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by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kolekole Beach Park: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track.  Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

Kolekole Beach Park

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Stormy surf at Kolekole Beach, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Surprising, wild, lovely, peaceful Kolekole Beach Park is the jungle gem of the Hamakua Coast beach parks. The river you saw magnificently jumping with such abandon off the cliff at Akaka Falls ends its journey to the sea by sluicing down through this Koa and palm tree filled gulch and smashing into the surf at Kolekole Beach Park. Neatly hemmed on three sides by dense jungle canyon, Kolekole features lawns, picnic facilities, and a water-fall festooned swimming hole, all leading the visitor to the pounding, cobble beach in the furious surf.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The rope swing over the falls and lovely swimming hole are popular with everybody, Kolekole Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kolekole Beach park is located just north of mile marker 14 on Highway 19; the narrow access road turns sharply uphill just before the massive bridge over Kolekole Gulch. Kolekole means “raw” or “scarred” in Hawaiian suggestive of the raw gash of Kolekole Gulch, but the term has come to mean “talk story” in pidgin and that is what locals come here to do, “talk story” with friends and family as the fish, surf, barbecue and relax.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kolekole Jungle from the Old Mamalahoa Highway, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The lovely, jungle-draped access road tumbles down the steep slopes of Kolekole Gulch to the side of Kolekole Stream, which rises at about 8000 feet on eastern slope of Mauna Kea, flows over Akaka Falls and then down to Kolekole Beach. In addition to the koa trees, varieties of palm, banana, fern and liana vine and lots of orchids can be found along this road, growing down to the river. A remnant of the Old Mamalahoa Highway turns off from the access road at the bridge over Kolekole Stream, and runs through the incredible jungle all the way to Hakalau Gulch. This section of road used to be a very scenic drive until the earthquake of 2006 rattled the depression-era bridges.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Highway 19 Overpass at Kolekole Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

That huge, 100 foot high bridge that spans Kolekole Gulch, running over the park at the mouth of the stream, was originally built by the Hawai’i Consolidated Railway Company as a railway bridge. Debris from major damage to the bridge by the tsunami of 1946 are visible underneath, even today. Damage to this, and the other bridges up and down the Hamakua Coast forced the closure of the railroad line. The bridges had been repaired and rebuilt for automobiles by 1949, opening the connection between Honoka’a and Hilo once again.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The wild surf at Kolekole Beach is generally too rough to swim in, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Although locals surf and swim unconcernedly here, the visitor is advised to admire the water, but not go in. Not only are the currents and tides lethally treacherous here, but stream mouths and murky water are prime hunting grounds of Hawai’i’s own tiger, Mano, the shark. Remember that most all Hawai’i streams are infected with leptospirosis and giardia; do not drink from the streams, do not allow stream water to get into your mouth and do no attempt swimming in the stream if you have any open cuts or scratches.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kolekole River from the road, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Facilities at Kolekole Beach Park include picnic pavilions and tables, pit barbecues, showers, restrooms. There is no drinking water at the park; remember to bring your own. Camping is available by permit only; details are available here.  The park can be crowded on weekends but is generally deserted during the week.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Picnic Grounds at Kolekole Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The Old Mamalahoa Highway Crosses over Kolekole River, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

For independent reviews of our product, written by some of our legions of satisfied customers, please check this out.

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

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Everett Maynard at Kolekole Beach, Hilo Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hakalau Bay, Hamakua Coast, HawaiiL Grpahic from Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track.  Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

Hakalau Beach Park

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hahaklau Gulch Scenic Jungle Road, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Even amidst the tranquil and idyllic rural landscape of the Big Island, it is possible to feel as if the modern hustle and bustle of life on Hawaii has all but drowned out the tranquility and beauty of the ancient paradise which is the birthright of the Hawaiian people and about which American writers such as Samuel Clemens and Robert Louis Stevenson wrote with such passion.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hakalau Canyon Mouth and Beach; Stong currents and lethal rip tides make swimming here perilous: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Most definitely the tropical paradise you dreamed about visiting, this thick, lush jungle canyon is a stunning remnant of Old Hawai’i, leading along a rushing stream to a narrow canyon festooned with tropical blossoms, vines and palms to a sandy beach where the surf is nothing short of amazing, as are the views up and down the coast from here..

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hakalau Beach in the morning sun: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

One of the few navigable bays along this portion of the coast, but guarded by the tick jungle and immensely steep gulch, Hakalau inlet and each was a hideout for smugglers and bandits in earlier times.  The Hakalau Sugar Company built an enormous sugar mill and wharf here, which was destroyed by the tsunami of 1946-the twisted and battered remains of these structures are mute, but awe-inspiring, testament to the raw power of tsunamis.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Driving through the Old Hawaii Jungle is just one great reason to visit Hakalau Gulch on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

To reach the beach, turn off the belt highway just north of mile marker 15 and drive through old sugar fields, past the remnant of the village of Hakalau stay on the road as it narrows and turns to dirt and drive down the gulch.

The Hakalau Gulch Road is rough and definitely not for passenger vehicles.  This road goes through puddles, deep potholes and at least one point, the roadbed and creek bed are the same. Remembering that even 6 inches of rapidly flowing water can carry a car away, drive through the creek only if it is slowly flowing and the water is fewer than 8 inches deep. If the road seems impassable, or the gate is locked, simply park by the gate and walk down—it’s a short and soul-soothing walk.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Twisted and Broken ruins of Hakalau Sugar Mill and Wharf remind visitors of the unimaginable power otsumanis, Hakalau Gulch, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The huge bridge over the next gulch north from Hakalau has a fabulous view of two waterfalls.  Pictures of these can be taken from the bridge by parking at a small turnout on the north side and walking back across the bridge…watch carefully for traffic, this is not as safe as it seems.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Beach Sculpture at Hakalau Beach, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Although locals surf and swim unconcernedly here, the visitor is advised to admire the water, but not go in.  Not only are the waves, currents and rip tides lethally treacherous here, but the stream mouth and murky water are prime hunting grounds of Hawai’i’s own tiger, Mano, the shark.

Once you leave the highway, there are no services along the road or at Hakalau Beach.

Woke up before the morning sun I found it tucked beneath the hills I sat and watched it rise It hit the sky and burst to flames The lotus flower's Got me thinking bout the way we live I've got this feeling It's gonna stop

Hakalau Beach In the Mist, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

At Tour Guide our goal is to insure you have the most fun, most interesting and enjoyable vacation here in Hawaii–that you are provided with all the information you need to decide where to go and what to see, and that you are not burdened with out-dated or incorrect information.

For independent reviews of our product, written by some of our legions of satisfied customers, please check this out.

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

Woke up before the morning sun I found it tucked beneath the hills I sat and watched it rise It hit the sky and burst to flames The lotus flower's Got me thinking bout the way we live I've got this feeling It's gonna stop

The indispensible iPhone App for Hawaii Visitor's at iTunes and http://www.tourguidehawaii.com

by Donald B. MacGowan

Aerial View of Kiholo Bay, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Aerial View of Kiholo Bay, Kohala Coast, 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.

Sunset View of Haleakala on Maui From Kiholo Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Sunset View of Haleakala on Maui From Kiholo Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Even choosing which beach you want to spend time or where you want to hike can be an exercise in confusion and conflicting advice.  Clearly, visitors to Hawaii could use help making quality decisions about how best to spend their time.

All that remains of a mile-long fishpond that was destroyed by flowing lava are these gorgeous, turquoise brackish ponds: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

All that remains of a mile-long fishpond that was destroyed by flowing lava are these gorgeous, turquoise brackish ponds: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Tour Guide Hawaii is excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, let’s look at one, hidden but gorgeous, beach hike you would otherwise not find if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Kiholo Bay on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kiholo Bay on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kiholo Bay Beach Hike

Snorkeling, country music history ancient fish ponds and medical science…what more could anyone ask for? One of West Hawaii’s best kept secret is gorgeous, amazing Kiholo Bay, those heavenly, turquoise waters and swaying palms you can’t quite glimpse clearly from the overlook at mile marker 82 on the Hawaii Belt Road.

The View of Kiholo Bay From the Hawaii Belt Road: Photo  by Donald B. MacGowan

The View of Kiholo Bay From the Hawaii Belt Road: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Dirt road into Kiholo Bay, just south of the 82 mile marker on the Hawaii Belt Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Dirt road into Kiholo Bay, just south of the 82 mile marker on the Hawaii Belt Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This remarkable, beautiful and sadly popular area is accessed in two ways; first, by a gravel road going ocean-ward from the highway immediately south of the Overlook pullout at mile marker 82. This road is only open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but accesses the south end of the bay, a pebbly beach terminated in austere a’a flows to the south. The round house on the beach was built by country and western singer Loretta Lynn, but was condemned and taken by the State when it created the beach park. Swimming and boogie boarding here are excellent in low to moderate surf, but beware of current and surginess; if the surf is high, do not go in.

Kiholo Bay, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kiholo Bay, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A trail south below the big mansion on the headland leads about three quarters of a mile to a tiny black sand beach with an amazing coral garden. This little beach is my favorite snorkeling secret on the island.

The road south from Kiholo Bay dead ends at an elaborate mansion; from there a trail can be taken around the headland to a remarkable black sand cove that provide gorgeous, if exposed, snorkeling: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The road south from Kiholo Bay dead ends at an elaborate mansion; from there a trail can be taken around the headland to a remarkable black sand cove that provide gorgeous, if exposed, snorkeling: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A 4WD road/trail continues north along the black pebble beach and cliffs to Kiholo Bay proper. This part of the Kiholo Area can also be accessed via a trail (used to be a dirt road) that leaves the parking lot immediately south of mile marker 81. Along the 4WD trail, on the mauka (uphill) side, is a freshwater spring and pond in a lava tube (Keanalele Water-hole), a great place to rinse off after swimming or hiking along the beach. Please rinse off excess suncream in the ocean before enjoying this refreshing pool.

Keanalele Water-hole, a freshwater Queen's Basth in a lava tube, near Kiholo Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Keanalele Water-hole, a freshwater Queen's Basth in a lava tube, near Kiholo Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Also along this portion of the beach are a number of mansions, most notably the Bali House (oh, you’ll know it when you see it) and the home of Earl Bakken, the billionaire inventor of the pace maker. Believe the no trespassing signs you see here. On clear days, views of Mauna Kea from this part of the beach are stunning.

There are some amazing multi-million dollar mansions along the beach; believe the "no-trespassing" signs: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are some amazing multi-million dollar mansions along the beach; believe the "no-trespassing" signs: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Just north of Kiholo Bay is a beautiful, turquoise brackish lagoon, all that remains of a 2-mile long fishpond erected by Kamehameha the Great around 1810, which was destroyed by the Mauna Kea lava flow of 1859. The water can be a might cloudy for snorkeling, but it’s full of turtles and, on calm days, has one amazing attribute. If wind is not driving surge-mixing of these ponds, lighter, fresh water from springs will float on top of the heavier salt water. This fresh/salt water interface produces a refractive lens that creates interesting and amazing optical tricks for the snorkeler.

A Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, or Honu, Suns Herself at Kiholo Bay on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, or Honu, Suns Herself at Kiholo Bay on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Full of turtles, beautiful to swim and a wonderful place to learn to surf, Kiholo Bay proper has it all. In addition, the sweat required to reach it has the added bonus of weeding out the undesirables. Please remember not to approach or harass the turtles. Dolphin (and humpback whale in season) frequent this bay—it is also illegal (and stupid) to harass them. Be careful to pack out everything you packed in, and help the environment by picking up that other guy’s litter, as well.

The Brackish Lagoons of Kiholo Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGown

The Brackish Lagoons of Kiholo Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

As of this writing, camping is not being allowed at Kiholo Bay, although many people do camp here…be advised that the road is locked at night and you will not be able to leave.

A relaxed lifestyle is enjoyed by the few, but extremely wealthy, residents of Kiholo Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A relaxed lifestyle is enjoyed by the few, but extremely wealthy, residents of Kiholo Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

The View of Mauna Kea From Kiholo Bay, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The View of Mauna Kea From Kiholo Bay, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

Hapuna Beach

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

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

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

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

Waialea Beach (Beach 69)

69 West Side Beaches 1_edited-1

Waialea Beach (Beach 69) Is An Ideal Family Beach and Is Almost Always Uncrowded: Photo by nie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

A River of Lava Flows Down The Pali Toward The Ocean Entry at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Big Island Air

A River of Lava Flows Down The Pali Toward The Ocean Entry at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Big Island Air

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.

Glow From the Vent in Halema'uma'u, Kilauea Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan August 2008

Glow From the Vent in Halema'uma'u, Kilauea Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan August 2008

Even choosing what activities you want to participate in…do you want to snorkel, hike, go on a whale watching tour?  We highly recommend you go hiking on your visit…but where do you go?  Many of the justly famous mountains, canyons and beaches of Hawaii all have superlative hikes, but which are best?  Which suit your interests?  Are you looking for an experience that is away from crowds, secluded and empty or one that’s exciting, but perhaps a little more tame?  Do you want to hike near your resort or find one that’s at the end of a day of delicious wandering?  Do you have the hankering to climb Hawaii’s highest peak, and the world’s highest peak from base to summit?  How about a stroll through dryland forest, over ancient lava fields to a wilderness beach? And what about hiking to the Lava…is that really safe?  Is it as unimaginably magical as it sounds?

Ranked in order, with the best on top, are our picks of the finest hikes 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 in their own right 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 trail time.  When you arrive we ask that you treat these special places, and the people who live near them, with care, respect and aloha.

Explosion Cloud of Littoral Explosion at the Waikupanaha Lava Ocean Entry, Big Island, Hawaii:  Photo by Donad B. MacGowan

Explosion Cloud of Littoral Explosion at the Waikupanaha Lava Ocean Entry, Big Island, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Lava Viewing at Waikupanaha Ocean Entry: This is truly the one “Must-See” trip for every visitor to Hawaii Island; the unimaginable spectacle and beauty of the earth remaking herself thorough volcanic eruption.  Explosions, glowing and flowing lava, waterspouts. lightening and every kind of geological excitement you can imagine, located at the end of an extremely short hike along a trail that is accessible to almost everyone.  See a video here.

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

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

Kilauea Iki Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: An amazing, wonderful walk through lovely fern and ohi’a forest down the sides and onto the still-steaming floor of an enormous volcanic crater that was, only a few short decades ago, the hellish cauldron of a frothing, liquid lava lake of fire. A fascinating, 4 mile/2 ½ hour loop hike of only moderate difficulty, most people in only fair shape can easily complete it in a couple hours. See a video here.

The Beautiful Green Sand Beach at South Point of the Island of Hawaii is Reached by an Easy 2 1/4 Mile Hike: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Beautiful Green Sand Beach at South Point of the Island of Hawaii is Reached by an Easy 2 1/4 Mile Hike: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach at South Point: One of a handful of true green sand beaches in the world, the Mahana Green Sand Beach near South Point is not to be missed.  Beautiful, haunting, intriguing. Although the hike is 2 ¼ miles each way, the trail is relatively flat and easily followed. Swimming and snorkeling in the bay is fabulously weird due to the water color, just be wary of currents out from the mouth of the bay.

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

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

Mauna Kea Summit: Whether you struggle up the 6-mile climb from the Visitor’s Information Station, or take the 20 minute short hop hike from the end of the road, visiting the summit of Mauna Kea should be on every visitor’s wish list of things to do.  Simultaneously the highest point in the state of Hawaii and the tallest mountain from base to summit on earth, Mauna Kea is an otherworldly, unique, starkly beautiful place.  The hiker is reminded to be wary of changeable weather, severe snow storms that can strand you, altitude sickness, dehydration and sunburn. See a video here.

Makalawena Beach: Perhaps the loveliest 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, camping here is so wonderful we don’t know why it’s not mandatory.

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

Captain Cook Monument on Kealakekua Bay:  Accessed by a steep trail this 2.5-mile hike takes about 1-1 1/2 hours to descend, somewhat more time to come back up.  The snorkeling at the monument is second to none and the hike is a fabulous walk back in time, through fruit groves, cattle pastures, lava flows and an abandoned Hawaiian village.  Take water, a lot of water, there is none to drink anywhere along the trail or at the bay, once you are there or on the all-uphill hike out. See a video here.

The Captain James Cook Monument at Ka'awaloa Village in Kealakekua: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Captain James Cook Monument at Ka'awaloa Village in Kealakekua: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waipi’o Valley: An amazing hike into the Waipi’o fastness, down a steep narrow road to the largest black sand beach on the island.  If vast open spaces, scenery, wild tropical flowers, waterfalls and amazing beaches are your thing, this is your hike.  Once on the valley floor, exploring along the beach or farther on to subsequent valleys can take hours, or days, depending on your level of energy and interest.

Waipi'o Valley on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi'o Valley on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Honomalino Beach: Starting in the Old Hawaiian Fishing Village of Miloli’i, the hike wanders along the coast in and out of the surf line to the wild and untamed Honomalino Bay—a wonderful place to picnic, snorkel or kayak. Exploring on foot in the area of the bay provides many wonders and archeological treasures, from abandoned temples and villages to the largest holua, or sledding track, in Hawaii. Remember to respect the Hawaiian natives, their culture and their sacred sites.

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For more information on 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.

Lava from Kilauea Enters the Sea at Waikupanahu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava from Kilauea Enters the Sea at Waikupanahu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

Sometimes lost in the shuffle between visiting the mile-long sugar-sand beaches of Kohala and the spectacular snorkeling at the Kona-side beaches, the southern beaches of Hawaii Island are by no means second class, poor cousins. Beautiful and alluring in their own right, many are highly unique, offering unusual conditions and rare scenery, and all are well worth visiting. Here is a smattering of the best of the Southern Beaches of Hawaii Island. All these beaches are a bit off the beaten track and, with the exception of Punalu’u, aren’t on any standard tour of the island. Many of these are remote, none are crowded.

We always advise visitors to be careful with their possessions and leave no valuable in the cars. The locals are friendly and open, so smile, talk story with them and open yourself to an adventure that only begins with visiting the beaches.

Mahana Green Sand Beach

The Beautiful Green Sand Beach at South Point of the Island of Hawaii is Reached by an Easy 2 1/4 Mile Hike: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Beautiful Green Sand Beach at South Point of the Island of Hawaii is Reached by an Easy 2 1/4 Mile Hike: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Absolutely unique to the island of Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the handful of green sand beaches composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these. The sand grains on this beach are formed from olivine crystals weathering out of the lava and cinders from the cone over an eruptive vent that has been partially breached by the sea. The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the somewhat protected cove formed by the remnant of the cone makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot. Be very wary of currents and do not go out far nor in at all if the surf is high or there are strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.

To get here drive to South Point and, when the road splits, take the Mahana Boat Ramp branch of the road. Park just above the boat ramp for the 2 1/4 mile hike to the Green Sand Beach. Road conditions along the road to the beach vary dramatically from week to week and the road becomes impassable with even a gentle rain; therefore we do not suggest driving it at all but enjoy the short, pleasant hike. There are no services or facilities here. At all. None. And a goodly long way to drive to get to any…plan and act accordingly.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park

Bradford MacGowan Filming at Punalu'u Beach: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Bradford MacGowan Filming at Punalu'u Beach: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

A truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing, Punalu’u’s black sand-lined coves and beaches are world-renowned. Dozens of endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles swim the waters of Kuhua Bay, Ninole Cove and Punalu’u Harbor and frequently bask on Kaimu Beach here. 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. Snorkeling, picnicking and camping, or just relaxing on the beach, are major destination pass-times here.

Punalu’u means “springs you swim to”; it is the abundance of these fresh water springs just offshore that makes swimming at Punalu’u so cold and this settlement site so important to the ancient Hawai’ians. In pre-contact times, due to the scarcity of fresh water along the Ka’u coast, Hawaiians would swim out into Kuhua Bay with stoppered gourds, dive down on top the springs, unstopper the gourds and, by upending them underwater, fill them with the fresh spring water emanating from the floor of the bay. These springs are one of the very few sources of fresh water on this entire end of the island.

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. Due to chilly waters, off-shore winds, strong currents and a fearsome rip, swimmers and snorkelers should use caution when swimming at Punalu’u, but it’s hard to resist getting in and swimming with all those turtles.

Kaimu Black Sand Beach

Kaimu Black Sand Beach near the Village of Kalapana: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kaimu Black Sand Beach near the Village of Kalapana: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The state’s newest black sand beach, Kaimu Beach, is a barren crescent of sand fronting an unforgiving expanse of lava from the 1990 flows. The old beach and the fishing village of Kalapana that stood along it are long gone, buried under 50-75 feet of lava. The palm trees growing along this trail are the result of one woman’s commitment not to allow her community, her beach, her culture to die under the lava. Planting thousands of palm sprouts, she encouraged her community, school children state wide and hundreds of others to plant the young trees. Today, the realization of her vision of rebirth is in the growing palm groves out on the barren lava plain. The trail to the new black sand beach is marked with these young palms.

Near the parking area along the path are exposed fossils, lava casts of palm trees and other plants…keep a sharp eye out, they are everywhere. Swimming is hazardous at the new beach, so is surfing, the ocean currents being strong and treacherous. But take some time to relax, wade, feel the sand beneath your feet and contemplate the drive of one dying woman to rebuild a world she loved from a devastation few of us can imagine. From the lava hillocks along the trail are nice views of the eruption plume at Pu’u O’o, on the flank of Kilauea as well as the steam clouds where the lave enters the sea at Waikupanaha. This is one of the few places where both can be seen easily and at the same time.

Kehena Beach

Kehena in Puna is a Gorgeous Gem of a Beach; Frequently Clothing Optional, There Is a Sense of Both Community and Welcome Here: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kehena in Puna is a Gorgeous Gem of a Beach; Frequently Clothing Optional, There Is a Sense of Both Community and Welcome Here: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When the eruption of 1955 created this beautiful black sand beach, the County was swift to capitalize on it and, creating a wonderful beach park, built stone steps down the cliff to the beach. When the beach dropped a full 3 feet during an earthquake in 1975 the stairs were shattered. Like so much else around this island, these stairs were never rebuilt and today terminate about ten feet above the current level of the beach—if you want to get down to the beach, therefore, you must take the dirt path that goes out of the left side of the parking lot.

Once on the beach the first thing that may strike you is that many of the locals who frequent this park have forgotten to put on proper beach attire…or any other attire whatsoever, for that matter. The second thing that will strike you is what a lovely, wonderful spot this is. In the shade of palms and ironwood this wonderful beach is generally sunny even when the rest of Puna is rainy. Swimming here is great, but ocean currents are strong and dangerous not far from shore. The locals are friendly but frisky, so don’t leave valuables in your car.

Pohoiki Beach at Isaac Hale Beach Park

Looking Across Pohoiki Beach to Isaac Hale County Beach Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Looking Across Pohoiki Beach to Isaac Hale County Beach Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A lovely black sand beach with an expert surf break, Pohoiki Beach is one of the very few real beaches and boat ramps in Puna District; as such this park sees a lot of traffic. It is also the site of the best surfing and some of the wildest snorkeling and scuba diving in Puna. If you do get in the ocean here, go in left of the boat ramp—be alert to bodacious boat traffic (they won’t be alert for you) and for fairly dangerous ocean currents. Understandably, given the crowded nature of this small place, some locals are less than welcoming of visitors. Graciously share this ocean treasure with the residents, but and leave no valuables in your car.

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

The facilities at Isaac Hale Park Beach Park have been recently rebuilt, refurbished, upgraded and expanded considerably—this once run-down park is now a quite well-appointed. The facilities include of expanded parking, soccer fields, picnic tables, showers and port-a-potties. Camping is allowed with a Hawaii County permit.

Kapoho Tide Pools

The Kapoho Tide Pools Offer a Unique, Fascinating Snorkeling Experience: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Kapoho Tide Pools Offer a Unique, Fascinating Snorkeling Experience: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Stuffed with abundant sea life, this sprawling basin of lava tidal pools is a remarkable treasure for snorkelers of all abilities from the starkly frightened to the seasoned veteran. Moorish idols, yellow tangs, various wrasses and eels, sea urchins and sea cucumbers abound and there are even some nice corals in the deeper pools. The largest pool is called “Wai Opae”, which means “fresh water shrimp”. Keeping to the left of the main channel keeps one away from most of the ocean currents, which can be surprisingly strong, even in small channels, where ponds empty into the ocean.

An amazing place to spend the day, Kapoho Tide Pools has wonderful snorkeling for people of all levels as well as other general beach activities, including just plain beach exploring, shell collecting, swimming and fishing. No real facilities exist here beyond the parking lot, so come prepared.

Hawaii's Beaches Offer Much More Than Just Sunbathing and Snorkeling--Many Are Associated With Cultural or Historical Sights and Have Intersting Tidepools and Wildlife.  Here, Endangered Green Sea Turtles Leave Enigmatic Tracks In The Sand At Punalu'u Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaii's Beaches Offer Much More Than Just Sunbathing and Snorkeling--Many Are Associated With Cultural or Historical Sights and Have Interesting Tidepools and Wildlife. Here, Endangered Green Sea Turtles Leave Enigmatic Tracks In The Sand At Punalu'u Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

By Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

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

A video covering many of these topics is available here.

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

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan.

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

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

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

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The current structures seen at ‘Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built in 1975 under the auspices of the Bishop Museum with financial help from the Hotel King Kamehameha and are constructed to 1/3 the original scale. Here, there is a veritable forest of of carved, wooden sacred images in the “Kona Style”, considered the most refined in all Polynesia.  More about Ahu’ena Heiau can be found, here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kona Inn Shops: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kona Inn Shops: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

Kailua Famer's Market: Photo by Harvey Bird Watching

Kailua Farmer's Market: Photo by Harvey Bird Watching

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

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

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

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

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

Public Queensbath Tidepool: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Public Queensbath Tidepool: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, hosting the greatest density of hammerhead sharks anywhere in the Pacific Ocean and providing some truly breathtaking snorkeling, Kealekekua Bay is one of the most truly 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 rising among the ruins of Ka’awaloa Village. High along the cliff walls can be seen numerous burial caves of the iwi (bones) of Ali’i, and in the late afternoon light, a greyish streak is visible on the northwest wall. Local legend has it that a canon-ball fired by Cook to impress the Hawai’ians left this streak as it smeared and bounced along the cliff. Close in along the beach, historic Hikiau (Moving Current) Heiau stands through the ages, witness to the tsunami of enormous changes that swept through Hawai’i with the coming of Cook and the Europeans, which began right here at Kealekekua Bay.

Perhaps the most sought-after snorkeling area in Hawai’i, visitors frequently kayak from Napo’opo’o to the monument to enjoy the Class Triple-A waters and abundant sea life. However, the monument is also accessible by hiking a trail down from the highway; this hike takes 4-6 hours round trip and drinking water is not available anywhere along the journey.

Written, filmed, directed and produced by Donald B. MacGowan.

For more information on visiting and exploring the Big Island of Hawaii, visit: www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

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