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Circling Hawaii's Big Island, the Hawaiian Belt is the modern name for the Mamalahoa Highway, consisting of Routes 11, 19 and 190. The route offers a variety of landscapes including exotic beaches, green highlands, breathtaking mountains and plunging valleys. Emerge yourself in the heritage and culture of this extraordinary state.
Begin at Kailua-Lona where the Christian missionaries built Hawaii’s first church,Mokuaikaua Church, from crushed coral and lava in 1820. Follow the coast to Ahuena Heiau and view the ceremonial stone structures. Then continue south along the scenic route into the Kona coffee country. Learn about plantation life and sample some of the local produce including coffee, guavas, oranges and passion fruits.
Stop at Kealakekua Bay to see Captain Cook’s monument at the location where he was stabbed to death by the natives in 1779. Head back along the main road, stopping off at St. Benedict's, also known as the Painted Church and visit Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park to experience a bit of preserved 16th century life in Hawaii.
The next 64 kms of the Hawaiian Belt wind through the old lava fields where native flowers and trees, such as hibiscus and ohia trees, line the roadside. As you continue, the road gains altitude and reaches the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can view active lava flows.
Turn off to the old village of Honomu, north of Hilo and visit the stunning 135m Akaka Falls and surrounding lush rain forest. For keen astronomers, visit the observatories located at the top of the island’s tallest peak, Mauna Kea.
Take the winding Kohlal Mountain Road to Hawi and then head south to the Kuukphola Heiau ruins on the lower road where King Kamehameha conquered the Big Island in 1791. As you journey back, look out for the petroglyph fields where primate figures such as turtles, fish and canoes have been carved into the lava fields.
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