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Historical Kona Heritage Corridor

Up-Country Kona is A Charming Amalgamation of True Old Hawaii and Counter Culture Weirdness--All With Stunning Views of the Ocean: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Up-Country Kona is A Charming Amalgamation of True Old Hawaii and Whimsical Counter Culture Weirdness–All With Stunning Views of the Ocean: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When the Kona Coast becomes too hot and humid upon a torrid afternoon, or post-littoral torpor sets in from sunbathing overindulgence at the beach, visitor’s to the Big Island Kona side should take a cue from locals and head up-country for the fresh, cool afternoon air. The Old Road, a 12 mile long remnant of the Mamalahoa Highway, runs through a beautiful slice of Old Hawai’i; coffee farms, fruit orchards, historical buildings, small towns and an old sugar mill grace the sunny slopes of Hualalai Volcano here.

Mauka, or Up-Country, Kona as this area is called, was once the beating financial heart of Hawai’i Island-along this road were built the first newspaper press, bottling company and telephone exchange on Hawai’i. Today, the road runs through the artist enclave of Holualoa, famed for its art galleries and coffeehouses. Sweeping views of the Kona coastline, the upper slopes of Hualalai Volcano and even Maui on vog-free days, make this road a trip a not to be missed treat. Let’s take a quick tour of the section of the Kona Heritage Corridor that runs along Highway 180 from it’s intersection with Highway 190 north through Holualoa, past the intersection with Highway 19 and into the town of Kainaliu.

Kona Mauka Offers Stunning Views Along The Coast and Of Sunsets: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kona Mauka Offers Stunning Views Along The Coast and Of Sunsets: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

M. Onizuka Store

Starting at the intersection of the Mamalahoa Highway (Hwy 180) and Highway 190 (Palani Road) and heading approximately South on the Mamalahoa Highway, one passes through tropical to temperate rainforest and comes to the verge of the cloud forest that softens the upper slopes of Hualalai Volcano. At about the 7 mile maker one passes the old M. Onizuka Store, the boyhood home of Astronaut Elisson Onizuka, who died in the Challenger space shuttle disaster. The M. Onizuka Store was founded in 1933 by Masamitsu Onizuka in 1933 who provided the residents of his community with general merchandise and means of transporting their purchases through the store’s one-man taxi service. Following her husband’s death, Mitsue Nagata Onizuka continued to run the store until the day she died in 1990. “May Peace On Earth Prevail” proclaims the post outside the residence where Elisson Onizuka, who had the honor of being the first astronaut of Japanese-American descent, grew up. History buffs are invited to explore Hawai’i’s rich involvement in man’s exploration of space at the Onizuka Space Museum at Kona International Airport.

Kona Mauka Was Once the Beating Financial Center of Hawaii Island:Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kona Mauka Was Once the Beating Financial Center of Hawaii Island:Photo by Donnie MacGowan

K. Komo Store

Boasting but a few necessary concessions to the march of time, the charming comfort of the family store of yesteryear lives on in the form of the K. Komo Store. Gasoline, sundries and good conversation are always available at this for real slice of “Old Hawai’i”. Serving the people of Keopu since the early 1900’s, and operated by the third generation of Komo family, K. Komo Store still grows, roasts, brews and sells their own brand of coffee. The store is registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

Holualoa Town

When the Dryland Forest on the Slopes of Hualalai Volcano Open Up Near Holualoa Town, There Are Amazing Views of the Kona Coast

When the Dryland Forest on the Slopes of Hualalai Volcano Open Up Near Holualoa Town, There Are Amazing Views of the Kona Coast: Photo by Donald MacGowan

With a name that means “the long sled track”, its position at the apex of Kona coffee country and its modern day eclectic profusion of art galleries, schools and studios, it’s easy to see that Holualoa, once the bustling center of North Kona commerce, has been through some changes in the past 200 years. Initially, Hawai’ians grew taro and sweet potato in small family farm plots called “kuleana” around Holualoa. It is interesting to note that today the word “kuleana” in Hawai’ian pidgin has taken on the meaning of “personal responsibility”. In any case, early in the nineteenth century, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese immigrants settled here and began planting large fields of oranges, breadfruit, coffee and cotton among other crops. A large sisal plantation for making ropes for sailing vessels was located just northwest of Holualoa…today, now-wild sisal plants, looking a bit alien with their tall, single stalk of blossoms, can be seen in profusion along Palani Road between Kailua and Kealekehe. Early in the 20th century the fields were turned over almost entirely to sugar production and Holualoa became the financial center of the Kona District. Luther Aungst established the Kona Telephone Co here in the 1890s, the first regional newspaper The Kona Echo was established at Holualoa by Dr. Harvey Hayashi, one of Kona’s first full time resident doctors. Many other schools, churches and industries, including the Kona Bottling Works, located here in the first half of the 20th century, but the collapse of the sugar industry brought financial doom that coffee growing only partially staved off. The community shrank drastically in population and commercial importance and by 1958 only about 1000 people lived in the Holualoa area. In a dreamy, upcountry Kona backwater, a community of artists, recluses, writers and seekers of the “Old Hawai’i Lifestyle” thrived here. Recently, an infusion of money from the newly invigorated “boutique coffee” industry has sparked a revival of commercial life in Holualoa, anchored in coffeehouses and art galleries.

Kona Sugar Company and West Hawai’i Railway Company

eKona Sugar Mill 2

The Jungle Has Nearly Reclaimed the Old Kona Sugar Mill Below Holualoa Town: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Such was the seductive lure of easy riches to be gained by growing sugar in Hawai’i at the beginning of the 20th Century, that investment capital for a large sugar plantation, sugar mill and railroad in Kona could be raised not once, but three times. The Kona Sugar Company plantation was established in 1899 and every available scrap of land was stripped of whatever crops had grown there previously and planted in cane. Although the sugar grew well enough above about 500 feet elevation, a notable lack of fresh water in Kona’s semi-arid landscape made Wai’aha Stream the only logical choice for the mill site. Unfortunately, the stream flow is vastly insufficient for year-round cane milling and the mill, built in 1901, went broke in 1903. Kona Sugar was bought by investors; renamed Kona Development Company, the plantation again went broke in 1916 and was in turn bought by investors in Tokyo. This group managed to eek out a profit until the industry imploded in 1926. Originally planned to run 30 miles, the railroad was only built to total length of 11 miles in the 27 years of sugar plantation operation. Work camps, communal baths, stables, workshops and all the requisite infrastructure of a giant agricultural plantation lay abandoned in the Mauka Kona countryside. During World War II, the U.S. Army used the mill site as a training camp to acclimate troops to warfare on their way to the tropical Pacific Theater. Fearing the tall smokestack of the mill would act as an artillery landmark for any invading forces, the Army pulled it down and Kona lost one of its first post-contact, industrial landmarks. Traces of the rail bed can still be seen from the top of Nani Kailua and Aloha Kona residential neighborhoods. Located just west of the town of Holualoa along Hualalai Road (the major intersection just south of town), near the intersection with Hienaloli Road, are impressive stone breastworks and trestles for the railroad. Built by hand but still strong today, the rail bed can be explored and hiked from here. Further up Hienaloli Road from the intersection with Hualalai Road, the old mill site remnants are still visible.

Keauhou Store

The Old Keauhou Store in the Kona Heritage Corridor: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Old Keauhou Store in the Kona Heritage Corridor: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Originally Sasaki Store, Keauhou Store was founded by noted carpenter, coffee farmer and prominent local business man Yoshisuki Sasaki in 1919, and remains one of the great neighborhood stores of Kona. Run most recently by Yoshiuki’s son, Rikiyo, they once offered gas, sundries, fresh coffee and local produce; today, however, the Keauhou Store stands closed by the roadway, as traffic that used to pass by the front door now travels the makai highway. However, the front porch of Keauhou Store still serves as a gathering place for local coffee farmers and neighborhood children. A true remnant of Old Kona, Keauhou Store is worth a visit, especially to history buffs and photographers.Tong Wo Tong Cemetery

Although Chinese have lived in the Islands since the turn of the 19th Century, the first large scale immigration of Chinese came when they were brought over to work the cane fields in 1852. There was soon a burgeoning population of Chinese field workers and shopkeepers; by 1860 Chinese outnumbered Caucasians in Hawai’i. This community established the Tong Wo Tong Cemetery to honor their ancestors and commissioned Yoshisuki Sasaki, a noted local carpenter and prominent business man, to build the ornate gate in 1902. In English and Chinese the inscription on the gate reads “Tong Wo Tong Cemetery”.

Gateway to Tong Wo Tong Cemetery, Kona Heritage Corridor: Photo By Donald MacGowan

Gateway to Tong Wo Tong Cemetery, Kona Heritage Corridor: Photo By Donald MacGowan

Daifukuji Soto Mission

This Buddhist Temple has served the Mauka Kona community as a site for worship and retreat since opening on May 27, 1921. Reverend Kaiseki Kodama, who, since founding the first Kona Soto Mission in 1914, for years had held services at Hanato Store and other sites, planned the original mission building which was designed and built by Yoshisuki Sasakai. Reverend Hosokawa opened a Japanese Language School here in 1926; the school, living quarters and social hall all enlarged upon the original structure. The traditional Japanese music and dance-filled O Bon Festival is held here each July; visitors are welcome.

The Daifukuji Mission Near Kainaliu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Daifukuji Mission Near Kainaliu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lanakila Church/Kaona Uprising

Lanakila Church was the beginning and focal point for one of the strangest and more interesting episodes in Mauka Kona history during the latter half of the 19th Century. This, the last church built by the ubiquitous Reverend John D. Paris, was finished in 1867. Lanakila Church is still today a vibrantly strong, active parish of Congregationalists. The quiet country setting of this church gives little indication that it was in the center of a violent, deadly uprising in the late 1860s. Called the Kaona Uprising, the events of 1867 and 1868 comprised a perhaps natural reaction of the native Hawai’ians to having been so recently, and completely, dispossessed of their way of life, their naturist religion and their ancient traditions. The uprising started peaceably enough; in 1867 a man named Kaona introduced himself to the Reverend Paris, saying he had a great quantity of Hawai’ian Bibles he wished to distribute and asked permission to store them in the as-yet-unfinished Lanakila Church building. The Church elders assented and the Bibles were stored. However, Kaona and his followers tried to usurp the church building and its land for living space and at the pleas of Reverend Paris the Governor, Princess Ke’elikolani, eventually evicted them. Kaona moved his growing group of malcontents onto a neighbor’s property until rain and cold forced them to seek warmer lands downslope by the ocean. Growing more powerful with each new cult member, Kaona resisted the efforts of the local law enforcement, in the person of Sheriff Neville, to evict them, reportedly spitting on and destroying the first eviction order. Preaching Hellfire and Brimstone, and aided considerably by a rash of large earthquakes early in 1868, Kaona convinced his followers that he was the only true Prophet of God and that the earthquakes would destroy all but his most loyal followers. Sensing a mood of violence, Sheriff Neville determined to use force if necessary to evict Kaona and his band from their squatter’s camp. In the ensuing melee, Neville and one native policeman were killed. Kaona then whipped his band into a religious frenzy of blood lust, exhorting them to go forth, slay the white people and set fire to their farms and homes. Such was the violence and threat that the South Kona Magistrate organized a volunteer militia to for the protection of citizens, but the uprising wasn’t put down until the Steamer Kilauea brought troops from Honolulu to round up the violent mob several days later. Kaona was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment but was later pardoned and freed by King Kalakaua. He died a free man in Kona in 1883.

Graveyard at Lanakila Church, Kainaliu: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Graveyard at Lanakila Church, Kainaliu: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Aloha Theater

The Aloha Theater and its cafe, serve as a gathering place for the community and the home of independent, classic and second run films as well as the Hawaiian International Film Festival and various community events. Construction of the Aloha Theater began in 1929 and was finished in 1932, long before Hawai’i was a state. Starting life as a silent movie theater, it survived the changeover to ‘talkies’ as well as the great fire of 1948 that destroyed much of it’s side of town. Still in use today as a performing arts center by the Kona Association for the Performing Arts; their performances feature live music and dance as well as film. The Quonset-hut shaped original theater building and the original marquee still in use are very typical of the style used in other theaters of the plantation era in Hawaii. The Aloha Angel Café associated with the theater is a gustatory revelation and offers a wide-ranging menu of entrees, baked goods and deserts and is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The World Famous Aloha Theater and Aloha Angel Cafe in Kainaliu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The World Famous Aloha Theater and Aloha Angel Cafe in Kainaliu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kainaliu Town

Napping gently on either side of the Hawaii Belt Road, Kainaliu Town is one of the principle commercial centers of Mauka Kona. Kainaliu grew up at the intersection of two donkey tracks which servicee the sugar, coffee and ranching industries, sometime after the construction of Lanakila Church in 1867. The star attraction in Kainaliu is, by far, the Aloha Theater and Aloha Angel Café. This historic and beautiful theater is still the center for stage productions of all kinds as well as cinematic shows; it is the centerpiece for the Kona Association for the Performing Arts (KAPA). Another of the towns interesting attractions is the amazing Oshima Grocery and Dry Goods Store (“If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”). In addition the town boasts numerous other businesses, galleries, furniture, thrift, herbal medicine shops as well as several wonderful restaurants and coffee houses. Donkey Balls has a candy factory that offers fun tours and tasty samples and Captain Cook Coffee has a roasting house right in town that gives weekday tours. When the weather turns wet in West Hawai’i, or you need a relief from the heat on the beach, a day spent browsing and eating in cool, shady Kainaliu is a real treat.

Kainaliu Town Is Full Of Interesting Boutiques, Shops and Restaurants: Photo By Donald MacGowan

Kainaliu Town Is Full Of Interesting Boutiques, Shops and Restaurants: Photo By Donald MacGowan

To celebrate the conclusion of our Historical Soirée, as long as you are in Kainaliu Town, you really ought to stop in for a cup of famous Kona Coffee at any one of a number of local coffee shops…not the harsh sameness of the ubiquitously monotonous Starbuck’s, each individually special Kona coffee cafe reflects the personality of the local growers and roasters who produce Kona Coffee, widely held to be the best in all the world. Also, the singular and exclusive galleries and stores in Kainaliu makes erfect shopping for completely unique gifts to take home.

Sunset Over Keauhou From the Kona Historic District: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sunset Over Keauhou From the Kona Historic District: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For more information about touring Hawaii in general an exploring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.  Information about the author can be found here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

This post has been expanded and updated here.

Across the Roof of Hawaii

Recent improvements to the Saddle Road make it no longer the grinding, intimidating drive it once was and open hundreds of square miles of unimaginably beautiful, strange and wondrous landscape to the Hawaii Island Visitor.

Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 12 hours

From Kona take Highway 190 to Highway 200 in 45 minutes of driving. Saddle Road, which cuts between the “saddle” of Mauna Loa on the south and Mauna Kea to the north, passes through ranch lands and the Pohakuloa Military Training Facility, for another 45 minutes, to the turn for Mauna Kea Access Road (John Burns Way). Nearby, Kipuka Huluhulu, or “shaggy hill”, is a 20 minute hike to the top and back. From here it is a 30 minute drive to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center. The small village is home to scientists and astronomers that work in the observatories and an amazing place to learn what their research tells us about our universe. Returning to Hwy 200, drive 45 minutes to the amazing Kaumana Cave lava tube, a short hike and a wonderful exploration. A further 30 minutes down Hwy 200 brings one to downtown Hilo, where there are shops, restaurants, fine museums, gorgeous waterfront beach parks and a fabulous Farmers Market. From Hilo, it is approximately three hours to return to Kailua Kona over Hwy 200; alternately one can take the faster though less scenic Hwy 19 to Waimea and then Hwy 190 into Kailua Kona, about a 2 1/2 hour drive.

Ahu'ena Heiau, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Ahu'ena Heiau, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Leg 1) In Kailua Kona, start at Ahu’ena Heiau; take Palani Road east to Hwy 190; take Hwy 190 to jct with Hwy 200, The Saddle Road

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach

Centuries ago the inhabitants of this region built a series of sacred temples, or heiaus, which were originally used for the purpose of sacrificing human beings to their war god, Kuka’ilimoku. This particular archeological site is called Ahu’ena Heiau, which in Hawaiian means “Hill of Fire”.

Built originally in the 15th century and rededicated by Kamehameha the Great in the early 1800s as the main temple of his capital, the current structures seen at Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built in 1975 under the auspices of the Bishop Museum with financial help from the Hotel King Kamehameha and are constructed to 1/3 the original scale. There are restrooms and showers located on the pier near the beach. Adjacent Old Kailua Town is a treasure of shops, restaurants and aloha.

Hualalai Volcano from Saddle Road, Big Island Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hualalai Volcano from Saddle Road, Big Island Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Leg 2) Take Hwy 200, The Saddle Road, east to jct with John Burns Way (also called Mauna Kea Access Road).

Looking West from Highway 190 to Haualai Volcano Halfway between Kona and Waimea, Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Looking West from Highway 190 to Hualalai Volcano Halfway between Kona and Waimea, Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Saddle Road

Crossing the spectacular saddle between the towering bulk of the volcanoes Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa at about 6600 feet, The Saddle Road runs through brush, grass and forest lands, over lava fields and through some of the wildest and most breath-taking scenery on the Island. From this roadway, four of the 5 principal volcanoes that form The Big Island may be seen: Hualalai, Kohala, Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea. Because the western half of the road is in notoriously poor condition and consists, in reality, of only one operable lane for much of its descent from the saddle to the Mamalahoa Highway.

However, this road provides the only road access to the Mauna Kea Summit Area and Visitor Information Center, Mauna Kea State Park, Pohakuloa Training Area, Mauna Kea Astronomical Observatory Complex, Waikii Ranch and the Kilohana Girl Scout Camp. The Saddle Road also provides the only access to thousands of acres of public forest and open grass lands. Connecting Hilo from about milepost 7.8 on the Hawai’i Belt Road to the Mamalahoa Highway approximately 6 miles south of Waimea, the Saddle Road is widely used by island residents for cross-island travel, despite its somewhat poor condition and undeserved, evil reputation.

Mauna Kea From Mauna Kea State Park; Note V-Shaped Stream Valleys and Glacial Cirques: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea From Mauna Kea State Park; Note V-Shaped Stream Valleys and Glacial Cirques: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Saddle Road frequently has perfect weather, but also fairly routine are patches of intense rain, fog and high winds. It’s takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours straight driving time, depending upon weather, to make the full traverse from Kailua Kona to Hilo; however, one should be sure to leave time in the schedule to drive up to Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station or hike the Pu’u Huluhulu nature trails.

Along its entire 53 mile length between the turn-off from the highway just 6 miles west of Waimea and where it meets Hawaii Belt Road just north of Hilo, there is no gas and there are no services available; plan accordingly. Some food, water and restrooms may be available at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station which is a 30 minute drive up a side road off the Saddle Road about half way.

Kipuka Huluhulu from Saddle Road: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kipuka Huluhulu from Saddle Road: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Leg 3) Off a Spur road at the jct of John Burns Way and Hwy 200, on the south side, is Kipuka Huluhulu (“Shaggy Hill”) Nene Sanctuary.

Pu’u Huluhulu Nature Trails/Kipuka Aina Hou

Frequently described as simultaneously the most noticeable and the most overlooked landmark along the Saddle Road, Kipuka Pu’u Huluhulu rises more than 200 feet out of the surrounding lava flows. It’s name meaning “furry hill”, this forested cinder cone has multiple trails winding up through rare native koa trees to breathtaking 360° views of Hualalai, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa at the top, where you can also wander a meadow of native Hawaiian plants recently reintroduced in this protected natural habitat. By whatever trail, the summit of Kipuka Huluhulu is only about 20 minutes walk from the car.

Owing to the encapsulated nature of the kipuka, bird watching here is particularly fabulous; the Ā’akepa, Nene and the Ā’akiapola Ā’au, as well as the Kalij pheasants, pueo, i’o and turkeys are among the rare, endangered or just plain beautiful birds you will see here. The numerous roads and trails through the hundreds of square miles of adjacent lava flows makes for interesting, if hot and dry, mountain biking and hiking.

Parking and a unisex pit toilet are the only amenities available at Kipuka Pu’u Huluhulu.

Mauna Kea From Kipuka Huluhulu Nene Sanctuary: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea From Kipuka Huluhulu Nene Sanctuary: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Looking South from Mauna Loa to Mauna Kea from Near Lake Wai'au: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Looking South from Mauna Loa to Mauna Kea from Near Lake Wai'au: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Leg 4) Go north on John Burns Way to Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station.


Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station

The Visitor Information Station is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the day there are interactive computer exhibits about Mauna Kea, the observatories and astronomical research, plus there are video presentations and nature trails to hike. Many evenings after dark National Park personnel and astronomers put on public programs and discuss what the latest astronomical findings tell us about the nature of our universe. The souvenir shop has some food items, including hot chocolate, coffee and hot soup, for sale.

Hikers on Mauna Kea Summit Looking at Mauna Loa Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hikers on Mauna Kea Summit Looking at Mauna Loa Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Leg 5) John Burns Way to Mauna Kea Summit

Mauna Kea Summit

Before you decide to go to the summit of Mauna Kea, stop, think, plan. Are you prepared for cold and high altitude? Do you understand the nature and dangers of altitude sickness and UV radiation? Are you experienced at traveling icy dirt roads? Is you car safe for the trip (many car rental agencies on the island forbid you to drive this road)? The Rangers at the Visitor’s center can brief you on altitude sickness, UV radiation preparedness, the condition of the road and all other information you need to decide whether to visit the summit (see a video here).

Lake Wai'au--the Seventh Highest Lake in the US--Whose Name Means "Swirling Water", Perches Near the Summit of Mauna Kea On The Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lake Wai'au--the Seventh Highest Lake in the US--Whose Name Means "Swirling Water", Perches Near the Summit of Mauna Kea On The Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The summit of Mauna Kea is truly an amazing place. Beautiful, awe-inspiring, 360 degree views of the entire Big Island, the summit is also culturally and religiously important to the native Hawai’ians and is home to several, world-class astronomical observatories and their support buildings. Because of the extremity of the altitude and the poor quality of the road above the Visitor’s Center, it is advised that extreme caution be exercised in deciding to visit Mauna Kea’s Summit. From the road’s end very near the summit, a short, 10 minute trail leads up Pu’u Weiku cinder cone to the actual mountain top and a Hawaiian religious shrine. Also near the summit is the 1-mile hike to Lake Waiau, the 7th highest lake in the US, as well as numerous archeological sites. Moving at altitude is strenuous, so conserve energy. Do not over-tax yourself, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and protect yourself from the sun, wind and cold. Leave the summit area and return to the paved road long before you are tired.

Kaumana Cave, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaumana Cave, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Leg 6) Return John Burns Way to Hwy 200; take Hwy 200 east to Kaumana Caves

Kaumana Caves

A skylight opening to 25-mile long Kaumana Cave is located at the county park near the 4-mile marker on the Hilo side of the Saddle Road. Concrete stairs take you down through the rain forest jungle to the bottom of a collapse pit forming two entrances to the cave. Most people are drawn to the entrance on the right, a large, opening leading to cavernous rooms. In this entrance, graffiti from hundreds of years ago to the present is preserved, scratched into the rocks. The entrance on the left, however, is more interesting, leading through squeezes and low spots to numerous rooms with fascinating speleo-architecture and cave formations. Both caves go to true dark in fewer than 300 feet in either direction. There are more than 2 miles of easily accessible, wild cave to explore here, but if you intend more than just a cursory inspection near the entrances, bring a hard hat, water and at least 3 sources of light. A quick tour of the caves takes fewer than 20 minutes.

Kaumana Cave's Skylight Entrance: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaumana Cave's Skylight Entrance: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Parking for the caves is located across the highway from the park; extreme care should be taken when crossing he road. Public restrooms, water and picnic tables are available at the park. As you approach Hilo from Kaumana Caves, Hwy 200 becomes variously called Kaumana Drive, then Wainuenue Avenue.

Astronomical Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea, From Downtown Hilo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Astronomical Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea, From Downtown Hilo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Leg 7) Take Hwy 200 into Hilo Town.

Hilo Town

Beautiful but wet, metropolitan but decrepit, bustling but laid back, Hilo is a lovely, maddening, heartbreaking, addictive study in contrasts. In can rain all day long for 50 days in a row, yet when the sun does shine, the views of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea from the Lilioukalani Gardens, or of Hilo Bay as you drive down from the mountains, or the rain-forest and waterfall choked gulches with lovely beaches along the highway north of town, make Hilo one of the most truly, achingly-lovely spots on earth.

Hilo's Charming Bayfront Shops: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hilo's Charming Bayfront Shops: Photo by Donald MacGowan

More laid back and sleepier than bustling Kailua Kona, Hilo is the largest town on the island, and the county seat. The Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, Tsunami Museum, Lyman House Missionary Museum and the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo are all wonderful places to learn about various aspects of Hawaii. There are numerous shopping districts, two large malls and the Historic Old Hilo downtown shops to browse through, a variety of sprawling green parks, a fabulous tropical arboretum right downtown and a mile-long black-sand beach fronting the bay to explore. Hilo’s Farmer’s Market is a “must see” for any visitor who is spending time on this side of the island.

Mauna Kea's Summit  from Highway 19 Near Waimea Town: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea's Summit from Highway 19 Near Waimea Town: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Leg 8) Return Wainuenue Avenue to Kaumana Drive to Hwy 200; take Hwy 200 west to jct with Hwy 190; take Hwy 190 west to Kailua Kona.

Trogdor at Keauhou Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Trogdor at Keauhou Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, please visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. Information about the author is available here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan


Few Mainlanders Realize that Three Generations of Cowboys Lived, Worked and Died in Hawaii Before Ever White Men Brought Cattle to Wyoming and Montana: Photo by Carol Gilliland

Few Mainlanders Realize that Three Generations of Cowboys Lived, Worked and Died in Hawaii Before Ever White Men Brought Cattle to Wyoming and Montana: Photo by Carol Gilliland

By Donnie MacGowan

The cattle industry in Hawaii began on February 22, 1793, at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island. British Navigator George Vancouver presented to Kamehameha I four cows, two ewes and a ram he had brought from Monterrey, Mexico. In January of 1794, Vancouver landed many more cattle at Kealakekua and formally requested a kapu against killing them.

Kamehameha ordered the first cattle pen in Hawai’i to be built at Lehu’ula. Still in use today, the paddock enclosed over 400 acres.  However, many of the cattle ran wild, and with the kapu against killing feral cattle in place, the wild herds became enormous and unmanageable.

Archibald Menzies, Vancouver’s ship surgeon, wrote in his diary in 1793: “When they [the cattle] stampeded, they ran up and down the country to the no small dread and terror of the natives who fled from them with the utmost speed in every direction.”

Cows Graze the Upper Slopes of Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Cows Graze the Upper Slopes of Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

For over thirty years the kapu against killing wild cattle was in force and the rapidly growing wild herds destroyed farmland, ate crops, often stampeded through villages destroying homes and claiming numerous lives.  On June 21, 1804, the first horse and mare were landed on the Kona side of the Island of Hawaii, and the days of the free ranging cattle were coming to a close as the number of mounted men increased and they began to coral and tame the wild herds.

Kamehameha lifted the kapu on killing wild cattle in 1830; the rapid increase in whaling ship traffic about this time had caused a great rise in demand for fresh and salt beef. And soon the wild herds were being thinned to meet this demand.

Unused to herding the large, unruly beasts, initially the Hawaiians simply dug deep pits, similar to “tiger traps” and stampeded the cows past them, hoping to catch a few.  This was not only inefficient, it had unintended consequences, as well.  In 1834, Sir David Douglas, the Scots botanist for whom the Douglas Fir is named, died in one of these pits.  Whether killed by the fall, killed by the bull that later fell on top of him, or was murdered by the Englishman Edward Gurney (bull hunter and escaped convict) for his gold and then tossed into the pit was never determined.  A monument to Douglas has been erected at the site of his death, Kaluakauka, off Mana Road on the slopes of Mauna Kea.

At this point, the history of Hawaiian ranching introduces one of its more colorful characters, John Parker, founder of Parker Ranch, which is still today the largest cattle ranch in America wholly under private ownership. Parker’s story in Hawaii starts back a bit in 1809 when as a 19-year old  sailor, he jumped ship on the Island of Hawai’i.

Coming to the attention of King Kamehameha the Great, Parker was trusted with many organizational tasks which the King believed would help him bring the Kingdom of Hawai’i into modern times.  During the War of 1812, John Parker was allowed to go to China seeking adventure, fame and fortune, but returned to Hawai’i bearing many modern inventions to show the King, including the newest models of military muskets.

With his modern weaponry, Kamehameha gave John Parker the task of shooting many of the feral cattle rampaging the countryside.  Parker taught the natives how to render the meat into salt beef which was then sold to the passing whaling and merchant ships and soon became Hawai’i’s number one export.  For this, John Parker was given an initial grant of 2 acres land by the King.  When he married Princess Kipikane in 1816, Kamehameha the Great’ granddaughter, she was granted some 640 acres…this is how the Parker Ranch began.   Parker asked for lands surrounding the area the Hawaiians referred to as “Waimea”,  which means “sloppy” or “muddy” in Hawaiian.

John Parker Knew the Lush Grasslands Around Waimea Were Perfect for Ranching: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

John Parker Knew the Lush Grasslands Around Waimea Were Perfect for Ranching: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There is some irony here, as the Hawaiians considered this land nearly worthless—at considerable altitude, cold and rainy, it was no good for producing traditional Hawai’ian food crops and uncomfortable for living in traditional Hawai’ian homes.  However, Parker saw it was perfect for raising cattle.  Much to the private mirth of the Hawaiians, he kept buying and adding land to his holdings until today; the ranch he started covers nearly 10% of the Island’s landmass, a whopping 150,000 acres.

At Parker’s suggestion, Kamehameha recruited California Vaquero Joachin Armas to help contain the wild cattle and train local cowboys.  As the years went by, more Spanish mission vaqueros from California came to work for the burgeoning cattle industry.  They brought their trained horses, Spanish saddles, spurs, sombreros and Spanish traditions of cattle ranching, passing them on to the Hawai’ians they trained.  They also trained the Hawaiian to work leather, jerk beef and cure hides.  Soon, hides and tallow were a major Hawaiian export.

The Hawai’ians called the vaqueros “paniolos”, their linguistic corruption of the Spanish word “Español”; which today remains the island word for “Cowboy”.

Early Hawaiian Cattle Brands: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Early Hawaiian Cattle Brands: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Cattle born on the Island of Hawaii were often shipped live to other islands and the mainland.  In the early days, cows were simply run down into the surf, swum out to longboats and secured to the boat by lashing their horns to the gunwales, then rowed out to the waiting ship.  In the late 1800s, piers and docks began to be built at various shipping spots around the island and the cows were unceremoniously hoisted by crane onto the deck of the waiting ships.

In recent years, due to fears of further ground-water contamination, laws against building new slaughterhouses were passed in Hawaii.  In order to prepare the beef for retail sale, many cattle today are shipped live to the mainland for slaughter and butchering via ocean-going barge; others are loaded aboard converted, air-conditioned, 747s and flown live to California.  Seriously.  I am not making this up.

Ranch culture by its nature is fairly isolated.  As such, over the years this allowed the Paniolos to preserve many Hawaiian traditions, such as the art of Hula and the Hawaiian Language, both of which the missionaries actively tried to eradicate.

A direct benefit of this isolation and the cultural cross-pollination that is not immediately identified with the cattle industry was the advent of modern Hawaiian music.  When the Mexican vaqueros moved to Hawaii, they also brought their guitars and their love of music.  A deeply musical people themselves, the Hawaiians were intensely interested in these, the first stringed instruments they had ever seen up close.  Fearing the Hawaiians would steal their guitars, the Mexicans would de-tune them after use, making it much more difficult for the curious Hawaiians to unlock their musical secrets.  However the Hawaiians were more than clever musically and quickly learned to make their own tunings.  Instead of the standard European tunings which require various fingerings to make chords, the Hawaiians worked out their own open chord tunings that more suited the key and style of their indigenous music.  Called “slack key guitar” these unique tunings are one of the features that make the sound of Hawaiian music so distinct.  The signature Hawaiian musical instrument, the ukulele, was actually introduced by Portuguese settlers.  In Hawaiian, “ukulele” means “dancing flea”.

The modern connection to all of this is that without ranching and without the importation of Spanish vaqueros and their guitars, there would be no rock music.  Don’t believe me?  Hawaiian slack-key guitar virtuosos invented the steel string guitar.  Without steel string guitars, no electric guitars would ever have been possible.  No electric guitars, no rock music. So next time you’re rocking out with your MP3 player, take a moment and silently thank King Kamehameha the Great for his extreme foresightedness…

Hawaii ranches also produced some of the greatest cowboys of all time, the best remembered of whom is Ikua Purdy, winner of the 1908 World Roping Championship at Cheyenne Frontier’s Day.

In 1907 the owner and manager of Pu`uwa`awa`a Ranch, Eben “Rawhide Ben” Low, attended Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Knowing his cowboys far excelled their mainland contemporaries, in 1908 he sent Jack Low, Archie Ka`au`a and  Ikua Purdy (his brother, half brother and top hand) to compete in Cheyenne.

Statue of Hawaii's Most Famous Paniolo, Ikua Purdy, In Waimea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Statue of Hawaii's Most Famous Paniolo, Ikua Purdy, In Waimea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

As colorful in their hats with flower lei and vaquero-style chaps as they were masterful in the competition, they took Frontier Days by storm.  Ikua Purdy won the steer-roping contest in 56 seconds, Archie Ka`au`a came in second and even though he had an asthma attack during the competition, Jack Low placed sixth.  Eben Low always said Hawaiian cowboys were the world’s finest because they dealt primarily with wild and feral cows.  In 1999, Ikua Purdy became the first Hawaiian ever voted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Cattle ranchers were also important to Hawaii’s contribution to the war effort during the Second World War.  During the years 1943-1945 more than 50,000 marines of the 2nd and 5th Marine Divisions, Navy sailors and Army soldiers used Camp Tarawa, located almost entirely on the Parker Ranch, for rest and recuperation from the historic assault on Tarawa, as well as training for the assaults on Iwo Jima, Leyte and Guam and the occupation of the Japanese home island of Kyushu.

Visiting paniolo country on the island of Hawaii means traveling to Waimea town, snuggled deeply between Mauna Kea and Kohala Volcano.  Sometimes startlingly sunny, sometimes shrouded in mist or rain, Waimea is also the scenic heart of the mountain country, which cries for exploration. From here one can take stunning Highway 250, the Kohala Mountain Road, an incredibly beautiful drive through upland pasture, meadow and forest to the old-time Hawaii town and artist community at Hawi.

Simply touring between Kona and Hilo through Waimea also is a wonderful trip from dryland forest through the upland lava flows and rolling grasslands of the Kohala-Mauna Kea Saddle and down again through eucalyptus forests to tropical jungle-filled canyons and the feral sugar cane fields of the Hamakua Coast.

Waimea Celebrates its Ranching Roots With The Cowboy Boot Statue: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Waimea Celebrates its Ranching Roots With The Cowboy Boot Statue: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Waimea offers some of the finest shopping, restaurants and the most modern hospital on the island. There are two large shopping centers, a fine art museum and “Restaurant Row”, a street of eating establishments that rival any restaurants on the island. Although it seems a little rough and tumble and jeans and flannel shirts appear to be the uniform, Waimea is actually a very sophisticated town and an enjoyable place to visit.

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general or visiting the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.  Information on the author is available here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan (except where otherwise noted).

This post has been greatly expanded, updated and modified—a very much superior version resides here; I think you will prefer it!

Photos and Text by Donald MacGowan

The Men of Tour Guide decided to take some much needed time away from the office and take a scenic drive to the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island.

The Men of Tour Guide on the Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Men of Tour Guide on the Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We left Kailua Kona in the early morning and drove Highway 190 towards Waimea Town.

 Along Highway 190 Looking Toward Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Along Highway 190 Looking Toward Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We past by the spectacular over looks of the Kohala Coastline and on up the hills towards Pu’uanahulu.

Hualalai Volcano and Pu'uananhulu from Hwy-190--Note Yellow Blossoms on Silver Oaks: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hualalai Volcano and Pu'uananhulu from Hwy-190--Note Yellow Blossoms on Silver Oaks: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When we reached Waimea, snow covered Mauna Kea was standing tall in the morning sun to greet us.

Snow on Mauna Kea Waimea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Snow on Mauna Kea Waimea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Statue of Heroic Paniolo Ikua Purdy, Waimea Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Statue of Heroic Paniolo Ikua Purdy, Waimea Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Dropping down to the Hamakua Coast from Waimea on Highway 19, we past through the fragrant and beautiful eucalyptus forest, with more views of Mauna Kea.

Driving through the Eucalyptus Forest on Highhway 19 Between Honoka'a and Waimea: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Driving through the Eucalyptus Forest on Highhway 19 Between Honoka'a and Waimea: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Snow on Mauna Kea from Hwy 19: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Snow on Mauna Kea from Hwy 19: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We paused in Honoka’a Town for a much needed cup of coffee and to take a moment to stroll the enchanting shops along the main street of town.

Honoka'a Town is Lined With Intersting and Wonderful Shops and Restaurants--Including Some of Hawaii's Best Antique Stores: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Honoka'a Town is Lined With Intersting and Wonderful Shops and Restaurants--Including Some of Hawaii's Best Antique Stores: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Like a Miniature Triceratops, This Jackson's Chameleon Unconcernedly Strolls the Streets of Honaka'a: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Like a Miniature Triceratops, This Jackson's Chameleon Unconcernedly Strolls the Streets of Honaka'a: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving north, we headed toward Waipi’o Valley with the idea of hiking down to the beach.

Waipi'o Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi'o Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Loading up the cameras and gear, Frank and I headed down, while Everett explored around the top of the canyon.

Waipi'o Valley Day Hikers: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi'o Valley Day Hikers: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Reaching the floor of the canyon, we explored the beach, the mouth of the river and the waterfalls–Waipi’o is a place of magic, myth and great beauty–it was absolutely lovely to have an unhurried morning to poke around and explore.

Mouth of Waipi'o Stream: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mouth of Waipi'o Stream: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi'o Stream from the Mouth of Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waipi'o Stream from the Mouth of Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

After shooting as many pictures as our batteries could stand, we climbed up out of the canyon..it’s only a mile and less than a thousand feet, but it’s a hike that’ll get your full attention! And it’s gorgeous and awe-inspiring the whole way back up…out of breath? Stop and enjoy the view!

The Road in Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Road in Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

View Down into Waipio Valley Floor: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

View Down into Waipi'o Valley Floor: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Catching our breath and having a bite of lunch, we continued our Soiree down the Hamakua Coast, next stop–Laupahoehoe Park and Tsunami Memorial.

Overview of Laupahoehoe Park, Hamakua Coast, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Overview of Laupahoehoe Park, Hamakua Coast, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Explosive Wavespray at Laupahoehoe Park, Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Explosive Wavespray at Laupahoehoe Park, Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Next, we took a small restroom break at Kolekole Park and wound up exploring the river and canyon there.

Kolekole Stream Near Kolekole Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kolekole Stream Near Kolekole Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kolekole Stream leaps heroically off Akaka Falls and flows through one of the most amazing jungle Canyons on the Island of Hawaii.

Kolekole Canyon Road: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kolekole Canyon Road: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Since we’d seen Kolekole Stream flowing into the sea, we decided to drive through the town of Honomu (fabulous ice cream!) and visit Akaka Falls to see how the park renovations were coming along.

Akaka Falls: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Akaka Falls: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Numerous Small Waterfalls Dot the Fern Grottos Around Akaka Falls: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Numerous Small Waterfalls Dot the Fern Grottos Around Akaka Falls: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Finally, we decided to drive the Pe’epekeo Scenic Drive–an old and very scenic section of the Mamalahoa Highway–before heading home to Kailua Town.

Along the Pepe'ekeo Scenic Drive: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Along the Pepe'ekeo Scenic Drive: Photo by Donald MacGowan

At this point, we decided to hustle home–we just had time to get back to Kailua Town and catch the Taco’s el Pastor special at Habeneros!

Sunset over the Ancient Surfing Temple of Ku'emanu Heiau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Sunset over the Ancient Surfing Temple of Ku

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

Hilo Side: Akaka Falls to Panaewa Rainforest Zoo

On your way back to the highway, stop in Honomu for some local-style shopping and a snack. Handmade curios and ice creams will delight your senses. Once back on Highway 19, turn right toward Hilo, about 10 minutes away.

Hilo is one of the wettest cities in the U.S. averaging around 200 inches per year. This old-style Hawaii town is quaint and bustling. Lots of great shops line the waterfront drive and the largest farmer’s market on the island is situated there as well. Tour Guide will take you right into the heart of town and give you history and attractions, such as the Pacific Tsunami Museum, and the Imiloa Astronomy Center at the University of Hawaii, Hilo Campus. A little farther along the coast are some beautiful beach parks like Richardson and Onekahakaha. Great picnicking, swimming and some good snorkeling can be found here. The Suisan Fish Market is famous for the early morning old-style fish auction. Be sure to take your time in Hilo as the shopping and food options are immense.

In Hilo, you will turn north onto Highway. 11 at the intersection near Ken’s Pancake House, a landmark eatery. You will see the airport and Prince Kuhio Plaza on your way out of town. Stop in and visit the mall and shop and eat if you missed it in town. Just a few miles north of the mall is the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo. Tour Guide will tell you how this is the only rainforest zoo in North America. It is also free.

Super Tip: Gasoline in Hilo is typically 6-10 cents per gallon cheaper because it is the main port on the island. It is wise to fill up before heading back to Kona.

This completes this drive day. I suggest returning north through Hilo and back up the Hamakua Coast, through Waimea, and Highway 190 back to Kona.

For further information, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com.

This post has recently been greatly expanded and updated…please go here to see the more recent, and more abundant, information.

Trip 4: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Lava Viewing Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 14 hours (return drive in the dark).

From Kona, connect to Highway 11 south 2 1/2 hours to Ka’u Desert Trail. A 40 minute round trip hike leads to footprints of ancient warriors who where caught in a sudden, ferocious eruption. Continue on Highway 11 to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Park Rangers at the Visitor Center will have the latest lava information. Chain of Craters Road has numerous craters, tons of hiking trails and several breathtaking vistas for great photographs. Upon exiting the Park, continue to Kea’au and Highway 130 (food stop). Proceed to Pahoa and the junction to Highway 132 and Lava Trees State Park. Here trees were inundated with fast flowing lava. When the trees rotted, it left these Lava Trees. Then on to Highway 137, following the coast to Kalapana and a 20 minute hike to the lava viewing area at Waikupanaha. (Arrive about dusk for optimal viewing.) From Kalapana back to Kona is a 3 1/2 hour drive (after dark).

Leg 1) Start at north end of Keauhou Historic District on Ali’i Drive, head south on Ali’i Drive to jct with Kamehameha II Hwy; east on Kamehameha III to Hwy 11. Take Hwy 11 south to Ka’u Desert/Warrior Footprints Trail.

Evening Light on Hualalai and Kailua Kona: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Evening Light on Hualalai and Kailua Kona: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

For almost 400 years, temples and palaces along the Kona coastline served as a kind of “Rome of the Pacific”, a great political, religious and cultural center in Polynesia, until the capital was moved to Honolulu in 1850 by Kamehameha III.

The most important, interesting and best preserved historical and cultural sites lie within the Keauhou Historic District, between Kahalu’u Beach Park in Kailua running south 6 miles to Kuamo’o Bay in Keauhou. The District contains perhaps a dozen fascinating sites that are easy to walk to, well maintained and quite interesting. To see the numerous fascinating and important archaeological sites in the Keauhou Historic District, it is necessary to park your car in the free parking at either Kahalu’u Beach Park or the Keauhou Beach Resort and explore on foot.

Just uphill from the Historic District is the Kona Coffee District. Hawaii is the only state in the union which produces coffee, and Kona coffee is perhaps the finest in the world. Over 2 millions pounds of coffee a year are produced on about 600, 2-3 acre farms; tours of coffee farms and roasteries are available.

Mauna Loa Rises Above the Ka'u Desert at Warriror Footprints: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Loa Rises Above the Ka'u Desert at Warriror Footprints: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Ka’u Desert Trail and Warrior Footprints, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Just where Hawai’i Belt Road enters Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from the West, is a small parking strip that is the gateway to a host of wonders within the Ka’u Desert section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Although eruptions here are generally characterized by leisurely outpouring of lava, it is not unknown for Kilauea to violently erupt in a blast of steam and ash. It is this ash that preserves some human footprints, believed to have been formed in 1790 when enemies of Kamehameha the Great were caught by one such massive, explosive eruption. Perhaps as many as 400 men died in this eruption. An emergency phone is available here; there are no other services. Do not venture from your car here without carrying water.

Leg 2) Continue south on Hwy 11 to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Entrance and jct with Crater Rim Drive; Crater Rim Drive west to Kilauea Visitor’s Center to Jagger Museum, then back around Crater Rim Drive to Kilauea Iki Crater.

Kilauea Crater and the Current Halema'uma'u Eruption As Seen from Waldron Ledge, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea Crater and the Current Halema'uma'u Eruption As Seen from Waldron Ledge, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a magical, spiritual, wondrous, strange and beautiful place comprised of great contrasts and contradictions: dry as dust desert to teeming tropical jungle; frigid sub-arctic wasteland to steaming black sand beaches to rivers of flowing lava.

The star attractions in the Park are a pair of active volcanoes; Mauna Loa is the largest mountain on earth and Kilauea is most active volcano on earth. However, there are numerous other wonders from lava tubes to crawl down, black sand beaches with sea turtles to watch, mysterious petroglyph fields to explore, tropical jungles to hike through, endangered bird species to find, happy-face spiders to amuse and an otherworldly volcanic landscape so fresh it’s still steaming.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. During daylight hours, an access fee is charged. The Visitor Center has a 24-hour information line at 808.985.7017 and there is a 24-hour eruption hotline at 808.985.6000. Within the Park tune to A.M. radio 530 for continuous information broadcast. There tourist items available for sale and one restaurant and in the park, however generally shopping, restaurants and gasoline are only available in the nearby village of Volcano.

Kilauea Visitors Center at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Kilgore Trout

Kilauea Visitors Center at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Kilgore Trout

Kilauea Visitor Center

Newly remodeled and updated, the Kilauea Visitor’s Center is an outstanding resource of information on Hawaii’s volcanoes and the National Park; the not-to-be-missed first stop in the park you must make. The Center is run by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff that has the most up-to-date information on viewing the eruption, hiking and camping, bird watching, stargazing and just about any other topic of interest to Park visitors.

Available for sale in the Center are maps, guidebooks, books and videos about the volcanoes, Hawai’iana, history, plants and every topic you can imagine pertinent to the Park, even souvenirs. There are free brochures and pamphlets on various trails, attractions, hiking safety and lava viewing hazards and precautions. The Visitor Center is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; there are public restrooms, water and pay phones available. Starting at 9 a.m. and showing every hour on the hour is a 20 minute informative movie about the Park; the film changes from time to time, but always contains spectacular footage of eruptions, information on volcanology and the natural and human history of the Park.

View of Halema'uma'u from Jagger Museum, HVNP: Photo by Donald MacGowan

View of Halema'uma'u from Jagger Museum, HVNP: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory

Famed for its fabulous views of Mauna Loa and Kilauea as much as for its interesting exhibits, The Jagger Museum (named for geologist Thomas A. Jagger) is open daily from 8:30a.m. to 5:00p.m. Exhibits include murals by Herb Kawainui Kane, seismograph charts of eruptions and earthquakes, geological displays and display about the natural and human history of the Park.

When entering the parking lot of the Museum/Observatory, be especially careful of the Federally-protected Hawaii Goose, the Nene, who seem to congregate here. The Nene is the State Bird of Hawai’i, and this parking lot and its surrounding area constitute one of the best places for viewing them.

Frank Burgess On Kilauea Iki Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Frank Burgess On Kilauea Iki Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea Iki Trail

Perhaps the finest short day hike in the park, a four-mile, 2-3 hour trip down into, across and back out of Kilauea Iki Crater gives one an intimate feel for volcanoes, Hawaiian-Style. Along one side, thick fern and ohi’a forest skirts along the rim and on the other, lush tropical rainforest crowds to the very brink of the crater; bleak volcanic desert lines the crater walls and covers the floor. The start and finish of the hike are along well marked, wide trails. The remainder is an easily followed, well marked trail with stone ahu (cairns) over the crater floor. As always when hiking in the Park, it is wise to avoid the noonday sun, and to remember that afternoon showers are common, especially near where this hike meets the crater rim.

Leg 3) Crater Rim Drive to intersection with Chain of Craters Road; Chain of Craters Road to End of Road.

Hiking from the End of Chain of Craters Road to the Lava Ocean Entry at La'epuki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hiking from the End of Chain of Craters Road to the Lava Ocean Entry at La'epuki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

End of Chain of Craters Road

The end of Chain of Craters Road is currently at the 19 mile marker near the Holei Sea Arch. This is where the road was cut off by flowing lava and destroyed the 2 million dollar visitor center. When the lava is near the road, one can walk right up to it. There are displays about the volcano and natural history of the area, as well as a wealth of information on hiking to, and viewing, the lava, available here.

Hiking all the way out to the active flows is one of the most spiritually rewarding, awe-inspiring, curiosity quenching and amazing things one can do anywhere in the world—but it is neither for the physically unfit nor the meek of spirit. It is a long, hot hike (currently seven miles) over broken ground and glass-sharp rocks; the heat from the volcano is savage; the weather, if clear, is sweltering…frequent squalls blow in off the ocean and the rain and wind can get pretty wild out on the lava plain where there is absolutely no cover or shelter to protect you. No water or shade is available anywhere along the hike.

Leg 4) Follow Chain of Craters Road back uphill to Crater Rim Drive, follow Crater Rim Drive back to Park Entrance and then to Hwy 11. Go east on Hwy 11 to jct with Hwy 130 at Kea’au; take Hwy 130 south to Pahoa.

In Hawaiian, "Puna" means "Spring" and Puna District in General, and the Area Around Pahoa in Particular, Is Dotted With Hot, Warm and Cold Springs: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

In Hawaiian, "Puna" means "Spring" and Puna District in General, and the Area Around Pahoa in Particular, Is Dotted With Hot, Warm and Cold Springs: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Puna District and Pahoa Town

Uncrowded, off the beaten track and largely undiscovered by tourists, Puna District is a magnificent wonderland; from incredible tree-tunneled roads, geothermal fields of steam vents, lovely beach parks, hot ponds, hikes on raw lava flows and jungle trails, and unequaled snorkeling, the land cries out for the visitor to explore a little bit.

At the center of Puna is Pahoa Town; wild, untamed and even a bit unruly, with its false-front, western-style buildings and raised wooden sidewalks, Pahoa looks more like it belongs in Wyoming. But Wild West isn’t the only subculture evident here…tie-dye banners and the general “flower-power” ambience some businesses and citizens lend Pahoa give it a decidedly “’60’s” feel.

It has been said of Pahoa that if it weren’t for counter-cultural influences, it would have no cultural influences at all. The charm and allure of this way of living is evident when you consider that the region around Pahoa is the fastest growing portion of the island. Pahoa has some of the best restaurants on the island, THE best natural foods store and a great public pool.

Leg 5) At Pahoa, get on Hwy 132 to Lava Trees State Park.

Lava Trees State Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Trees State Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Trees State Monument

Under a lacey canopy of monkeypod trees, casts of ohi’a trees stand as monuments to a fast-moving pahoehoe lava flow that passed through here in 1790. When the lava hit the water-saturated ohi’a trees, it cooled and began to congeal around them. The original ohi’a trees burned away but the quickly cooled lava around them stands here today, hollow, with imprints of the tree bark inside. Lava Trees Park offers trails to hike and a restful, bird-filled jungle to sit and listen to. You can spend between 20 minutes to an hour wandering the trails, here, exploring and discovering. Be careful, however, the area is riddled with hidden cracks in the ground which can make exploring hazardous. You may wish to avail yourself of the restrooms here; they are the last public facilities for some distance.

Leg 6) From lava Trees State Park take Hwy 132 to jct with Hwy 137 at Kapoho; take Hwy 137 southwest to Ahalanui Pond then to Kaimu Black Sand Beach and Kalapana Disaster of 1990.

Ahalanui Hot Pond: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahalanui Hot Pond: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahalanui Pond

Also called “Secrets Beach”, this spring and ocean-fed, manmade pool was initially constructed when the springs ran chilly cold. Eruptions in Puna during the ‘50s and 60’s reworked the subterranean waterworks and now the springs run hot and the pool is a comfortably warm 90-95 degrees. The open connection to the ocean, keeps the water fresh. With the gentle aloha breezes, swaying palms and surf whooshing against the, it can be really hard to drag oneself out. Soak for a while. Picnic tables, pavilions, pit barbecues, showers, lawns and all the pleasantries of a civilized park are available at Ahalanui Pond. Leave no valuables in your car and be vigilant if you stay soaking here, after dark.

Kaimu Beach near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaimu Beach near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kalapana Disaster of 1990/Kaimu Black Sand Beach

In 1990 the volcano goddess Pele determined it was time for some serious housecleaning in Puna. Lava flows from Kilauea’s East Rift engulfed the villages of Royal Gardens, Kaimu and Kalapana, destroying virtually everything.

Buried were a centuries old fishing village and a world famous black sand beach. When the lava came, it wiped out not just material possessions; it wiped out a way of life and a landscape cherished by generations. The Big Island’s newest black sand beach, Kaimu Beach, is a lovely if barren crescent of sand at the end of an unforgiving expanse of lava from the 1990 flows. The trail to the new black sand beach is marked with hundreds of young palms, numerous lava casts which include palms, pandanas fruit and even some fish that were caught in tide pools.

From the lava hillocks along the trail you can get nice views of the eruption plume at Pu’u O’o, up on the flank of Kilauea, as well as the steam clouds down a few miles along the coast where the lava enters the sea. Restrooms and fast food are available at the end of the road.

Leg 7) From Kalapana, take Hwy130 (Ahia Road) just a tweak to the jct with old HWY 130; go west on old the highway to Waikupanaha Lava Viewing.

Lava Viewing At Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Viewing At Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Viewing Near Kalapana

Nowhere else can you see lava flowing from a volcano into the sea; no Big Island visit is complete without seeing this awe-inspiring show. Currently lava is only flowing into the sea outside the Park. Drive south on Highway 130 through Pahoa to the 20 mile marker and take the right branch about two miles to the parking area. Port-a-potties are available here. The road is open from 2 p.m. until 10; no cars allowed in after 8. Lava viewing information is available from Hawaii County at 808.961.8093; check conditions before you go.

The easy trail, a 20 minute stroll to the viewing area, is well-marked. The viewing varies as lava flows nearer or farther from the trail. Viewing is best at dusk so bring flashlights for the hike out. Take close-toed walking shoes and a hat, long pants and long-sleeved shirt, at least 2 liters of water and sun block and a rain jacket and camera. Remember food and gas are not available anywhere nearby after dark, so fill up BEFORE you park, bring snacks and drinks. There are port-a-potties available at the parking lot.

Leg 8) Return to Hwy 130; Hwy 130 north through Pahoa to Kea’au and jct with Hwy 11. Hwy 11 west to Kailua Kona.  Take Hwy 11 west to Kailua Kona.

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

Sunset Over Oneoneo Bay, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Sunset Over Oneoneo Bay, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Driving south on Hwy 270, just past the town of Hawi, you will see the turn off for Hwy 250 on the mountain side of the road. This hwy will take you over Kohala Mountain to the town of Waimea. This hwy is rated by AAA Travel as one of the top 10 most scenic highways in the U.S. Along the way you will pass through beautiful pasture lands, areas for horseback riding, ranch style dinners, ATV tours and Hummer tours. Tour Guide will give the history of this area as well as activities offered here.

At the other end of Hwy 250 is Waimea. This town is known for the paniolo, the Hawaiian word for cowboy, and the Parker Ranch. At 3500 ft elevation, the cooler climate is perfect for growing all sorts of fruits and vegetables as well as a variety of livestock. There are also some fabulous restaurants featuring some of the best chefs in the world. Tour Guide will tell you about the storied history, museums, tours, shopping and dining. For such a small town there is a lot to do here.

From Waimea, it’s time to head south on Hwy 190 on our way back to Kona. Along the way is Waikoloa Village. This is mostly a residential town but is built around the Waikoloa Village Golf Course. This Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed course has some stunning views from the 2000 ft elevation. Tour Guide will show you where there is a shopping center with grocery, restrooms, restaurants and a gas station.

Super Tip: Finding restrooms on the road can be difficult when you are driving in unfamiliar territory. Tour Guide has a special feature that helps you to find the nearest public restroom anywhere you are on the island. This is super handy when touring with the family.

Along the way back to Kona, you will pass some of the finest beaches and most interesting historical and cultural spots on the Kona-Kohala Coast. Tour Guide can tell you all about these fascinating places, as well as opportunities here for whale watching, wild-life viewing, hiking and sight-seeing.

From Waikoloa Village, continue driving south on Hwy 190, about 30 minutes, until you arrive back in Kona. Tour Guide will give you turn-by-turn directions to your resort to end you’re second day of touring by car.

For more information on touring Hawaii in general and visiting the Big Island in particular, go to tourguidehawaii.com and tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Central to our social life, here in Kailua Kona, is the coffee house. Not the ubiquitously generic Starbuck’s (although we do have two of those) but unique, lively and decades-old, boutique coffee houses dotted across the countryside. Most coffee farms and roasting houses have their own, individual coffee shops, and there are dozens of other coffee shop/bakeries across the island which all have their specialties and quirks, each more individual and fascinating than the last.

Morning is started by coffee and chat after workout in downtown Kailua; ‘pau hana’ (after work) is celebrated by watching the sunset over Kailua Bay at the coffee shop, and evenings, many times, are spent with friends at yet another coffeehouse, recounting the day, “talking story” and unwinding. Although surrounded by the farms and roasteries that produce the world’s finest coffee, few of us “Konans” take time to reflect on the rich, multicultural history of our favorite brew.

Coffee, a relative of the gardenia family, is one of the most important crops grown on the Big Island. Although other Hawaiian Islands also produce coffee only Kona Coffee is of sufficient quality to be sold on the world market during gluts in coffee production. In Kona Mauka (upland Kona) you will find many coffee farms and roasting plants that give tours, such as the Captain Cook Coffee Company, in Kainaliu.

Hawaii is the sole US producer of commercially grown coffee and Kona coffee remains truly rare. Today’s Kona coffee industry is composed of an interlaced group of independent small farmers, coffee roasters and merchants. Of the perhaps 600 coffee farms in Kona, most are between 2 and 3 acres in size. Kona Coffee is raised on over 2000 total acres in an area 20 miles long and 2 miles wide long the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes, between 500 to 3,000 feet elevation; annual coffee production is generally over two million pounds.

World famous Kona coffee owes its richness and flavor to the fertile, volcanic soil, mild climate and abundant rain water in the mountains of the west side of the Big Island. The area’s coffee industry began in earnest during the 1830s and soon the lives, and culture, of Kona residents began to revolve around it.

The history of Kona coffee is one of boom and bust, good times and bad, but always characterized by a strong work ethic, independence, self-sufficiency, family unity, and cooperation. A multicultural industry from the beginning, it has involved contributions from the island’s Native Hawaiians, Haoles, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, and Puerto Ricans.

In 1813, Don Francisco de Paula Y Marin, a Spaniard and one of Kamehameha’s trusted advisors, planted coffee on the island of Oahu. The British warship HMS Blonde brought more coffee trees to the Hawaiian Islands in 1825. Reverend Samuel Ruggles brought the first coffee to the Big Island when he brought cuttings of coffee trees to the town of Captain Cook in Kona in 1828.

The industry grew and large plantations were established during the first half of the nineteenth century. Both companies provided However, even though world coffee prices started to climb in the 1850s, labor shortages, pest and disease infestations and drought thwarted efforts to expand the Hawaiian coffee industry. Coffee plantations were replaced by sugar cane plantations as coffee pries fell and sugar prices rose and by 1860, coffee plantations almost disappeared from Hawaii.

Boom times arrived again in Kona in the 1890s as American and European started another era of the large coffee plantation enterprises; this lasted until 1899, when the world coffee market crashed and brought the Kona coffee industry to near extinction.

Economic realities forced large scale coffee plantations to be sold off, cut up and replaced by small family ventures run by new immigrants; by1910, Japanese farmers comprised 80% of Kona’s coffee farmers. This marked the beginning of the transition from large coffee plantations to small family farms, a transformation revolutionized the Kona coffee industry and saved it.

Through The Great Depression, two world wars and into modern times, coffee prices rose and fell causing the Kona coffee industry to grow and shrink accordingly. However, the farming style from the turn of the 20th century onward was always characterized by smaller, rather than larger, coffee farms. Captain Cook Coffee Company and American Factors (AMFAC) were the only legal buyers of the coffee crop in those days; they provided goods to the farmers through company stores which were paid for with the coffee harvest. Many times, small farmers had no other way of raising scare cash than to sell their coffee on the black market. Until the mid 1950’s when they withdrew from the coffee industry, Captain Cook and AMFAC hired armed men to patrol the roads of Kona in an effort to suppress this vicarious coffee commerce.

Today, Kona coffee is grown on around 600 independent coffee farms, mostly are between 2 and 3 acres. Total coffee acreage exceeds 2000 along the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes; annual coffee production is generally over two million pounds.

Apropos of the caffeine content of our Kona coffee, I once attended a lecture on Hawaii reef fish by a visiting marine biologist who had studied tropical reef fish all over the world. He compared our fish populations and behaviors with those he had studied elsewhere and he commented on a singular curiosity about Big Island reef fish. “Your Big Island fish are the most active I’ve ever seen” he said. “On average, they are twice or three times more active than even the fish on your neighboring islands…I don’t know what accounts for it.” The audience pondered this quandary in silence and, contemplating my empty “to go” cup of coffee, I realized I had to use the restroom.

In a flash I realized I knew exactly why our Big Island reef fish are so active…but I thought I’d just keep that explanation to myself.

For more information about visiting and touring Hawaii in general, and exploring the historic and cultural sites on the Big Island, including the Kona Coffee country, in particular, visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com and http://www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. For more information on the author, go here. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Donald_MacGowan.