Yes, the road itself is scenic, and you can make several stops depending on your time frame.
However, if you plan to leave your car at any trailhead, you need to have everything in the trunk and carry all valuables. It's really not a good idea to go hiking trails with all your stuff, and especially not on your last day, because it would be a real hassle to deal with a car break-in.
That said, most of the time you don't need to leave your car, or if you are at a paid attraction it should be OK, but still keep your stuff in the trunk.
I'm not too big on making lists of attractions as they tend to be in any guide (Lonely Planet) and easily found online. Here's the page on Hamakua from the Hawaii Tourism page.
You want to allow two hours advance to be in Hilo. 2 1/2 hours from Waikoloa if you didn't make any stops and drove aggressively. I would suggest you go to the airport when you hit Hilo, check your bags, and then use the rest of your time in Hilo carefree of luggage.
I like Coconut Island as a place to enjoy.
Ken's is the kind of eatery teens would enjoy, and it's close to the airport. Allow one hour to get through security and to boarding, and tack on whatever you think you'll need for returning your car.
Check with your airline to see what is the earliest you can check bags. I remember getting off of a cruise early and having to wait to check our bags. I can't remember if it was 4 hours early or not. Maybe each airport is different as well. I like Akaka Falls and we really enjoyed the Pacific Tsunami Museum. One of the guides that escorted us survived one of the tsunamis that hit the Big Island years ago. She was on her school bus. The kids noticed that there was no water in Hilo Bay. The bus driver immediately turned his bus around and headed for the hills. She said, "People died, I never got my feet wet".
If you are going to Akaka you definitely want to take Hwy 19.
The scenery is better too.
well someone else recommended heading straight to the airport checking or luggage then head north to the akaka falls. We will have been on the highway earlier in the week so I didn't know if it was worth it to go the same route all the way to the airport then have to back track North again to see the falls. if a car full of luggage would be okay then we can do the North route, see the falls then head into the airport? Suggestions?
I recommended that you go check in your luggage when you arrive in Hilo, just to be free of it. I really wouldn't recommend taking the Saddle and then going to Akaka over driving 19. You're not going to save any time that way.
If you want to take the Saddle because you've seen the other road, that's a whole different reason.
Why are you not seeing Akaka earlier if you are driving 19 a different day?
Re Akaka Falls:
this place was notorious for car break-ins, but now they do have an entry fee for parking, so there is some presence, but keep in mind the attendant is not paid to be a security guard, only to collect parking fees.
The attendant helps in that the lowlifes are going to feel more conspicuous staking the place out if there is an attendant. Haven't heard anything about theft problems at Akaka recently.
Just try not to present thieves with opportunity. As Hawaiidan used to point out, a rental car full of everything you brought with you is kind of viewed as a pinata full of candy ... at least make sure it is not obvious and don't open your trunk after you park.
It is very hard to advise you on routes when I can't see your full itinerary. For example, I don't know what routes you have already driven or what sights you have seen prior to this last day.
Keep in mind that the weather is highly variable in East Hawai'i, and Akaka Falls is up the slopes of Mauna Kea and is a rain forest, so to say you plan to see it in one particular time slot is no guarantee that it won't be pouring rain.
As an example, I live near Akaka Falls, and I would say that maybe half the days in any given week would I think of going up there, and even then, it's kind of a go when the sun is out kind of deal. It might be sunny in the morning and then out of nowhere it starts pouring rain ... or it might be raining and then it clears up and is perfect ... each day is an unknown when it comes to outdoors activity.
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