Drive the Scenic Red Road or the Kalapana Kapoho road in the Puna District of Hawaii
The famous Red Road in the Puna District used to actually be a red asphalt road before it was made larger and is now a black top, but the road is still called the Red Road by locals more so than the Kalapana – Kapoho road in which the Kapoho section is now buried under thousands of acres of new lava fields in the lower sections of the Puna coastline.
A little history of the Kalapana Kapoho road
One of the most scenic drives you can do in East Hawaii, the Kalapana Kapoho road is a famous stretch of road that started from Kalapana to Kapoho area which was inundated with lava in 2018 and now stops at the beach area of Isaac Hale Beach park better known as Pohoiki. The road was originally a real red asphalt road made with red cinders from the area and repaved black to expland the lanes which were mostly one lane red road throughout the district. Even without the red road and the lava destruction through the area, the remaining roadway is magical with tree tunnels, lush forests, hidden coves and beaches and a gorgeous coastline to drive through and spend a day in the many hidden spots like Kehena beach, MacKenzie State Park and the Painted Church at Kalapana.
How to get to the Red Road
The Red Road typically starts at Kalapana – around the end of cul de sac at Uncle Roberts and extends all the way to the new black sand beach at Pohoiki. From Pahoa town, head down from Hwy 130 and left right at the Junction Hwy 137 which you will follow at the start of the Red Road, aka Kalapana – Kapoho road.
It’s all about the drive on the Red Road
The road winds through lush forests areas with tree tunnels, small beach coves and other hidden beaches and that stunning coastline lined with so many coconut trees swaying to the wind. It’s intoxicating and easy to stop at so many beautiful spots along the way to just enjoy the views and take some amazing photographs of the area.
What to see and visit along the Red Road
Stops to visit along the way
The entire drive on the red road is quite scenic but there are a few must visit places to enjoy along the way that you might want to visit on your red road experience.
1. Kaimu Black Sand Beach
From Uncle Roberts Kalapana, you can hike to the new black sand beach that changes from black sand to rocks and back depending on the tides and season. The hike there is lined with coconut trees and other staple food plants to show the conditions of plants that can be grown for food in the area. There is also a Saturday farmers market in the parking lot area at Uncle Roberts.
2. Kehena Black Sand Beach
Kehena beach is the main black sand beach that is a popular beach hang out on the Puna coastline and is a clothing optional beach. Nice and secluded with these cliffs you climb down to a gorgeous black sand beach to enjoy. Just be careful and follow the locals into the water because the ocean tides and currents are sometimes difficult to get into the water.
There are a few vendors above the cliffs that sell coconuts and other refreshments or snacks if you didn’t bring any.
3. MacKenzi State Park
The MacKenzi State Park along the red road towards Pohoiki beach is a fantastic place to do some easy short coastal hikes. The shoreline here is dramatic with rugged lava rock cliffs that end abruptly into the ocean which hits them relentlessly and brings up huge sprays in a water show. It’s fun to walk through and capture some gorgeous vistas of the coastline from here.
4. Visiting Pohoiki Beach Park
The route going through to Pohoiki Beach park aka Isaac Hale beach park is fascinating and drives over 3 year old lava fields that devastated the area in 2018 and you go from lush forests and tree tunnels in barren and undulating lava rock fields. Finally at the end, make a right into the beach park to explore the new black sand beach at Pohoiki, the expansive beach area and also the many hot pond pools along the perimeter of the beach and jungle area to explore. There’s also a very cool labyrinth right on the beach to do close to the lifeguard station.
5. Uncle Roberts Saturday Market
The popular Uncle Robert’s Awa bar hosts a fun weekend market at their parking lot on Saturdays with a variety of local vendors selling foods, crafts, massage and other unique finds from the area that you’ll love exploring more of the alternative lifestyle and fun happening Saturday morning to early afternoon in the area.
Details to visiting the Red Road at Kalapana Kapoho road.
Take your time driving the road, the speed limit is just 25 miles here.
There’s lots of lovely turnouts and beautiful coves, tree tunnels and gorgeous views, please park at the side of the road where it is safe to get out.
There’s a few fruit, plant and products stands that are mostly on credit/trust payment, please pay what you owe
If you are parking and exploring, make sure you do not leave any valuables or other personal belongings in the car interior that can be stolen.
Further reading for Puna area attractions
Explore the black sand beach at Pohoiki Isaac Hale Beach Park
Visit the botanical garden and historic Lava Tree State Park
Beach time at Kehena Beach
Enjoy the colorful interiors and history of the Painted Church in Kalapana
Explore old and new Pahoa Town
Explore the new Kapoho black sand beach with no name
Visit the Sunday Maku’u market outside Pahoa
Visit the gorgeous cliffs at MacKenzie State Park
Explore East Hawaii and the Puna District
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