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Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #12: More fun in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii
by Frank Burgess, brought to you by Tour Guide Hawaii

Frank Burgess at Hilina Pali Overlook: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Frank Burgess at Hilina Pali Overlook: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Tour Guide Hawaii is proud to announce the release of their new iPhone and iPod Touch App available at iTunes…this App will help you plan your trip to Hawaii, help you decide what you want to see, how you want to see it and help you get there with GPS, interactive maps and on-board driving instructions.  The Tour Guide App presents hours of interesting videos and information about places of historical, cultural and recreational interest, giving you a sense of the people, the natural history and the unique specialness of each destination.  The information is so comprehensive and complete they even tell you where all the public restrooms are!  What else will Tour Guide help you find?  Let’s look at a trip down Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park…Tour Guide will not only help you find many amazing sights along the way, it will tell you all about them, what to take and what to expect.

Today’s hints cover the area along the very top of Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Driving through The Park  there several fantastic places to stop and explore, but there is also a lot of lovely, open countryside for several miles, so enjoy the panoramic views. Your Tour Guide download from iTunes will give you more detailed information about this area.

Deeper and Deeper into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

As you continue driving around and exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park you will find many great hiking and bicycling opportunities. Tour Guide has some 50 sights to see in the park and has details such as, parking, food and water and restroom facilities along the way.

One of the best day hikes in the park is the Kilauea Iki Crater Trail. This four mile round trip hike, about three hours at a nominal pace, will descend into the crater itself. From the floor of the crater, you will see fern, o’hia, and tropical rainforest crowding right up to the rim. The floor itself is stark desert, by comparison, as the trail takes you across and then up the other side. Make sure to bring plenty of water and maybe even some snacks for this hike.

To see even more of the parks wonders, we at Tour Guide suggest a drive down the Chain of Craters Road. This drive unlocks dozens more sights, hikes and vistas from high mountain rainforest to the barren lava landscapes and scenic ocean views below. Along this road are a number of overlooks for some fabulous photography. It ends at the sea where waves crash and spew against cliffs with steam clouds in the distance where lava reaches the ocean. Let’s see what this stunning area has to offer.

Lua Manu is a pit crater formed before written records were kept of the eruptive activity in the park. You will notice no cinder around the rim. This indicates no eruption here but a lava lake that formed inside the pit. As it drained, the pit collapsed, the latest of which was in 1974.

There are several more pit craters to see along this route and then you will come to Hilina Pali Road. This nine mile road takes you to some of the most magical views of the National Park. From forest down to the coast, the breathtaking scenery with leave you with the awe and majesty of Mother Nature and Madam Pele. For the hearty campers, Tour Guide will lead you to Kulanaokuaiki Campground. There are restrooms here but no water is available. At the end of Hilina Pali Road is an overlook not to be missed.

Back on Chain of Craters Road, Tour Guide brings you to Pauahi Crater, a large hourglass shaped crater that has held lava from many different flows over the years. Most recently, the 1979 earthquakes opened the south rift of the crater and issued steam and lava fountains. Though this episode only lasted one day, it was precursor to the current flows from Pu’u O’o in 1983 that destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses miles away in the Puna District.

Tour Guide will guide you to Kipuka Kahali’i. A kipuka is a hole or space where the lava surrounded forest or grassland but did not burn it. This one was partially devastated by the 1969 hot ash eruption of Mauna Ulu. The tallest trees survived and some hearty species of plants have returned.

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.

Copyright 2009
by Frank Burgess; photography copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

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by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Whether you visit the Big Island for a few days, a couple weeks or a few months, you want to make the most of your time in Paradise. With such a wide variety of natural and commercial attractions, it is natural for the visitor to get a little overwhelmed in the “Option Overload” and not be able to make a balanced and informed decision on what they want to do and how best to spend their time.

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

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

Even choosing activities you want to participate in…do you want to snorkel, hike, go on a whale watching tour? We always recommend people do three basic things when they come to Hawaii: get in the air, go to a luau and get in the water. By getting in the air you get a glimpse of how magnificent our island home is, it is the best way to watch the volcano erupt and it allows you to sort of “scout” the island to see where you might want to spend more time. By going to a luau you get an introduction to Hawaiian culture and cuisine–you get a taste of what it means to live in Hawaii. And by getting in the water you experience the magic wonder of our reefs and colorful fish, the calm and renewal from floating in our warm, turquoise waters and the thrill of exploring something new, different and a little wild. We highly recommend you go snorkeling on your visit…but where do you go? Do you want a snorkel beach for beginners, or a place that’s challenging to experience? Are you going simply to get in the water and see the fish or do you want a beach that’s also alive with fun people? Are you looking for an experience that away from crowds, secluded and empty or one that’s exciting, but perhaps a little more tame? Do you want to snorkel near your resort or one that’s at the end of a day of delicious wandering?

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

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

Ranked in order, with the best on top, are our picks of the best snorkeling spots on the Island of Hawaii. We’ve tried to strike a balance in ranking these places since each is a gem in its own right, we’ve had to leave off many that are equally fine for their own reasons and of course, recommending some means that their popularity will increase and hence, they will become more crowded. This list at least provides an excellent starting point for deciding where you want to spend you beach time. When you arrive we ask that you treat these special places, and the people who live near them, with care, respect and aloha.

Two-Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay Has Some of the Finest Snorkeling in the World: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Two-Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay Has Some of the Finest Snorkeling in the World: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Two-Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay: Class Triple-A waters, stuffed with a wide variety of brilliant tropical fish, set in a calm and protected bay, and frequently visited by dolphins, this snorkeling area near the grounds of one of the most important Hawai’ian archeological sites is perhaps the most popular and one of the three top places to snorkel on the island. It earns the top spot because of it’s easy accessibility.

Kealakekua Bay and Captain Cook Monument from Napo'opo'o: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kealakekua Bay and Captain Cook Monument from Napo'opo'o: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kealakekua Bay: Whether you hike or boat to Captain Cook Monument, or enter the bay to snorkel at the end of the road in Napo’opo’o, there is no place on earth that has better snorkeling or more fish than Kealakekua Bay. Frequented by both dolphin and whale, protected, Class Triple A waters and a setting unmatched in beauty anywhere, this the premiere place for kayak-to-snorkel adventures on the island. Arguably, this bay and the Hawaiian settlements that surround it, experienced the most momentous and important historical events yet to unfold in the human history of the state of Hawaii.

Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kahalu’u Beach: Referred to by many visitors as “Snorkel Beach” Kahalu’u is centrally located along Ali’i Drive in Kailua Kona. The welcoming waters are protected by a seawall and are amazingly warm, shallow and crystalline turquoise. The safety and ease of conditions here, many resident turtles and abundant colorful fish and the great facilities make this a perfect place to learn to snorkel, or for the tried and true veteran to “get wet and meet the fish”.

Hookena Beach in South Kona Is a Fabulous Beach Plunked Down in the Middle of Real Old Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hookena Beach in South Kona Is a Fabulous Beach Plunked Down in the Middle of Real Old Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Ho’okena Beach: Ho’okena Beach is a fabulously beautiful beach park well off the beaten path, plunked down in the honest-to-gosh old Hawaiian village of Ho’okena. This beach has an amazing array of underwater topography populated by perhaps the greatest variety of reef fish n the island; recently rebuilt, this park has fine facilities including a refreshment stand as well as snorkel and kayak rentals. Ho’okena is a true snorkeler’s mecca.

Long, Lonely and Wholly Wonderful Makalawena Beach in Kekahai State Park: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Long, Lonely and Wholly Wonderful Makalawena Beach in Kekahai State Park: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Makalawena Beach: Perhaps the loveliest wilderness beach in Polynesia, Makalawena is the perfect sand crescent, beach backed by palms and iron wood trees with morning-glory-draped sand dunes. A easy mile hike in from Kekaha Kai State Park keeps this beach uncrowded. Snorkeling here is better than perfect. Simply drive to Kekaha Kai State Park and walk the well-marked trail north to the beach.

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

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

Before we leave the topic of Best Snorkeling Beaches on the Island of Hawaii, we’d like to impress upon you the need to be proactive in keeping these places special and how to make your experience the best it can be. The open ocean is not your resort pool and deserves immense respect from you–the ocean is the strongest natural force on earth. Never snorkel alone, never turn you back on the ocean. Drink lots and lots of water; no, drink even more. Never snorkel after having consumed alcohol. Ask the lifeguard about conditions, chat with people coming out of the water about what they liked best and what conditions are like.

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

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

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

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

Please wear a hat and t-shirt to protect yourself from sunburn while in the water–never apply sunscreen just before entering the water,wait until you are done snorkeling and have rinsed off–sun-cream kills the coral and poisons the water. When in the water, do not stand directly upon the coral to rest, do not touch the coral or the fish; never feed the fish or other marine animals. Do not touch, approach, chase or harass the sea turtles, dolphins or whales–it’s not only dangerous, it’s illegal and will earn you a hefty fine. Always obey posted warnings and the lifeguard; do not swim in windy conditions (dangerous) or murky water (sharks); be aware of currents and rip tides. Jellies ride in with inshore breezes.

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

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

Get out before you feel tired, get out before you feel sunburned, get out before you get thirsty; get out before the wind comes up or the sun goes down; get out before you feel ready–you are more tired than you think. Rinse yourself and your gear off after snorkeling and remember to apply sun-cream liberally and often–you are getting more sun than you think. Always pack out everything you brought with you and dispose of your litter (and that stuff the ignorant slob over there left, as well) appropriately. These beaches get an enormous amount of pressure, try to leave Paradise a little nicer than you found it.

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

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

And for heaven’s sake, plunk-down ten bucks for a disposable underwater camera; in fact, buy two. I promise you will kick yourself from now until you return to Hawaii if you don’t! You will want to show the folks back home your snorkel adventures, which seem to always be the most memorable of any trip to Paradise. Trust me, any money you spend on disposable underwater cameras will be the best return on investment of any part of your Hawaii vacation.

A video introducing the subject of snorkeling, gear, technique and safety can be found here.

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

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

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

Monk seal at Honl's Beach near Kailua Kona: PHoto by Donald B. MacGowan

Monk seal at Honl's Beach near Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan.

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.

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.


Driving north past the Waikoloa Beach resorts, the next turn off will take you to the Mauna Lani Resorts. This area has 5 Star to 5 Diamond resorts. It also has some great petroglyph fields near the Orchid at Mauna Lani Resort and some relaxing beaches which are open to the public. Tour Guide gives you turn-be-turn directions to find these wonders easily. The Shops at Mauna Lani offers high end shopping and fine dining.

Another 10 minutes north, on Hwy 19, brings us to a three-way intersection where you’ll make a left turn (north) onto hwy 270 and drive along the Kohala Coast. This northern tip of the island is less populated and less traveled. The first left turn takes you to Pu’ukohola Heiau and Spencer Beach Park.


Pu’ukohola National Historic Park is a large reconstructed heiau (a Hawaiian temple site) with a visitor center and self-guided tour. Your Tour Guide will have all the history and stories about this legendary spot.

Spencer Beach Park is a favorite family beach with lots of facilities. Camping is available, by permit only, and the “no wave” sandy beach is great for young children. It is also a fabulous snorkel spot if you have your own equipment. Tour Guide will tell you about where to get camping permits, snorkel rentals and all the facilities that are available here.

As we continue driving north on Hwy 270, there are several smaller parks along the way. Tour Guide will tell you about all of them and their facilities. For history buffs, Lapahkahi State Park is a must stop. This re-creation of an ancient Hawaiian village is fascinating and free. Here you can see how a typical village was laid out and the huts that were used for housing. Whale watching from shore, during the winter months, is also very popular.


Super Tip: When driving in less populated areas, where there are less stores and restaurants, you will save money and frustration by bringing your own food and water. In these locations, even when you do find a store or diner, the items may cost much more. In addition, hours at gas stations vary by day of the week and time of year. It is wise to never let your gas tank get under half-full here. It is also wise to avail yourself of Public restrooms where you find them. Many of the restrooms in the smaller parks have been closed since the earthquake of 2006 and there are none available past the King Kamehameha Statue in the little town of Kapa’au.

Driving just a few minutes farther north, you’ll come to the town of Hawi (pronounced Haw VEE). A cute town with art galleries, souvenir stores, snacks shops and restaurants
(but not much more), Hawi is old Hawaii personified. Just a few minutes northbound brings you to the famous King Kamehameha statue in the small town of Kapa’au (kah pah OW). This is the birthplace of the storied first king to unite all the Hawaiian Islands under one rule. Tour Guide will present tons of info about the shops and restaurants in Hawi and Kapa’au, as well as about King Kamehameha himself.

Drive about 10 more minutes, to the end of the road, to view the Pololu Valley, one of Hawaii’s great scenic wonders. From the parking lot at the end of the road you can get some gorgeous photos. If you’re up for some hiking, the trail down to the valley floor is about a 20 minute hike. Bring plenty of water because the hike back up is a hot 45 minutes. Tour Guide will give you more info about what to bring, what to wear and what to expect in the valley itself.

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, go here and here. Tour Guide…for Hawaii fun and Big Island Adventure!

A montage of some of my favorite footage that Frank and I have shot of the Kilauea eruption, from the active vents at Pu’u O’o and Kupaianaha to the ocean entry at Waikupanaha, as well as day and night time footage of the summit eruption at Halema’uma’u. Sit back, turn up the speakers and enjoy–I’ve even recorded a new piece of music to go with it.

Produced by Donald B. MacGowan; videography by Frank Burgess and Donald MacGowan; Original music written and performed by Donnie MacGowan. For more information about traveling the Big Island in general and exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.
More information about the producer can be found here and here.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Halema'uma'u's Eruption Plume Glows in the Night Like the Door to Hades Was Left Ajar: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Reprinted from here.

It seems that something new and different is always cooking at Kīlauea. In December a change in the aroma coming from Pele’s kitchen was noticed by the HVO and National Park staffs, along with nearby residents. The biting, choking odor of sulfur dioxide (SO2) from Halema`uma`u that had inundated Volcano Village and the Golf Course subdivision during trade wind disruptions started to change. The pervasive odor of rotten eggs or sewer gas that tainted the air was caused by an increasing appearance of hydrogen sulfide (H2S.)

The presence of H2S at Kīlauea’s summit is not unusual in itself. Visitors to Sulphur Bank, located near Kīlauea Visitor Center, have long experienced the characteristic mix of odors. As Mark Twain quipped during his 1866 visit to Kīlauea, “The smell of sulphur is strong, but not unpleasant to a sinner.”

Twainian humor aside, H2S gas, like SO2, can be hazardous at concentrations greater than 5-10 parts per million (ppm). Eye irritation and headaches are frequently reported symptoms. The human nose—very sensitive to H2S when first smelled—is able to detect it at concentrations well below 1 part per million. Unlike SO2, however, olfactory fatigue causes a loss of odor sensitivity upon prolonged exposure. The State of Hawai`i hosts a 1-hour ambient air standard for H2S of 0.025 ppm. California enacted a similarly protective standard in 1969, targeted at decreasing odor annoyance. The World Health Organization established a 24-hour average guideline of 0.15 ppm intended to protect human health.

H2S is formed at Sulphur Bank when SO2 escaping from Kīlauea’s magma chamber rises and combines with ground water. The resulting chemical reaction, called hydrolysis, produces a mixture of SO2 and H2S at the surface. The amount of gas released is very small, and when the emissions are blown toward Halema`uma`u, they tend to affect only a small section of Crater Rim Drive.

Apart from the background Sulphur Bank gas emissions, HVO scientists have been watching carefully for appreciable H2S coming from the Overlook Vent at Halema`uma`u since the eruption began last March. A substantial increase in this gas, along with other eruptive indicators, might signal that a large amount of water was coming into close proximity of red-hot magma. The subsurface encounter of abundant groundwater and magma was the suspected culprit causing the explosive eruptions of 1924.

The lack of significant H2S presence at Halema`uma`u through late November reflected hot, dry conditions within the vent. And SO2 emissions remained high, as well, despite significant collapses of the vent rim and walls in September and October that added large amounts of rubble to the conduit bringing gas and other eruptive products to the surface.

This situation began to change in early December, when further collapses widened the vent rim to football playing-field size-100 m (110 yards) Accompanying the vent-widening was some seasonally notable rainfall. The gage at HVO recorded over a foot of rain in December, much of it during a single storm late in the month.

Hot, collapsed rim and wall rock accumulating in the vent, combined with the prodigious rainfall, provided good conditions to produce H2S from SO2 within the conduit. By mid-December, the vent had cooled somewhat, and the ratio of H2S to SO2 in the air near Halema`uma`u had climbed to higher levels than seen previously.

Despite the seemingly favorable H2S-producing conditions, the total emissions, while significant, were still less than one tenth those of SO2. HVO staff, however, watched the situation unfold with great interest, wondering what might happen next.

Pele’s SO2 exhalations were not to be dampened by a little rainfall, though. By mid-January, the rains had tapered off, and magma heat and gas from below the rubble in the vent appeared to burn through. By late January, faint glow was once again seen in the vent, and the presence of H2S declined to near background as the vent heated up and dried out. And so, for now, it seems that hot liquid rock is once again what’s cooking at Kīlauea’s summit kitchen. Ah, pungent sinner soup! Can you smell it? Can you taste it?

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 very 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. Variation in glow, gas-rushing sounds, and ash production over the past week may indicate that conduit beneath the vent is periodically being closed with debris.

Pu`u `Ō`ō continues to produce sulfur dioxide at even higher rates than the vent in Halema`uma`u Crater. 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.

Lava erupting from the Thanksgiving Eve Breakout (TEB) vent at the eastern base of Pu`u `Ō`ō continues to flow to the ocean at Waikupanaha through a well-established lava tube. Breakouts from a western branch of the lava tube were active on the coastal plain near the National Park boundary in the past week and reached the ocean again on January 28. This tiny, new ocean entry is located very close to the long-buried Waha`ula Heiau and National Park visitor center.

Be aware that active 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 many times over the last several months, with three of the collapses resulting in rock blasts that tossed television-sized rocks up onto the sea-cliff and threw fist-sized rocks more than 200 yards inland.

Do not approach the ocean entry or venture onto the 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. Four 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.

One earthquake beneath Hawai`i Island was reported felt within the past week. A magnitude-2.3 earthquake occurred at 1:20 a.m., H.s.t., on Tuesday, January 27, 2009, and was located 9 km (6 miles) northwest of Kukuihaele at a depth of 42 km (26 miles).

Visit our Web site (http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov) 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 askHVO@usgs.gov.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in generally and seeing the volcanoes on the Big Island in particular, please visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Reprinted from here.

Sulfur dioxide emissions from the Pu`u `Ō `ō vent on Kilauea's east rift (right foreground), and the summit vent in Halema`uma`u Crater (in front of Mauna Loa, left background), were being blown to the northeast by winter winds in this January 14, 2009, USGS photo.

Sulfur dioxide emissions from the Pu`u `Ō `ō vent on Kilauea's east rift (right foreground), and the summit vent in Halema`uma`u Crater (in front of Mauna Loa, left background), were being blown to the northeast by winter winds in this January 14, 2009, USGS photo.

What’s white and wet and green all over? Hint: this is a household problem that Big Island residents on rainwater catchment share with the citizens of Sweden. Answer: a bathtub or wash basin coated with green copper sulfate.

For newcomers to the island, it may be reassuring to learn that the green stuff on your plumbing fixtures is a mineral, not a vegetable. The sulfuric acid in our rain leaches copper from pipes and combines with soap to form copper sulfate that adheres to tubs.

Most of us know that we can thank our active volcano for the acidic rain. The ongoing summit and east rift eruptions of Kilauea are emitting 2,000 to 3,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere every day. SO2 and other volcanic gases interact with the atmosphere and sunlight to form sulfate particles and tiny droplets of sulfuric acid. This mixture is responsible for both acid rain and the haze we call vog.

But what about those green bathtubs in Sweden? By the 1970s, Scandinavians were also suffering from acid rain. With their high per-capita level of blondes, the Swedes were even reporting a problem with green hair. Unfortunately for them, the source of their pollution wasn’t a captivating volcano, but rather the heavily industrialized areas of Germany and Britain, where SO2 is created by burning sulfur-contaminated coal.

The most severe consequences of exposure to SO2 occurred in London in 1952, when a temperature inversion capped the city for four days, trapping a “black fog” of polluted air close to the ground. Many people died on the streets, and, in the end, 4,000 deaths were attributed to the smog. The primary cause of death was inhalation of SO2 and particulates created by coal-fired power plants and home furnaces.

The U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970 and similar measures in Western Europe resulted in much cleaner cities. However, some of this improvement was achieved by building ever taller smoke stacks, which caused the emissions to be carried hundreds of miles downwind, where hitherto pristine areas were plagued with acid rain. Acidification of lakes and soil in the U.S. northeast and Canada killed fish, damaged forests, and leached toxic metals into water supplies.

In 1990, Congress mandated that coal-fired power plants had to cut their SO2 emissions in half by 2010. Many plants found that meeting the new standards was more easily and cheaply achieved than first assumed, by switching to low-sulfur coal from Wyoming’s vast strip mines.

Too bad Kilauea can’t switch to low-sulfur magma! Since the new vent opened at the summit in March, SO2 emissions have increased by about 50 percent and vog impacts, especially to communities close to the source, have become even more serious. In addition to creating hazardous situations for people with respiratory ailments, farmers have suffered significant losses, prompting a disaster declaration from the USDA. A recent publication from the University Agricultural Extension Service, http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/PD-47.pdf, provides farmers with information on how to apply for relief funding. It is also useful for the home gardener, as it lists varieties of plants known to be susceptible to vog and has suggestions for helping to protect vulnerable plants. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions list online at http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/hazards/FAQ_SO2-Vog-Ash/main.html. Hawai`i County has advisories and a mitigation brochure on their website at http://www.lavainfo.us/. The State of Hawai`i also has online information at http://hawaii.gov/gov/vog.

Activity update

Kīlauea Volcano continues to be active. A vent in Halema`uma`u Crater is emitting elevated amounts of sulfur dioxide gas and has resumed 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. An increase in glow, gas-rushing sounds, and ash production over the past week indicates that lava may have risen to a shallower level beneath the vent.

Pu`u `Ō`ō continues to produce sulfur dioxide at even higher rates than the vent in Halema`uma`u Crater. 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.

Lava erupting from the Thanksgiving Eve Breakout (TEB) vent at the eastern base of Pu`u `O`o continues to flow to the ocean at Waikupanaha through a well-established lava tube. Breakouts from a western branch of the lava tube were active on the coastal plain near the National Park boundary in the past week and reached the ocean late on January 21 or early January 22. This tiny, new ocean entry is located very close to the long-buried Waha`ula Heiau and National Park visitor center.

Be aware that active 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 many times over the last several months, with three of the collapses resulting in rock blasts that tossed television-sized rocks up onto the sea-cliff and threw fist-sized rocks more than 200 yards inland.

Do not approach the ocean entry or venture onto the 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. Two 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.

Two earthquakes beneath Hawai`i Island were reported felt within the past week. A magnitude-3.9 earthquake occurred at 2:55 a.m., H.s.t., on Sunday, January 17, 2009, and was located 9 km (5 miles) south and offshore of Kalapana at a depth of 42 km (26 miles). A magnitude-3.1 earthquake occurred at 6:23 a.m. on Thursday, January 22, and was located 11 km (7 miles) southeast of Waiki`i at a depth of 11 km (7 miles).

Visit our Web site (http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov) 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 askHVO@usgs.gov. skip past bottom navigational bar

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, and for seeing the eruptions at Kilauea in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints: Kona Coast South of Honaunau to Ka’u

Driving south on Hwy 11 there isn’t too much to stop and see for several miles, so enjoy the panoramic views. Soon your Tour Guide will give you information about Ho’okena Beach and Milolii.

Ho’okena is a lovely gray sand beach about 5 miles off the main hwy. This is a nice beach for swimming, snorkeling and picnicking. There are some trails to hike and decent restrooms. Camping is also available by permit only. Your Tour Guide will give more information about trails to hike, camping, and where to get snorkel gear and camping permits.

Driving a few miles further, headed toward the volcano park, is the turn off for Milolii. Again about 5 miles off the main highway, Milolii is one of the last fishing villages in Hawaii. On the way down the views are spectacular, so keep your camera handy. Tour Guide will give you lots of history about this area, so make sure you listen to it on the way. If you are up for a short hike, park at the Miloli’i County Beach Park and hike the shoreline trail to beautiful, secluded, empty Honomalino Bay.

As with anywhere you travel, make sure to lock your vehicle when you leave it and don’t leave valuables in plain sight.

Tour Guide will show many other great places to explore as you continue driving south, including the famous, beautiful and wild South Point, southernmost point in the US. We’ll jump ahead at this point to the southernmost town in the United States, Na’alehu. This quaint plantation town is a throwback to when sugar cane was the main export. Na’alehu boasts being a favorite spot for Mark Twain to rest and enjoy the old Hawaii lifestyle. The Punalu’u Bakery has become famous throughout the state for their sumptuous sweet bread. These are just two great reasons to stop and take in some of the local flavor.

Driving about 10 miles further south, your Tour Guide will recommend the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, one of the top 44 sites on the Big Island. This beach is not only famous for the jet black sand but also for the Hawaiian Green sea turtles and the Hawksbill sea turtles who reside nearby. Often you can see these magnificent creatures sunning on the black sand and, at certain times of the year, nesting and laying their eggs. All turtles in Hawaii are endangered species so touching them is forbidden and a $20,000 dollar fine is strictly enforced. Get up close for photos but please leave them alone. Tour Guide will give you some of the rich history of this area as well.

Driving south from Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, you will notice the highway begin to ascend toward the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Just after you see the Volcano Park sign, there will be a small parking lot, on the ocean side of the hwy, called the Ka’u Desert Trail Head. A one mile hike on this trail will bring you to the warrior footprints and a petroglyph field. Tour Guide gives the stories and history of this fascinating area.

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


Written directed and produced by Donald B. MacGowan; Narrated by Frank Burgess; Original Musical Score by Donald B. MacGowan.

There are unusual, peculiar dangers to hiking on the lava plain that might not be obvious to the casual visitor. The steam clouds generated by the lava entering the sea contain fine, glassy particulate material as well as sulfuric and hydrochloric acids in concentration high enough to aggravate the very young and old, expectant mothers and people with respiratory and cardiac conditions. Over the past 20 years, a few adventurous people venturing too close to vents or the sea entries have asphyxiated from toxic gasses. The ocean near the lava entries is superheated and waves lapping on inviting black sand beaches can be scalding hot. Where explosive, the meeting of molten rock and sea can explode large, searing hot rocks hundreds of feet in the air and throw boiling water, splashing everywhere.

Methane explosions occur with no notice, dozens if not a hundred feet ahead of flows, flinging huge blocks hundreds of feet. Unstable benches that build up into the sea, and upon which the unwary hike and pause to photograph the scenery, are prone to collapse carrying all into the sea. Such collapses can cause local tidal waves which scour the landscape clean of everything as they pass. Thin lava crusts can hide lava tubes, caves, hollows and holes into which hikers occasionally fall and are caught.

A volcano is a naturally highly seismically active area and earthquakes are common (there are over 1200 measurable earthquakes a week on the Big Island). Less common, but certainly a constant threat, are local tsunamis generated by these earthquakes. The Park Service has roughly marked the trail to the lava; follow it closely, turning around frequently to acquaint yourself with landmarks for the hike back.

Be sure to take extra film for your camera and remember to wipe down all cameras, eyeglasses, binoculars, optics and electronics after your visit; the salt and volcano effluent-laden atmosphere is highly corrosive. Batteries may be drained faster than expected due to the high heat near the lava.

Despite the inherent dangers of hiking over liquid rock, steaming and unstable ground along the ever-restless sea, very few hikers are injured here, even fewer are killed. This is only because people enter the goddess’s home with a sense of awe and great caution, and the Rangers are very good about instilling fear and trepidation into the hearts of those who think themselves otherwise immune to the mortal dangers presented here. If you go, remain cautious and vigilant, plan for adversity, think ahead and pay attention. The rewards for this are a moving and amazing experience few ever have, a memory of mystery, awe and wonder to treasure always.

If you are planning on viewing the lava at night, be sure to remember that there will be no open gas stations or restaurants when you depart the Park until you reach either Kona or Hilo…plan accordingly, think ahead.

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