Legendary Saddle Road, Big Island, Hawaii About to Change
The legendary Saddle Road on the Big Island, Hawaii is about to change. The roadbuilders are working from the Hilo side to tame the narrow dangerous road. For years the car rental companies have forbidden tourists to venture on the undulating, rough surface that connects Hilo side with Kona side over the "saddle"between volcanoes Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.
The Saddle Road was built in a hurry up fashion during WWII to facilitate military movements. When the observatories were built on Mauna Kea, a visitor centre was built part way up the mountain, enticing visitors in spite of the rough, narrow, pot holed surface. As an added attraction, you might meet a military tank bearing down on the road.
Of course, many tourists took the Saddle Road anyway. I travelled it more than 20 years ago and it was impressive, but not in a nice way. It is subject to sudden fog and rain. At over 4 000 feet elevation that is to be expected. People didn't take the Saddle Road from a feeling that they needed a shakedown. The scenery on the Saddle Road is unparalled. Snaking around cinder cones and black lava it is easy to imagine the power of Pele.
So it was a pleasant surprise that the car rental agent said that it is now allowed to cross the Big Island with their cars. Some of the curves and dips have been modified, new surface is being laid on most of the 50 plus miles and call boxes have been installed for emergencies. There remains only about 9 miles of rough, narrow road on the Kona side. If you want a taste of the old Saddle Road, you'll have to hurry. They are working on smoothing out that section as I type.