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Category Archives: beaches

by Donald B. MacGowan

 

Afternoon sunlight makes the small kipuka at Alanui Kahiko glow, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan  New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

La Aloa Sunset Kailua Kona Hawaii: 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.

Afternoon sunlight makes the small kipuka at Alanui Kahiko glow, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan  New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Moon over Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Best About Planning Your Hawaii Trip

Hawaii Lava Flow Update: August 2010 Viewing of Kilauea Lava Flows at Kaplapana on the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/hawaii-lava-flow-update-august-2010-viewing-of-kilauea-lava-flows-at-kaplapana-on-the-big-island/

Lava Falls from Kilauea Volcano, near Kalapana, Hawaii, August 2010: Photograph by Donald B. MacGowan

Lava Falls from Kilauea Volcano, near Kalapana, Hawaii, August 2010: Photograph by Donald B. MacGowan

What To Pack And Take To Hawaii: What You Need, What You Want, What You Can Leave Out Of Your Luggage: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/what-to-pack-and-take-to-hawaii-what-you-need-what-you-want-what-you-can-leave-out-of-your-luggage/

Getting To Hawaii, Getting Around Hawaii, Getting the Most From Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/getting-to-and-getting-around-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Frank’s Guide to Pronouncing Hawaiian Words: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/franks-guide-to-pronouncing-the-hawaiian-langauge/

What sunglasses should I buy to go to Hawaii?: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/what-sunglasses-should-i-buy-to-go-to-hawaii/

Going to Hawaii? Let’s Chat about Sunburn and Sunscreen…: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/going-to-hawaii-lets-chat-about-sun-burn-and-sunscreen/

Afternoon sunlight makes the small kipuka at Alanui Kahiko glow, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan  New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Beautiful Waialea Beach, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Best Beaches on Hawaii

A Quick Guide to The Best Beaches of Hawaii Island: Sun, Surf, Solitude: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/the-top-beaches-of-hawaii-island/

Green, Black, White, Grey and Piebald: The Colored Sand Beaches of the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/bgreen-black-white-grey-and-piebald-the-colored-sand-beaches-of-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

The Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 1, The Main Kohala Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/the-best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-1-the-main-kohala-coast/

The Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 2, The Kona and South Kohala Coasts: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/the-best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-2-the-kona-and-south-kohala-coasts/

Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 3, Unusual, Uncrowded and Untamed Beaches of South Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/07/best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-3-unusual-uncrowded-and-untamed-beaches-of-south-hawaii/

Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 4, Wilderness Beaches of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-4-wilderness-beaches-of-the-big-island/

Best Beaches in Hawaii Part 5–Best Beaches for Snorkeling: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-5-best-beaches-for-snorkeling/

Afternoon sunlight makes the small kipuka at Alanui Kahiko glow, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan  New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava from Kilauea Volcano Flowing into the Sea, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii

An Unforgettable Scenic Drive through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/an-unforgettable-scenic-drive-through-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-and-puna-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Kona Heritage Corridor Scenic Drive: An Exceptional Day Trip Exploration of Historical, Lovely, Up-Country Kona!:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/kona-heritage-corridor-scenic-drive-an-exceptional-day-trip-exploration-of-historical-lovely-up-country-kona/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #1: The Saddle Road…Kona to the Summit of Mauna Kea, Kaumana Cave and Hilo: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-1-the-saddle-road-kona-to-the-summit-of-mauna-kea-kaumana-cave-and-hilo-2/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #2: North Kona and Kohala, Ancient History, Sumptuous Beaches: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/scenic-drive-2-north-kona-and-kohala-ancient-history-sumptuous-beaches/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #3: Kona to Hamakua and Hilo: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-3-kona-to-hamakua-and-hilo-2/

Best Scenic Drives in Hawaii #4: Kona Coast to South Point and Ka’u: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/best-scenic-drives-in-hawaii-4-kona-coast-to-south-point-and-kau-2/

Lava from Kilauea Volcano flows into the ocean near Kalapana, Hawaii: Photograph by Donald B. MacGowan

Lava from Kilauea Volcano flows into the ocean near Kalapana, Hawaii: Photograph by Donald B. MacGowan

Best Scenic Drives in Hawaii #5: Kailua Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Puna and Lava Viewing: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/best-scenic-drives-in-hawaii-5-kailua-kona-to-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-puna-and-lava-viewing-2/

Scenic Drive #6: Big Island Whirlwind Road Trip…I have to see the whole Big Island all in one day!https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/best-scenic-drives-in-hawaii-6-hawaii-whirlwind-road-trip-i-have-to-see-the-whole-big-island-all-in-one-day/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; The Most Interesting, Amazing and Diverse Scenic Drive in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/a-scenic-drive-through-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-the-most-interesting-amazing-and-diverse-place-in-hawaii/

What Do I Do on the Big Island? Explore Hawaii’s Incomparable, Fantastic and Wild South Coast!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/12/20/what-do-i-do-on-the-big-island-explore-hawaiis-incomparable-fantastic-and-wild-south-coast/

Road Trip Through Keauhou Historic District, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/wwwtourguidehawaicom-presents-a-road-trip-through-keauhou-historic-district-big-island-hawaii/

Explore Hawaii’s Hidden, Romantic and Mysterious Places: The South Coast of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/new-iphoneipod-touch-app-helps-you-explore-hawaiis-hidden-romantic-and-mysterious-places-the-south-coast-of-hawaii/

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Papakolea: Green Sand (Mahana) Beach at South Point (Ka Lae), Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Best About Hiking:

The Best Short Hikes on Hawaii Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/the-best-short-hikes-on-hawaii-island/

The Adventure and Romance of Hiking To Kilauea Volcano’s Active Lava Flows: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/tour-guide-hawaii-presents-the-adventure-and-romance-of-hiking-to-kilauea-volcanos-active-lava-flows/

Near Kalapana, Hawaii, Lava from Kilauea Volcano flows into the ocean: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Near Kalapana, Hawaii, Lava from Kilauea Volcano flows into the ocean: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Exploring the Summit Hikes of Mauna Kea: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/exploring-the-summit-hikes-of-mauna-kea-hawaii/

South Point’s Justly Famous Green Sand Beach Hike, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/south-points-justly-famous-green-sand-beach-hike-papakolea-bay-and-mahana-beach-hawaii/

Hiking to Captain Cook Monument on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/hiking-to-captain-cook-monument-on-the-kona-coast-of-hawaii/

Hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/24/hiking-the-kilauea-iki-trail-new-iphoneipod-touch-app-helps-you-find-all-the-unique-secluded-unusual-destinations-on-hawaii/

Hiking Hawaii’s Magnificent Waipi’o Valley: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/hiking-hawaiis-magnificent-waipio-valley/

Hike to Kamehameha’s Birthplace and the Forbidding Temple of Human Sacrifice, Mo’okini Heiau, on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/hike-to-kamehamehas-birthplace-and-the-forbidding-temple-of-human-sacrifice-mookini-heaiau-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Ka’u Desert’s Unearthly Hike to the Eerie Warrior Footprint Casts: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/2965/

Hiking Down Into Pololu Valley, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/hiking-down-into-pololu-valley-big-island-of-hawaii/

Kiholo Bay Beach Hike: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/kiholo-bay-beach-hike/

Hiking to Honomalino Bay, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/hiking-to-honomalino-bay-big-island-hawaii/

Historic Kailua Kona Town on the Big Island of Hawaii: A Walking Tour: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/historic-kailua-kona-town-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii-a-walking-tour/

Hiking and Camping at Hawaii’s Last Wilderness Beach: La’amaomao the Wind God and Makalawena Beach: Advice: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/hiking-and-camping-at-hawaiis-last-wilderness-beach-laamaomao-the-wind-god-and-makalawena-beach/

Driving and Hiking to the Summit of Mauna Kea, Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/07/26/advice-driving-and-hiking-to-the-summit-of-mauna-kea-big-island-of-hawaii/

Hidden Secrets of Hawaii: The Golden Ponds of Ke-awa-iki: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/hidden-secrets-of-hawaii-the-golden-ponds-of-ke-awa-iki/

Near Kalapana, Hawaii, Lava from Kilauea Volcano flows into the Ocean: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Near Kalapana, Hawaii, Lava from Kilauea Volcano flows into the Ocean: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hiking at Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/hiking-at-kilauea-volcano-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Liz Fuller at Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Best About Snorkeling

The Best Snorkeling Spots on Hawaii Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/27/the-best-snorkeling-spots-on-hawaii-island/

Discovering Kona: Snorkeling at the Incomparable Two-Step Beach at Honaunau Bay: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/discovering-kona-snorkeling-at-the-incomparable-two-step-beach-at-honaunau-bay/

Exploring Kona: Discover hidden, beautiful, special Ho’okena Beach Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/exploring-kona-discover-hidden-beautiful-special-hookena-beach-park/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part I: Gear: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-i-gear-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part II: Technique : https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-ii-technique-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part III: Protecting the Reef and Reef Animals: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-iii-reef-etiquette-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part IV: Snorkeling Safety: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-iv-snorkeling-safety-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part V: Best Snorkeling Beaches of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-v-best-snorkeling-beaches-of-the-big-island-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips Part VI: Wilderness Beaches of the Big Island!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/30/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-vi-wilderness-beaches-of-the-big-islanda/

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Frank Burgess giving travel advice at Pu'u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #1: Introduction: Kona Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/26/franks-big-island-travel-hints-1-north-kona-and-kohala-ancient-history-sumptuous-beaches/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #2: Kona South to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Hilo:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/franks-big-island-travel-hints-2-kona-coast-south-of-honaunau-to-kau/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #3: Kona North to Waikoloa and the Kohala Coast:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/1794/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #4: Waikoloa to Pololu Valley; https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/franks-big-island-travel-hints-4-waikoloa-to-pololu-valley-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #5: Hawi to Kona via the Kohala Mountain road, Waimea and Waikoloa: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/franks-big-island-travel-hints-5-hawi-to-kona-via-kohala-mountain-road-waimea-and-waikoloa-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #6: Waimea and the Hamakua Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/04/franks-big-island-travel-hints-6-waimea-and-the-hamakua-coast-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints # 7: Around Hilo: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/06/franks-big-island-travel-hints-7-hilo-side-akaka-falls-to-panaewa-rainforest-zoo/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #8: Mysterious Puna!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/franks-big-island-travel-hints-8-mysterious-puna/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #9: Made for Adventure: The Jungles, Volcanoes, Hot Springs and Tidepools of Puna!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/franks-hawaii-travel-hints-9-made-for-adventure-the-jungles-volcanoes-hot-springs-and-tidepools-of-puna/

Kilauea Lava Flow Near Kalapana Hawaii, August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kilauea Lava Flow Near Kalapana Hawaii, August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #10: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/franks-big-island-travel-hints-10-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park/

Frank’s Travel Hints # 11: Exploring Deeper Into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/13/franks-big-island-travel-hints-11-exploring-deeper-into-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-big-island-hawaii/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #12: More fun in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/franks-big-island-travel-hints-12-more-fun-in-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-big-island-hawaii-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #13: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Chain of Craters Road: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/17/franks-big-island-travel-hints-13-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-chain-of-craters-road/

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

My Sister and Nieces Entering Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Best Exploration Information, Interesting Stories and General Reading about Hawaii

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Cliffs at Pololu Valley, North tip of Hawaii Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

-Kohala

Hawaii’s Most Famous Beach: Anaeho’omalu Bay on the Incomparable Kohala Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/hawaiis-most-famous-beach-anaehoomalu-bay-on-the-incomparable-kohala-coast/

Exploring the Wild Kohala Coast: Hapuna Beach, the Crown Jewel of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/exploring-the-wild-kohala-coast-hapuna-beach-the-crown-jewel-of-hawaii/

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park: A Warrior becomes a King, an Island Archipelago Becomes a Kingdom: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/puukohola-heiau-national-historic-park-a-warrior-becomes-a-king-and-island-archepelago-becomes-a-kingdom/

Dreamy, laid back Hawi and Kapa’au: The Joy of North Kohala: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/28/dreamy-laid-back-hawi-and-kapaau-the-joy-of-north-kohala/

What’s Out There On The Western Tip of Hawaii Island? Kekaha Kai State Park!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/whats-out-there-on-thethe-western-tip-of-hawaii-island-kekaha-kai-state-park/

Delightful, beautiful Kua Bay on the Southern Kohala Coast, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/delightful-beautiful-kua-bay-on-the-southern-kohala-coast-hawaii/

Fabulous, secluded, amazing Waialea Beach (Beach 69) on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/fabulous-secluded-amazing-waialea-beach-beach-69-on-the-kohala-coast-of-hawaii/

Exploring the Incredible Kohala Coast: Samuel Spencer Beach County Park and Mau’umae Beach: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/02/exploring-the-incredible-kohala-coast-samuel-spencer-beach-county-park-and-mauumae-beach/

Exploring the Wild Kohala Coastline: Lapakahi State Historical Park and Koai’e Cove, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/exporing-the-wild-kohala-coastline-lapakahi-state-historical-park-and-koai%E2%80%99e-cove-hawaii/

Exploring the Kohala Coast: Discover Maka O Hule Navigation Heiau: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/4017/

Discovering Kohala: Driving the Scenic and Fabulous Kohala Mountain Road: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/discovering-kohala-driving-the-scenic-and-fabulous-kohala-mountain-road/

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

-Kona

Historic Kailua Kona Town on the Big Island of Hawaii: A Walking Tour: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/historic-kailua-kona-town-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii-a-walking-tour/

Exploring Kona: Kahalu’u Beach, where people go to meet the fish!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/exploring-kona-kahaluu-beach-where-people-go-to-meet-the-fish/

Fabulous, Coastal Scenic Drive through Keauhou Historic District, North to South: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/fabulous-coastal-scenic-drive-through-keauhou-historic-district-north-to-south/

Discovering Kona: Snorkeling at the Incomparable Two-Step Beach at Honaunau Bay: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/discovering-kona-snorkeling-at-the-incomparable-two-step-beach-at-honaunau-bay/

Exploring Beautiful Kona, Hawaii: Magic Sands, La’aloa Beach Park and Haukalua Heiau: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/14/explorng-beautiful-kona-hawaii-magic-sands-laaloa-beach-park-and-haukalua-heiau/

Exploring Kona: Discover hidden, beautiful, special Ho’okena Beach Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/exploring-kona-discover-hidden-beautiful-special-hookena-beach-park/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Exploring Kealakekua Bay Archeological and Historical District, Captain Cook Monument and Hikiau Heiau, Perhaps the Most Important Historical Sites in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/konas-fascinating-history-exploring-kealakekua-bay-archeological-and-historical-district-captain-cook-monument-and-hikiau-heiau-perhaps-the-most-important-historical-sites-in-hawaii/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Ahu’ena Heiau at Kamakahonu Beach: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/konas-fascinating-history-ahuena-heiau-at-kamakahonu-beach/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Pu’u Honua O Honaunau, The Place Of Refuge, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/konas-fascinating-history-puu-honua-o-honaunau-the-place-of-refuge/

Kona’s Fascinating History: The Ancient Temples and Villages, Fabulous Beaches and Scenic Hiking Trails of Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/3407/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Hulihe’e Palace: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/konas-fscinating-history-hulihee-palace/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Moku’aikaua Church–the First Christian Church in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/konas-fscinating-history-mokuaikawa-the-first-christian-church-in-hawaii/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Kamakahonu Rock, the Kailua Pier and Seawall: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/konas-fascinating-history-kamakahonu-rock-the-kailua-pier-and-seawall/

Heartbreak of the Gods: Kuamo’o Battle Field and Lekeleke Graveyard: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/29/heartbreak-of-the-gods-kuamoo-batlle-field-and-lekeleke-graveyard-big-island-of-hawaii/

Rising From The Past: The Rebirth of Hapaiali’i Heiau, a Hawaiian Temple for Honoring Royalty: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/1118/

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

-Ka’u

Exploring Hawaii’s South Point: Ka Lae And the Hike to the Green Sand Beach: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/exploring-hawaiis-south-point-ka-lae-and-the-hike-to-the-green-sand-beach/

Exploring Punalu’u Black Sand Beach in Ka’u Hawaii: Hiking, Snorkeling, Ancient Temples and Endangered Sea Turtles: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/22/exploring-punaluu-black-sand-beach-in-kau-hawaii-hiking-snorkeling-ancient-temples-and-endangered-sea-turtles/

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Halema'uma'u Eruption in Kilauea Crater from the Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

-Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: The Beating Heart of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-the-beating-heart-of-the-big-island/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: The Most Interesting, Amazing and Diverse Scenic Drive in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/a-scenic-drive-through-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-the-most-interesting-amazing-and-diverse-place-in-hawaii/

Kalapana Coastline and Kilauea lava flow, Hawaii August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kalapana Coastline and Kilauea lava flow, Hawaii August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Incredible, wonderful, mysterious Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/incredible-wonderful-mysterious-kilauea-volcano-hawaii/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Along Crater Rim Drive: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/explorng-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-along-the-chain-of-craters-road/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Down the Chain of Craters Road: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-down-the-chain-of-craters-road/

Lava Flow from Kilauea Volcano, Kalapana, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Flow from Kilauea Volcano, Kalapana, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Lava Viewing: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-lava-viewing/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Alanui Kahiko: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/chain-of-craters-road-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-alanui-kahiko/

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Littoral explosion plume at Waikupanaha lava ocean entry, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Devastation Trail: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/06/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-devastation-trail/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Devil’s Throat Collapse Crater: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-devils-throat-collapse-craterdevil%E2%80%99s-throat-less-than-110-of-a-mile-southwest-along-chain-of-craters-road-from-the-hilina-pali-road-turnoff-is-a-s/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: What’s at the End of Chain of Craters Road? Hiking! Mountain biking! Bird-watching!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-whats-at-the-end-of-chain-of-craters-road/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Hiking and Biking the Escape Road: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/09/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-hiking-and-biking-the-escape-road/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Halema’uma’u Crater Overlook: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/26/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-halemaumau-crater-overlook/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Halona Kahakai: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/09/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-halona-kahakai/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Hi’iaka Crater and the Lava Flow of 1973: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-hiiaka-crater-and-the-lava-flow-of-1973/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: The incredible Hilina Pali Road: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-the-incredible-hilina-pali-road/

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sea arches, cliffs and wild ocean at the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Holei Lava Tube: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-holei-lava-tube/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Holei Pali: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-holei-pali/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Holei Sea Arch: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-holei-sea-arch/

Kalapana Coastline: Lava Flow from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kalapana Coastline: Lava Flow from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-jagger-museum-and-hawai%E2%80%99i-volcano-observatory/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Kealakomo Overlook: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-kealakomo-overlook/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Keanakako’i Crater: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-keanakakoi-crater/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Kilauea Iki Overlook: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-kilauea-iki-overlook/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Kilauea Crater Overlook: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/14/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-kilauea-crater-overlook/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Kilauea Military Camp: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/14/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-kilauea-military-camp/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Kilauea Visitor’s Center: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-kilauea-visitors-center/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Kipuka Kahali’i: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-kipuka-kahakihi/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Ko’oko’olau Crater: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-kookoolau-crater/

Appeasing the goddess at Halema'uma'u Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Kulanaokuaiki Campground: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-kulanaokuaiki-campground/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Mauna Loa Lava Tree Molds: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-mauna-loa-lava-tree-molds/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Lua Manu Crater: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-lua-manu-crater/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: The Main Entrance: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-the-main-entrance/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-mau-loa-of-mauna-ulu/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Along the Mauna Loa Scenic Road…Tree Molds, Kipuka Puaulu and Mauna Loa Summit Trailhead: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-along-the-mauna-loa-scenic-road%E2%80%A6tree-molds-kipuka-puaulu-and-mauna-loa-summit-trailhead/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Mauna Ulu, the Growing Mountain: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-mauna-ulu-the-growing-mountain/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Muliwai a Pele : https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-muliwai-a-pele/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Namakani Paio Campground: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-namakani-paio-campground/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Pauahi Crater: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-nationa-park-pauahi-crater/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Pu’u Pua’i: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-puu-puai/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Puhimau Crater: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-puhimau-crater/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Field: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-puu-loa-petroglyph-field/

Visitors inspect petroglyphs at Pu'u Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: The Southwest Rift Zone: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-the-southwest-rift-zone/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Sulfur Banks and Steaming Bluff: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-sulfur-banks-and-steaming-bluff/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National park: The Thurston Lava Tube: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-the-thurston-lava-tube/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: The Volcano Art Center: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/exporing-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-thurston-lava-tube/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Volcano House Hotel: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-volcano-house-hotel/

Picturesque Volcano Village: Food, gasoline and accommodations, just outside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/picturesque-volcano-village-food-gasoline-and-accomodations-just-outside-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Waldron Ledge Hike: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/exploring-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-waldron-ledge-hike/

Visitors inspect petroglyphs at Pu'u Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Anthropomorphic petroglyph at Pu'u Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

-Puna

Exploring Mysterious, Magnificent, Unspoiled Puna: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/exploring-mysterious-magnificent-unspoiled-puna/

Hawaii Lava Flow Update: August 2010 Viewing of Kilauea Lava Flows at Kaplapana on the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/hawaii-lava-flow-update-august-2010-viewing-of-kilauea-lava-flows-at-kaplapana-on-the-big-island/

Strange things seen at the lava flow, Kalapana, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Strange things seen at the lava flow, Kalapana, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kalapana, Hawaii: From the Fires of Hades to the Eden of Rebirth: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/kalapana-hawaii-from-the-fires-of-hades-to-the-eden-of-rebirth/

Exciting Puna: See flowing lava at Waikupanaha, Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/hiking-at-the-waikupanaha-lava-ocean-entry-in-puna-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Discovering Puna: Exploring Lava Trees State Monument on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/19/dicovering-puna-exploring-lava-trees-state-monument-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Kupaianaha Vent on Kilauea Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Exploring Puna: Ahalanui Pond at Pu’ala’a County Park in Puna, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/exploring-puna-ahalanui-pond-at-pu%E2%80%99ala%E2%80%99a-county-park-in-puna-hawaii/

Exploring Puna: Discover Charming, Eclectic, Surprising Pahoa Town!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/3982/

Discovering Puna: Explore Isaac Hale Beach Park at Pohoiki Bay, Puna Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/discovering-puna-explore-isaac-hale-beach-park-at-pohoiki-bay-puna-hawaii/

Exploring Puna: Discovering the Majestic, Primeval Tree Tunnels of Puna: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/exploring-puna-discovering-the-majestic-primeval-tree-tunnels-of-puna/

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

From Mauna Kea to Mauna Loa, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

-Hilo, Waimea, Saddle Road and Hamakua

Unimaginably beautiful, surprisingly engaging and fantastically fun Hilo, Hawaii!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/06/unimaginably-beautfiul-surprisingly-engaging-and-fantastically-fun-hilo-hawaii/

My Favorite Scenic Drive: Hawaii’s Wild and Scenic Saddle Road!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-1-the-saddle-road-kona-to-the-summit-of-mauna-kea-kaumana-cave-and-hilo-2/

The Heart of Paniolo Country on the Big Island of Hawaii: Scenic, Historic Waimea: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/the-heart-of-paniolo-country-in-hawaii-scenic-historic-waimea/

Exploring the jungle trails of Akaka Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/18/exploring-the-jungle-trails-of-akaka-falls-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Exploring Wailuku River Park and Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/exloring-wailuku-river-park-and-rainbow-falls-hlio-hawaii/

Serene, lovely, enchanting Richardson Ocean Park, Hilo Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/serene-lovely-enchanting-richardson-ocean-park-hilo-hawaii/

Fabulous Hamakua: Discovering Honoka’a Town on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/fabulous-hamakua-discovering-honokaa-town-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

The Magic of Hilo District: Pe’epekeo Scenic Drive and Onomea Bay Trail: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/the-magic-of-hilo-district-peepekeo-scenic-drive-and-onomea-bay-trail/

Exploring Laupahoehoe Park, Hamakua Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/exploring-laupahoehoe-park-hamakua-coast-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Exploring Kaumana Cave, Just Outside Hilo Along the Saddle Road on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/exploring-kaumana-cave-just-outide-hilo-on-the-saddle-road-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

The Magic of Hilo District: Unforgettable, surprising, peaceful Kolekole Beach Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/29/the-magic-of-hilo-district-unforgetable-surprising-peaceful-kolekole-beach-park/

Exploring the Hamakua Coast, North of Hilo, Hawaii: Hakalau Canyon: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/exporng-the-hamakaua-coast-north-of-hilo-hawaii-hakalau-canyon/

Exploring Hawaii’s Saddle Road: Kipuka Pu’u Huluhulu Nature Trails and Kipuka Aina Hou Nene Sanctuary: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/5130/

Hilo Askance: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/hilo-askance/

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hikers at the beach in Waipi'o Valley, Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

-Big Island General

The Call of Aloha…:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/the-call-of-aloha/
The Beautiful, Enigmatic and Cryptic Petroglyphs of Hawaii Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/the-beautiful-enigmatic-and-cryptic-petroglyphs-of-hawaii-island/

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles: Honu of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/hawaiis-magnificent-honu-the-endangered-hawaiian-green-sea-turtle/

A Quick Geologic History of the Hawai’ian Islands: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/a-quick-geologic-history-of-the-hawaiian-islands/

The Volcanoes of Hawaii Island: Mahukona, Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/the-volcanoes-of-hawaii-island-mahukona-kohala-mauna-kea-hualalai-mauna-lor/

A Brief History of Kona Coffee…: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/a-brief-history-of-kona-coffee/

A’a and Pahoehoe Lavas of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/aa-and-pahoehoe-lavas-of-hawaii/

Hawaii’s Amazing Lava Fossils: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/hawaiis-amazing-lava-fossils/

The Sugar Industry in Hawaii: Kona Sugar Company and West Hawai’i Railway Company: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/the-sugar-industry-in-hawaii-kona-sugar-company-and-west-hawai%E2%80%99i-railway-company/

The Hawaiian Snow Goddess Poliahu and the Summit of Mauna Kea…: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/the-hawaiian-snow-goddess-poliahu-and-the-summit-of-mauna-kea/

Why I love Hawaii…: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/why-i-love-hawaii/

A Brief History of Ranching in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/rodeo-to-rock-and-roll-a-brief-history-of-ranching-in-hawaii/

Conjuring Visions of Paradise: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/conjuring-visions-of-paradise/

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Eric Carr braves high altitude and low temperatures to shoot video on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

-Video

Kilauea’s Eruption Just Keeps Getting More Fantastic!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/wwwtourguidehawaiicom-presents-new-video-of-kilauea-volcano-erupting/

Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Field, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/823/

Volcano Art Center—A Kipuka of Creativity on the Rim of Madam Pele’s Home: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/volcano-art-center-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park/

Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/jagger-museum-hawaii-volcanoes-national-rark/

Captain Cook’s Legacy: Exploring the History and Waters of Kealakekua Bay: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/949/

Mo’okini Heiau: Warrior Kings and Human Sacrifice on Hawai’i: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/mookini-heiau-warrior-kings-and-human-sacrifice-on-hawaii-2/

 

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Bart Hunt Snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie 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.

 

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

King Kamehameha Statue, Wailoa Park, Hilo Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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.

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. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Captain James Cook Monument from Manini Beach on Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Imagine yourself, as it rains, sleets, and snows through the long winter, lying under cerulean blue skies bathed in healing sunlight on a warm golden sand beach, playing in bath-temperature water, and snorkeling among the brightly colored tropical fish and placid, but amazing sea turtles. Sound too good to be true? In West Hawaii, this soothing daydream is our day-to-day reality.

Hapuna Beach, One Of Hawaii's Most Popular, Is Frequently Quite Empty: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapuna Beach, One Of Hawaii's Most Popular, Is Frequently Quite Empty: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lying in the rain shadow of two enormous volcanoes reaching from sea level to almost 14,000 feet in the sky, the weather year-round on the west coasts of the Big Island are universally gorgeous, reliably warm, and indescribably delicious.

Our beaches range from wide, mile-long golden swaths of sands bounded by turquoise waters on one side and stands of palms and mangroves on the other to the tiny patches of white sand plunked down in the middle of town where everybody gathers to cool off in the afternoon and gaze at West Hawaii’s unbelievable sunsets. Let’s take a quick tour of just a sampling of the unbelievably fabulous, romantic, relaxing, beautiful beaches of West Hawaii. Our trip starts on the north end of the Kohala Coast and proceeds south tthrough the Kohala Coast beaches.

Beaches of Kohala

Hapuna Beach

At Hapuna It's a 7 Minute Walk From The Car To The Beach...Be Sure To Bring Everything You Need: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

At Hapuna It's a 7 Minute Walk From The Car To The Beach...Be Sure To Bring Everything You Need: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Always rated in the top ten of American beaches, Hapuna Beach is the premiere beach destination on the Island of Hawaii. Long, wide, and phenomenally sandy, it has everything one dreams of in a Hawaiian beach: abundant sun, surf, clean, clear and quiet snorkeling water, shade, and well-maintained facilities.

There are lifeguards, several pavilions, barbecues, picnic tables, restrooms, showers, and a small café. The center of the beach is for wave play and boogie boarding; the north and south coves are quieter, for snorkeling or gentle floating.

Waialea Beach (Beach 69)

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Wailea Beach (Beach 69) Is An Ideal Family Beach and Is Almost Always Uncrowded: Photoby Donald B. MacGowan

A perfect crescent of golden sand backed by abundant shade at the edge of the beach makes this an ideal, though little known, family beach. After about 10 in the morning and on windy days, the water in the bay is a tad murkier than ideal for snorkeling, but most of the visitors to this beach don’t seem to mind. A chain of tiny islands and pinnacles leads northward to crystalline water and a long coral reef for some of the most outrageous snorkeling and shore diving anywhere in the state.

A trail over the north headland leads to a secluded (often clothing optional) cove and then onward to Hapuna Beach. Although most of the shore is relatively free of currents, only experienced snorkelers who are strong swimmers will want to snorkel around the north end of Waialea, past the cove and the reef, past the sea arch, and on to Hapuna—a long, but rewarding swim with some of the most incredible underwater vistas available to the snorkeler in the world.

Take the Puako Road exit from the highway and turn north toward Hapuna. Near Pole 71, an obvious, newly paved road and parking lot indicate the start of the short trail to the beach. Restrooms, picnic tables, water, and showers round out the facilities.

Anaeho’omalu Bay
The most photographed sunset view on the Island of Hawaii, Anaeho’omalu Bay is the icon of what most visitors envision Hawaii to be like before they get here—swaying palm trees, a clean beach fronting warm, safe, swimmable ocean, and hordes of eager beach boys bearing large, tropical drinks with comical names like “Malahini Wahine Wahoo.” Here at the bay, one can rent snorkel or surfing gear, sign-up for sailing trips, snorkel tours, windsurfing lessons or scuba dives, order food and drinks, or just lounge pleasantly in the niumalu (shade of the coconut palms).

The Justly Famous Anaeho'omalu Beach is a Long Crescent of Gorgeous Sand: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Justly Famous Anaeho'omalu Beach is a Long Crescent of Gorgeous Sand: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Named for the ancient fishponds behind the beach, from the words anae (“mullet”) and ho’malu (“to protect”), Anaeho’omalu Bay is known as “A-Bay” to locals. In addition to swimming, snorkeling, diving, windsurfing, and just plain hanging out, the area around A-Bay is also rich with archaeological sites, including section of the Ala Ali’i (King’s Trail), fish ponds, heiau (temples), and petroglyphs.

Walking the trail south from A-Bay to Kapalaoa Beach will take one along not only vistas of incomparable beauty and wildness, but also reveal numerous rarely visited petroglyphs. There is good snorkeling along the farthest south pocket of sand on Kapalaoa Beach. One can follow this tail several miles all the way south to Pueo Bay and Ke-awa-iki Beach along lava flows and shoreline, but it is a long, hot hike with no water for drinking available.

Walking north along the trail (shoes required) over sand, lava, and coral, to the Hilton Waikoloa Resort is an unforgettable sunset stroll, and a good introduction to the wild beauty of the Kohala Coast. There are numerous tidepools, a couple with resident Honu, Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.

Follow the Mauna Lani Resort road to the left turn clearly marked Anaeho’omalu Bay, turn and proceed to the end of the road. Facilities and services are available at A-Bay and on the Resort Grounds.

Kiholo Bay Area
Snorkeling, country music, history, ancient fish ponds, and medical science … what more could anyone ask for?

This remarkable, beautiful, and sadly popular area is accessed in two ways: first, by a gravel road going ocean-ward from the highway immediately south of the Overlook pullout at mile 82. This road is only open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., but accesses the south end of the bay, a pebbly beach terminated in austere a’a flows to the south. The round house on the beach was built by country and western singer Loretta Lynn, but was condemned and taken by the State when it created the beach park. Swimming and boogie boarding here are excellent in low to moderate surf, but beware of current and surginess; if the surf is high, do not go in. A trail south below the big mansion on the headland leads about three quarters of a mile to a tiny black sand beach with an amazing coral garden. This little beach is my favorite snorkeling secret on the island.

A Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Suns Herself on the Long, Sinuous Kiholo Beach Which Alternates equal Portions of Bedrock, Pebble and Black Sand: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Suns Herself on the Long, Sinuous Kiholo Beach Which Alternates equal Portions of Bedrock, Pebble and Black Sand: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A 4WD road/trail continues north along the black pebble beach and cliffs to Kiholo Bay proper. This part of the Kiholo Area can also be accessed via a newly rebuilt dirt road that leaves the parking lot immediately south of mile marker 81.

Along the beach, on the mauka side, is a freshwater spring and pond in a lava tube (Keanalele Waterhole), a great place to rinse off after swimming or hiking along the beach. Please rinse off excess sunscreen in the ocean before enjoying this refreshing pool. Also along this portion of the beach are a number of mansions, most notably the Bali House (oh, you’ll know it when you see it) and the home of Earl Bakken, the billionaire inventor of the pacemaker. Believe the no trespassing signs you see here.

Full of turtles, beautiful to swim, and a wonderful place to learn to surf, Kiholo Bay proper has it all. In addition, the sweat required to reach it has the added bonus of weeding out the undesirables. Just north of Kiholo Bay is a beautiful, turquoise brackish lagoon, all that remains of a 2-mile long fishpond erected by Kamehameha the Great around 1810, which was destroyed by the Mauna Kea lava flow of 1859.

At Kiholo, as with other beaches on the Island of Hawaii, it is quite usual to see several sea turtles basking on the sand. If, however, you see dozens and dozens of turtles out of the water on the beach, you may properly suspect something big enough and with strong enough jaws to eat a 6-foot diameter turtle is cruising the nearby waters—a good clue that perhaps this is not a day for casual swimming.

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Here at Waialea Beach, The Near Perfect Year Round Weather, Turquiose-Bath-Temperature-Waters And Relative Lack of Crowds Illustrate Why the Kohala Coast Beaches of Hawaii Island Are Among the World's Favorites: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

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

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


by Donald B. MacGowan

Getting To and Around the Big Island of Hawai’i

Brad Lands at Kona

Bradford MacGowan Lands at Kona International Airport at Keahole: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Big Island of Hawaii’s beauty is legendary and it has the most diverse landscape on earth—but it can be as challenging to explore as it is charming.   From the icy heights of snow-covered volcanoes, to steamy jungles and tropical beaches, to flowing fields of lava, flower choked canyons and wide-open tropical grassland, its scenery is unsurpassed.  By and large the quality of your trip to the Big Island will depend on how much of it you choose to see and how you set about discovering your own Big Island adventures.  Below are some ideas on the options for getting to Hawaii and for getting around Hawaii, once you are here.

Another key to the quality of your time on the Big Island has to do with the spirit of aloha.  The people you meet in Hawaii, by and large, tend to be more open and friendly—quick to help or befriend—than elsewhere.  This is the tradition of “Aloha”.  When you meet local residents, whether to ask for directions and advice or to hire services or just in casual conversation, treat them with respect, humor and openness—return their spirit of aloha and you will find your journey, and yourself, deeply enriched for it.

In Hawaii, your smile is your passport.

Getting To Hawaii

The standing joke among residents of Hawaii when dealing with the time, inconvenience and hassle of traveling to the mainland is: ”This used to be so much easier before the bridge blew down”!  Of course, there never was a bridge spanning the roughly 2500 miles between the Big Island and mainland USA, but the humor tends to underline the commitment, planning and time it takes to travel to and from Hawaii.

Flying to Hawaii: Certainly the most common, quickest and least expensive (note I didn’t say “inexpensive”) way to get to Hawaii is to fly.  Many major US and international carriers fly to Honolulu on Oahu and and a host of local and international carriers offer flights from there to all the other Hawaiian Islands, including the Big Island.  Kona’s airport is the only one on the Big Island that has direct flight connections to the US Mainland, Canada, Japan and Australia. Despite styling itself as “Hilo International Airport”, flights to and from Hilo ONLY connect to other Hawaiian islands.

Although both airports have similar facilities and services, including on-site rental car agencies and access to public transportation, shuttles and taxis, it makes a big difference to the traveler where they land.  By far the vast majority of visitors to the Big Island stay in either Kona or the Kohala Resorts which are all on the west side of the island and are between 20 to 45 minutes from the Kona airport.  If you are staying in Hilo, it’s fine to fly in there; however, Hilo doesn’t have the resort facilities, fine beaches and great weather of the Kona side and few tourists opt to stay there anymore. Many people booked into resorts on the west side mistakenly take flights into Hilo, due to the misleading airport name, unaware (or even misinformed by ignorant but well-meaning travel agents) that they now, at the end of an exhausting day of travel and in the fading twilight of the early tropical sunset, face a drive of almost 3 hours, across high mountains and on narrow, winding, unfamiliar roads to get to their resort.  They just better hope it doesn’t start raining, too.

Although Beautiful, Open, and Welcoming, Hilo International Airport Can Be Frustrating With Long Lines and Longer Waiting Times...In Fact, Hilo is not Even an Interstate Airport, Let Alone International--Flights In and Out Only Connect To Other Islands In Hawaii: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Although Beautiful, Open, and Welcoming, Hilo International Airport Can Be Frustrating With Long Lines and Longer Waiting Times...In Fact, Hilo is not Even an Interstate Airport, Let Alone International--Flights In and Out Only Connect To Other Islands In Hawaii: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

So—know where you are staying, fly into the appropriate airport.

Whether you are flying directly into Kona or flying to Honolulu and getting a connecting flight into Kona or Hilo, you want to be sure to reserve a seat so that you see as much of the incredible scenery as you can. Since 90% of the flight is over open ocean (which just isn’t as riveting as one might expect) you want to wring the most enjoyment out of those portions of your flight which do feature scenery.  If you are first stopping in Honolulu, sitting on the starboard (right) side of the aircraft for this leg of your trip affords the best views as the plane screams in past Koko Head and over the top of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, turns around directly over Pearl Harbor and settles in to land at Honolulu International Airport.  Sitting on the port side is not as spectacular, however, it offers views of Moloka’i and Maui islands, as well as views of Pearl Harbor, the Wai’anae, the Ko’olau Mountains of O’ahu and downtown Honolulu just before landing.

Flying into Hilo from O’ahu, one also wants to sit on the starboard side of the aircraft.  The flight path crosses over the islands of Moloka’i and Maui, skims along the eastern margin of Hawaii Island  presenting a rich, fascinating panoply of soaring sea cliffs, jungle canyons and volcanic mountains, jaw-dropping waterfalls and crashing surf along the coast.  Flying into Kona either directly or from Honolulu is no less wonderfully scenic than flying into Hilo, but one wants to be on the port side. This offers the traveler great views of the islands of Maui, Molokini, Lana’i and Kaho’olawe, as well as incredible views of the Big Island, Kohala Mountain, Mauna Kea, Hualalai and, on clear days, Mauna Loa as the jet cruises in over the Kohala Coast, making land right over Makalwena Beach and on to Kona International Airport at Keahole.

Cruise Ships and Cargo Ships: There are several cruise ship lines which ply the waters of the Hawaiian Archipelago, however of the ones that service the Big Island, most require passengers to book for an entire cruise, meaning that although you may make one or two stops on Hawaii, you will only remain in port for a day, overnight at most, before sailing on.  Generally, you cannot arrive on one ship, disembark for a stay, and catch another ship out.

Norwegian Cruise Lines 'Spirit Of America' Cruises Along The Kona Coastline: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Norwegian Cruise Lines 'Spirit Of America' Cruises Along The Kona Coastline: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Of increasing popularity, however, is cruising to Hawaii on cargo ships—cheaper than a cruise line and with a completely open and adjustable itinerary, this is a great alternative to flying.  It is both more expensive and more time consuming (average sailing is 3 days from Los Angeles to Honolulu, and times are variable for getting from there to the Big Island) than flying, but it is restful, peaceful and unique.  Cargo ships offer spacious passenger cabins and, while not the floating feed-lots that cruise ships tend to resemble, the food on cargo ships is wonderful and plentiful. Perhaps the biggest drawback of riding cargo ships to the Big Island is that on the east side they dock in, let us say, the less desirable part of Hilo; on the west they dock at Kawaihae, halfway between Kailua Kona and the resorts of the Kohala coast—in other words, out in the middle of nowhere.  Both land many miles from resorts and car rental agencies.   However, both docking facilities are serviced by taxis and public transportation; if you plan ahead, it should present no problem.

Getting Around Hawaii
Shuttles/Taxis/Limos/Tours: Taxis, of course, service both Big Island airports, the metropolitan regions and all the resorts.  The taxis, while not cheap, are not as usurious as one might fear and the drivers generally are knowledgeable, friendly, HONEST and genuinely nice—it’s that whole aloha thing. Taxi drivers are happy to answer your questions, even the silly ones you are kind of shy to ask; they will freely give advice about what to do and see and where to eat and generally try to be as helpful as possible.  However, many speak in pidgin English that can be nearly impenetrable to the newcomers’ ear.  Don’t be shy about respectfully asking him to repeat himself, and again if necessary—he hears that on nearly every fare he carries.  Ask him to write down place names, restaurant names and such—many Hawaiian words do not look at all like they way he’s saying them and you’ll want to be able to read the words on maps and signs, or be able to ask another person, later.

Both Kona and Hilo airports are serviced by point-to-point shuttles and limos, whose prices are actually quite reasonable and certainly less expensive than the taxis. The drawback here is that there will be many people aboard going to many diverse destinations—so it takes a bit longer than a taxi.

Many of the larger resorts offer a free limo service to and from the airport and some will even arrange to have your rental car waiting for you on-property when you arrive from the airport…check when you make reservations.  If available, this is the least personable, but quickest, easiest and least expensive way to get to your lodgings.

Some boutique tours offered by Hostels and the smaller tour companies will also pick you up at the airport at the beginning of their tours, if your arrival time is convenient to the tour schedule; thus, the cost of getting to your resort is absorbed into the cost of the tour.  This option is worth looking into if you are not planning to rent a car during your stay.

When Choosing How You Wish To Explore Hawaii Island, Remember That they Have Some Unusual Traffic Situations, Such As Lava Flowing On Roadways: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When Choosing How You Wish To Explore Hawaii Island, Remember That they Have Some Unusual Traffic Situations, Such As Lava Flowing On Roadways: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Tipping tour, taxi, limo and shuttle drivers is not only encouraged, it’s their main source of revenue. Aloha is like karma; remember to return the aloha they showed you.

Rental Cars and Driving Tips: Although some people opt to not rent cars during their stay, relying on tours and public transportation to get around, you should bear in mind that there is a reason they call it “The Big Island”.  Distances between attractions can be long, public transportation schedules are not always convenient and, face it, it’s just a lot freer, easier and more independent to have your own wheels.  Be sure to thoroughly research the online booking agencies before you arrive—ofttimes great deals bundling airfare, room and car rental can be found, especially in the slack seasons.

There are two types of car rental agencies on the Big Island.  The major, international car rental agencies are available on property at both airports, giving the visitor a wide selection of corporate deals and specials—particularly flight-room-car combo deals–as well as a diverse palate of available cars.    The other option, frequently much less expensive particularly for long term rentals, are the off-property rental agencies.  These folks won’t generally pick you up at the airport so you must make your way to their in-town offices, but the selection of vehicles, and rates, are generally wider ranged.

If you are under 21, the rental companies won’t rent to you.  If you are between 21 and 24, they may add a surcharge to the rental that can be as much as twenty-five dollars a day on top of the regular daily fee.

The first question the traveler must answer for themselves is what kind of vehicle they will want while on the Big Island. Some rental agencies specialize in luxury and exotic cars–Mercedes, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce and such.  Others offer Volkswagen Campers and RVs. Many people arrive and decide they want to flash around the island in a Mustang or Camaro convertible—which are great and fun, but they offer no security for your personal items and they severely limit the kinds of roads you can drive on, in addition to almost guaranteeing sun and wind burn. If you are coming to explore the island, you should consider going to the extra expense of renting a four-wheel drive vehicle—either a jeep or an enclosed SUV.  Much of the mountain country and many of the more interesting beaches and canyons require four wheel drive.  I suggest an enclosed SUV so you do not have to shout to be heard, as you do in a jeep, and have some more protection from the elements and from thieves.

If Traveling With More Than 3 People, Consider the Advantages To Renting a Minivan, Especially One Equipped With Four Wheel Drive: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

If Traveling With More Than 3 People, Consider the Advantages To Renting a Minivan, Especially One Equipped With Four Wheel Drive: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Briefly mentioned above, RVs and Volkswagen Campers are excellent ways to see the island and obviate the need for an expensive hotel.  However, RVs are not common on Hawaii and there are no RV parks as such; outside of the towns of Hilo and Kona there is nowhere to drain the waste tanks, so you have to be sure to use public facilities as much as possible.  But you can park and camp free virtually anywhere, although most campgrounds will charge a camping fee for an RV, even if you are camping in the parking lot.

Motorcycles and scooters can be rented in both Kona and Hilo and are a fun way to see the island, until it rains.  Which happens.  It is also difficult to travel with any amount of luggage on a motorcycle.  You will notice a burgeoning fraction of the local population zipping about town on scooters (locally, and incorrectly, referred to as “mopeds”).  For bikes with engine sizes smaller than 50cc, no motorcycle license and no insurance are necessary.  The “moped” class vehicle has the same license and road regulations as a bicycle, so it is not surprising to see them zip along the the roadside, passing cars stuck in traffic, or pop up and run down the sidewalk.  If you rent a moped in Hawaii, please don’t drive them the way the locals do; it just isn’t safe. I use a moped almost exclusively to get around Kailua Town where I live—do not ride your scooter the way you see me ride mine.

Bradford MacGowan Rips Around Kona on a Scooter--Which Are Locally Known As Mopeds: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Bradford MacGowan Rips Around Kona on a Scooter--Which Are Locally Known As Mopeds: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The cost of gas in Hawaii is even worse than you’ve been led to believe, so when selecting a rental car, bear this in mind.  Costco in Kona has the absolute cheapest gas on the island (and it’s handy, near the airport); the gas station off the Akoni Pule Highway in Kohala near mile marker 76 has the cheapest gas in Kohala and the Chevron Station at the Airport turn-off in Hilo has the cheapest gas in East Hawaii.  Remember that the Big Island is largely rural—gas stations, particularly in the far north and on the south side of the Island, may not keep regular hours or even stick with their posted schedule—especially if the surf is up or the fishing is good.  In general, outside of the urban areas of Kona and Hilo, gas is hard to find after about 6 in the evening.  I personally don’t ever let my gas tank get more than half empty, ever, just for this very reason.  Certainly, you should never let it get more than half empty when on the south side of the Island; you should make a point to fill up before late afternoon when you have the chance, definitely before you go into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (you’ll stay longer and use more gas than you planned because, trust me, it’s the coolest place, ever) and before crossing the Saddle Road.

Driving times between attractions on the Big Island are longer than you might expect, given the actual mileage between points of interest.  This is in part because much of the “highway” system is composed of winding, narrow, two-lane blacktop with a speed limit of 35 miles an hour.  Another reason drives take longer than expected is because you are going to want to pull over and look, stop and explore, take your time and enjoy.  As the bumper sticker says: “Slow down, Brah—dis ain’t da mainland!”  On this note, many local residents will pass on hills and blind corners, even into oncoming traffic; they know the road, you don’t—don’t follow their lead.  Trying to drive like the locals drive is like jumping into the ocean and trying to surf like they surf—it just isn’t a really bright idea.  Local custom is to eschew use of turn signals and horn; this is another custom you shouldn’t emulate.

The police on the Big Island are well-trained, serious professionals.  However, most cruise around in their personal cars (with a blue light on top) and can be very hard to spot (a Ford Mustang or Toyota Rav4 with a light bar?  It happens…).  They are particularly serious about drunk drivers, speed limits and child restraints/seal belts.  Aloha, respect and honesty go a long way toward making any interactions with the Hawaii County Police more pleasant.  This isn’t Louisiana or some Third World banana republic—do not even think of offering a bribe if you are stopped by a Hawaii County Police Officer.  On the topic of police, it is local custom to flash your brights at on-coming traffic if there is a cop behind you.  Participate in this at your own discretion, but this is the reason all those people are flashing at you.

There are feral goats and sheep (feral donkeys along the highway in Kohala!), wild pigs, feral cats and dogs that present driving hazards, especially at night.  Fruit such as mango, avocado and guava frequently fall, en masse, into the road and produce a slimy hazard, particularly to motorcycles. In town, watch for cyclists, pedestrians and skateboarders (check out those guys skateboarding to the beach with their surfboards under their arms!).  Kailua Kona is the proud home to the Iron Man World Championship Triathlon and many runners and cyclists fully utilize, and rigorously defend, their rights of way; smile, wave and yield, OK?  You came to have fun: relax. The Big Island is also Big Sky country…driving east into the sunrise or west into the sunset is painful and hazardous; try to plan your day to avoid this.

When Deciding What Kind Of Car You Want To Rent, Take into Account How Much Luggage Your Group Has; Bradford MacGowan at Seattle Tacoma International Airport: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When Deciding What Kind Of Car You Want To Rent, Take into Account How Much Luggage Your Group Has; Bradford MacGowan at Seattle Tacoma International Airport: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Do not leave valuables in your car, not even the trunk.  Ever.  The locals are friendly, but but some are frisky and high value items will evaporate from your car with alarming alacrity.  Consider any spot frequented by visitors to be at risk for theft, even if you only are going a hundred feet from your car.

There Are Travel Hazaeds Other Than Weather In Hawaii

Pay Attention To Road Signs and Listen To Advice; Conditions In Hawaii Are Absolutely Unique, If Sometimes Screamingly Funny: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Many roads, intersections and attractions are poorly marked and what signs exist are in Hawaiian, which is hard to read, harder to remember exactly the name of the place you are searching for.  When you ask directions, have the person write down the name of the place.  Many residents are in the habit of giving directions in terms of landmarks that mean nothing to you (“Remember where Uncle Kealea had the fruit stand 20 years ago?  You want to go just across Aunty Tutu’s pig farm from there to where the coconut grove used to be…”) so have them show you on a map.  Be sure they start by pointing out where you are, right now.  Respect, humor and aloha will help get you where you are going.

Along these lines, many tourists bring their GPS from home to help navigate—be sure to download the maps for Hawaii before you come; some brands of GPS do not offer Hawaii coverage.  A few of the rental car agencies have GPS units for rent at reasonable prices.  The best solution, however, are the folks at Tour Guide Hawaii (808.557.0051; http://www.tourguidehawaii.com) who offer a hand-held computer with an onboard GPS at very reasonable rental rates (a video about the Tour Guide product is available here).   They have stuffed into this device over six hundred points of interest (did you hear that?  600!) of recreational, cultural and historical importance. They are now offering a pared-down version (50 of the top sites, interactive maps and driving instructions—AND the restrooms!) that is downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch. Both systems have a short audio/video presentation for each site, telling you all about it, the history and culture, what to bring, what to do while there; they even have the public restrooms listed! These presentations play as you approach the points of interest, or can be searched for at any time or location. Thus, the device can be used to preview all the sites around the island in the comfort of your hotel room, pre-plan trips or to get information and turn by turn navigation on the road.  Combining cutting-edge technology and old-fashioned story-telling, the unbelievably easy to use, fabulously informative and terrifically fun Tour Guide Self-Guided GPS Tours are an amazing bargain and a great way to see Hawaii.

Commercial Tours: Whether or not you rent a car, commercial tours offer a great way to get oriented to the island and hear a bit about the history and about the culture of our home.  Tours come in all sizes and description, from the taxi driver who makes it up on the fly as he takes you to dinner, to personalized taxi tours lasting a half to a full day, to specialized van tours and large, full day, round the island tours in full-size motor coaches.  There are bus tours to the summit of Mauna Kea, tours through the coffee country of Kona, tours to see the volcano, historical tours—tours of all lengths and covering just about anything and everything you want to see. Some tours include meals—one even takes you to a real, working ranch for a barbecue!  Then there are the highly specialized tours: fixed wing and helicopter tours of the island, whale and dolphin watching tours, snorkel tours, sunset cruise tours, organized bicycle tours, powered hang-glider tours, tours of Kailua Bay in a submarine and even boat tours to see the lava flowing into the ocean.  Although they can be fairly spendy, most are fully worth the price.  Be sure to shop around for the right tour at the right price to suit your interests.

Tourists Load Aboard a Large Motor Coach for a Tour of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Tourists Load Aboard a Large Motor Coach for a Tour of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Bicycle Rental: There are several places where you can rent bikes on the Big Island—and it’s very pleasant to spend the day pedaling through Hilo and Kailua Kona.  However, problems of weather (hot sun, torrential downpour!), the long distances between points of interest and the ever-present, enormous volcanoes (think: “HILLS!”) preclude this as a major method of exploration, except for the most avid bike tourer.

Public Transportation: The Hawaii County-run Hele-on Bus travels most of the Island, and makes pretty good time—the good news here is that riding the bus is free…the bad news is that it is scheduled to get workers between the large resorts in Kona and Kohala and the small towns all across the island where they live. As such, the bus schedule may not be convenient for the visitor nor conducive to exploration.  It’s very handy if you just want to go somewhere and spend the day there.  Be sure you understand the bus schedule, however, as many places only are serviced twice a day by bus (one in-bound and one out-bound trip per day) and if you miss your return ride and have to find an alternate way back to your hotel, you will quickly learn why they call this “The Big Island”!

Some places you just cannot drive

Thankfully, There Are Still Some Places On The Big Island That You Just Cannot Drive To: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Walking and Hitch-hiking: Two words here: BIG ISLAND.  It is possible to hike across the Big Island (I’ve done it both west-to-east and south-to-north; heck, in 2008 a wheel chair athlete rolled his wheel chair from sea-level in Hilo 37 miles and 13,800 feet in elevation up to the summit of Mauna Kea—did you catch the part about “wheel chair athlete”?), but the long distances, rural nature (it’s an impracticably long way between places to get food, water and to camp) and intense sun make this an epic adventure, not a restful sight-seeing vacation.  Both Hilo and Kailua Town are comfortable and safe to walk around, but getting to beaches, waterfalls and other points of interest is difficult on foot.

Until very recently hitch-hiking was a common and respectable way to get around the island—if you were a local, everybody either knew you, or your aunty; if you were a visitor, your uniqueness made you interesting and so it was very safe, as well.  Although probably just as safe today, with the explosion of mainlanders moving to our island (who may be reluctant to offer rides), I notice a sharp decline in the number of hitch-hikers on the roads now.  Hitch-hiking is legal from the roadside, as long as you are not in the road, presenting a hazard to yourself or an impediment to traffic.  If you hitch-hike use your judgment, be home before sundown and refuse to ride with drunks or folks of questionable character or cleanliness.  Do not ride in the backs of pick-up trucks.

So—armed with this information, you are now better prepared to evaluate your options for exploring the unique and varied landscapes, experiences and delights of Hawaii—your adventures are limited only by your imagination.  Remember that attitude in Hawaii is important to the quality of your vacation—the spirit of Aloha is pervasive.  When angry, lonely, confused, frustrated, tired or bored, recall what I said: “In Hawaii, your smile is your passport”…

Juxtaposition of Two Cultures; the Newest Queen Mary at Anchor in Kailua Bay, Behind Ancient Ahu'ena Heiau: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Juxtaposition of Two Cultures; the Newest Queen Mary at Anchor in Kailua Bay, Behind Ancient Ahu'ena Heiau: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, and exploring 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

Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series covers Snorkeling Technique; Part III covers Snorkeling Etiquette; Part IV discusses Snorkeling Safety and Part V covers Big Island Snorkel Spots.

Waialea Beach in Kohala is the gateway to many small, secluded secret beaches on the Big Island...but why go any farther than this?  It's perfect! Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waialea Beach in Kohala is the gateway to many small, secluded secret beaches on the Big Island...but why go any farther than this? It's perfect! Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Of all the Hawaiian Islands, because it is the youngest, the Big Island has the fewest and smallest beaches…this leads to crowding during the height of tourist season at some beaches. Because Hawaii is still rural, there are still some wilderness (hike-to-only) beaches; a few of them are among the best on the island.

Many wild beaches may be camped upon but you must apply for a permit from the appropriate agency. Overnight camping on Hawaii beaches is simplified because of the mild climate–usually I take a few quarts of water, a couple sandwiches, my camera, dry clothes for post-snorkeling comfort, a fleece blanket and rice mat to sleep on (a beach towel will suffice) and a small tarp on the off-chance it rains. The key here is that if the weather turns truly ugly, you are rarely more than an hour from your car. You may wish to bring a few extra quarts of water to rinse the salt off after swimming—it’s difficult to sleep comfortably with salty skin.

Two things to bear in mind—although is sometimes doesn’t seem it, Hawaii DOES have tides…camp well back of the beach area. Secondly, beach fires are not only illegal, they are hugely dangerous on most beaches on the west side.

Ke-awa-iki Beach (park off Highway 19 just north of Mile 79; walk along gravel road towards the ocean to a fence and foot trail; about 15 minutes to beach): A little walking over a lava road and a’a rewards you with a beautiful beach many locals don’t know about. This tiny black-sand beach has good snorkeling on the south side, where there is still a pocket of white sand. This unique black and white sand beach was created after the 1859 eruption of Mauna Loa, when lava reached the north end of the beach, where the black sand is today. Further south along the beach, the recent black sand has not had time to thoroughly mix with the pre-existing white sand.

If one continues south there are numerous tide pools to explore.

Hiking north, one comes to Pueo Bay, where freshwater springs make the snorkeling interesting but weird, with large temperature and salinity gradients. If one takes the trail heading inland towards a conspicuous growth of hala trees, one comes to a pair of lovely golden pools. A golden algae gives these pools their distinctive color, but be sure not to damage the growth by walking on it. Finish the trek by hiking back across the a’a…approximately 4 miles, round trip.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Makalawena Beach on the Big Island is the epitome of Hawaiian white sand beaches...and it's always uncrowded: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Makalawena Beach (turn off Highway 19 south of Mile 90 at Kekahakai State Park; at the end of the road, take obvious trail north over lava field; the trail traverses rough lava and keawe breaks, so shoes are required): Makalawena is the finest swimming and snorkeling beach on the island and the most beautiful beach setting. This beach sports a series of coves, refreshing shade, big sand dunes and a nice freshwater pond to rinse-off in. A great backpacking getaway, a one-way through hike along the Ala Ali’i trail from Kekahakai State Park, past Makalawena to Kual Bay is a fabulous trip.  Do not forget your camera; this hike will be a major highlight of your trip to the Big Island.

The land fronting the beach is owned by Bishop Estate and is slated to be turned into a development of condos and resorts; vigilance and protest on the part of locals and visitors is the only way we can keep this last, wild Kona beach wild.

Pawai Bay (in Kailua Kona, drive to the end of the Old Airport County Beach Park; hike along the ocean to the first, obvious, sandy bay): Spectacular, secluded, secret; Pawai Bay is perhaps the most interesting snorkeling spot on the island. Walk along the sea cliffs and coves about 15-20 minutes north, to the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Camp at Pawai Bay. Remember, non-Hawaiians are restricted to travel along the tidal zone and only the edge of the shoreline…to venture even a few feet inland is trespassing. The ever-watchful security guards will remind you of this.  Repeatedly.

Pawai Bay hosts a choice sandy beach with a small channel leading to open ocean and exciting snorkeling. Many charter snorkel tours bring clients here, but you can visit free by making the short hike in. Submerged caverns, arches and caves are filled with fish and coral and pristine water. From the shore, this is not a snorkel adventure for rank beginners.

Swim through the sandy bay to the channel and out to the cliffs. Be wary of surginess and don’t go in when the surf is big. Once in the larger bay, look back toward shore where numerous small channels lead shoreward but dead-end in cliffs; your passage back is the only channel through which you can see sand at the end. Remember this when trying to get back into the little bay.

The bay itself lies on Queen Liliuokalani Trust lands. Non-native Hawai’ians are not allowed on the land or to use the facilities. State beach access laws allow you to visit as long as you stay immediately along the shoreline; the beach is patrolled 24/7.

Kealakekua Bay from the Captain Cook Monument. Simply the finest snorkeling.  Ever.  Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kealakekua Bay from the Captain Cook Monument. Simply the finest snorkeling. Ever. Photo by Donald MacGowan

Captain Cook Monument (The trail leaves the Napo’opo’o Road right at telephone pole number 4, just 500 feet below where it drops off Highway 11; parking is tight, but safe): This hike is a fine walk through tall grass, open lava fields and dryland forest, opening onto one of the most pristine ocean beaches in the world. Hiking down to the Monument is great fun—the return is hot, thirsty and strenuous but rewards you with panoramic views of the coast. The 2.5-mile hike takes about an hour down, somewhat more to return. The trail runs straight down the left side of a rock wall toward the sea. As the pitch straightens out, keep to the left at the fork and proceed to the beach through the abandoned village. You strike shore several hundred feet northwest of the monument—remember to bear right at the trail junction when returning, or you face a long and unpleasant time wandering the a’a fields.

Snorkeling at the monument is wild and scenic, from shallow tidepools north of the wharf to the steep drop-off under the cliffs. There is a concrete marker in the tidal zone denoting the exact spot Cook fell somewhat north of the actual monument.

Honomalino Beach (turn off Highway 11 just south of mile marker 89, drive through Miloli’i; start hiking between the county park and a yellow church. Keep along the right at forks in the trail, in and out of the surf line, to avoid private property): A true gem of West Hawai’i and rarely crowded, Honomalino Bay is reached by a 20 minute hike from the south end of Miloli’i Beach County Park. Snorkeling is very interesting on the north side in the rocks, when the surf is low. The water, though very clear, is sometimes quite cold due to spring discharge in the sand on the beach.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach at South point on the Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach (Turn off Highway 11 to South Point, follow signs to Mahana Boat Launch. Park just above the boat ramp for the 2 1/4 mile hike to the Green Sand Beach): Absolutely unique to Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the green sand. The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these. The sand grains here are olivine crystals, washed out of a cinder cone that has been partially breached by the sea.

When you reach the end of the trail, you are a hundred or so feet above the beach on the rim of the remnant of the crater. At the start, there is a tricky spot edging over a 3-foot ledge, but below this the trail is wide and clear One can also easily scramble down middle of the cone, but this can be slippery. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up the way back to the crater rim is easy to follow.

The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the protected cove makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot but be wary of currents. Do not go out far, nor in at all in high surf or strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.

A video covering many of these topics is available here.

For more information about visiting and touring Hawaii in general, and exploring the fabulous snorkeling on the Big Island in particular, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. For information about the author, go here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

By Donnie MacGowan

Coming to my island for a vacation? There are three things I always recommend the first-time visitor do. First, go on an air tour. Secondly–go to a luau. Finally, I advise people of every age to get in the water and go snorkeling. The “one-one-one, experiencing the world through the fishes’ eyes” magic of swimming in those bath-warm lagoons surrounded by clouds of tropical fish is an amazing, restful and restorative pursuit-you will find your mind going back to that experience over and over through the years much more so than many of your other travel experiences. Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series discusses Snorkeling Technique and Part III covers Snorkeling Etiquette; Part IV of the series covers Snorkeling Safety and Part V discusses Big Island Snorkel Spots and Part VI discusses Wilderness Snorkeling on the Big Island.

Let’s Chat About Snorkeling, Part V: Hawaii’s Best Snorkeling Beaches

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Liz Maus Snorkeling at Honaunau: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaii’s varied landscape and dynamic shoreline provides for an amazing array of snorkeling experiences, from broad, sandy beaches with placid and inviting turquoise water to broken glass-sharp cliffs where the swimmer leaps into surgey dark water. Everywhere I’ve snorkeled on Hawaii, from lazily paddling in calm waters at Kahalu’u to rappelling into the wild surf and open ocean currents at Pau’ekolu, the snorkeling is wonderful, beautiful, exhilarating. But many of the best places to snorkel are difficult or scary for the beginning snorkeler, some could be lethal. Here’s a list of the crown jewel snorkeling spots that are easy for the beginner, tantalizingly fascinating for the experienced.

Westside Beaches:

Hapuna Beach (turn off Highway 19 at mile marker 69): Always rated in the Top 10 of American beaches, Hapuna Beach is long, wide and phenomenally sandy. The center of the beach is tailor-made for wave play and boogie boarding, the north and south coves are quieter, better for snorkeling or gentle floating. Although most of the shore is relatively free of currents, only experienced snorkelers who are strong swimmers will want to snorkel around the south end of Hapuna, past a sea arch and to the reef and cove of Beach 69—a long, but rewarding swim with some of the most incredible underwater vistas available to the snorkeler in the word.

Anaeho’omalu Beach (turn off Highway 19 at mile marker 76): The most photographed sunset view on the Island of Hawai’i, Anaeho’omalu Bay is the icon of what most visitors envision Hawai’i to be like before they get here. Although the water tends toward being cloudy, this is an excellent beach for beginning snorkelers.

Kekahakai State Park, Kua Bay (turn off Highway 19, between mile markers 88 and 89): Kua Bay has a lovely white sand beach and full facilities although there is no shade to speak of. Swimming and boogie boarding in the crystalline waters is primo, though strong currents and large waves call for respect, here; if the surf is up, don’t go in. Also, sometime in winter, the surf removes the sand to offshore, leaving a rocky shelf that is less fun to frolic on than the sandy beach.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Bart Hunt Snorkeling at Kahalu'u Bay: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kahalu’u Beach (in Kailua Kona, along Ali’i Drive, between mile markers 4.5 and 5): This is the premiere snorkeling beach of the Island of Hawai’i; protected from the open sea by a jetty, the reef is also protected against commercial aquarium fishing. Thus, the snorkeling is in calm, shallow water. Also, there is an abundance of fish of an enormous variety…perhaps the best display on the island. Numerous freshwater springs and shallow water bathers make the near-shore snorkeling unpleasantly cloudy, but about 50 feet offshore the water turns crystal clear and the display of coral is nothing short of amazing. There is a fair current north out of the bay and along the coast. Incredible archeological sites abound in this area and make a fine after-snorkel exploration on foot; ask for details at the concierge desk at the adjacent Keauhou Beach Resort.

Two-Step Beach (adjacent to Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park on Highway 160): Some of the finest, protected snorkeling on the Island is located at Two-Step Beach. A wonderland of turtles, coral and fish, with frequent morning visits by dolphins, this snorkeling experience shouldn’t be missed. No swimming is allowed within the Park out of respect for its sacredness; however, Two-Step Beach offers a convenient place to enter Honaunau bay. One can enter the bay either by the boat ramp, or by stepping off the short cliff into the water from near the center edge of the lava beach, where two ledges serve as steps down into the ocean. Getting in is a simple matter of stepping down these steps, “1-2-OCEAN!”–to get out, reverse the process.

Ho’okena Beach (turn off Highway 11 near mile marker 102): Brilliant snorkeling, decent boogie boarding, passable shell collecting and wonderful camping—it’s a wonder the large and warm stretch of sand at Ho’okena Beach is not more popular with visitors. Frequented by dolphin, stuffed full of pelagic and reef fish and turtles and boasting crystal clear, warm and calm waters, Ho’okena is a must-visit beach for avid snorkelers.

Southside Beaches:

Punalu’u Beach (turn off Highway 11 between mile markers 55 and 56): A truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing, Punalu’u’s black sand-lined coves and beaches are world-renowned. With dozens of endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles and superabundant abundant fish, this is a truly snorkeling experience–made unique because of the black sand bottom of the bay. Due to chilly waters, off-shore winds, strong currents and a fearsome rip, swimmers and snorkelers should use caution when swimming at Punalu’u, but it’s hard to resist getting in and swimming with all those turtles. There are abundant Hawaiian cultural sites in the park that are worth visiting.

Photo by Bradford T. MacGowan

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Basks in the Sun at Punalu'u Beach: Photo by Bradford T. MacGowan

Kehena Beach (on Highway 137 near mile marker 19): A quick scramble down the bank on a dirt path quickly brings you to the Kehena Black Sand Beach. Once on the beach the first thing that may strike you is that many of the locals who frequent this park have forgotten to put on proper beach attire…or any other attire whatsoever, for that matter. In the shade of palms and ironwood this wonderful beach is generally sunny even when the rest of Puna is rainy. Swimming here is great near-shore, but ocean currents are strong and dangerous not far from shore. The locals are friendly but frisky, so don’t leave valuables in your car.

Pohoiki Bay at Isaac Hale Beach Park (on Highway 137 between mile markers 11 and 12): A lovely black sand beach with an expert surf break, Isaac Hale Beach Park is one of the very few real beaches and boat ramps in Puna District; as such this park sees a lot of traffic. It is also the site of the best surfing and some of the wildest snorkeling and scuba diving in Puna.

A short path along the shoreline leads from the parking lot, past a house with abundant “No Trespassing” signs, just a few minutes stroll then turns about 20 yards into the jungle to a secluded, perfectly lovely, natural hot spring that is wonderful for soaking. Locals usually don’t bother with swimwear here; you shouldn’t feel required to, either.

Kapoho Tidepools (turn off Highway 137 and head east on Kapoho-Kai Road, left on Kaheka and right on Waiopae): Stuffed with abundant sea life, this sprawling basin of lava tidal pools is a remarkable treasure for snorkelers of all abilities from the starkly frightened to the seasoned veteran. Moorish idols, yellow tangs, various wrasses and eels, sea urchins and sea cucumbers abound and there are even some nice corals in the deeper pools. The largest pool is called “Wai Opae”, which means “fresh water shrimp”.

Keeping to the left of the main channel keeps one away from most of the ocean currents, which can be surprisingly strong, even in small channels, where ponds empty into the ocean. No real facilities exist here beyond the parking lot, so come prepared.

Eastside Beaches:

Richardson Beach Park (Take Kalaniana’ole Street 3.6 miles east from the intersection of Highways 19 and 11 in Hilo): The almost universal experience of visitors to Hawai’i is that, although it is certainly beautiful and unique, no matter what pre-conceptions a traveler may bring about Hawai’i, their experience is a bit different to what they expected. Richardson Beach Park, with its towering palms, fresh water pools, delightful surf, secluded and calm tidepools and general ambience of tropical paradise, is almost certainly very close to what most visitors expect from Hawai’i—hence it popularity. The snorkeling here along the small black sand beach is the best of the Hilo area.

Frequented by dolphins and sea turtles, the near-shore water is a little cold when getting in, due to fresh water springs, but soon warms-up a few dozen yards from shore. The currents and surf can occasionally be tricky here, so heads-up, pay attention to advice from the lifeguards.

Be sure to watch for Part VI which talks about snorkeling the wilderness beaches of the Island of Hawaii.

A short video discussing many of these topics can be found here.

For more information about visiting and touring Hawaii in general, and exploring the fabulous snorkeling on the Big Island in particular, visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. For information about the author, go here.

All media copoyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

By Donnie MacGowan

Coming to my island for a vacation? There are three things I always recommend the first-time visitor do. First, go on an air tour. Secondly–go to a luau. Finally, I advise people of every age to get in the water and go snorkeling. The “one-one-one, experiencing the world through the fishes’ eyes” magic of swimming in those bath-warm lagoons surrounded by clouds of tropical fish is an amazing, restful and restorative pursuit-you will find your mind going back to that experience over and over through the years much more so than many of your other travel experiences. Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series will discuss Snorkeling Technique and Part III will cover Snorkeling Etiquette; Part IV of the series covers Snorkeling Safety and Part V will cover Big Island Snorkel Spots.
Photo by Donald MacGowan

Bradford MacGowan Snorkeling at Pu'u Honua O Hounaunau: Photo by Donald MacGowan

We’ve covered snorkeling gear and technique…before we go any farther, let’s talk a minute about snorkeling safety.

First and foremost, as with all ocean sports, never turn your back on the ocean. Just as important, never snorkel alone; never get more than 20 feet from your partner. Before getting in the ocean, memorize the color of your partner’s mask and snorkel…this is how you will recognize him from a distance in the water. Listen to advice from the lifeguards, obey posted warnings, always pay attention to the currents, surf conditions and surges over rocks. Chat with people coming out as you are going in…what were conditions like?  What do the recommend?  Where was the cool stuff?

Plan your points of entry and exit before you get wet; try to enter and exit from sandy areas with little of no surf. You and your partner should agree on a plan about where you are getting in and getting out of the water, what part of the bay you are going to explore and how long you plan to be out. Don’t overestimate your abilities, plan conservatively, err on the side of safety. Don’t change this plan once you are in the water, except to make it shorter and more safe.

Don’t confront incoming waves head-on, don’t try to jump over them and don’t turn your back on them; duck under incoming waves before they reach you.  Watch the local kids on boogie boards…see how they duck the waves?  You do that, too.

Never snorkel on windy days. Offshore winds may take you unexpectedly out to sea or make it hard to swim back in and onshore breezes stack extra water, high on the beach, making nasty rip-currents as it flows back into the ocean. Onshore breezes also bring in jelly fish and man-o-war.

If you are caught in a current, don’t panic; don’t swim against the current but rather swim diagonally across it toward shore. Keep going, you’ll make it. No, keep going.  I know you are tired., but you’ll get there if you just…keep…going.

Novices should NEVER enter caves or explore under overhangs.  No, I don’t care, don’t do it.  Be extremely careful when swimming near rock formations, pinnacles, spires or reefs…snagging your swimsuit on the rocks or coral while underwater can quickly evolve from a minor irritation to a life threatening emergency.

Many people like the extra comfort and safety provided by wearing an inflatable snorkeling vest or having a “floatie” such as a polystyrene noodle or a boogie board.  I say do it—don’t be intimidated by those idiots out there with nothing, be swayed by the intelligence of those out there who do have something for extra flotation.  A noodle or boogie board will also allows you a platform to rest on and catch your breath between dives, and helps you navigate any waves more comfortably.

Poke your head out of the water frequently to check that your partner is within 20 feet of you and to keep yourself oriented relative to your entry and exit places. Stay alert–it’s easy to loose track of time, get carried farther than you thought by a current you didn’t even notice, wander out of your comfort zone, lazily paddle away from your partner, accidentally stray into a dangerous zone. I cannot stress this enough–it’s easy to get overtired; get your partner and swim in BEFORE you feel fatigued, thirsty, sunburned; BEFORE the wind comes up or the surf builds. So stay focused, stay oriented, always know where you are, where your partner is.

Safety around fish, marine mammals and sharks is thouroughly discussed here.

Lee Ann MacGruder Snorkels the shallows at Ho'okena Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lee Ann MacGruder Snorkels the shallows at Ho'okena Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sunscreen washing off your body pollutes the water and is a major factor in coral death–wear a t-shirt and baseball cap to avoid sunburn while in the water, waiting until you are out of the ocean and rinsed off to apply sunscreen. Sun screen and sunglasses, necessary to combat the deceptively severe tropical sun, are so important that I’ve written a separate articles about sun burn and sunscreen in Hawaii and what sunglasses you should bring to Hawaii. Too many visitors drastically underestimate the strength and ferocity of our sun and wind-up with vacation-ruining sunburns.

Many things in the ocean sting, most commonly sea urchins–avoid them, do not handle or step on them. White vinegar kills sea urchin stings from embedded spines and, regularly applied, helps to dissolve the spine. Other home remedies for sea urchin, jelly fish and other stings include the application of moistened tobacco, hydrogen peroxide or urine (this latter can be hard to self-administer and will quickly let you know who your real friends are). Like wasp stings, most stings from ocean creatures are not medically dangerous, merely a painful nuisance, but it’s best to be prepared with whatever remedy you choose in your beach kit. Some jellyfish stings and all man-o-war stings are potentially life-threatening and need to be treated at the emergency department of the nearest hospital.

This shouldn’t even need mentioning, but of course, if you’ve been drinking–even a little, you should not go snorkeling. Snorkeling is best done between about 9 a.m. and noon, anyway, so sobriety shouldn’t even be an issue. Oh, right; you’re on vacation–I forgot.

Don’t forget to drink lots of water…immersion in salt water is very dehydrating and just swimming around you’ve worked harder–and sweated more–than you realize. Be kind to your skin and rinse yourself and your gear with fresh water immediately after you get out of the ocean and remember to apply sunscreen and wear your sunglasses. Don’t overestimate your skin’s tolerance for beach sun; a nasty sunburn is distressingly easy to acquire and will absolutely ruin your vacation. Now might be a good time to go inside and cool off, rest a bit–you are on vacation, you know?

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Bradford MacGowan Photographs a school of Humuhumuele'ele at Kahalu'u Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

That’s a few of the gear technique and safety tips you should bear in mind…remember to heed whatever advice the lifeguards give you–they are seasoned professionals who intimately know their beach; obey posted rules and be wary of riptides and currents. Most of all, spring for a cheap-o $10 disposable underwater camera, get in the water and enjoy…those fish won’t photograph themselves, you know!  Shoot, they;re cheap…buy two!  And take pictures of each other, for Pete’s sake!

A video covering many of these topics is available here.

For more information about visiting and touring Hawaii in general, and exploring the fabulous snorkeling on the Big Island in particular, visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com – a short video about snorkeling in Hawaii is available here. To see a funny video of my family learning to snorkel in Hawaii, go here. For information about the author, go here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan.

What Do I Take When I Go To Hawaii?

The MacGowan Family Deplanes in Sunny Hawaii; You Want To BE sure You Have Everything You Need to Enjoy Your Vacation, but Not So Much You Have To Haul a Pile of Luggage: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The MacGowan Family Deplanes in Sunny Hawaii; You Want To Be sure You Have Everything You Need to Enjoy Your Vacation, but Not So Much You Have To Haul a Pile of Luggage: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Packing Your Bags for Hawaii: With airlines charging for a second–or even for the first–piece of luggage, and strict “50 pounds each” weight limits being enforced, the thrifty traveler is wise to plan ahead carefully, to avoid racking-up expensive fees. I used to travel by the motto “Don’t check baggage unless you can afford to lose it; if you can afford to loose it, why did you bring it?”; thus I never traveled with anything more than carry-on. While it is always good to travel lightly, with the advent of stringent new carry-on limits and my advancing age (and concomitant increasing desire to travel in comfort) I have learned to travel with only one piece of checked baggage plus carry-on. The key is packing intelligently so you can pack less.

MacGowan Family and Luggage for 3 for a Fourteen Day Trip to Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

MacGowan Family and Luggage for 3 for a Fourteen Day Trip to Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Be Smart About Your Carry On Baggage: Most airlines allow you to bring one carry-on bag and a personal item such as a purse or a lap-top. I push this a little by bringing a carry-on bag plus my lap-top in a computer pack which also has room for one video camera, my SLR Camera and an emergency change of clothes (in case all my other luggage is lost). Usually they let me get away with this. Because I trust neither baggage handlers nor TSA inspectors and my luggage has been lost more times than I remember, I pack my other cameras and more of my clothes in my other carry on bag so they don’t have to be checked. In this bag I also carry a quart of water and some snacks.

You’ll want at least one book to read on the flight; your tickets, reservation confirmations, travelers checks, list of phone numbers, spare glasses (contacts and solution) and medications should be put in a water-proof bag in the carry-on bag you intend to hold most tightly to.

Remember that more books, extra batteries, memory cards, video tape or film, masks-fins-snorkels, insect repellent, sun cream, beach towels–all the extra hoopla one might want on a Hawaii vacation–can be purchased at WalMart or Costco on-island as cheaply as the mainland. If you do pack film, and it is in your carry-on, be sure to protect it against x-rays.

Checked Luggage; First, Plan for Your Activities: Know your itinerary and pack only what you need; resist the temptation to toss in all those extra unnecessary wardrobe items.  You may be planning on some particular activities in Hawaii requiring specific gear or clothing–it is best to think this through thoroughly.  Many people intend to save money by bringing their own snorkeling gear. This is false economy if it causes you to pay for additional luggage. Buying snorkel gear on island is fairly inexpensive and renting is faster, easier and even cheaper. The same can be said of renting diving gear and golf clubs. Activities such as hiking and horseback riding require a fairly specific wardrobe, but if you plan correctly, you only have to bring your hiking/riding boots and an extra pair of suitable pants and shirt. If you plan on visiting the mountain summits, remember that they can be quite cold–even snowy or rainy–so plan and pack an appropriate wardrobe, accordingly. If you bring boots, I advise wearing them (and all your other bulky clothing) on the plane to save room and weight in your bags. As for photography gear or musical instruments–any expensive or delicate equipment for that matter–my philosophy is to never turn loose with it. Never check your cameras, your guitar, your laptop, etc–it’s a recipe for theft, loss or destruction.  A humorous, but true, video by Dave Carroll and the Sons of Maxwell about this can be found here.

You Need More Suntan Lotion Than You Think...Put it on Before You Go Out in the Sun and Keep Putting It On Throughout The Day.  Likewise, Drink More Water Than You Think You Need...Drink Before You Get Thirsty, When You Get Thirsty and Drink Again After You've Just Had Some Water.  No, Drink Some More--I'm Serious: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

You Need More Suntan Lotion Than You Think...Put it on Before You Go Out in the Sun and Keep Putting It On Throughout The Day. Likewise, Drink More Water Than You Think You Need...Drink Before You Get Thirsty, When You Get Thirsty and Drink Again After You've Just Had Some Water. No, Drink Some More--I'm Serious: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Next, Plan for the Weather: Being tropical, temperatures at sea level in Hawaii vary only by about 10 degrees between day and night and throughout the year. It’s hot during the day, plan a cool wardrobe. The windward side is generally rainy and the “up-country” towns (mountains) frequently can experience afternoon showers. Evenings, particularly up-country, are delightfully cool as there is generally an evening or “down-mountain” breeze. With forethought, your wardrobe can cover all these situations without being bulky, heavy or ornate. Remember to pack layers of clothing for warmth, rather than one or two bulky coats and sweaters-this allows for maximum adaptability and a certain amount of built-in variability to your wardrobe. This also means that if an emergency hotel-room laundry session is required, with many light layers of clothing your laundry will dry much more quickly.

Don't Forget Some Lightweight Raingear: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Don't Forget Some Lightweight Raingear: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Finally, Specifics: Be efficient–coordinate around a basic, neutral color so everything you bring matches everything else. Black or khaki are the traditional traveler’s choices. Dark colors show dirt less than light colors, and this can be a saving grace where doing laundry is impractical. Choose clothes for lightness, packability and washability.  Remember that suits in Hawaii are unnecessary; even Circuit Court judges wear Aloha Shirts under their robes here. A nice shirt, generally an Aloha Shirt, and a pair of khakis are the wardrobe of choice at the finer restaurants and nightclubs–everywhere else, it’s shorts and sandals. I would advise a basic wardrobe consisting of a polo-style shirt and a couple Aloha Shirts, one pair of long khakis and three pair of shorts, a swimsuit, a couple tank tops or t-shirts, a sunhat and a light jacket for evenings; that’s all you really need to cover most bases. Women may want to toss in a light sundress or skirt. Sandals are all you’ll need or want in the way of footwear (your feet will be HOT)–you may want to toss in a pair of running shoes for exercise or hiking. Unless you are attending a formal event such as a wedding, don’t worry about dressing up or you will not only find yourself carting far too much luggage, but awkwardly overdressed as well.

Be thoughtful about your wardrobe and activities: for instance, you may wish to think about bringing two swimsuits–you will be amazed how pleasant being in the water is in the hot tropics.  Whether you are just cooling off in the pool or snorkeling with the turtles and fish, you’ll probably want to swim everyday. Swimsuits rarely dry overnight and it’s a lot more pleasant to get into a warm, dry suit than a wet, cold one.  Also, if you plan on riding horseback or exploring the higher elevations such as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or Mauna Kea, be sure to bring some jeans and appropriate footwear, a medium weight fleece sweater and light rain jacket/windbreaker. A compact traveler’s umbrella is always a good idea.

Don’t forget to pack your toiletries and personal items; I used to carry these on, in case of lost luggage, but restrictions on liquids and gels and razors make this impractical. Medications, of course, go in the carry-on. Sun block, sun hat, sunglasses and sun-burn cream (I use an aloe gel) will make your vacation smoother, but can be purchased cheaply locally if you don’t quite have room for them.

Brad MacGowan on Kauai...A Tripod is Essential If You Intend To Photograph The Volcanic Eruptions Or Do Any Video Photography: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Brad MacGowan on Kauai...A Tripod is Essential If You Intend To Photograph The Volcanic Eruptions Or Do Any Video Photography: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Other Things to Bring: Just as an aside, two things you need to be head’s up about when you are in Hawaii–if you begin to feel thirsty, you’ve waited too long to get a drink of water; if you begin to feel the sun, you’ve waited too long to put sun block on. Drink more water than you think you need, apply sun block before you go out and re-apply more often that you think you need. Your body is used to more moderate climates and won’t warn you in time of the danger.  In fact, sometimes it’s dry enough on the leeward side that you won’t even feel yourself sweat—it evaporates before you get wet.  So remember to keep drinking water—alcohol, coffee and ice tea (as well as caffeinated sodas) are both diuretic and vasodilatory, so are counterproductive to keeping hydrated.  Drink water. Lots and lots of water. Although bottled water is abundantly available, being a thrifty traveler, I always bring my own reusable water bottles.  These may be carried on, but you need to take them through Security Screening empty, filling them at a water fountain before boarding—this also allows you to have water to drink during the flight, remembering that tap water on some airlines has proven to be unsafe.

The tropical sun in Hawaii is so fierce, and so many people ruin their vacations by seriously underestimating it, that I have written separate articles specifically covering sunburn and sunscreen and sunglasses.  Please read these short articles, be sure you have a good pair of sunglasses that give 100% UV protection and an SPF 30 or better sunscreen.  Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out in the sun and every 1/2 hour there after.

Lora Aller Hydrates on a Kona Coast Hike; Taking a Small Pack Helps Keep Water Bottles, Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Camera and Other Necessities Handy and Easy to Carry: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lora Aller Hydrates on a Kona Coast Hike; Taking a Small Pack Helps Keep Water Bottles, Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Camera and Other Necessities Handy and Easy to Carry: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Many people plan ahead by leaving ample room in their luggage to bring back souvenirs and gifts; recent luggage restrictions are making this impractical. Rather than buying new outfits for my trip, I spend the week before my trip weeding through my wardrobe, packing one very nice set of clothes and the remainder are items that were already bound for the thrift store. Thus, I simply abandon them at the end of my stay and thereby have more than enough space in my luggage for anything I buy. Remember—Hawaii is part of the US and the U.S. Postal Service sells flat-rate, pre-paid, boxes for very inexpensive rates. Ask for “Flat Rate Shipping Boxes” and ship those gifts home safely, cheaply and with no fuss on your part.

You should toss in a small fanny pack or day-pack for day trips…it’s amazing how many things you find you need to carry around during the day (sunscreen, water bottles, guidebook, camera, small purchases) and a pack helps to keep them organized and in hand.  A small pack can also double as a laundry bag on the flight home.

A Small Pack Come In Very Handy For Keeping Your Stuff Together and Right At HAnd: Photo by Donald MacGowan

A Small Pack Come In Very Handy For Keeping Your Stuff Together and Right At Hand: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Although this is not the time for a discussion of vacation photography in general, let me say a few words about cameras.  This is Hawaii for Pete’s sake, one of the most beautiful places on earth!  You are going to want to take pictures while you are here, you are going to wish you had taken pictures all the long years down the road after you return.  You do not have to be like me, packing two video cameras, a digital SLR and a digital underwater camera; even if you are not camera savvy at all, there are easy alternatives.

Simplest by far, and not terribly expensive, are pre-loaded, disposable film cameras.  Available for $5-10 each, and costing about the same for film developing, these are the most basic point-shoot-enjoy photographic choice.  There are even disposable underwater cameras if you plan on any swimming, kayaking or snorkeling.  May I suggest that you have your film developed in Hawaii—WalMart, Kmart and Costco all have 1-2 hour processing at reasonable prices.  The color balance in Hawaii, because of its equatorial position (angle of sun and thickness of atmosphere) and the richness of the colors of flora, land and sea, is different to what most film-processing shops know and thus, if you wait until you return home to develop the film, the colors will turn our disappointingly.  Getting your film processed on island also allows you to share prints with people you meet or are visiting.

Digital cameras may at first seem confusing, but are really much easier to deal with than film cameras, have such great storage capacity that they quickly pay for themselves in film and processing costs and produce images that, even for the rank beginner, are startling and gorgeous.  You don’t even need a computer to enjoy your digital pictures, just take them to any film processing shop and they’ll make prints for you—much more cheaply than prints from film.  If you plan to buy a digital camera for the trip, or are not quite used to the one you have, start practicing with it about a month before you leave…standing with your arm around your lover in the perfect sunset, with the palm trees swaying, the hula girls dancing on the beach and the humpback whales leaping in the ocean (oh, yes, these scenes DO happen!) is not the time to be fiddling with camera and instruction booklet trying to figure out how the damn thing works.  Secondly, be sure to bring that instruction book, all accessory cords, chargers and adapters in a small plastic baggie when you come—they are expensive to buy on vacation and you never know what you’ll need.  Experience will teach what you can leave behind on successive trips.  If buying a new digital camera to immortalize your trip to Paradise, think about getting a waterproof version.  Most major camera manufacturers produce fine, submersible digital cameras, good to 40 feet or so, that are every bit as good as the regular cameras and are not very much more expensive.  Many also have video features that allow you to take brief video clips, even underwater.  One final note on your camera—never let go of it.  Keep it in your carry-on bag during the flight, in your pocket or you day pack on the trip, do not leave it in your rental car or your hotel room or lunch table.  Ever.

Amanda, Liz and Amy Maus Pose for the Underwater Camera: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Amanda, Liz and Laurie Maus Pose for the Underwater Camera: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Another useful item, many tourists bring their GPS from home to help navigate—be sure to download the maps for Hawaii before you come; some brands of GPS do not offer Hawaii coverage.  A few of the rental car agencies have GPS units for rent at reasonable prices.  The best solution, however, are the folks at Tour Guide Hawaii (808.557.0051; http://www.tourguidehawaii.com) who offer a hand-held computer with an onboard GPS at very reasonable rental rates (a video about the Tour Guide product is available here).   They have stuffed into this device over six hundred points of interest (did you hear that?  600!) of recreational, cultural and historical importance. They have produced a short audio/video presentation for each site, telling you all about it, the history and culture, what to bring, what to do while there; they even have the public restrooms listed! These presentations play as you approach the points of interest, or can be searched for at any time or location. Thus, the device can be used to preview all the sites around the island in the comfort of your hotel room, pre-plan trips or to get information and turn by turn navigation on the road.  Combining cutting-edge technology and old-fashioned story-telling, the unbelievably easy to use, fabulously informative and terrifically fun Tour Guide Self-Guided GPS Tours are an amazing bargain and a great way to see Hawaii. They are now offering a pared-down version (50 of the top areas and attractions—AND the restrooms!) that is downloadable to iPhone and iPod.

Finally, one of the most enduring visions I have of travel is standing exhausted, late night at the luggage carousel as hordes of weary travelers lift first one anonymous piece of black luggage, then the next, searching for their own anonymous black luggage amongst a sea of ubiquitous black nylon and leather travel bags.  Not everyone is comfortable carrying the bright Hawaiian print luggage I have (although I always instantly recognize my bags…except when returning to Hawaii where EVERYBODY has this luggage), but there are ways to customize and personalize your bags.  One of the more common, and therefore useless, is the nylon rainbow-colored strap…there are almost as many of these wrapped around anonymous black luggage as there are plain black bags themselves.  Airlines don’t like straps and cords flopping around off the luggage, for obvious reasons, but you can buy colorful and unique baggage tags or tie a bit of uniquely colored ribbon or a small scarf to the handle of your luggage…just something that  screams “Mine!” to you as it slides down onto the carousel so you do not have to search plaintively through the weary lot of black bags with rainbow belts on them.

The MacGowan Family Deplanes From Airforce 1--Even Traveling in Style Your Luggage Can Get Lost So Plan Ahead: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The MacGowan Family Deplanes From Airforce 1--Even Traveling in Style Your Luggage Can Get Lost So Plan Ahead: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

This is Hawaii, remember?  You came to have fun!

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, or touring 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

Coming to my island for a vacation? There are three things I always recommend the first-time visitor do. First, get in the air. Secondly–go to a luau. Finally, I advise people of every age to get in the water and go snorkeling. You will find your mind going back to that experience over and over through the years much more so than many of your other travel experiences. Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series will discuss Snorkeling Technique and Part IV will cover Snorkeling Safety; Part V of the series will cover snorkel spots on the Big Island.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Gary Burton and his duaghter snorkel at Hounaunau Bay: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Now, let’s talk a moment about snorkeling etiquette and protecting the reef and the animals who live there.

Please do not feed the fish, it disrupts their natural feeding habits and you may be injured. Reef fish are territorial and do occasionally “nip”. You should not chase, harass or touch them (this includes octopi); the oils on your fingers will injure their skin and fish may carry diseases which they can pass to you on your hands. For photographing reef fish without feeding them, whether snorkeling or scuba diving, simply find their feeding spot (usually a boulder or dead coral head teeming with algae) and wait calmly and silently nearby. They will slowly begin to check you out and if you can remain still long enough, eventually surround you leading to excellent photos and a very memorable experience.

Snorkeling etiquette calls for protecting not only the reef animals, but also the fragile corals growing on the reef. Corals, actually colonies of very small animals, take hundreds of years to form the structures visible today; they feed, shelter and provide habitats for other reef animals. Coral reefs also protect the lagoons and shoreline from waves and sand erosion. Corals are at the very root of Hawai’ian history and culture; the Hawaiian creation chant places the origin of life in the sea, beginning with a coral polyp.

Simply touching corals to see what they feel like can cause the death of an entire colony. Oils from your skin can disturb the delicate mucous membranes which protect the animals from disease. Please don’t walk upon or stand on coral, as this can kill the living coral polyps which, as the builders of the entire reef structure, are the very foundation of the reef ecosystem. Sunscreen washing off your body can kill coral; wear a t-shirt and a swim cap for UV protection and put your sunscreen on AFTER you come out of the water.

Called Honu by Hawaii’s natives, the Hawaiian Green Sea turtle is beautiful, serene and seeming wise. Though their species 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. Loss of habitat, hunting and molestation by humans has conspired to push the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle to the very verge of extinction.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle at Papakolea Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Protected now by state and federal law, the population of once millions of individuals has been decimated to just a few hundred thousand; although they are making a comeback, Hawaii’s honu are still very much endangered.

Do not approach basking turtles closely, never touch or pick them up. 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).

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”.

Although harder for the snorkeler to approach, but certainly no less in danger of molestation, are the marine mammals: dolphin, seals and whales. In general, it is illegal, dangerous and generally a bad idea to approach marine mammals within 100 yards; 300 yards for females with calves. Dolphins and seals, in particular, may choose to approach you-just remember, this ain’t “Flipper”-these are wild animals and they bite. Hard. If approached, remain calm (absolutely entranced, of course, but calm); do not approach any young animals and do not reach out to them as they may interpret this as aggression on your part and possibly bite. Male seals may exhibit dominant behavior and have been known to *ahem* mount swimmers. Avoid these unpleasantries by observing and enjoying these animals from a distance. About whales…uh, wait a minute…if there is anybody out there crazy enough to swim out into the open ocean and harass a 60,000 pound animal with a mouth twice the size of a king-size bed, nothing I say is going to stop them…just use some common sense, OK? Leave them alone—besides…it’s the law.

And now a word about sharks–two words, actually: “Don’t Worry”. There’s good news and bad news about sharks in Hawaii–first the bad news: if you are in water deeper than your knees, you are probably within 200 yards of a shark. The good news? You will never know it. The truth is that you are not likely to see or encounter a shark…period. Tens of millions of people swim Hawaii every year without seeing so much as a dorsal fin break the water. Don’t worry–you are not what they eat (so you won’t attract them) and generally, they are more afraid of you than you are of them. To dispel visitor’s apprehensions about sharks, the Hawaiian Tourism Bureau used to advertise that tourists were more likely to get hit on the head by a falling coconut than bitten by a shark…but they decided THAT was not a real cheery statistic to crow about, either. In reality, there are only about three shark bites a year in Hawaii—which is amazing considering there are hundreds of thousands of people in the water, all day, every day of the year.

Photograph by Donnie MacGowan

A cloud of raccoon butterfly fish at Kahalu'u Beach: Photograph by Donnie MacGowan

Having said that, bear in mind that all sharks demand respect and there are several things you can do to make yourself generally safer in any shark encounter. Number one safety tip is: avoid them. Sharks are stealth hunters and in any conditions where they are obscured in the water, they will hunt. Therefore–do not go into the water until at least an hour after dawn, be out of the water by about 4 pm; do not enter the water if it is murky; avoid stream mouths; do not go in on dark, cloudy days. Obey beach closures; obey warnings from the Lifeguards. Little sharks don’t get to be big sharks unless they pay strict attention to avoiding whoever is bigger than they are–small sharks generally will glide silently away from you without you ever having known they were there.

Big sharks are different. They may approach you.

The most common conventional wisdom you hear is: if you are being stalked or approached, swim purposefully, not panicked, away from the shark at an angle. Do not swim at high speed straight from him, it will trigger his predator-prey response and he’ll chase you. Do not splash excessively; this sounds like a dying fish (i.e., dinner) to sharks. Remember that the larger sharks eat sea turtles…to a shark hunting below you, your outline paddling on a surfboard or boogie board, looks remarkably like a sea turtle. When you approach the water, seeing three or four sea turtles sunning themselves on the beach is normal; seeing twenty or thirty indicates that something very large and hungry is hunting the water nearby. The presence of dolphin nearby is no guarantee there are not also sharks nearby.

There are hundreds of bits of advice for surviving shark attacks from hundreds of shark experts and attack survivors from all over the world—I will not pass these on to you for two reasons. First and foremost, I am a not a shark expert; secondly, I have never needed any of them because I have followed these sensible rules for years and have never, not once, seen a shark while snorkeling. I’m out there 4 or five days a week, year round. You won’t see one either. Relax and enjoy your snorkeling…as I said…don’t worry.

Finally–many people ask “What’s the etiquette for, um–er–answering nature’s call?” Easy–for wet stuff, just swim a bit away from people and let go, maybe maintaining forward momentum so as not to create a “cloud”. No, this isn’t why the ocean is salty. For solid stuff, get your partner and both of you swim in and get out, visit the rest room. No exceptions for that.

Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series will discuss Snorkeling Technique and Part III will cover Snorkeling Etiquette; Part IV of the series covers Snorkeling Safety; Part V will cover Big Island Snorkel Spot and Part VI covers Wilderness Snorkeling.

A short video on this topic is available here.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, and beach activities on the Big Island in particular, visit http://.tourguidehawaii.com and http://tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. Information on the author is here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan


By Donald B. MacGowan

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Donnie MacGowan Snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Coming to my island for a vacation? There are three things I always recommend the first-time visitor do. First, get in the air. Secondly–go to a luau. Finally, I advise people of every age to get in the water and go snorkeling. The “one-one-one, experiencing the world through the fishes’ eyes” magic of swimming in those bath-warm lagoons surrounded by clouds of tropical fish is an amazing, restful and restorative pursuit-you will find your mind going back to that experience over and over through the years much more so than many of your other travel experiences.

Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series will discuss Snorkeling Technique and Part III covers Snorkeling Etiquette; Part IV of the series covers Snorkeling Safety. Part V will cover Big Island Snorkel Spots and Part IV covers wilderness snorkeling.

Part II: Let’s talk about technique: how are we going to do this?

First off, let’s talk about timing—when is it best to snorkel?  Sharks are night hunters and will be cruising the shallows shortly after dawn and just before dusk—so, for safety sake, don’t get into the water before about 8 am or after about 4 pm.  Next is comfort…chilly mornings and afternoons, when the sun is low on the horizon, make for chilly snorkeling.  About 8:30 or 9 in the morning is as early as I like to get wet for recreation…surfing, of course, demands more of a sacrifice to comfort, but for snorkeling, there is no reason to push the early hours.  Next, the colors are more saturated and details more pronounced with the sun strikes the water at an angle.  By about noon or 1, when the sun is directly overhead, the scenery begins to wash-out.  Additionally, starting about 11:30 or so, the daily breezes kick-up, making small, near-shore waves which get the fine grained silt stirred into the water, producing a murky view which persists until night time.  All in all, from every perspectives, the most ideal time for snorkeling is between about 9 am and noon.  Bear this in mind especially if you are hiking or kayaking to your snorkel destination, or are paying for a “snorkel tour”.  You will find that, relaxing as it is, 2 or 3 hours of snorkeling is more than sufficient to tire you and get you a little hypothermic.  Be sure to go in and rest on the beach BEFORE you get tired, BEFORE you get cold.

Now, before getting into the water, where is your partner? Never snorkel alone; never get more than 20 feet from your partner. Memorize the color of your partner’s mask and snorkel…this is how you will recognize him from a distance in the water. Be sure you and your partner are clear on where your exit point will be relative to your entry point, what part of the bay you intend to explore and how long you plan to be out.

Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Bart Hunt Filming Fish at Kahalu'u Beach: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Also before getting wet, you should make sure your mask is clean and that you have applied some form of defogger to it, either the commercially available solution (DO NOT get this stuff in your eyes!) or by simply rubbing some spit over the insides of the lenses. To clean and fog proof the mask lens, some people like to rub a wee bit of tooth paste on the glass…personally, I do not like to introduce the soapiness to the reef environment.  Now, pull the mask on your head, leaving it perched up on your hair as you enter the water. You should enter the water on a sandy patch of beach that does not drop off too steeply and is not in an area attacked by large waves.

Do not put your fins on before you are in the water. After wading out until the water is between knee and waist deep, face the incoming waves, sit down (this will also help you adjust to the temperature of the water–sometimes a bit of a shock but soon you get used to it) and pull your fins on.  Remember: never turn your back on the ocean.

From this position, duck your head under and get your hair and face wet (to help the mask seal). Now stand up and pull the mask down, arranging hair, strap and snorkel mouthpiece to maximize the seal integrity and personal comfort. This may take some adjusting to get all the hair out from under the seal, to get the snorkel mouthpiece in the right position and get comfortable. Don’t worry if there is a little fog on the mask at this point.  Be sure the strap from the mask rises up over the ball of your head, not over your ears.

There is a natural tendency for the novice to want to make the mask strap as tight as possible–thinking they are sealing out the water.  Counter-intuitively, tightening the mask strap actually makes the seal pucker and causes leaks.  The strap should hold the mask securely enough on your face so it doesn’t slip, slide or wobble, but should not be the least bit tight—water pressure against the lens will activate the seal once your face is in the water.

When the mask is sealed and you feel ready, bend at the knees, stretch arms forward and lean forward slowly until you are floating. Kick rhythmically, steadily, but at a pace you can keep up for some time. See? IT’S FUN! Oh, wait–don’t forget to breath! Seriously, some people may feel a little claustrophobia at first with the mask and snorkel, and in chilly water it’s natural to have short, gaspy breathing by instinct. Relax, concentrate on taking slow, even breaths. Snorkeling is relaxing, to be sure, but you have to be relaxed to snorkel. Breathe. Smoothly, rhythmically. Breathe.

Many people find they breathe and move more efficiently with their hands clasped behind their backs. Use your hands in sweeping motions to turn, or back up or fend-off too-near snorkelers, then clasp them back behind you again for cruising. Again, breathe. Smoothly, rhythmically.

If at any point you feel uncomfortable, simply stop, tread water (or stand up in the shallows), and put your mask up on top of your head. Look around you. See? It’s easy! But never, ever remove your mask all the way while in the water–you could drop it or it could be taken by a wave and then you’d be having significantly less fun, really quickly. If there is fog in your mask, pull your mask away from your face just a fraction of an inch and just for a moment while under water to allow just a little bit of water in. Pull your head out of the water, allow the water in the mask to rinse away the fog, then tilt the mask away from your face just a moment again to drain the water out. Practice this in a place you feel comfortable. When you get good, you can do this without even stopping–this technique also allows you to clear your mask of leakage (and all masks leak a little) while on the go.

What’s that gurgling noise? Occasionally, especially if the surf is up or you are frequently diving beneath the surface, water gets trapped in the snorkel. You can purge the snorkel simply by exhaling strongly through it and blowing the water out the top, or more easily by lifting your head above water, spitting out the mouth piece and allowing it to dangle in the air and drain clear. Cake. Practice makes perfect.

Poke your head out of the water frequently to check that your partner is within 20 feet of you and to keep yourself oriented relative to your entry and exit places. Stay alert–it’s easy to loose track of time, get carried farther than you thought by a current you didn’t even notice, wander out of your comfort zone, lazily paddle away from your partner, accidentally stray into a dangerous zone. So stay focused, stay oriented, always know where you are, where your partner is.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Amanda Maus Snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Gosh, what’s that down there on the bottom? Diving is what snorkeling is all about. Do not expect to go deeply; do not expect to stay down long; err on the side of safety, be conservative in your actions. The ocean is composed of stacked layers of water, frequently of surprisingly different temperatures and salinities, sometimes distressingly moving in different directions. It is entirely possible to be swimming in quiet water, dive a half dozen feet under the surface and find yourself caught by a current you didn’t even know existed…don’t fight it, but turn and kick to the surface immediately so you can evaluate this new wrinkle while catching your breath.

To dive efficiently, start off by floating flat, face down, on the water. Fill your lungs and empty them completely a few times to charge your blood with oxygen. One more big breath in, then let half out (a lung-full of air will make you floaty and keep you from diving very deeply); with your arms forward, pointing down at your target, bend at the waist, kick once for forward momentum, then lift your feet in the air, allowing the weight of your legs to push you under. Keep kicking as you submerge. Do not over estimate the depth you can dive or the time you can spend down. Learn your limits slowly and safely. Uncomfortable? Turn quickly and kick to the surface, breathe, rest, try it again.

Water pressure on the eardrums will make your ears ache in just a few feet of water; to alleviate the pain and adjust the pressure in your head, as you dive pinch your nose, close your mouth and “blow” to pop your ears. If pain, discomfort, dizziness or other distress continues, turn and kick to the top. Stay there for the duration of your swim.

Novices should NEVER enter caves or explore under overhangs.  No, I don’t care, don’t do it.  Be extremely careful when swimming near rock formations, pinnacles, spires or reefs…snagging your swimsuit on the rocks or coral while underwater can quickly evolve from a minor irritation to a life threatening emergency.

Where are all the fish? The water near shore may be murky from fresh-water springs, lots of people wading or surf action; swim out a little until the water gets crystal clear…that’s better. Although you will likely see large swarms of fish swimming about all over the bay, remember they live along the rocks and coral and not over sand, so that’s where the most interesting stuff is. Check out cliffs, ledges, pockets and boulders. Look closer. You can get a cheap, disposable underwater camera for less than ten bucks at WalMart–it may be the best $10 you spend on your whole trip. Get two. Don’t forget to take pictures of each other, too.

Before you get tired, before you feel your back getting sunburned, before you shoot the last picture, before the wind comes up or the surf builds, it’s time to get out. Don’t push it, the ocean plays for keeps and it never gets tired.  Remember your plan; where’s your sandy exit point?  Make sure your partner is with you. Swim together toward your exit point; keep swimming until you are in about the same depth of water where you put your fins on–it’s easiest to stand up from a floating position in about navel-deep water rather than deeper or more shallow.  Take off your fins, push your mask up on top of your head and walk in at your exit point. Make sure your partner is with you, again. Keep your eye on the ocean as you walk out onto the beach; never, ever turn your back on the ocean.

Wasn’t snorkeling amazing? Wait’ll you see those pictures!

After getting out, trust me, you are going to want to rinse yourself off–the ocean salt is really irritating to your skin as you dry off. You also need to thoroughly rinse your gear–the salt attacks and destroys the rubber and plastic. If there are not showers or any way to rinse off where you are snorkeling, you should bring a jug of water (about one gallon per person for body, hair and gear will do it) to do this. No, no, you really, really will want to rinse off after, I promise. After rinsing, apply sunscreen immediately.  No, right now!

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Humuele'ele at Honomalino Bay, Big Island, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Part III of this series will discuss snorkeling etiquette; Part IV will discuss snorkeling safety, Part IV will discuss the best places on the Big Island to go snorkeling and Part VI will discuss wilderness snorkeling.

To see a video covering many of these topics, go here.  For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, and beach activities on the Big Island in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. For information about the author, go here.

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