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By Donnie MacGowan

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mask, Fins and Snorkel: 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–seeing my island from the air is the only way to appreciate its vastness and diversity of landscapes-and it’s the best way to see the erupting volcano.

Secondly-go to a luau–for people with limited time, you will not be able to discover much about the magic of the local lifestyle, and although canned and packaged for visitor consumption, a luau is a good place to get an introduction to it.

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. There are some things to bear in mind about snorkeling, however, so let’s take a moment to talk about gear (covered here, in Part I), technique (covered in our next post, Part II), reef etiquette and the animals which inhabit the coral reefs (which will be in Part III), safety (Part IV) and snorkeling wilderness beaches (Part VI).

First some advice about snorkeling gear:

Bringing vs. Renting vs. Buying: Bringing your personal snorkeling gear from home insures that you are familiar with the gear and you know that it fits…but it’s a hassle in your luggage. In this day and age of paying for extra baggage, it may be better to simply rent. Renting gear once you get to your destination is cheaper than buying it there and you don’t have to make room in your luggage to lug it home. If you do decide to buy, remember stores like COSTCO and WalMart sell great gear at low prices–you do not need to drop a fortune on snorkeling gear at a dive shop or specialty shop to get perfectly serviceable, safe and comfortable gear at affordable prices.

Fit: The mask should fit snugly over the face; you should be able to hold it onto your face with suction simply by taking in a quick breath through your nose. The strap should be snug enough to hold the mask in place against face but it should not be tight–if it is too tight, it’ll make wrinkles in the seal, letting water in. Simple water pressure against the outside of the mask seals it. If you wear glasses, either use contacts while snorkeling or get a mask that has vision-corrected mask lenses (which is more expensive, but almost universally available); it’s almost never possible to seal a mask around your glasses. The strap should pass up around the “ball” of your head, not over the ears…make sure the strap is easily adjustable and spend sometime getting the fit right–it’ll make you lots more comfortable and safe in the water.

Fins should fit snugly like shoes, but you should able to pull them on and off without a struggle. If they are too loose, you’ll either lose them or get blisters; if they are too tight, you’ll get cramps AND blisters. With fins you need to make a choice. Shoe-style fins are easiest for the novice to use, but if you have to enter the water over rocks, your feet may get abused as you wade out barefoot–it is unsafe to cross the beach or rocks wearing your fins; wait until you are in the water. Strap-style fins allow you to wear reef-walker shoes with the fins, which makes rocky entries easier. If you choose this option, make sure the fins fit over your feet with the reef shoes on.

Snorkels come in a confusing array of styles and an astounding range of prices. Although some have space-age design features, a decent snorkel with a comfortable mouthpiece and a simple splash guard is all that’s required. I personally prefer models with a flexible tube with a drain/purge valve connecting the mouth piece to the snorkel.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Laurie Maus Using a Boogie Board as a Floatie: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Floaties: Many beginners, and even experienced ocean explorers in surgey or high surf conditions, appreciate having a floatation device. Standard life-jacket styles are not recommended because they are designed to keep your head above the water while the whole point of snorkeling is to keep your head under the water. There are specially designed snorkeling vests and belts which work quite well, but are waaay spendy. Boogie boards are a nice alternative; they have a wrist leash so you won’t get separated from it and provide a floating platform to rest on, making your forays out over the reef longer and more enjoyable. Safer, too. Another, much less expensive, alternative is the foam “noodle” available in the toy department of all WallMarts and stores like that. I like to attach a boogie-board wrist leash to mine to keep it from floating away when I dive down. A large noodle will support even a full grown man upright in the water when ridden “horsey-style”.

All the gear you drag with you needs to be carried in something and by far the best way is in a nylon mesh bag; rental gear will come in one and you can buy them inexpensively where you buy your mask and fins. Since you must rinse your gear off with fresh water immediately after you climb out of the ocean, this allows the gear to “breathe” as it dries, obviating the annoying growth of mildew.

For after your swim, a large, thirsty towel is also a nice beach accoutrement, but do not use it to lie on the sand with. Buy a cheap rice mat instead (again, at WalMart or such)–it won’t collect sand, it’s cooler on the skin, smells nice and it means your towel will be clean and sand-free when you use it to dry-off. Don’t forget to bring drinking water…lots and lots of drinking water. Immersion in salt water is dehydrating by itself and just swimming around you’ve worked harder–and sweated more–than you realize. Wear a t-shirt when in the water to protect from the sun–suncream kills the corals so don’t put it on and then get in the water. Rinse yourself and your gear with fresh water immediately after you get out of the ocean and remember to apply sunscreen at this point and to wear your sunglasses. 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.

Don’t overestimate your skin’s tolerance for beach sun. For instance, now might be a good time to go inside and cool off, you know?

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Liz Maus Snorkeling at Hounaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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 a video presentation covering much of this information, go here. For information on the author, go here.

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Pu’u Kohola National Historic Park and Spencer Beach Park are two of the most interesting and fun visitor attractions on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

Produced by Donnie MacGowan and Frank Burgess and presented by Tour Guide Hawaii…Aloha!

For more information, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com or www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

All media copyright 2009 by Frank Burgess and Donald B. MacGowan

Sulfur Banks, on the crater side of the road, is just one of hundreds of gas seep on the flanks of the summit crater spewing hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and steam. Hematite, native sulfur and gypsum minerals precipitate out of the gas flux streaming through the rocks, making colorful splashes on the outcrops. Children and people with heat or respiratory conditions, or anybody with a weak stomach should be wary of venturing down the road to see this.

Non-sulfurous steam vents, mostly across the road from the crater and at the aptly named Steaming Bluff, result from rainwater percolating down through the ground being boiled by the hot rock beneath and streaming up vents to the surface. There is a short walk to the Steaming Bluff from the Sulfur Banks parking area which comes to a breathtaking view of the crater and more productive steam vents.

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

Written and produced by Donald B. MacGowan; narrated by Frank Burgess.  All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan and Frank Burgess.

by Donald B. MacGowan

Evening Sunshine Glows on Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Evening Sunshine Glows on Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The town of Kailua Kona is the crown jewel on the island of Hawaii and the beating heart of the Kona Coast. A sleepy fishing village not so long ago, Kailua Kona is now the metropolitan center of West Hawaii’s burgeoning economy and exploding population. Founded by King Umi in the 1500’s, Kailua Kona served as the social, religious and political capital of Hawaii for several hundred years. Deeming it the loveliest spot in all the Hawaiian Islands, King Kamehameha the Great ruled his island empire during the final years of his reign from here.

Exploring the downtown area from the King Kamehameha Beach Resort to the Honl’s Beach on the south provides a couple hours pure enjoyment: easy walking along the incomparable turquoise Kona Coast under the warm, sapphire Hawaii sky, past ancient temples, missionary churches, intriguing and unique shops and wonderful restaurants. It is easy, walking here, to understand how one can be completely seduced by the magic of the Big Island.

Kailua Kona is a town made for walking, so start by parking your car. On the north side of town, abundant for-pay parking is available at the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel. Free parking on this end of town is available at Triangle Parking, between Kuakini Highway and Ali’i Drive. About half-way through town, by the Farmer’s Market and Hale Halawai Park, is a large area of free parking. On the south side of town there is abundant free parking at the Coconut Grove shopping area, and at Honl’s Beach.

Let’s start exploring Kailua Kona on the north and work our way south. The thatched structure surrounded by carved wooden idols across from the pier is ‘Ahu’ena Heiau, an ancient and sacred temple site. A temple (or Heiau) has existed on this spot since at least the first millennium, and as recently as the 15th century was occupied by a temple of human sacrifice (or luakini Heiau) dedicated to the war god Kuka’ilimoku. In 1812, King Kamehameha I ordered the heiau enlarged, rebuilt, rededicated as ‘Ahu’ena Heiau (“hill of fire”), a temple of peace and prosperity dedicated to the fertility god Lono.

Ahu'ena Heiau, Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahu'ena Heiau, Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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. Here, there is a veritable forest of of carved, wooden sacred images in the “Kona Style”, considered the most refined in all Polynesia.  More about Ahu’ena Heiau can be found, here.

Three delightful, but tiny, beaches grace the immediate downtown area; from north to south they are named Kamakahonu, Keakaiakua and Niumalu–many locals do not even know thy have names. The snorkeling from these small beaches is spectacular and strangely uncommon. A beautiful coral garden and vibrant reef fish can be seen snorkeling along the shoreline off ‘Ahu’ena Heiau where fish, turtles and eels are abundant in Kailua Bay.  More about the history of these beaches, the pier and seawall and Old Kailua Village can be found here.

Pao Umi Rock and the Moreton Fig Tree in Kailua's Evening Light: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pao Umi Rock and the Moreton Fig Tree in Kailua's Evening Light: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pa’o Umi, a point of rock between the pier and Hulihe’e Palace and mostly buried under Ali’i Drive, is where High Chief Umi is thought to have landed when he moved his court from Waipi’o Valley to Kailua in the 1500’s. Umi consolidated and centralized religious and secular power of Hawai’i Island in Kona and built a number of temples, most notably on the current sites of Ahu’ena Heiau, Moku’aikaua Church and Kona Inn. Umi founded the political landscape which ultimately fostered King Kamehameha’s regime and led to the unification of the Hawai’ian Islands into a single nation.

Across Ali’i Drive from Pa’o Umi is a large Moreton Fig tree that appears in photographs of downtown Kailua since before the turn of the last century; as such, this tree is at least 140 years old.

Mokuaikawa; the First Christian Church in Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mokuaikawa in Kailua Kona; the First Christian Church in Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

During the winter of 1819 to 1820, Congregationalist missionaries from Boston crossed the Atlantic Ocean enduring 5 months of intense stormy weather while headed for a new life in Hawai’i. In March of 1820, the missionaries sailed into the balmy waters of Kailua Bay and landed at Kamakahonu Rock (eye of the turtle”), the “Plymouth Rock” of Hawai’i, which now supports the Kailua Pier..

Mokuaikaua Church, built under the leadership of missionary Asa Thurston between 1835 and 1837, was specifically aligned so that the prevailing breezes would pass through it, but also so that it presented a strong, stone façade to the south and west, the direction from which strong Kona Winds, large storms and hurricanes come. The 112-foot steeple was for many decades the highest structure in Kailua and served as a navigation landmark both for ships at sea and people on land.

The church is constructed of rough-hewn basalt blocks mortared with lime made from burnt coral and bound with kukui nut oil. The corner stones were taken from a heiau built on the same spot by King Umi in the fifteenth century. The interior beams and woodwork are of koa wood. The joints were painstakingly joined with ohi’a wood pins; this is a magnificent example of the architectural style brought to Hawai’i by the missionaries in the 19th century.

The inside of the church is beautiful, cool and inviting, and visitors are welcome between services and on weekdays between sunrise and sunset; admission is free. There is a fascinating mini-museum, small but informative, which is open daily from sunrise to sunset and free tours are conducted from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:30 p.m. The Museum features exhibits about Hawai’i, the life of the missionaries and contains a scale model of the Brig Thaddeus. More about Mokuaikawa Church and it’s fascinating history, can be found here .

Hulihe'e Palace, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hulihe'e Palace, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hulihe’e Palace was built by High Chief (later Governor) James Kuakini in 1838 as a home. For many years, the Palace was used by Hawai’ian royalty as an official residence and summer get-away palace, a place of great galas and parties, but was abandoned to ruin in 1914. Since 1928 the Palace has been operated as a museum by the Daughters of Hawai’i. The Palace Gift Store has many fine art items and hard-to-find books on Hawai’iana.

The museum is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are friendly and knowledgeable docents who give free tours, which last about 45 minutes. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $1 for students; photographing inside the museum is forbidden. The palace sustained considerable damage during the earthquake of 2007 and is currently undergoing renovation.  More about Hulihe’e Palace can be found here.

Kona Inn Shops: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kona Inn Shops: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Kona Inn is of particular historic significance, as it was the first destination resort to open in West Hawai’i and it ushered in the era of tourism along the Kona Coast. Built on the site of Papa ‘Ula (red flats) where a temple of human sacrifice was built by High Chief Umi, today the Kona Inn features many unique and interesting shops and fine restaurants.

The Inn fronts on a large, palm-shaded lawn that leads to a seawall and the ocean. This area is open to the public and is a really grand place for picnicking, watching whales and dolphin and the fabulous Kona sunsets.

The Kailua Farmer’s Market, open Wednesday through Sunday, lies in the parking lot at the corner of Ali’i Drive and Hualalai Road between the Public Library and Hale Halawai Park. The market offers a wide and intriguing variety of fresh produce, hand-made local arts and crafts, Hawai’iana and other types of souvenirs.

Kailua Famer's Market: Photo by Harvey Bird Watching

Kailua Farmer's Market: Photo by Harvey Bird Watching

The grounds and oceanfront of Hale Halawai Park offer a peaceful, shady place for taking a rest from a busy tour of bustling downtown Kailua, or watching whales and dolphin and the unmatched Kona sunsets. Frequently honu (sea turtles) and boogey boarders can be watched from the seawall. Featuring coconut palms, a neatly manicured lawn, picnic tables and a seawall, the large, Polynesian-style pavilion is used for everything from community gatherings to orchid shows to wedding receptions.

Saint Michael the Arch Angel Catholic Church, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Saint Michael the Arch Angel Catholic Church, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Historic St. Michael’s Church was the first Catholic Church in West Hawai’i. The church offers services in English and Spanish throughout the week, but is primarily of historic interest; the burial plots in the cemetery date from 1855. In 1940, during less “ecologically aware” times, resident priest Father Benno Evers had his parishioners gather 2500 coral heads to build the grotto in front of the church, which covers the church’s original well. The seafloor in Kailua Bay has yet to recover from this pillaging of coral heads.

Coconut Grove and Waterfront Row cap the southern end of the Kailua Village shopping district along Ali’i Drive, starting next to the Hale Halawai County Park and ending at the Royal Kona Resort. Newer and more metropolitan that its sister shopping district to the north, Coconut Grove and Waterfront Row have almost everything, from tattoos to souvenirs to Hawai’iana, fine art, musical instruments, sundries, groceries and clothing. The range of cuisines available from restaurants here sweeps from local flavor to Thai, the Hard Rock Cafe to poi crepes to pizza and burgers

Public Queensbath Tidepool: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Public Queensbath Tidepool: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Between the Royal Kona Resort and Hale Kona Kai Resort is a fabulous tide pool that is completely protected from all but the most vicious winter surf. It boasts a moderate population of reef fish and even the occasional turtle! The water sometimes can be a bit murky, but it makes a nice place to take small children or beginning snorkelers. Drive into the entrance for the Royal Kona Resort and continue south past it until you see the blue and white Shoreline Access sign; find a place to park, go down the stairs to the tiny beach and enjoy!

Honl's Beach in Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Honl's Beach in Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Lovely but compact, Honl’s County Beach Park is a small beach on the southern outskirts of Old Kailua Town. A favorite spot for surfers and boogie boarders it also has very nice snorkeling and is an excellent place to view the sunset and picnic. Remember when going into the water here, there is a fairly strong current to the north, so stay in the shallow reef area close to the beach. Parking is located on both sides of Ali’i Dr., but can be tight here in times of good surf, and crossing Ali’i Dr. drive can be a bit dangerous at certain times of the day. A new bathroom with showers and running water has recently been constructed on the mauka—uphill–side of the road.

Monk Seal on Honl's Beach at Sunset: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Monk Seal on Honl's Beach at Sunset: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

For details on a scenic drive through the Keauhou Historic District south of Kailua Kona on Ali’i drive, please go here.  To get details on visiting and snorkeling Kailua Kona’s famous Kahalu’u beach, where all the turtles are, please go here. For detailed information on a scenic drive through Up County Kona, please go here.  Information about the ancient villages, temple ruins, amazing beaches and fabulous hiking trails of Koloko Honokohau National Historic Park just north of Kailua Kona, please go here.

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

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

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.

The recently restored Hapaiali’i Heiau (Temple for Elevating Chiefs), a heiau associated with ceremonies involving changes in rank of Ali’i, lies on the grounds of the Keauhou Ohana Beach Resort, across the narrow tidal inlet from Ke’eku Heiau. Until recently, the temple appeared to be noting more than a disorganized pile of rocks in a tangle of mangrove and keawe.  Not much is known about this Heiau and oral traditions in the area are contradictory; some local stories hold that it predates Ke’eku Heiau; other family traditions maintain it was built around 1812 by Kamehameha the Great.  During restoration, carbon dating of material recovered indicated that the Heaiu may have been erected, or substantially rebuilt, between 1411 and 1465.  According to cultural kahuna overseeing the reconstruction it took thousands of commoners about 10 years to build the original temple.

The Ruins of Hapaiali'i Heaiu in Spring 2006, Before Reconstruction; Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Ruins of Hapaiali'i Heaiu in Spring 2006, Before Reconstruction; Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The temple was reconstructed by using survey maps made of the area in 1906 and 1952 and currently measures 100 feet by 150 feet.  Completely surrounded by the sea at high tide and constructed entirely by dry-stack masonry, this reconstruction reminds us of the engineering sophistication of the Hawai’ians and the grandeur and beauty of the temples they erected.

Hapaiali'i Heiau During Reconstruction; note Ke'eku Heiau in Background: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapaiali'i Heiau During Reconstruction; note Ke'eku Heiau in Background: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

During the restoration project, funded by Kamehameha Schools, it was discovered that Hapaiali’i Heiau also served as a solar calendar.  On the winter solstice, from a vantage point directly behind the temples center stone, the sun sets directly off the southwest corner of the heiau; at the vernal equinox, the sun sets directly along the centerline of the temple and at summer  solstice, it sets off the northwest corner.  If you are visiting Hawaii during any of these seasons it is worth the trip to Hapaiali’i Heiau to see how well this ancient astronomical observatory still serves its function.  More information about the Keauhou Historic District can be found by visiting the Keauhou Kahalu’u Heritage Center at the Keauhou Shopping Center, open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Vog Tinged Sunset around Winter Solstice at the Reconstructed Hapaiali'i Heiau: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Vog Tinged Sunset around Winter Solstice at the Reconstructed Hapaiali'i Heiau: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

From Kahalu’u Beach, walk onto the Keauhou Ohana Beach Resort property through the gateway in the fence between them and follow the asphalt path to the pool deck, through the lobby of the resort and join the paved path that runs along the end of the Resort driveway. From the Resort parking lot, walk up the drive to the paved path that runs along the end of the driveway. Following along this path, one passes Punawai Spring first, then, where the path runs around the end of the tennis courts the homesite of the Mo’o Twins. Continuing on the path until it ends at a large tidal pool, the Hapaiali’i Heiau is immediately between you and the ocean.  Across the tidal pool is the equally fascinating Ke’eku Heiau and the nearly deserted Makole’a black sand beach.  Take a moment to stroll south and seaward over the tidal flats from Ke’eku Heiau and search out the large and fascinating petroglyph field at low tide (more information here). Remember that these are holy religious sites to modern native Hawai’ians; to not trespass, walk or climb on the temple proper; take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, and exploring the ancient temples of the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Video written and produced by Donald B. MacGowan; all media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan, all rights reserved.

Hiking Ke-awa-iki Beach, the Golden Ponds, Pueo Bay and Weliweli Point, Kohala Hawaii

by Donnie MacGowan

Donnie MacGowan amongst the Golden Ponds of Ke-awa-iki, Big Island Hawaii: Photo by Bart Hunt

Donnie MacGowan amongst the Golden Ponds of Ke-awa-iki, Big Island Hawaii: Photo by Bart Hunt

Want to find a beautiful beach not even many locals know about?  Don’t mind walking about 15 minutes over a lava road and a’a?  This tiny mostly black-sand and gravel beach has good snorkeling on the south (left as you face the water) side, where there is still a pocket of white sand.

This Black and White Sand Piebald Beach is Aboslutely Unique on the Island of Hawaii...Maybe in the World: Photo by Donald MacGowan

This Black and White Sand Piebald Beach is Aboslutely Unique on the Island of Hawaii...Maybe in the World: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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.

The North End of Ke-awa-iki Beach Turns to a Delightfully Weird Moonscape: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The North End of Ke-awa-iki Beach Turns to a Delightfully Weird Moonscape: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hiking north, one passes along the wild and open Kohala Coastline to Pueo Bay (Pueo mean “owl” in Hawaiian), where many freshwater springs make the snorkeling interesting but weird, due to large temperature and salinity gradients. There are numerous trails to make your way back to the car or Ke-awa-iki Beach.

Bart Hunt and the Curious Lone Palm Tree a Keawaiki Beach, Hualalai Volcano in the Background: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Bart Hunt and the Curious Lone Palm Tree a Keawaiki Beach, Hualalai Volcano in the Background: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Pueo Bay Looking North to Weliweli Point: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

From Pueo Bay Looking North to Weliweli Point: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

However, if one takes the trail running east behind Pueo Bay (intersection marked with coral), one comes to a pair of lovely golden pools, which can be seen for quite a distance, as they support a growth of hala trees.

Golden Ponds at Ke-awa-iki Spring Amazingly from the Seeming Lifeless A'a Lava Flow: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Golden Ponds at Ke-awa-iki Spring Amazingly from the Seeming Lifeless A'a Lava Flow: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A golden algae growing on the lava lends these pools their distinctive color.

Golden Algae Growing in the Hidden Freshwater Ponds at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by donald B. MacGowan

Golden Algae Growing in the Hidden Freshwater Ponds at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by donald B. MacGowan

If you bring an underwater camera, you can take spectacular photos of this gorgeous biologic wonder.

Golden Algae Growing in the Hidden Freshwater Ponds at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Golden Algae Growing in the Hidden Freshwater Ponds at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Feel free to frolic in the ponds before finishing the hike—just be sure not to damage the growth by walking on it too much.

Another interesting trail to thread are the many roads and trails leading to Weliweli Point from the Ponds or Pueo Bay, essentially just keep parallel to the coastline and they all converge at a private residence near the point–on clear days, unsurpassed views of Kohala Mountain and Haleakala on Maui can be seen here.

Weliweli to Haleakala on Maui: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Weliweli to Haleakala on Maui: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Return by taking the major dirt road back towards the highway, taking the millennia old King’s Trail south when that intersection is reached. Out in the a’a flow it’s hard to get lost, you can almost always see where you parked your car, and the trails all eventually lead there.

There is much to see here besides the beaches and the Golden Pons.

Bart Hunt at the Sacred Pond at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Bart Hunt at the Sacred Pond at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

There are remains of ancient heiau (temples) and villages.

Bart Hunt Explores and Ancient Heiau (temple) at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Bart Hunt Explores and Ancient Heiau (temple) at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

And although no green sand beach is know to have formed, vesicular basalts in the area around Weliweli Point have abundant olivine (peridot) crystals.

Olivine Phenocrysts in Vesicular Basalt Near Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Olivine Phenocrysts in Vesicular Basalt Near Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Depending on how you thread the trails, it’s approximately 4 miles, round trip.

To Find the wonders of Ke-awa-iki: Drive just north of Mile 79, park where boulders block a gravel road. Take gravel road/trail towards the ocean, hike along the road, fence and trail 15 minutes to Ke-awa-iki Beach.  No facilities.

A video about Ke-awa-iki is available here.

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

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

Let’s Go to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!

About a two hour straight drive from Kona, going south, brings you to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. If you have a Golden Eagle Pass your entrance is free. If not, it is only $10.00 per carload to enter the park. The rangers at the gate will give you detailed maps of the area.

Super tip: Your receipt will give you free access to the National Park for seven days.

My first suggestion is to go to the Kilauea Visitors Center and the Jagger Museum. This will give you a nice overview of the park and rangers are there to answer questions. This spot also looks over the majestic Halemaumau CraterTour Guide will get you to the park and lead you to more than 50 sites. It is also possible that our state bird, the Nene Goose, will be huddled in the parking lots. They are protected as an endangered species, so be careful when parking nearby.

Another great place to visit is the Volcano Art Center. It may seem a strange, but the Volcano Art Center boasts one of the best collections of art in the whole state. World renowned artist in various media are on display as well as theatrical and musical performances.

There is only one restaurant in the park proper, and that is the Volcano House. Built as a lodge in the mid 1800’s, the Volcano House has hosted dignitaries, politicians, sports heroes and movie stars from all over the world. This grand edifice sits right on the lip of Halemaumau Crater and the views from her restaurant are stunning. Tour Guide will give a complete history of how it came to be. The food is good and the prices are reasonable. Bicycle rentals are also available near the lodge.

Crater Rim Drive is a great driving introduction to the park. It encircles the Halemaumau Crater and, for only an 11 mile drive, passes through several dramatic climate zones. You will encounter arid desert, grass savannah, and into tropical rainforest; this loop can easily be done in forty minutes. However, you will want to take more time to appreciate the beauty and majesty of one nature’s most awesome wonders. Tour Guide will suggest short to medium hikes and bicycle trails as well as over 50 historic and geologic sites to visit within the park.

If you are up for some hiking, Tour Guide will lead you to the trail for Waldron Ledge Overlook. This short hike is through the Ohia and fern jungles, shaded most of the way, and can be done on bicycle as well. From this vantage point one can see the active vent, Kilauea Iki, and breathtaking views of the coast.

Along the Crater Rim Drive you will also see many steam vents and the Sulfur Banks. This is where water seeps into crevices and meets the molten magma about a half mile below the surface, is super heated, and returns to the surface as steam. These vents are often accompanied by a “rotten egg” smell common where sulfur is rising with the steam, turning the ground around the vents hues of yellow, green and white.

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

Reprinted from here.

Steam Erupting from Halema’uma’u Crater on Kilauea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Unless you’ve been sitting in a lava cave (the way we sometimes do) you should be well aware that this Sunday is the beginning of the annual Merrie Monarch festival—the world’s premier event for watching and learning about the Hawaiian hula.

The hula kahiko, or ancient hula form, is always the crowd favorite on Friday night. The kahiko is one expression of the mo`olelo, or stories, of Hawaiian culture. Of course, a popular theme of hula performed during the Merrie Monarch involves stories of Pele, the Hawaiian deity of the volcano.

The hula of Pele uses rhythmic rising, falling, swaying, and flowing, accompanied by the oli, or chant, and beats of instruments to portray the likeness and action of Pele and the volcano as one inseparable entity. So it may be of little surprise to you that the rhythmic nature of the hula and chants describing the volcano would accurately portray of the bursting forth, and diminishing of such things like lava flows and explosions. But have you ever wondered if the rhythms of the hula have any relation to detailed scientific observations made at the volcano? The answer may be surprising to you; the connections go deeper than you think, and certainly deeper than we’re aware of.

Much of the behavior of Kīlauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes are rhythmic in nature. The sounds, earthquakes, and ground swelling of these volcanoes, have all been found to follow rhythmic patterns.

Perhaps the most obvious rhythm of the volcano is the very sound the volcano makes. Anyone who has had the privilege of being near a lava vent can attest to the rhythmic sounds of gas and lava gushing from vents. This is the `uhi `uha sound in the hula chants that results from gases and gas-charged magma rushing through vents, or conduits, in the volcano. Much like a pahu drum, the size of the chamber controls the depth of the sound. These sounds actually extend well beyond the range of human hearing into a realm called the “infrasound”. Geologists record and study the depth and breadth of these infrasonic beats to model the internal structure vents and conduits.

The shaking of the volcano also occurs with rhythmic frequency. In the current episode of eruptive activity at Kīlauea, something called episodic tremor has been frequently observed. Episodic tremor is a pattern of seismic activity, or shaking of the volcano, that occurs at semi-regular intervals. Patterns of seismic activity like this have been seen at Mount St. Helens where they were called “drum beat” seismicity. Episodic tremor at Kīlauea can be seen on seismic recorders as triangular-shaped bursts periodically placed—an imprinting reminiscent of a kapa-cloth pattern. A current interpretation is that episodic tremor is caused by the repeated rising and falling of the lava surface underground.

In addition to shaking, the volcano’s entire body also sways, or deforms, in rhythmic ways. The ground surface of Kīlauea regularly rises and falls in cycles called deflation-inflation (DI) events. These events are linked to pulses of magma and gas which rise regularly under the summit of Kīlauea in the region of Halema`uma`u. An interesting consequence of magma migration is a coordinated dance of the ground surface at the summit and east rift zone of Kīlauea. As a pulse of magma rises up under Halema`uma`u, the summit of Kīlauea expands, rising upward. As this magma makes its way down the east rift the ground beneath Pu`u `Ō `ō begins to rise too. The dancers complete their turn over the course of a day or so.

The above descriptions only scratch the surface of many deeper rhythmic relationships that exist. So as you watch and hear the hula of Merrie Monarch this year, we encourage you enjoy the mo`olelo `o Pele and hula—both its sheer beauty and, also, its remarkable accuracy in describing the essence of volcanoes.

Activity update

The Waikupanaha and Kupapa`u ocean entries remain active. Surface flows inland from Kupapa`u, which began late last week following a deflation-inflation (DI) event at Kīlauea’s summit, remain active along the eastern boundary of the National Park.

At Kīlauea’s summit, the vent within Halema`uma`u Crater continues to emit elevated amounts of sulfur dioxide gas, resulting in high concentrations of sulfur dioxide downwind. Though not directly observed, vent noises suggest that lava is still present within the vent about 100 m (110 yds) below the floor of Halema`uma`u crater.

Visit our Web site (http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov) for detailed Kīlauea and Mauna Loa activity updates, recent volcano photos, recent earthquakes, and more; call (808) 967-8862 for a Kīlauea summary; email questions to askHVO@usgs.gov. skip past bottom navigational bar

To see Tour Guide Hawaii video of Kilaeua eruptions go here and here.

For moreinformation on visiting Hawaii in general and touring the Hawaiin volcnoes in particular, plese also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

By Donnie MacGowan

Here in the Department of Research and Eternal Spring Break at the Galactic Headquarters of Tour Guide Hawaii, we have been waiting for a break in the Spring Monsoon on the east side of the island so we could run around Puna, visit, film and photograph all our favorite places and then spend a (relatively) dry evening watching the pyrotechnics as Madam Pele marches into the sea at the lava ocean entry at Waikupanaha.

The Men of Tour Guide At Work: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The Men of Tour Guide At Work: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Well, as wet as Puna and Hilo are, we could have waited an eternity, so we decided to just pack everybody up and hit the highway. We tore down the west side of the island, past South Point, Punalu’u and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, making our first stop (for coffee) at Pahoa, the cultural and mercantile center of Puna.

Pahoa is the Commercial and Cultural Center of Puna: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Pahoa is the Commercial and Cultural Center of Puna: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

From Pahoa, we drove sedately down through the magnificent Tree Tunnels on Hwy 132 to Lava Trees State Monument.

The beautiful Tree Tunneled Roads of Puna: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The beautiful Tree Tunneled Roads of Puna: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Here, a long-ago lava flow swept through a wet ohi’a tree forest. The wet, cold trees chilled the lava, which coated the trees.

Lava Trees at Lava Trees State Monument: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Trees at Lava Trees State Monument: Photo by Donald MacGowan

As the lava drained away downhill and through numerous cracks in the earth, the lava coating the trees cooled, leaving these basalt towers with hollow insides…the lava trees have casts of the ohi’a, bark and all, in their middles…an amazing place!

Lava Trees Cast: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Trees Cast: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We took highway 137, named the Kapoho-Kalapana Road–I imagine this is the only road in America–perhaps the world–that is named for two towns destroyed by the same volcano.

Kapoho Kalapana Road Sign: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kapoho Kalapana Road Sign: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving through the jungles and beaches of Puna we came to Ahalanui Hot Pond. This man-made pool was first constructed to retain the refreshing waters of a cold spring.

Ahalanui Hot Pond: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahalanui Hot Pond: Photo by Donald MacGowan

During eruptions in the early 1960s, however, the plumbing on Kilauea changed and the spring became hot…and the pool became even more refreshing. Continuing on we stopped in at Isaac Hale Beach Park, which has recently had a complete makeover and is now one of Hawaii County’s first rate facilities.

Isaac Hale County Beach Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Isaac Hale County Beach Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Once run down, decrepit and populated by social undesirables, it’s now a vibrant, safe and enjoyable place to have a picnic, snorkel and just enjoy exploring where jungle meets ocean.

Isaac Hale Park Hot Spring: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Isaac Hale Park Hot Spring: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Next stop was McKenzie State Park, a real rustic gem with not much going on but miles of hiking trails, a copse of beautiful ironwood trees and some amazing, huge boulders hurled 60 feet up the sea cliffs by tsunamis past.

McKenzie State Park Tsunami-Tossed Boulders: Photos by Donnie MacGowan

McKenzie State Park Tsunami-Tossed Boulders: Photos by Donnie MacGowan

Makes you think twice about camping here!

The next part of Puna we drove through along Highway 137 is undergoing intense development–once a land of rolling jungle punctuated with lava flows and crossed by red cinder roads, civilization is finally finding Puna–too bad. Of course, Madame Pele decrees that any human settlement on this part of Hawaii Island is an “at will tenancy”–at her will–and she may reclaim the land as wild lava at any time.

Modern Carved Pohaku Iki in Puna: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Modern Carved Pohaku Iki in Puna: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We came into what’s left of Kalapana and hiked out to the new black sand beach at Kaimu. There is an amazing story of love and rebirth centered around this tiny village which I have previously told elsewhere, but it’s a moving and gorgeous spot.

Kaimu Black Sand Beach in Winter: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kaimu Black Sand Beach in Winter: Photo by Donald MacGowan

After getting our toes wet in the ocean at Kaimu, we turned north towards the Hawaii County Lava Viewing platform near what used to be Waikupanaha. We parked and hiked in to await dusk and see the eruptions (see video here).

Littoral Explosions as Lava Enteres the Ocean Near Royal Gardens: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Littoral Explosions as Lava Enteres the Ocean Near Royal Gardens: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Then, with full on dark enveloping us, we packed the car, adjusted the mirrors, and sat back for the 3 1/2 hour drive back to Kailua Kona…we timed it perfectly to arrive in time to have coffee and ice cream at Lava Java and to watch the evening surf pound against the seawall in Old Kailua Town and told ourselves, in the local pidgin, the same thing residents of Kona tell eachother at least twice a day…”Hey, lucky we live Hawaii, eh?”

Sunset from Lava Java in Kailua Kona: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sunset from Lava Java in Kailua Kona: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Melancholy, lonely, desolate; this beach cut into the fresh scar of an a’a flow marks the place where the Hawai’ian gods died at the battle of Kuamo’o. In 1819, the year before the Christian missionaries arrived in Hawai’i, forces loyal to Kamehameha II and Queen Ka’ahumanu fought to overturn the kapu system and the pagan Hawai’ian religion in favor of Christianity. Kahuna Kekuaokalani led the last supporters of the old ways and the old gods and fought a desperate battle here to preserve their ancient way of life, and lost. Their graves, numbering in the several hundreds despite the official-looking marker at the site, are under the numerous, large stone altars erected by the victors over the very spots the warriors fell.

A walk along the dirt road that bisects the battlefield is ineffably sad and a little creepy. However, the road soon climbs into dryland forest along the lava ocean cliffs and provides some memorable hiking and sunset views.

Kuamo’o Battlefield is located at the very end of Ali’i Drive, somewhat appropriately. No facilities.

For more information on exploring the Big Island of Hawaii in general, and the ancient villages and temples of Kona in particular, visit: www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Produced by Donnie MacGowan. Written, directed and filmed by Donnie MacGowan.  Original musical score by Donald B. MacGowan.  All media copyright 2008 by Donald B. MacGowan; all rights reserved.