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Oahu roadways win 'scenic byway' status

The designation marks the areas around Diamond Head and Ka Iwi coastline for preservation

By Rosemarie Bernardo

LAST UPDATED: 7:08 p.m. HST, Jan 2, 2014

This story has been corrected. Please see below.

Roads encircling Diamond Head and the route along the rugged and pristine Ka Iwi coastline are now designated as Hawaii Scenic Byways.

The state Department of Transportation recently approved proposals for the Diamond Head Scenic Byway — the Lei Around Le‘ahi, and the Maunalua-Makapuu Scenic Byway to be listed among Hawaii Scenic Byways. Modeled after the federal program, the designation paves the way for recognition, preservation and enhancement of roads with outstanding scenic, natural, historic, cultural, archaeological and recreational offerings.

Hawaii roads previously named as scenic byways are: Mamalahoa Kona Heritage Corridor, Royal Footsteps Along the Kona Coast, and Ka‘u Scenic Byway — The Slopes of Mauna Loa, all on Hawaii island; and the HoloHolo Koloa Scenic Byway on Kauai.

The Diamond Head State Monument Foundation served as the lead sponsor in the byway bid for Lei Around Le‘ahi. Others involved in the effort included Hawaii's Thousand Friends, Scenic Hawaii, the O‘ahu Island Parks Conservancy and the Outdoor Circle. The foundation said in a news release it will be working on a comprehensive management plan.

Diamond Head crater was officially designated as a State Historic Monument in 1965 and a National Natural Landmark in 1968.


Greg Knudsen, project coordinator of the Ka Iwi Coalition, said Maunalua-Makapuu is "a natural choice for the scenic byway program."

The 6.8-mile stretch from Hawaii Kai Drive to the Makai Research Pier is filled with natural attractions with scenic, historical, cultural, recreational and archaeological significance, Knudsen said. Among the popular sites on the winding road: Hanauma Bay, Sandy Beach and Halona Blowhole. Farther east on the route is the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, which offers a family-friendly hike to panoramic view of the Ka Iwi and windward coasts from Oahu's easternmost tip.

The drive is featured in most Oahu guidebooks and considered one of "the 275 best drives in the U.S." in National Geographic's Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways, Knudsen said.

Maunalua-Makapuu's state scenic byways designation was initiated by the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board and sponsored by the Ka Iwi Coalition. Knudsen said the coalition, which is part of the Livable Hawaii Kai Hui, is working on a corridor management plan for the byway.

"We want to keep it natural and as undeveloped as possible," he said.

A total of four areas received the designation of Hawaii Scenic Byways last month, according to the state Department of Transportation. They include Red Road, or Kuka ‘Ehu Ala, a 15-mile stretch of Highway 137 in Puna, which passes historic lava fields, state parks, a forest preserve and a marine sanctuary; and Kauhale o Ho‘okipa in Waikiki, which is based on the Waikiki Historic Trail walking tour. An earlier version of this story said the Puna and Waikiki areas were “under consideration.

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