Skip navigation

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Graphic: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track.  Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park/Kaneele’ele Heiau/Kaimu Beach

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Bradford MacGowan Filming at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing, Punalu’u’s black sand-lined coves and beaches are world-renowned.  Dozens of endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles swim the waters frequently basking on the beach here.  The wildness of the ocean and the serenity of the freshwater fishpond and coconut palm-shaded beaches make this an ideal place to spend some soul-recharge time.  Snorkeling, picnicking and camping, or just relaxing on the beach, are major destination pass-times here.  Near South Point and between the villages of Na’alehu and Pahala, Punalu’u is on Highway 11 between mile markers 55 and 56.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Looking back at Punalu'u Beach From the ruins of the Pahala Sugar Company wharf, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Punalu’u means “springs you swim to”; it is the abundance of these fresh water springs just offshore that makes swimming at Punalu’u so cold and this settlement site so important to the ancient Hawai’ians.  In pre-contact times, due to the scarcity of fresh water along the Ka’u coast, Hawaiians would swim out into Kuhua Bay with stoppered gourds, dive down on top the springs, unstopper the gourds and, by upending them underwater, fill them with the fresh spring water emanating from the floor of the bay.  These springs are one of the very few sources of fresh water on this entire end of the island.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Edangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle emerges from the ocean at Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo By Donald B. MacGowan

Dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles make the waters and beaches around Punalu’u their home; it is one of the few places outside the French Frigate Shoals in the NW Hawaiian Islands where they breed and lay eggs. Called Honu by Hawaii’s natives, they are beautiful, serene and seeming wise. Though they have swum the oceans for over 200 million years, peacefully feeding on algae and invertebrates, this highly successful product of amphibian evolution is in grave danger.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Honu, the Haaiian Green Sea Turtle at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Loss of habitat, hunting and molestation by humans has conspired to push them to the very verge of extinction. Protected now by state and federal law, the population of once millions of honu has been decimated to just a few hundred thousand.  Although they are making a comeback, Hawaii’s honu are still very much endangered.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Visitors are charmed by a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, Honu, at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Do not approach basking turtles closely, never touch or pick them up; stay at least 30 feet from them if they are basking on shore. Harassing turtles carries a stiff fine and in any case, touching the turtle is a good way to get a raging salmonella infection. If honu are swimming near where you are, do not approach or chase them; always swim to the side of them, never above (as a predatory shark would) nor below them (so they won’t feel that their soft belly is at risk).

aniNew at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Turtle tracks in the black sand beach at Punalu'u, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Anyone who observes their beauty and grace underwater easily understands why the Hawai’ians base their word for “peace”, “honua”, on their name for the green sea turtle, “honu”.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Reflection in the brackish ponds behind Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The large brackish pond behind the beach, once a very productive fish-growing pond, is also fed by a large spring called Kawaihu O Kauila (literally, “the overflowing waters of the Turtle Goddess, Kauila).  This spring is also where the mythical figure Laka slew the fierce, man-eating mo’o (sea serpent) Kaikapu (“forbidden water”).  There are some very, very mixed breed ducks that make this pond their home.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kane'ele'ele Heiau and Ninole Cinder Cone above Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

On the hill just south of the beach behind the pier is Kaneele’ele Heiau, which also is called Mailekini Heiau.  This temple very worth visiting but is often overlooked and not noticed by causal visitors simply because of its extreme size.  The heiau, standing on the hill overlooking the ruins of the pier and warehouse, is comprised of a stone platform no less than seven hundred feet long and five hundred feet wide.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kane'ele'ele Heiau looking west toward Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The name, meaning “darkness of the father god”, coupled with the heiau’s massive size, lends credence to the local legend that this was once the luakini heiau, or place of human sacrifice, of some importance for this district. A large sacrificial stone (now removed) outside the entrance, and bone pits discovered on the temple grounds during construction of the pier and warehouse, point to this as well.  Kaneele’ele is thought to represent two heiaus constructed end-to-end; Punalu’u Nui in the north and Halelau in the south.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Section of Hawaiian paved trail between heiaus at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

West of the parking lot, above Ninole Cove, stand tumbled walls, all that remains of Ka’ie’ie Heiau.  Bordering the a’a lava flow, this temple once presided over a large fishpond that was destroyed by the a’a flow.

Other ruins in the park include the historic ruins of the Pahala Sugar Company Wharf and Warehouse, alongside Kuhua Bay.   After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor at the outset of World War Two, the Army destroyed the wall and pier facilities so the Japanese couldn’t use them to land on Hawai’i’s unprotected southern side.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Punaluu Sun Bathers in dulge themselves on the gorgeous black sand at Punalu'u Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The beaches and land immediately adjacent to Punalu’u Harbor, Ninole Cove and Kuhua Bay are all part of the County Beach Park.  Snorkeling at Punalu’u is cold due to the number of off-shore springs and a bit weird (the black sand bottom makes the water dark even on the brightest days), but very rewarding, considering the density of sea turtles in the bay.   Strong off-shore winds, ocean currents and a fearsome rip mean swimmers and snorkelers should use caution and stay near shore when swimming at Punalu’u, but it’s hard to resist getting in with all those turtles.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Punalu'u Camping--although exposed to the elements, you cannot beat the view, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Camping is permitted around the pavilions and is by permit only. Pitching camp here can be a windy, but wild and elemental, exercise in campcraft. Due to the exposed nature of the terrain, however, there is little privacy.

Available services include water, picnic tables, restrooms, electrical outlets, and pavilions, parking; camping by permit only.  During peak tourist time, there is a souvenir stand with some packaged food items and canned drinks for sale.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The black sand is not only geologically delicate, it's in finite supply--please don't take it home with you; Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here. For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At Tour Guide our goal is to insure you have the most fun, most interesting and enjoyable vacation here in Hawaii–that you are provided with all the information you need to decide where to go and what to see, and that you are not burdened with out-dated or incorrect information.

For independent reviews of our product, written by some of our legions of satisfied customers, please check this out.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Advertisements

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] or simply paved over as a result of urbanization. By far the most popular black sand beach is at Punalu’u. Not only is the beach lovely, inviting and easily accessible, it’s almost guaranteed that […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: