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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 and

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 ( 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 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 and

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 and

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

Exploring Mysterious Puna…

For your next day of driving, let’s go south on Highway 11 headed for the Puna District. Leave early and expect to get back just after dark because this area is furthest from Kona and contains some of the most beautiful, yet hidden, wonders on the Big Island. It is from Puna that, currently, the only up-close viewing of flowing lava is possible. You may want to pack a cooler for this day trip.

As you’re passing through Kainaliu, just south of Kona, a quick stop at Kona Joe’s Coffee Plantation, for some great Kona Coffee, will jump start your day. See their ad in the sponsors section in your Tour Guide. If you are driving straight to Puna, plan on about 3½ hrs drive time to get to the first sights in this discussion. If you have missed any sights that you wanted to see on the southern route, refer to Frank’s Travel Hints #1 and #2 and catch them on the way…just don’t forget to allow for extra time.

Along the way you will pass Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This is a fascinating place and not to be missed, but we will reserve it for a full day later.

The first turn is about 20 minutes past the park entrance at the town of Kea’au. Look for the stop light on the highway and the Highway 130 sign. The Kea’au Shopping Center has some great places to eat, like Paradise Bar and Grill, and is a good restroom break.

The first stop, in the Puna district, is the town of Pahoa. You will think you have just stepped back into the Wild West as Pahoa has a unique atmosphere like nowhere else on the island. Cute shops, and a great farmer’s market on Sundays, lends to picture taking and shopping. Tour Guide will suggest that parking is easiest at the Community Pool just a block from downtown, and there are public restrooms here.

Continue driving further into Puna on Highway 132 through the lovely tree tunnels to a magical stop at Lava Trees State Park. This gorgeous rainforest park is filled with birds and tropical plants and flowers. What makes this park so intriguing is the lava trees. Tour Guide will tell you how old lava flows surrounded the trees, leaving spires of hardened lava, giving it an eerie look. There are trails for hiking and bird watching is spectacular. This is also a good place for a restroom break as it will be a good while before the next restrooms are available. Highway 132 leads you to Highway 137, the Kapoho-Kalapana Road–the only road in America that is named for two towns buried by a volcano.

Turning toward Kapoho on Highway 137, the next stop is the Kapoho Tide Pools where you can experience great shoreline shell collecting and fantastic snorkeling amongst vibrant corals and tropical fish in protected tidepools. Though hard to find on your own, Tour Guide again knows the way to this secluded sanctuary and ancient village. Port-a-potties and showers are the only facilities here.

Just a few miles down Highway 137 is Ahalanui Hot Pond. This tropical park is centered around a hot spring that mixes with ocean water to create one of the most relaxing and soul recharging oases anywhere. Tour Guide gives you the history of what this area meant to the ancient Hawaiians. Picnicking, hiking, swimming and “expert only” surfing are some of the things to do here. There are restrooms, showers and water available also.

As you continue along the coast road, you will next encounter McKenzie State Park. Here the Ironwood trees create an unusual ambience of a pine tree forest. The sheer cliffs and majesty of the ocean beg for photographing. Swimming would be near impossible here, but the hiking is spectacular. Tour Guide will give more information about this other- worldly park. A permit is required for camping and the facilities are a bit run down.

Not far away is Kahena Beach. This beautiful black sand beach involves a bit of a scamper to get down the cliff, but is well worth the effort. Tour Guide will give you the easiest path to take. You may notice that this beach is “clothing optional”, thus it’s popularity. Swimming here is good, but currents can be strong if you get too far from shore.

Highway 137 used to become the Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but it has been cut by several miles of intervening lava flows. Today, it ultimately ends at Highway 130, the road back to Kea’au and the Hawaii Belt Highway. At the intersections of Highways 137 and 130 are the remnants of the town of Kalapana, buried in the 1960 eruption of Kilauea. Tour Guide will tell you all about the eruption, the heroic recovery efforts, and lead you on a brief hike to Kaimu Black Sand Beach, the newest beach on the Island of Hawaii. From the end of the road you can frequently see the both the eruption cloud over Pu’u O’o Vent and the steam plume where lava is entering the ocean, both several miles distant. At night, the glow from streams of lava pouring down the pali can sometimes be seen from here. Although hiking to the lava can be an experience to cherish, it is dangerous and hard work. The best, and most consistent, viewing is by taking an air tour, such as Big Island Air or Paradise Helicopter Tours.

Heading back from Kalapana, you will want to take Highway 130 toward Pahoa and Kea’au, you pass the famous “Painted Church”. Tour Guide can tell you the history of this fascinating place. Just a little farther north is the intersection of Highway 130 with the road to Royal Gardens Estates, which currently leads to the Hawaii County-maintained lava viewing area. Call the Lava Hotline at 808.961.8093 for current eruption updates, lava viewing information and times of road openings and closures. As you continue towards Kea’au you will pass the Steam Rooms–a field of steam vents in small craters where locals go to take steam baths. Tour Guide has information on finding these craters and how to safely enjoy the wonders of natural, volcanic steam baths.

Upon returning to the Hawaii Belt Highway at Kea’au, one can proceed in either direction back to Kona, north through Hilo, a bit shorter and faster, or west through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park which, though longer, is much more scenic. If time permits, you may want to stop in Volcano Village, just off the highway, for some food, gasoline, shopping or maybe even some wine tasting. This may be the last gasoline available until you get back to Kona as it is many times hard to find an open gas station in the rural part of Hawaii Island after dark. Find your hotel in your Tour Guide and get turn-by-turn directions right to the door.

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, please visit and

Video written and produced by Donald B. MacGowan; videography by Frank Burgess and Donald MacGowan; Narrated by Frank Burgess, Original music written and performed by Donnie MacGowan.

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

The Jaggar Museum is the premiere spot for viewing the current eruption at Kilaueas summit in Halemaumau Crater, which is astounding by day and nothing short of powerfully beautiful after dark. The overlook into the eruption is open 24 hours a day, but the Museum currently is only open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Founded by Dr. Thomas A. Jagger, the Hawaii Volcano Observatory (or, HVO) was the first of its kind in the world. Although closed to the public, the Observatory is the workplace of numerous world-famous geologists, geochemists and geophysicists who study volcanoes, eruptions, earthquakes and the effect of eruptions on contemporary ecologies.

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

For more information about traveling the Big Island in general and Island Activities in particular, visit and

Reprinted from here.

Halema`uma`u March 24

Halema`uma`u March 24

A plume of volcanic gas and ash rises from a vent on the east side of Halema`uma`u Crater, at the summit of Kīlauea caldera. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Jaggar Museum of Volcanology are in the foreground.

After one year, Kīlauea’s summit eruption is still going strong

(To see a recent video of Halema’uma’u eruption, go here)

It seems like only yesterday when the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) monitored a several-week build-up in seismic tremor levels and sulfur dioxide emissions in early 2008. While some staff members speculated that a small summit eruption might be on the way, others were convinced, from the lack of earthquake activity and deformation, that Pele was just restless, and that a summit eruption was unlikely.

Then, on March 12, 2008, an area of gas emission formed on the east wall of Halema`uma`u Crater, within Kīlauea’s caldera. The extreme temperature of the gases caused the vent to glow at night, attracting tourists and locals alike to the viewpoint at the Jaggar Museum of Volcanology. Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park closed the south part of the caldera to visitors in response to the increased concentrations of hazardous gases—a closure which remains in effect today.

The real surprise occurred at 2:58 a.m. on March 19, 2008, when a small explosion occurred from the site of the gas emission. The explosion—the first at Kīlauea’s summit since 1924-threw rocks and boulders over about 40 hectares (100 acres), destroying the Halema`uma`u tourist overlook, blanketing the Halema`uma`u parking lot with rocks and ash, and marking the start of the summit eruption that continues to this day.

Since that event almost one year ago, thousands of tonnes of sulfur dioxide and other volcanic gases have issued from the March 19 explosion crater. The gas has had a tremendous impact on the residents of Hawai`i Island, damaging crops on the south part of the island and worsening existing health problems for people from Hilo to Kona.

Despite the widespread effects of the gas emissions, very little lava has erupted from the vent. A small amount of ash is produced every day, but the bulk of the lava that erupted has been the result of occasional explosions that occurred throughout 2008 (none have occurred in 2009-yet). Near-daily ash collection and mapping of explosive deposits reveal that the total amount of lava and ash erupted is too small to even fill your local supermarket! In fact, the amount of lava and ash produced by the summit eruption is equivalent to what is erupted from Kīlauea’s east rift zone in just five hours.

Even though only a small amount has actually erupted, lava has been seen within the vent. Visual observations identified a lava lake about 300 feet below the vent rim in September and October 2008. In February 2009, images from an infrared camera, which is able to see through much of the gas plume, saw a lava lake at a greater depth, about 450 feet below the rim. This lake has recently been replaced by a series of small, spattering vents, still well below the floor of Halema`uma`u Crater.

The current summit eruption has already surpassed the length of all previous summit eruptions at Kīlauea since 1924. In December 2008, HVO scientists thought that the eruption actually might be coming to a close, since activity diminished markedly. Instead of dense, white, roiling, emissions, the plume was wispy, thin, and lazy. Glow disappeared from the vent, and seismic tremor levels dropped considerably.

Of course, Pele was just being her usual, devious self. In January, the return of weak glow and a strong, white plume signaled the renewal of the summit eruption. One year in, there are no signs that the eruption will be ending anytime soon.

The past year has been one of surprises, to say the least. The type of activity currently on display at Kīlauea’s summit is unprecedented in the nearly 200 years of recorded eruptions. HVO will continue to closely monitor the eruption to improve our knowledge of how Kīlauea works and to watch for signs of clearing air that might signify the end of this chapter of Kīlauea’s history.

Activity update

The Waikupanaha ocean entry remains active, and a small collapse early Wednesday morning (3/11) removed part of the delta there. West of the ocean entry, lava flows were active on the coastal plain and had reached to within 180 m (200 yds) of the ocean near Kupapa`u by mid-morning on Wednesday.

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. Lava remains just out of sight more than 90 m (100 yds) below the vent rim.

Visit our Web site ( 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 skip past bottom navigational bar

For more information on traveling to Hawai in general and seeing the volcanoes of the Big Island in particular, please visit and

Written and produced by Donnie MacGowan; narrated by Frank Burgess. Videography by Donnie MacGowan and Frank Burgess.

Along the side of the centuries-old Ka’u-Puna trail, worn smooth by generations of travelers, in the area of the Hill of Long Life (Pu’u Loa) lies the largest petroglyph field in Polynesia It is estimated that the Pu’u Loa field contains in excess of 15,000 carvings. A one mile segment of this ancient trail, from the parking lot along the Chain of Craters Road to the petroglyphs, has been marked with cairns (or “ahu”) by the Park staff to lead visitors to the petroglyphs. As you hike along this trail, notice the smoothness of the lava, the sheen on the trail worn by generations of travelers’ feet.

There are many theories concerning the origin and meanings of these carvings but one thing is certain. People stopped here for hundreds of years and left their mark on the stone. Among the designs are simple holes, spirals, concentric circles, human forms and others which are unrecognizable geometric shapes. The hills and swales of pahoehoe surrounding the boardwalk contain thousands more petroglyphs, but due to their fragility, you are advised to remain on the boardwalk to keep from damaging them.

Pu’u Loa, the hill at the margin of the boardwalk, is the place where Hawai’ians came to bury the umbilical chord of their children. People came from all over the Hawai’ian Islands to bury their child’s piko, or umbilical chord stump, in this place of “mana” (Hawai’ian for power), the home of the Goddess Pele. Grinding out a cup-shaped hole, the Hawai’ians would place the piko in the ground to insure long life, and good grace from the Goddess, for their child.

Remember that these carvings, though many hundreds of years old, are extremely fragile so remain on the boardwalk—do not step into the petroglyph field, even for a better view, or onto the carvings themselves. The boardwalk passes by hundreds of carvings near enough for you to examine them minutely and photograph the completely. This self-guided tour takes about 1 hour.

For more information about touring Hawaii in general or visiting the Big Island in particular, go to and

Reprinted from here.

Why all the fuss about Mauna Loa this month?

 The Mauna Loa 1984 summit eruption.
The Mauna Loa 1984 summit eruption (USGS Photo).

As noted in Volcano Watch a few weeks ago, this month marks the 25th anniversary of Mauna Loa’s most recent eruption—a 22-day event that began on March 25, 1984. The article also mentioned a series of public programs that will be conducted in recognition of this anniversary.

Mauna Loa has been quiet for a quarter of a century, and considering the current lack of shallow seismicity that typically precedes volcanic activity by months or years, it is not expected to erupt any time soon. So, why all the fuss about this volcano?

A look at Mauna Loa’s eruption frequency over the past 2,000 years shows that it has erupted, on average, once every 10 years. The volcano’s short-term average is even more remarkable. Between 1843 and 1950, Mauna Loa erupted every 4 to 7 years. Based on this eruption history, you could easily conclude that the volcano is overdue for its next eruption.

During the 166 years that Mauna Loa’s activity has been documented in writing, there’s only one other time when the volcano remained quiet for 25 years—the period between its June 1, 1950, and July 5, 1975, eruptions. Mauna Loa’s repose since 1984 will soon match that record.

A third of Hawai`i Island’s current population was not yet born in 1984. There’s also been an influx of malihini (newcomers) who moved to the island after Mauna Loa erupted. Given these two facts, a significant number of island residents may not be aware that Mauna Loa is an active volcano.

Even people who witnessed the 1984 eruption may not know—or remember—the full potential of volcanic hazards posed by Mauna Loa. A lot can be forgotten in 25 years.

The silver anniversary of Mauna Loa’s last eruption affords an ideal occasion to remind us all of these concerns. Thus, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) is planning a series of public programs about past, present, and future activity on the world’s largest volcano.

Two talks will be presented as After Dark in the Park programs in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. On Tuesday, March 17, HVO geologist Frank Trusdell, who has been mapping and studying Mauna Loa for nearly two decades, will speak about the volcano’s eruptive history and current status. On Tuesday, March 24, Jack Lockwood, a former HVO volcanologist, will describe events leading up to, and during, Mauna Loa’s 1984 eruption.

Both talks will be in the Kilauea Visitor Center auditorium, starting at 7:00 p.m. For more information, call (808) 985-6011 or go to the Park Web site (

HVO will also provide outreach programs in three communities around the island in collaboration with the University of Hawai`i at Hilo’s Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, Hawai`i County Civil Defense, and Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.

These community programs will begin with a brief introductory presentation, followed by an informal “talk story” session, during which you can meet and interact with scientists, public safety officials, and park rangers. The programs are designed so that you can come and go at your leisure to talk story, but to hear the introductory presentation, you should arrive at the starting time.

Two programs are scheduled for Saturday, March 28—from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. at UH-Hilo in UCB 100/127, and from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at St. Jude’s Church in Ocean View. On Saturday, April 4, a program will be held at the Konawaena Elementary School cafeteria in Kealakekua from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Displays set up for the talk story session will address frequently asked questions about Mauna Loa—such as, “Will it erupt soon?”—but you are welcome to bring any and all questions that you’d like to ask about the volcano. Children can engage in activities and demonstrations set up just for them.

Mauna Loa will erupt again—and chances are good that it will happen during your lifetime-so you are encouraged to attend one of the community programs. There’s no better time than now to educate yourself about the massive volcano in your backyard.

Activity update

Kīlauea Volcano continues to be active. A vent in Halema`uma`u Crater is emitting elevated amounts of sulfur dioxide gas and producing small amounts of ash. Resulting high concentrations of sulfur dioxide in downwind air have closed the south part of Kīlauea caldera and produced occasional air quality alerts in more distant areas, such as Pahala and communities adjacent to Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, during kona wind periods. Using a thermal camera, a small, puffing cone, varying in shape and size over the past week, has been visible about 100 yards below the vent rim.

Pu`u `Ō`ō also continues to produce significant amounts of sulfur dioxide. Trade winds tend to pool these emissions along the West Hawai`i coast, while Kona winds blow these emissions into communities to the north, such as Mountain View, Volcano, and Hilo.

A deflation/inflation (DI) event at Kilauea’s summit early in the week caused no reported disruption in the supply of lava erupting from the Thanksgiving Eve Breakout (TEB) vent at the eastern base of Pu`u `O`o. Lava continues to enter the ocean at Waikupanaha and is rebuilding the delta there, which collapsed last Saturday (February 28). Thursday (March 5) marked the one-year anniversary of the start of the Waikupanaha ocean entry. Lava was also active on the coastal plain a few hundred yards from the ocean near Waha’ula in the National Park.

Be aware that active and recently inactive lava deltas can collapse at any time, potentially generating large explosions. This may be especially true during times of rapidly changing lava supply conditions. The Waikupanaha delta has collapsed several times in the past year, with at least four of the collapses resulting in rock blasts. These blasts have tossed television-sized rocks up onto the sea-cliff and have thrown fist-sized rocks more than 275 yards inland. It is unclear whether the February 28 collapse was accompanied by an explosion.

Do not approach the ocean entry or venture onto lava deltas. Even the intervening beaches are susceptible to large waves generated during delta collapse; avoid these beaches. In addition, steam plumes rising from ocean entries are highly acidic and laced with glass particles. Call Hawai`i County Civil Defense at 961-8093 for viewing hours.

Mauna Loa is not erupting. Three earthquakes were located beneath the summit this past week. Continuing extension between locations spanning the summit indicates slow inflation of the volcano, combined with slow eastward slippage of its east flank.

Four earthquakes beneath Hawai`i Island were reported felt within the past week. A magnitude-2.2 earthquake occurred at 12:06 p.m., H.s.t, on Thursday, February 26, 2009, and was located 12 km (8 miles) north of Kailua at a depth of 36 km (22 miles). A magnitude-2.2 earthquake occurred at 4:59 p.m. on Saturday, February 28, and was located 9 km (6 miles) west of Kailua at a depth of 11 km (7 miles). A magnitude-3.0 earthquake occurred at 9:20 a.m. on Wednesday, March 4, and was located 26 km (16 miles) southwest of Kailua at a depth of 38 km (24 miles). A magnitude-2.9 earthquake occurred at 8:25 a.m. on Thursday, March 5, and was located 3 km (2 miles) northeast of Pu`ulena Crater at very shallow depth.

Visit our Web site ( for daily Kīlauea eruption updates, a summary of volcanic events over the past year, and nearly real-time Hawai`i earthquake information. Kīlauea daily update summaries are also available by phone at (808) 967-8862. Questions can be emailed to skip past bottom navigational bar

For more information on touring Hawaii in general and seeing the volcanoes of the Big Island in particular, please visit and

For a third day of driving, it’s time to explore the east side of the Big Island. Hilo is known to be one of the wettest cities in the U.S and tropical rainforest extends from the Puna district, south of Hilo, all the way to the northern tip of the island. Here, Tour Guide will show you the favorite sights and the out-of-the-way places as well.

Super tip: For this leg of your tour you should bring some rain gear. Umbrellas or panchos are the easiest ways to get a little protection. It tends to rain off and on throughout to day on the east side.

Leaving Kona, take Hwy 190 up the mountain for some panoramic views of the Kohala Coast. It’s about a 45 minute drive to Waimea, which is a good place to stop for breakfast or at the grocery store if you haven’t stocked your cooler already. Tour Guide will have all the info on museums, an arboretum as well as shopping and up-country activities in Waimea. Here you’ll also connect to Hwy 19.

Continue on Hwy 19 north and view the scenic rolling pasturelands of the Parker Ranch, one of the largest privately owned ranches in the U.S. About 20 minutes drive brings you to the town of Honoka’a. Turning left, and going through town, you’ll find more great shops, antique stores and restaurants. Nine miles on Hwy 240 brings you to Waipi’o Valley. This is one of the most photographed areas in the state. This 20 mile stretch between Waipi’o and Pololu is often called “Hawaii untouched”, boasting the largest waterfalls in the state, but can only be viewed by air tours or multi-day hikes. Tour Guide will tell you why this area was sacred to the ancient Hawaiians. You can also find out about air tours in Tour Guide’s activities section.

Head back toward Honoka’a Hwy 19 and turn southbound toward Hilo along the Hamakua Coast. This area was once all sugar cane fields but now many diversified agricultural crops are grown here. The first crop you will see is eucalyptus. Acres and acres of this fragrant tree yield sap for medicines and perfumeries all around the world. There is a rainforest preserve, Kalopa Park, just 3 miles upslope from the hwy. It’s tricky to find, but Tour Guide will show you the way to this peaceful cabin camp spot with horseback riding and bird watching.

As you continue driving south, you cross many bridges over gorges and valleys, many of which have viewable waterfalls and rivers that empty into the ocean. Don’t forget to stop and get some pictures this unique scenery. The terrain is lush and green with a huge variety of tropical flowers. Other crops also come into view such as mangoes, papayas, ginger and bananas. Tour Guide will tell you about the trains that used to transport sugar cane to the mills near Hilo and you can stop and see the train museum along the way.

Next up is one of the most famous and beautiful waterfalls in Hawaii, Akaka Falls, a 420 ft. fall, which is just 3 miles off the hwy, but worlds away. The one mile hike on a paved trail through the rainforest will pass two smaller waterfalls as well as orchid, heleconia, plumeria and other tropical plants. Tour Guide will tell the history of this area as well.

For more information about touring Hawaii in general and the Big Island in particular, visit and

This post has been greatly expanded and updated here.

Trip 6: I have to see the whole Big Island all in one day!

Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 14 hours.

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

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

We do not generally recommend trying to see the Big Island all in one day…there is a good reason it is called “The Big Island”.  However, vacation schedules and group interests vary and a surprising number of visitors evince a keen desire to tour the entire island in a single day.  *sigh*.  They rarely attempt it twice.  However, if we were to recommend a day trip round the island, commencing at Kailua Kona, the itinerary below would probably be your best bet at hitting the greatest number of highlights in the shortest possible time.

At 14 hours driving and touring time, there is little time for dilly-dally and the unhurried visitor will of necessity trim this ambitious schedule.  Easy ways to shorten the itinerary if you find yourself falling behind include skipping legs 5-7 (i.e., follow Hwy 11 all the way from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park into Hilo; time savings of about 2 1/2 hours) or skipping legs 12-13 (i.e., traveling along Hwy 19 from Hilo through Honoka’a directly to Waimea; time savings about 2 1/2 hours). You may also choose simply to skip any individual site anywhere along this route; for instance, Leg 1, Upcountry Kona, can easily be done on another morning from Kailua Kona and can be omitted from this trip simply by driving Hwy 11 straight to Punalu’u, saving you perhaps an hour.

However ambitious, this schedule will allow you, if you start out about 6 in the morning and proceed apace, to circumnavigate the island seeing everything and arrive at Hapuna Beach in time for a delightful picnic dinner (no food available at beach, so stop and buy take-away in Waimea) and an absolutely unforgettable sunset.

So what are you doing waiting around reading this for?  It’s a BIG ISLAND you are trying to explore and you’ve got to hustle!  Even though you are the one who decided to try it all in one day, remember that we warned you it would be a long, long day!

Leg 1) Start at north end of Keauhou Historic District on Ali’i Drive, head south on Ali’i Drive to jct with Kamehameha II Hwy; east on Kamehameha III to Hwy 11.  Take Hwy 11 south to jct with Hwy 160, just south of the town of Captain Cook.  Head downhill on Hwy 160 to Napo’opo’o Village, turn north on Pu’uhonua Beach Road to Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park at end of road; this is where you view the Captain Cook Monument.

Hapaiali'i Heiau in the Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapaiali'i Heiau in the Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

For almost 400 years, temples and palaces along the Kona coastline served as a kind of “Rome of the Pacific”, a great political, religious and cultural center in Polynesia, until the capital was moved to Honolulu in 1850 by Kamehameha III. The most important, interesting and best preserved historical and cultural sites lie within the Keauhou Historic District, between Kahalu’u Beach Park in Kailua running south 6 miles to Kuamo’o Bay in Keauhou. The District contains perhaps a dozen fascinating sites that are easy to walk to, well maintained and quite interesting.

To see the numerous fascinating and important archaeological sites in the Keauhou Historic District, it is necessary to park your car in the free parking at either Kahalu’u Beach Park or the Keauhou Beach Resort and explore on foot.

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

Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kealakekua Bay Historical District and Captain Cook Monument

A place of both dramatic historic events and unparalleled scenery, beautiful and now peaceful Kealakekua Bay (Pathway of the Gods) opens beneath steep, beetling cliffs on the ancient surfing beach along the shoreline of Napo’opo’o Village.   The site of arguably the most important event in the history of Polynesia, home to pods of frolicking dolphins, providing some truly breathtaking snorkeling, Kealakekua Bay is one of the most magical spots in the State of Hawai’i.

Across the bay from Napo’opo’o stands the solitary white obelisk that marks the lonely Captain Cook Monument.  It was in this broad bay that Captain James Cook made his deepest impression on, and longest visit with, native Hawai’ians when he first arrived late in November of 1778; and it was here where he met his tragic end in February 1779 during his second visit.  At the State Park at the end of the road in Napo’opo’o are picnic facilities, pavilions and restrooms.

Leg 2) Return south on Pu’uhonua Beach Road to jct with Hwy 160; Hwy 160 south to Pu’u Honua O Hounaunau National Historical Park-this is the Place of Refuge.

Place of Refuge at Hounaunau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Place of Refuge at Hounaunau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Place of Refuge: Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park

A beautiful, peaceful, restful piece of Old Hawai’i, Pu’u Honua O Honaunau is a place of ease and regeneration for weary and jaded souls.  Of enormous historical and cultural significance, the sacred grounds at Honaunau are the best-preserved remaining Pu’u Honua, or Place of Refuge, complex in Hawai’i.  It is also a wonderful area to wander, snorkel, relax and picnic. For anyone who had any doubts about what Old Hawai’i was like, a trip to Honaunau will fill your imagination, your camera and your spirit.

A complex and strict order of law, known as the kapu system, controlled and governed everything in ancient Hawai’i.  Under this system, judgment was death, immediate and final, unless the accused could escape to one of the designated places of refuge.  There the accused would undergo a cleansing ceremony, be absolved of all crimes, and allowed to return to his family free of onus.  The National Park has a Visitor’s Center and bookshop, full picnic and restroom facilities.  Although no swimming or snorkeling is allowed within the Park, adjacent is Two-Step Beach on Hounaunau Bay, one of the premiere snorkeling spots on the Island.

Leg 3) Return to Hwy 11 via Hwy 160; continue south on Hwy 11 to Punalu’u Road; Punalu’u Road to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park.

Bradford Thomas Macgowan Filming at Punalu'u Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald Bradford MacGowan

Bradford Thomas Macgowan Filming at Punalu'u Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald Bradford MacGowan

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park

A truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing, Punalu’u’s black sand beach is world-renowned.  Endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles swim the waters here and bask on the beach.  The wildness of the ocean and the serenity of the freshwater fishpond and coconut palm-shaded beaches make this an ideal place to spend some soul-recharge time. The ocean here can be rough, so use caution when swimming.

Available services include water, picnic tables, restrooms, electrical outlets, and pavilions, parking; camping is by permit only.  During peak tourist time, there is a souvenir stand with some packaged food items and canned drinks for sale, otherwise the nearest food, gasoline and other services are in either Pahala or Na’alehu.

Leg 4) Return to Hwy 11 on Punalu’u road; continue east on Hwy 11 to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Entrance and jct with Crater Rim Drive; take Crater Rim Drive west to Kilauea Visitor’s Center to Jagger Museum.

Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Frank Burgess' friend whose name momentarily escapes me

Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Frank Burgess' friend whose name momentarily escapes me

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

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

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

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

Kilauea Visitors' Center, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea Visitors' Center, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea Visitor Center

Newly remodeled and updated, the Kilauea Visitor’s Center is an outstanding resource of information on Hawaii’s volcanoes and the National Park; the not-to-be-missed first stop in the park you must make.  The Center is run by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff that has the most up-to-date information on viewing the eruption, hiking and camping, bird watching, stargazing and just about any other topic of interest to Park visitors.  Available for sale in the Center are maps, guidebooks, books and videos about the volcanoes, Hawai’iana, history, plants and every topic you can imagine pertinent to the Park, even souvenirs.  There are free brochures and pamphlets on various trails, attractions, hiking safety and lava viewing hazards and precautions.

The Visitor Center is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; there are public restrooms, water and pay phones available.  Starting at 9 a.m. and showing every hour on the hour is a 20 minute informative movie about the Park; the film changes from time to time, but always contains spectacular footage of eruptions, information on volcanology and the natural and human history of the Park.

Halema'uma'u Crater at night from Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Halema'uma'u Crater at night from Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory

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

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

Leg 5) Follow Crater Rim Drive back to Park Entrance and then to Hwy 11.  Go east on Hwy 11 to jct with Hwy 130 at Kea’au; take Hwy 130 south to Pahoa.

Hot Ponds Near Pahaoa in Puna District: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hot Ponds Near Pahaoa in Puna District: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Puna District and Pahoa Town

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

At the center of Puna is Pahoa Town; wild, untamed and even a bit unruly, with its false-front, western-style buildings and raised wooden sidewalks, Pahoa looks more like it belongs in Wyoming. But Wild West isn’t the only subculture evident here…tie-dye banners and the general “flower-power” ambience some businesses and citizens lend Pahoa give it a decidedly “’60’s” feel.  It has been said of Pahoa that if it weren’t for counter-cultural influences, it would have no cultural influences at all. The charm and allure of this way of living is evident when you consider that the region around Pahoa is the fastest growing portion of the island.  Pahoa has some of the best restaurants on the island, THE best natural foods store and a great public pool.

Leg 6) At Pahoa, get on Hwy 130 to Kalapana.

Young Coconut Palms Planted in a Lava Crack Near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii" Photo by Kelly Kuchman

Young Coconut Palms Planted in a Lava Crack Near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Kelly Kuchman

Kalapana Disaster of 1990/Kaimu Black Sand Beach

In 1990 the volcano goddess Pele determined it was time for some serious housecleaning in Puna.  Lava flows from Kilauea’s East Rift engulfed the villages of Royal Gardens, Kaimu and Kalapana, destroying virtually everything. Buried were a centuries old fishing village and a world famous black sand beach. When the lava came, it wiped out not just material possessions; it wiped out a way of life and a landscape cherished by generations.

The Big Island’s newest black sand beach, Kaimu Beach, is a lovely if barren crescent of sand at the end of an unforgiving expanse of lava from the 1990 flows. The trail to the new black sand beach is marked with hundreds of young palms, numerous lava casts which include palms, pandanas fruit and even some fish that were caught in tide pools.

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

Leg 7) From Kalapana take Hwy 137 to jct with Hwy 132 at Kapoho; take Hwy 132 northward to Lava Trees State Monument.

Lava Trees State Monument: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Trees State Monument: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Trees State Monument

Under a lacey canopy of monkeypod trees, casts of ohi’a trees stand as monuments to a fast-moving pahoehoe lava flow that passed through here in 1790.  When the lava hit the water-saturated ohi’a trees, it cooled and began to congeal around them. The original ohi’a trees burned away but the quickly cooled lava around them stands here today, hollow, with imprints of the tree bark inside.

Lava Trees Park offers trails to hike and a restful, bird-filled jungle to sit and listen to.  You can spend between 20 minutes to an hour wandering the trails, here, exploring and discovering.  Be careful, however, the area is riddled with hidden cracks in the ground which can make exploring hazardous.

You may wish to avail yourself of the restrooms here; they are the last public facilities for some distance.

Leg 8) Return to Hwy 130; Hwy 130 north through Pahoa to Kea’au and jct with Hwy 11.  Hwy 11 North to Hilo.

Hilo Farmer's Market: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo Farmer's Market: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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.

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.

Leg 9) In Hilo, go north on Hwy 11 to jct with Hwy 19; take Hwy 19 to jct with Waianuenue Ave; head southwestward on Waianuenue Ave (Hwy 200) to Rainbow Falls.

Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Rainbow Falls and Wailuku River Park

The subject of recent and ancient legend, Rainbow Falls is the lovely emblem of Hilo town.  The characteristic wishbone shape of Rainbow Falls is best seen at moderate river flows…too little water and only a single drizzle remains, too much runoff and the falls merge into a single, roaring flume.  At any time, however, it’s a beautiful place and worthwhile to visit.  The rainbows within the falls are best seen in the mid to late morning.  Follow the trail to the left along the river bank to delightful swimming and wandering; please note, however, that swimming in rivers and near falling water is dangerous.  Don’t go in if the current is swift or if recent rains have swollen the river.

Restrooms are by the parking lot and a souvenir shop is located across the street.

Leg 10) Return on Hwy 200 to Hwy 19, head north on Hwy 19 to Hwy 220 at Honomu; continue through Honomu to Akaka Falls.

Akaka Falls, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Akaka Falls, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Akaka Falls

There is a reason that Akaka Falls rates as the most visited tourist site on the Island of Hawai’i.  Simply put, the 420 foot, free falling plunge of clear water down a fern festooned cliff is an amazing and beautiful site.  Leaving the parking lot, the paved loop trail of about one mile, winds through a wonderful jungle of exotic flowers, ferns, orchids, ginger and bamboo. Two smaller falls are also seen along the way to the stellar Akaka Falls.  Akaka Falls has restrooms but no other facilities.

When visiting Akaka Falls, be sure to save some time to explore the shops, galleries and cafes of Honomu on the way back to the highway; it’s unlike anywhere you’ve ever been before…guaranteed.

Leg 11) Return Hwy 220 through Honomu to Hwy 19, then north on Hwy 19 to Honoka’a.

Akaka Falls, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Akaka Falls, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Honoka’a Town

Built in the era of sugar great plantations and left culturally and economically isolated after the industry collapse, until recently Honoka’a was content to drowse along through the decades.  A boom in real estate and return of vital human energy to the area has made a literal renaissance of the town. It boasts numerous wonderful restaurants, gift and boutique shops and the highest density of antique shops on the island.  Be sure to stop to explore a little on your way to or from Waipi’o Valley…it’s a fun, happening kind of place and always steeped with aloha.

Driving north or south out of Honoka’a, remnants of old sugar mills, fields and wild cane can still be seen. When Captain Cook arrived in 1778, only wild sugar cane was growing; at its height in the mid-1960’s one in 12 people were employed in the sugar industry which produced in excess of a million tons of sugar annually.  Though the business is gone, what is left are the people who once worked the fields and mills. The melding of the rich cultures of Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Portuguese, and others is what gives today’s unique Hawaii lifestyle its sweet flavor.

Leg 12) At Honoka’a, turn north on Hwy 240 to Waipi’o Valley.

Waipi'o Valley, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi'o Valley, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi’o Valley

Waipi’o Valley is arguably the most magical place on the Big Island. The steep canyon walls and verdant fields of the valley floor, the mile long black sand beach and numerous immense waterfalls that line the valley walls all call out to the visitor for exploration.

Always listed among the most beautiful spots in the State of Hawai’i, this valley is as hauntingly lovely as it is difficult to see in its entirety.

Tours down into the valley in vans, on horse drawn wagons and ATVs can be booked in Honoka’a.  Over-flights in fixed wing aircraft and helicopters also offer fine venues from which to see this amazing piece of Hawai’i.  Hiking down and wandering the immense black sand beach, exploring the ironwood copses and sand dunes and discovering the hidden waterfalls is also a popular way to see the canyon.  Although the hike down is only a little over 1 mile and a thousand feet elevation loss, the climb back up is sweltering in the ferocious sun and heat.  Think twice before hiking down.  Facilities at the Scenic Overlook include a pavilion and restrooms; there are none within the valley itself.

Leg 13 Return on Hwy 240 to Honoka’a; at Honoka’a turn west on Hwy 19 to Waimea.

Waimea and Kohala Volcano from the Lower Slopes of Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea and Kohala Volcano from the Lower Slopes of Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

Snuggled between Mauna Kea and Kohala Volcano in Hawaii’s scenic mountain heart, seemingly always shrouded in mist and chilly, Waimea is definitely Hawai’ian cowboy country.  Although jeans and flannel shirts appear to be the town uniform, Waimea is very sophisticated, boasting some of the finest shopping and restaurants and the most modern hospital on the island.

From Waimea, Highway 250, the Kohala Mountain Road, spills beautifully through mountain, upland meadow and forest to the “Old  Hawaii” town and artist community at Hawi.

Additionally, the cattle industry centers in Waimea. In 1793 British Navigator George Vancouver presented cows to King Kamehameha which were allowed to roam free and soon became a problem.  Shortly after horses were brought to Hawaii in 1804, Kamehameha recruited California vaqueros, whom Hawai’ians called “paniolo”–a corruption of the word “Espańol”–to control the wild herds, and the generations-old ranching lifestyle here was born.

The vaqueros also brought their guitars and their love of music. A deeply musical people, the Hawaiians were intensely interested in these, the first stringed instruments they had seen. They quickly learned to work-out their own tunings, called “slack key guitar”, which more suited the style of their indigenous music.

Leg 14) At Waimea, continue on Hwy 19 (also called Kawaihae Road) to Kawaihae; at Kawaihae, turn south on Hwy 19 to Hapuna Beach.  If you have timed your trip right, you will arrive at Hapuna Beach before sunset.  This is a most amazing place to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean with Haleakala on Maui looming on the horizon.  If it is already dark, proceed on Hwy 19 south to Kailua Kona.

Inviting Hapuna Beach, Always on the List of the Word's Top 10 beaches: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Inviting Hapuna Beach, Always on the List of the Word's Top 10 beaches: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapuna Beach

Always rated in the Top 10 of American beaches, Hapuna Beach is the premiere beach destination on the Island of Hawai’i.  Long, wide and phenomenally sandy, it has everything one dreams of in a Hawai’ian 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.   Although most patrons must walk about 100 yards down a path from the parking lot, Handicapped Parking exists right on the beach.

Leg 15) Proceed on Hwy 19 south to Kailua Kona.

Downtown Kailua Town, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Downtown Kailua Town, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, please visit and