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This post has been expanded and updated, here.

by Donnie MacGowan

It’s springtime on the Big Island which means monsoon season here in Kona.

A Spring Monsoon Cloudburst in Kailua Kona (it dropped 2.6 inches of rain in 72 minutes, then we returned to brilliant blue sky and sun) : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Spring Monsoon Cloudburst in Kailua Kona (it dropped 2.6 inches of rain in 72 minutes, then we returned to brilliant blue sky and sun) : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Remembering that Kona Side of Hawaii is basically arid to semi-arid, “monsoon” simply means that rather than our usual brilliant weather of sapphire skies and tropical sun, we get a few days of grey skies and drizzle and a tropical cloudburst or two–nothing like the folks over on Hilo Side have to contend with.  But during the monsoon when we get a couple sunny days, we like to break out of the office, hit the road and see our favorite places.

Kealakekua Bay and Captain Cook Monument from Napo'opo'o: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kealakekua Bay and Captain Cook Monument from Napo'opo'o: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This time, we decided to take a ride down the Kona Coast and into Ka’u. Our first stop was at picturesque Napo’opo’o, where the Kealakekua State Historic Monument, Hikiau Heiau and the Captain Cook Monument are.

The Captain James Cook Monument at Ka'awaloa Village in Kealakekua: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Captain James Cook Monument at Ka'awaloa Village in Kealakekua: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

As well as immensely important historically (this is where Cook first met the Hawaiians, as well as the place where he died), dolphin, whales and some of the best snorkeling in the Pacific are here.

Next, we drove along the shoreline, past ancient battlefields, tiny beaches, awesome sea arches and historic churches to the National Historic Monument at Pu’u Honua O Hounaunau, the Place of Refuge.

Sacred Iki nd Hale Keawe at Pu'u Honua O Hounaunau, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sacred Iki and Hale Keawe at Pu'u Honua O Hounaunau, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This ancient site is enormously important historically and culturally and is very sacred to the native Hawaiians. Adjacent to the Monument is Two Step Beach which, like Kealakekua Bay, hosts unbelievably wonderful snorkeling. In addition to the great Ali’i of Hawaii, James Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson spent time here.

Two Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay--Some of the Best Snorkeling in the Pacific: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Two Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay--Some of the Best Snorkeling in the Pacific: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving South through the coffee country of Kona Mauka, we decided to drive down to Ho’okena Beach and do some snorkeling.

Ho'okena Beach In The Morning: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Ho'okena Beach In The Morning: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Recent changes to the beach include more parking, a kayak and snorkel gear rental and snack shop as well as full time caretaker and security…the camping may be a bit more regulated these days, but the beach is much cleaner and safer–it is a joy to visit again after it got so run-down a few years back.

Morning Campers at Ho'okena Beach Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Morning Campers at Ho'okena Beach Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving through Kona macadamia nut country across the old lava flows from Mauna Loa, we decided to check out the town of Miloli’i and hike into Honomalino Beach.

An Idyllic Morning at Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

An Idyllic Morning at Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Miloli’i calls itself the “Last Fishing Village in Hawaii” and is a tight-knit enclave of native Hawaiians. The town is beautiful, if obviously impoverished, and the locals, if treated with respect, are friendly and engaging. Be wary…they can also be a bit frisky, so leave no valuables in your car when you hike out to Honomalino Beach, about 20 minutes south along the spectacular coastline.

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Miloli’i, our wanderlust drew us down to South Point–the southern most point in the United States, and a region of deep mystery, spirituality and fascination. Near the Ka Lae Heiau, one of the most sacred in all Polynesia, we found some rare (perhaps modern) kite petroglyphs in the Queen’s Pond.

Kite Petroglyphs at South Point...Are These Modern? : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kite Petroglyphs at South Point...Are These Modern? : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Crossing the tip of South Point, we drove to the Kaulana Boat Ramp and hiked into Mahana Beach–South Point’s famed Green Sand Beach.

Bathers at Mahana Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donad B. MacGowan

Bathers at Mahana Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

It’s always a treat to visit and a fascinating experience–beautiful, secluded, mysterious.

Mahana Green Sand Beach in the Afternoon: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach in the Afternoon: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We drove back to the Highway past the Ka Lae Wind Farm, then down through Waiohinu and Na’alehu. Waiohinu is where Mark Twain stayed as he wrote his “Letters From Hawaii”, and the monkey pod tree he sat under is still by the roadside.

Coastline of Ka'u from near Na'alehu, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Coastline of Ka'u from near Na'alehu, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Finally, we wound up at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach to visit the amazing sea turtles and watch the sunset.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Ambles Off into the Punalu'u Sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Ambles Off into the Punalu'u Sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Returning to Kailua Kona in the waning light, we arrived back in town just in time for seafood buffet dinner at the King Kamehameha Beach Resort. Could there be a more perfect day?

Kailua Kona in the Evening Light from Kailua Harbour: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kailua Kona in the Evening Light from Kailua Harbour: Photo by Donald MacGowan

For more information on touring Hawaii in general and the Big Island in particular, please visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Copyright 2009 Donald B. MacGowan.  All photos copyright 2009 Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

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