicle. Get yourself a good map of either island, showing fire and ranch roads, and you're ready to go. Most of the major car rental agencies now rent Suzuki Samurais or equivalent small 4WD vehicles.
On Maui, you'll want to take the spectacular road to Hana. It is paved, but mudslides are common, so you'll be glad you're in a jeep. From Hana, proceed southwest toward the edge of Haleakala National Park. You'll soon find yourself in real 4WD country with thick jungle and rugged stretches of lava. Continue along the shore, passing the Country Road 31 junction, while keeping to the coastal dirt road. You'll have fun exploring the windswept, wild southern end of the island, which is not passable by normal cars.
Three of the best backcountry routes on the Big Island are Saddle Road between Hilo and Kona, the steep Waipio Valley Trail (guided tours only), and Green Sands Beach at the island's southernmost point. Check out the track off Saddle Road leading to the Mauna Kea summit, and the route from Highway 11 to Kilauea great for lava watching in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (808.985.6000. www.nps.gov/havo). Most rental car agencies forbid you to drive many of these trails; to rent a 4WD vehicle call Harper Car and Truck Rentals (Hilo, HI. 800.852.9993. www.harpershawaii.com)
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication