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Fine Art Images of Hawaii by Thomas Upton

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  • Thomas Upton

Mana Road - Winds Forever Around Mauna Kea

Updated: Apr 6

Mana Road, to the uninitiated, is a nice side road in Waimea that is lined near town with small farms, ranches, and homes. Some great produce stands can be found there certain days of the week.

What isn’t immediately obvious is that Mana Road goes on towards the East (away from Waimea), well…basically forever. Or at least as long as you are willing to drive. If you access Mana Road from Mealani Road in Waimea and turn left, you will ride on paved road past idyllic pastures, ranches, and farms for about 2.5 miles. It then turns to a well-managed and very scenic gravel road that winds clockwise around the base of Mauna Kea.

Forest with tall grass and misty meadown beyond
Looking through a windbreak at the pasture and pu'us beyond. A typical Mana Road view.

Ultimately, after 40+ miles of variable quality road (some say dangerous), it connects with the Mauna Kea access road. If nothing else, it is a lonely road where you will encounter little traffic, a few mountain bikers, some walkers and many cattle. Car trouble might leave you well stranded!

Abandoned structures highlight how remote this road becomes

Much of the road passes through Parker Ranch land and crosses numerous cattle grates and fences. The photos in this post were taken as we drove about 8 miles along smooth gravel road.

Pu'us and cattle on Parker ranchland seen from Mana Road
Pu'us and cattle dot the landscape on Mana Road

The meadows, pastures, tree lines, and old pu’us give this area a rolling hillside feel that is unique to foothills of Mauna Kea and Kohala. Guests we have taken into this

Mana road with green pasture and dense tree line
Mana Road winds through pastures and treelines

area describe it as looking like Ireland, Vermont, Northern California, and so on. No one expects Hawaii to look like this!

Brilliant green and yellow pasture with pu'us in the fog on Mana Road
More idyllic pastures and pu'us in the mist on Mana Road

The further you travel up Mana Road, the less infrastructure you will see. After a while the roadside fences disappear, and you see open grasslands around you. Remnants of old stone walls add to the atmosphere.

Stone wall and pasture in mist on Mana Road in Waimea
Old stone walls mark off pastures on the Mauna Kea slopes

There are ironwood windbreaks crisscrossing the area. Unlike some windbreaks near Waimea, some of these are many tree-rows wide. More like 8-10 trees wide vs 1-3 elsewhere. Maybe it gets seriously windy here?

Trees forming a windbreak row on Mana Road near Waimea
Dense windbreak treelines criss-cross the area

Edge of windbreak with meadoiw and overhanging trees on Mana Road

There are lots of cattle up here (noisily greeted us when we stopped to look), abandoned structures, old stone walls, water tanks, and tree groves among the pu’us. The views are atmospheric when the weather is poor and dramatically expansive when the weather improves. And of course, Mauna Kea always looms in front of you.

Go slow, take your time, enjoy the views, but be mindful of your travel plan. It is a long way to the Mauna Kea end, and can be a long way back to Waimea if you elect to turn around.

There's a lot more to see at! See other blog posts for more adventure ideas or go to the photo galleries to help plan your visit. You'll find one of the largest collections of high-quality landscape photography devoted to the Big Island. 🔼

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