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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.

Waikupanaha lava ocean entry, Puna Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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.

Flowing lava from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Drive through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Puna

Truly a land of heart-rending beauty and stark contrasts, Hawaii’s best scenery and most exotic locations are showcased in this scenic drive through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the District of Puna. Although many visitors tour the National Park, very few ever venture into neighboring, fascinating, Puna—which is a real shame. The icy heights of Mauna Loa’s summit contrast against the steaming jungles of Puna, where wave-washed, fiery lava flows form land so new it’s still steaming. With secret hot springs, ancient temples, lava trees, craters, caves and beaches—and of course the glowing lava–this scenic drive displays the amazing diversity, indescribable beauty and soul-filling serenity of the paradise we call Hawaii.

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.

Hiking to the lava flows in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

This scenic drive can be started from anywhere on the island, but the road log begins at the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park just northwest of mile marker 28 on Highway 11. The tour is laid out so that you spend the morning in the Park, the afternoon touring Puna and wind up at the Waikupanaha Lava viewing area in late afternoon—in time to make the very short hike in and watch Madam Pele’s fireworks at dusk. It’s best, less hurried, if you start this tour before nine in the morning, at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, however that means a 6:30 am departure time for those leaving Kona (the mileage signs may say only 97 miles from Kailua to the Park, but the road is only 35 miles an hour—slow down! Dis ain’t da mainland!). Remember the drive back to your resort will be in the dark. The roads are well marked and safe, but food and gas will be impossible to find at night outside of Kea’au or Kona. You’re going exploring…be prepared!

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 current eruption in Halema'uma'u Crater on the summit of Kilauea Volcanoes, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leg 1) Proceed on Hwy 11 to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Entrance and jct with Crater Rim Drive; Crater Rim Drive west to Kilauea Visitor’s Center to Jagger Museum, then back around Crater Rim Drive to the intersection with Chain of Craters Road.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National 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.

The night time glow from Halema'uma'u Crater on Kilauea Volcano seems as if the door to Hades itself has been left ajar; Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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.

Sunrise on Mauna Loa from Crater Rim Drive; Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

A more thorough discussion of exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is contained here.

Kilauea Visitor Center

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.

Kilauea Visitor's Center at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Newly remodeled and updated, the Kilauea Visitor’s Center is an outstanding resource of information on Hawaii’s volcanoes and the National Park; the not-to-be-missed first stop in the park you must make. The Center is run by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff that has the most up-to-date information on viewing the eruption, hiking and camping, bird watching, stargazing and just about any other topic of interest to Park visitors.

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.

Kilauea Crater, with the current eruption of Halema'uma'u Crater inside, from the Jagger Museum, Hawai Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Available for sale in the Center are maps, guidebooks, books and videos about the volcanoes, Hawai’iana, history, plants and every topic you can imagine pertinent to the Park, even souvenirs. There are free brochures and pamphlets on various trails, attractions, hiking safety and lava viewing hazards and precautions. The Visitor Center is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; there are public restrooms, water and pay phones available. Starting at 9 a.m. and showing every hour on the hour is a 20 minute informative movie about the Park; the film changes from time to time, but always contains spectacular footage of eruptions, information on volcanology and the natural and human history of the Park.

Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory

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

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.

Students learn from the interesting and varied displays at the Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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.

Rainbow over the Holei Pali at Kealakomo Overlook, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leg 2) Crater Rim Drive to intersection with Chain of Craters Road; Chain of Craters Road to End of Road.

End of Chain of Craters Road

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

Ancient Hawaiian rock carvings at Pu'u Loa Petroglyph Field, the largest petroglyph field in all of Polynesia: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Many visitors to the Park don’t bother with the drive down Chain of Craters Road, not knowing what marvels await them on this fabulous exploration of Hawaii’s volcanic exploration. The story of Hawaii’s fiery birth is laid bare along this 22-mile tour beside an active volcanic rift zone, featuring heart-stopping drops into craters, driving through recent flows, across an enormous fault with a 1000 foot throw and past steaming volcanic peaks. Along Crater Rim Drive is Pua Loa Petroglyph field, a glimpse into the barely-remembered past of how ancient Hawaiians related to the mysteries of their Goddess Pele and her volcanoes. At the end of the road is the fabulous, untamed coastline with booming waves pounding sea cliffs and arches—the intensity, wildness and energy of this place are almost an electric experience.

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, pounding ocean, the distant eruption and the eerie emptiness can make the End of the Road on Chain of Craters Road feel like the End of the World! Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The end of Chain of Craters Road is currently at the 19 mile marker near the Holei Sea Arch. This is where the road was cut off by flowing lava and the old, 2 million dollar visitor center was destroyed. During those times when the lava is flowing near the end of the road, here, one can walk right up to it. There are displays about the volcano and natural history of the area, as well as a wealth of information on hiking to, and viewing, the lava, available 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.

When lava is flowing near the end of Chain of Craters Road in the National Park, you can walk right up to it! Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Generally, the flowing lava is 2-6 miles away from the end of the road. Hiking all the way out to the active flows is one of the most spiritually rewarding, awe-inspiring, curiosity quenching and amazing things one can do anywhere in the world—but it is neither for the physically unfit nor the meek of spirit. It is a long, hot hike over broken ground and glass-sharp rocks; the heat from the volcano is savage; the weather, if clear, is sweltering…frequent squalls blow in off the ocean and the rain and wind can get pretty wild out on the lava plain where there is absolutely no cover or shelter to protect you. No water or shade is available anywhere along the hike. You should carry working flashlights (check them before you leave) for the hike back in the dark. If you go, be prepared.

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.

Pohoiki Bay at Isaac Hale Beach Park in Puna, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leg 3) Follow Chain of Craters Road back uphill to Crater Rim Drive, follow Crater Rim Drive back to Park Entrance and then to Hwy 11. Go east on Hwy 11 to jct with Hwy 130 at Kea’au; take Hwy 130 south to Pahoa.

This is about the mid-point of the trip. From here, you plunge deep into the jungles, beaches, lava flows and mystery that is Puna. Since this trip description assumes you will stay at the lava viewing area until after dark, and most gas stations, stores and many restaurants close at dusk in this part of Hawaii, it is highly advisable that you fill your gas tank and buy sufficient food and water to last until you return to your resort. No, honestly—do it now.

Puna District and Pahoa Town

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.

Morning reflection in a hot spring near Ahalanaui Hot Pond at Pu'ala'a County Park, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

At the center of Puna is Pahoa Town; wild, untamed and even a bit unruly, with its false-front, western-style buildings and raised wooden sidewalks, Pahoa looks more like it belongs in Wyoming. But Wild West isn’t the only subculture evident here…tie-dye banners and the general “flower-power” ambiance some businesses and citizens lend Pahoa give it a decidedly “’60’s” feel.

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.

Charming Pahoa Town Maintains Its Eclectic Mix of Western and neo-Victorian Architecture, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

It has been said of Pahoa that if it weren’t for counter-cultural influences, it would have no cultural influences at all. The charm and allure of this way of living is evident when you consider that the region around Pahoa is the fastest growing portion of the island. Pahoa has some of the best restaurants on the island, THE best natural foods store and a great public pool.

Follow these links to find more information about exploring mysterious and alluring Puna in general and Pahoa in particular.

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 Lacy Tree Tunnels of Puna, Famed in Song, Legend and Fable; Puna, Hawaii: Photo 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.

Casts of Ohi'a trees at Lava Tree Monument, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leg 4) At Pahoa, get on Hwy 132 and drive south to Lava Trees State Park.

Lava Trees State Monument

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.

Looking down the tree mold at Lava Trees State Monument, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Under a lacy canopy of monkeypod trees, casts of ohi’a trees stand as monuments to a fast-moving pahoehoe lava flow that passed through here in 1790. When the lava hit the water-saturated ohi’a trees, it cooled and began to congeal around them. The original ohi’a trees burned away but the quickly cooled lava around them stands here today, hollow, with imprints of the tree bark inside. Lava Trees Park offers trails to hike and a restful, bird-filled jungle to sit and listen to. You can spend between 20 minutes to an hour wandering the trails, here, exploring and discovering. Be careful, however, the area is riddled with hidden cracks in the ground which can make exploring hazardous. You may wish to avail yourself of the restrooms here; they are the last public facilities for some distance. Follow these links for more information on the wonders of Lava Trees State Monument and the amazing Tree Tunnels of Puna.

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

Modern Stone Carving at Kalapana Village in Puna, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Leg 5) From lava Trees State Park take Hwy 132 to jct with Hwy 137 at Kapoho; take Hwy 137 southwest to Ahalanui Pond then to Kaimu Black Sand Beach and Kalapana Disaster of 1990.

Ahalanui Pond

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.

Ahalanui Hot Pond, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Also called “Secrets Beach”, this spring and ocean-fed, manmade pool was initially constructed when the springs ran chilly cold. Eruptions in Puna during the ‘50s and 60’s reworked the subterranean waterworks and now the springs run hot and the pool is a comfortably warm 90-95 degrees. The open connection to the ocean, keeps the water fresh. With the gentle aloha breezes, swaying palms and surf whooshing against the, it can be really hard to drag oneself out. Soak for a while. Picnic tables, pavilions, pit barbecues, showers, lawns and all the pleasantries of a civilized park are available at Ahalanui Pond. Leave no valuables in your car and be vigilant if you stay soaking here, after dark. Follow the links for more information Ahalanui Pond and nearby Isaac Hale County Beach Park.

Kalapana Disaster of 1990/Kaimu Black Sand Beach

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.

Coconut trees sprout near the newly formed Kaimu Black Sand Beach in Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

In 1990 the volcano goddess Pele determined it was time for some serious housecleaning in Puna. Lava flows from Kilauea’s East Rift engulfed the villages of Royal Gardens, Kaimu and Kalapana, destroying virtually everything.

Buried were a centuries old fishing village and a world famous black sand beach. When the lava came, it wiped out not just material possessions; it wiped out a way of life and a landscape cherished by generations. The Big Island’s newest black sand beach, Kaimu Beach, is a lovely if barren crescent of sand at the end of an unforgiving expanse of lava from the 1990 flows. The trail to the new black sand beach is marked with hundreds of young palms, numerous lava casts which include palms, pandanus fruit and even some fish that were caught in tide pools.

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.

Kaimu Black Sand Beach, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

From the lava hillocks along the trail you can get nice views of the eruption plume at Pu’u O’o, up on the flank of Kilauea, as well as the steam clouds down a few miles along the coast where the lava enters the sea. Restrooms and fast food are available at the end of the road. Follow this link to read more about Kalapana and Kaimu Black Sand Beach.

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.

Eruption plume at Waikupanaha Lava Viewing Area, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leg 6) From Kalapana, take Hwy130 (Ahia Road) just a tweak to the jct with old HWY 130; go west on old the highway to Waikupanaha Lava Viewing.

Lava Viewing Near Kalapana

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.

Lava Stream at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Nowhere else can you see lava flowing from a volcano into the sea; no Big Island visit is complete without seeing this awe-inspiring show. Currently lava is only flowing into the sea outside the Park. Drive south on Highway 130 through Pahoa to the 20 mile marker and take the right branch about two miles to the parking area. Port-a-potties are available here. The road is open from 2 p.m. until 10; no cars allowed in after 8. Lava viewing information is available from Hawaii County at 808.961.8093; check conditions before you go.

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.

Littoral explosions, Royal Gardens, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The easy trail, a 15 minute stroll to the viewing area, is well-marked. The viewing varies as lava flows nearer or farther from the trail. Viewing is best at dusk so bring flashlights for the hike out. Take close-toed walking shoes and a hat, long pants and long-sleeved shirt, at least 2 liters of water and sun block and a rain jacket and camera. Remember food and gas are not available anywhere nearby after dark, so fill up BEFORE you park, bring snacks and drinks. There are port-a-potties available at the parking lot. Follow this link to find more information about seeing the lava at the Waikupanaha Lava Viewing area.

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.

Lava Watching at Waikupanaha in Puna, Hawaii: Photo By Donald B MacGowan

Leg 7) Return to Hwy 130; Hwy 130 north through Pahoa to Kea’au and jct with Hwy 11.

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.

My Neices Entering Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

From Kea’au, you are about 2 ½ hours from Kona (west) and about 15 minutes from Hilo (north), both on Hwy 11. The resorts on the Kohala coast are more than 3 hours away and are most quickly reached by going on Hwy 11 through Hilo to Hwy 19, following 19 through Waimea to the west coast and the junction with Hwy 270, along which lie all the Kohala resorts.

Food and gas are difficult to find at night outside Kea’au, Hilo, Waimea and Kona, so it’s best to be prepared and fill up the car and the cooler in Kea’au at noon, before touring Puna.

My Neices Entering Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaiii Volcaoes National Park: Photo 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.

Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu, a still-steaming volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 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.

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.

My Neices Entering Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaiii Volcaoes National Park: Photo 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.

Puna Tree Tunnels Just Outside Pahoa Town, Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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



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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.

Akaka Falls on Kolekole Stream north of Hilo, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: 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.

Akaka Falls

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.

Just visible from the parking lot, the top of Akaka Falls peaks above the forest, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There is a reason that Akaka Falls rates as the most visited tourist sites on the island of Hawai’i.  Simply put, the 424 foot, free falling plunge of clear water down a fern festooned cliff is not just an amazing and beautiful site, but there is a healing restfulness about the park that soaks into the visitor.

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.

Tourists and Hikers explore the tropical jungles around Akaka Falls, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leaving the parking lot, the loop trail immediately splits.  Going left through along small streams past numerous small waterfalls, glens of fern, ginger, impatiens and stands of bamboo jungle, one reaches Akaka Falls in 5-8 minutes of ambling.  If you turn right, the trail loops up and down some hills, through a wonderful rain forest of flowers, ferns, heliconia, palms and bamboo to 100 foot tall Kahuna Falls in about 8 minutes of walking; Akaka Falls is then reached by following the same path another 2-3 minutes and 5-8 minutes after that you are back at the parking lot.

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.

Aerial view of Akaka Falls showing the immense canyon carved by Kolekole Stream, near the Hamamkua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

When you first see the immense canyon carved through the rigid basalt by Kolekole Stream at Akaka Falls, you will understand why the Hawai’ian’s named this place as they did. In  Hawai’ian , “Akaka”, means “a rent, split, chink, separation; to crack or split”.  At twice the height of Niagara Falls, Akaka Falls, and the Kolekole Stream canyon, mark a truly remarkable rent in the lower skirts of Mauna Kea.

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.

Akaka Falls Bamboo Jungle, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Of the many myths surrounding Akaka Falls, the most charming one tells of a stone located here called Pōhaku a Pele that, when struck by a branch of the Ohi’a tree, will call the sky to darken and rain to fall. Even without striking the rock, afternoons here tend to feature the nourishing rains that give life to the surrounding jungle, the streams and waterfalls.  If you came to Hawaii craving chance to wander through a tropical rainforest, this may be the easiest place to quickly immerse yourself in one of Hawaii’s fantastic jungles.

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 trails around Akaka Falls are punctuated by smaller waterfalls, stream and fern grottos, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Almost every town in Hawai’i has a “Waianuenue street”.  From the Hawai’ian syllables “wai” meaning “fresh water” and “nue” meaning “colorful” or “dancing”, the word “waianuenue” refers to the dancing colors, or rainbow, seen in waterfalls.  If you are lucky, and approach Akaka Falls on a sunny morning when the sun shines into to grotto, you may be blessed with seeing this lovely Hawai’ian icon, the waianuenue.

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 mouth of Kolekole Gulch where Kolekole Stream pours into the wild Pacific Ocean, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

After leaving Akaka Falls State Park, Kolekole Stream flows through feral sugarcane fields, pastures and jungle gulches before finally pouring into the raw Pacific Ocean at Kolekole Beach Park.  Definitely worth a visit, Kolekole Park is just off the Belt Highway, a bit north of the 14 mile marker. Turning off the highway surprisingly uphill, at the south end of the large suspension bridge, the Kolekole Beach Park road winds down to the river through a canyon choked with flowers, ferns and koa and palm trees.

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.

Small falls hidden in a bamboo and fern grotto, along the Akaka Falls trail, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

When visiting Akaka Falls, be sure to save some time to explore the shops, galleries and cafes of Honomu on the way back to the highway. With its true “Old Hawaii” ambiance, it is unlike anywhere you’ve ever been before…guaranteed.  Honomu, in Hawai’ian, means “silent bay” and one senses in this town that it is a quiet bastion of genuine relaxation, a half-forgotten island of healing solitude and welcome comfort.

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.

Kahuna Falls in Akaka Falls State Park, Hamamkua 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.

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.

Fern Grotto at Akaka Falls State Park, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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.

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.

Wild orchids abound in the flower-choked jungles around Akaka Falls State Park, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

 

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Lava Stream at Night: Photo courtesy of Big Island Air

There area 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.

 

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Amanda Maus at Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Uncle Donnie MacGowan

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The Pacific Ocean and Waikupanaha Ocean Entry Explosion Plume at the End of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This day trip may be made a part of a longer scenic drive, including the wonders of Puna and lava viewing at Waikupanaha; after reading this article, please go here.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Dusk at the Waikupanaha Lava Ocean Entry, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Scenic Drive Through Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Introduction

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

La'epuki Lava Ocean Entry, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Crater and Eruption of Halema'uma'u, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hikers warily approach a stagnant lava flow whose surface is still glowing gently, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. During daylight hours, an access fee is charged. The Visitor Center has a 24-hour information line at 808.985.6000 and there is a 24-hour eruption hotline at 808.987.8862. Within the Park tune to A.M. radio 530 for continuous information broadcast. There are tourist items available for sale, and one restaurant and in the park; however, generally, shopping, restaurants and gasoline are mainly only available in the nearby village of Volcano.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mauna Loa Looms over the Ka'u Desert, in Spring Bloom, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are four main roads which access most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: the Mauna Loa Scenic road, which lies above the visitor’s center and winds up the slopes of Mauna Loa; Crater Rim Drive which circumnavigates the summit crater of Kilauea Volcano; Chain of Craters Road which runs down the southeast rift zone along a series of volcanoes and pit craters to the ocean and Hilina Pali Road, which cuts across Kilauea Volcano to the cliffs along the sea.

Mauna Loa Scenic Road

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

View of Mauna Loa from the Mauna Loa Scenic Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

This gateway to the southern flank of the world’s largest mountain, Mauna Loa, lies about 2 ½ miles west of the main entrance to the park. The road traverses lava desert, ohi’a scrub savanna, fern forest and ends at the start of the hiking trail to the icy heights of Mauna Loa’s summit.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava Tree Molds, Mauna Loa Scenic Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A small fork road heading east just after the start of Mauna Loa Road leads to a series of tree molds that formed when lava poured through the deep tropical forest. The trees were too wet to burn and the lava simply cooled around the trunks. Later, as the trees rotted, these unusual, deep pit molds were left behind. Definitely worth a visit, there are even pit toilets available at the Tree Molds.

About 1 ½ miles further along Mauna Loa Road is Bird Park, or Kipuka Puaulu. A forested island in a giant lava flow, this micro-ecosystem preserves forest plants and animals and is a haven to many bird members of Hawai’i’s endangered species. Cool, quiet, restful and inviting, there is a one-mile nature trail around this tropical forest oasis.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Looking into a Lava Tree Mold, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Loa Road is closed at various elevations at various times due to fire hazard. If one has the time and an adventurous heart, it is well worth the trip to drive to the end of the road and perhaps even hike a ways up it. The start of the Mauna Loa summit trail is here, but for even hardy hikers, that goal is at least two days hard hiking distant. The world’s largest active volcano is a LOT bigger than it looks! More about the Mauna Loa Scenic Road can be found here.

Crater Rim Drive

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sunrise Mauna Loa from Crater Rim Drive, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A fine introduction to the wonders of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Crater Rim Drive circles the summit crater of Kilauea Volcano, including Halema’uma’u Crater, the home of Madame Pele. The drive runs 11 fabulous and amazing miles through arid, barren volcanic desert, ohi’a forest and grassland and lush fern jungle. The most interesting sites along the drive are the Visitor’s Center, Jagger Museum, Halema’uma’u Crater, Kilauea Iki Crater, Devastation Trail and Thurston Lava Tube. Although the circuit can be made in under 40 minutes, one should allow at least three hours even to begin to explore this fantastic place; if you have never been here before, you certainly have never seen anything like it. Many people who plan to rush through the Park find themselves utterly engrossed, wind up spending much more time than they planned here and extemporaneously changing their plans, cutting time from some other attraction. Best plan to spend sufficient time here in the first place.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Halema'uma'u Crater, The Home of Madame Pele: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Experience has shown that the impact of the landscape is much greater if the drive is done anti-clockwise

Below are some suggested highlights along Crater Rim Drive. The road currently is closed between Jagger Museum and the intersection with Chain of Craters Road due to the eruption in Halema’uma’u Crater. Also, bear in mind that there are no services available along Crater Rim Drive, except for restrooms, drinking water and the book shop at Jagger Museum.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Frank Burgess Browses the Kilauea Visitor's Center Book Shop at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Visitors Inspect the 3-D Physiographic Map of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at the Kilauea Visitor's Center: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Visitor Center is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; there are public restrooms, water and pay phones available. Starting at 9 a.m. and showing every hour on the hour is a 20 minute informative movie about the Park; the film changes from time to time, but always contains spectacular footage of eruptions, information on volcanology and the natural and human history of the Park. For information, please call their Info Hot line at 808.985.6000.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Jagger Museum Parking lot is near a Nesting Ground for the Endangered Nene Goose, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Everett Maynard Explores the Entrance to Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Thurston Lava Tube: Nahuku, the Thurston Lava Tube, gives the visitor an opportunity for a close-at-hand inspection of the inner plumbing of a volcano. It also makes for an interesting and unique way to escape the noonday heat or afternoon shower, briefly. Lava tubes form when the outer crust of a flowing river of lava begins to cool and crust over, but the lava continues to flow beneath it; as the margins of the flow begin to cool and form walls growing towards the middle, the nascent tube is formed. When the flow has completely drained away, the lava tube is left behind.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Inside Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Thurston lava tube is a remarkably large, well-preserved and accessible example of a lava tube-type cave. An easy, 0.3 mile trail (about a 15 minute hike) winds through lush fern forest alive with singing birds and buzzing insects, down into a collapse crater entering the lava tube and slipping about 300 feet through the well-lighted, floored cave, popping up through a skylight in the tube and returning to the parking lot. A very easy walk and certainly a “must see” for any visitor to the park.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Eric Carr Enters Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When Lorrin Thurston, founder of the Honolulu Advertiser, found the cave in 1913, the roof reportedly was covered with stalactites, now there are none—it is said that rapacious tourists removed every one in the intervening years.

More about Crater Rim Drive can be found here.

Chain of Craters Road

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Rainbow at Kealakomo Overlook, Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Following along Kilauea’s East Rift Zone, Chain of Craters Road passes through an amazing array of rift volcanoes, pit craters, lava trenches and flow fields. This road traverses and opens-up some of the most wild and beautiful landscapes seen anywhere, terminating near the active lava flows from Kilauea Volcano. Perhaps nowhere else on earth are the elements high mountains, wild seascapes and active volcanoes and their lava flows more dramatically displayed. Altogether, Chain of Craters Road is a singular and essential addition to any visit to the Island of Hawai’i. Crazily switching-back repeatedly down the Holei Pali, Chain of Craters Road finally reaches the untamed and scenically wild coastline, where giant waves spray and spume over sea cliffs dozens of feet high. Towering steam plumes in the distance at the end of the road mark where unimaginably hot liquid rock pours into the wild, wild sea. A place of mystery, a place of power, a place of wonder

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Pitiful Remnant of a Once Enormous Rain Forest on the Holei Pali, Now Surrounded By Fresh Lava: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Once connecting Volcano Village through the Park to Puna and State Routes 130 and 137 at Kalapana, Chain of Craters Road has repeatedly been badly damaged by earthquake, buried in lava, re-routed and re-built and broken up and buried again. The current eruption, which began in 1983, has buried a significant portion of the currently-closed nine miles of road between its temporary end inside the Park and the eastern closure at the town of Kalapana, outside the eastern edge of the Park. The road is now closed at the 19-mile marker, right at Holei Sea Arch.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Visitors Walk Through the Pu'u Loa Petroglyph Field, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Collapse features, such as the numerous “pit craters” found along the Chain of Craters Road, form when lava drains out of subterranean chambers, causing the surface to collapse. Notice how all the debris seems to point downward into the bottom of the crater; there is no material around the rim of the crater that is suggestive of eruptive or explosive events. On the walls of the crater, one can see numerous, inter-layered, pre-collapse lava flows and airfall beds that were truncated by the collapse and exposed.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Petroglyphs at Pu'u Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

If a car ride back up the pali can be arranged, riding bicycles round Crater Rim Drive and down Chain of Craters road can be a momentous and fun excursion. Starting slightly above 4200 feet in elevation and ending at virtually sea level, this 22 mile drop from misty mountain cloud forest, running through tropical rain forest and into tropical desert is invigorating physically, stunning visually and makes a wonderfully memorable addition to any visit to the Island of Hawai’i. However, if you decide to pedal the 4200 feet elevation and 22 miles back up Chain of Craters Road to Kilauea Summit in the heat of day, this will also ensure a quite memorable, though far less pleasant, addition to your visit.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sea Cliffs, Sea Arches, Wild Surf and Magnificent Bird Watching Near the End of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are no services, water, food or gasoline available along the length of Chain of Craters Road. Do not underestimate the draw of this area on your imagination and your spirit; you WILL spend more time here than you think. Plan ahead, get food, water and gas before venturing down the road. Remember, after dark on the South side of Hawai’i Island, it is virtually impossible to find gasoline or food for sale along the highway between Volcano Village west to Kona or north to Kea’au.

For more about Chain of Craters Road, please go here.

Hilina Pali Road

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Vast Ocean Vistas and Incredible Sunsets are Some of the Rewards for Exploring Hilina Pali Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At 2.2 miles down Chain of Craters Road is the turn off to the Hilina Pali Road. This road is 9 miles of some of the most spectacular, lonely and striking scenery in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Spectacular coastal views, strangely-colored rock and twisted trees under weird skies make this an fantastic side trip for exploration and photography. Be especially careful when driving this road, it is mostly only one lane and there are more people enjoying this trip through the backcountry than you might think.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kulanaokuaiki Campground on Hilina Pali Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

About halfway to Hilina Pali Overlook is the Kulanaokuaiki Campground. Set amongst rifts, collapse features and flows, this desert campground is secluded and spectacular. Driving further across the broad lava flows, past panoramic vistas of Mauna Loa, along the spectacular drop-off of the Hilina Pali (literally “cliff of faith”), one comes to the Hilina Pali Overlook, a great place for a picnic or short hike.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mauna Loa from Hilina Pali Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Connecting with several longer trails across the Ka’u Desert, Kilauea Crater, or down the Pali to such abandoned coastal villages as Halape and Keauhou, the Hilina Pali Overlook is the central cross-roads of back-packing trails which crisscross the park.

 

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Spectacular coastal views, strangely-colored rock and twisted trees under weird skies make Hilina Pali Road a fantastic side trip, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilina Pali Road, due to its remoteness and lack of bus traffic, is a great place for a mountain bike ride, birding, or just getting away from crowds and tours. There are magnificent views, heart-stopping sunsets and pit toilets at the Campground and Overlook,. There is no water or other services available. Hilina Pali is a nesting place for the endangered Nene, the Hawai’i State bird, which is related to the Canada Goose. Hilina Pali Road may be closed during Nene nesting season.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Devil's Throat, Just Across Chain of Crater's Road from the Hilina Pali Road Intersection: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Less than 1/10 of a mile from Hilina Pali road is the unmarked Devil’s Throat collapse crater…an excitingly vertically-sided pit that is worth the visit just for the “okole squeezing” peering down the throat will give you. More about Hilina Pali Road can be found here.

End of Chain of Craters Road

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Holei Sea Arch, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The end of Chain of Craters Road is currently at the 19 mile marker near the Holei Sea Arch. This is where the road was cut off by flowing lava which also destroyed the 2 million dollar Visitor Center. When the lava is flowing near the road, one can walk right up to it. There are displays about the volcano and natural history of the area, as well as a wealth of information on hiking to, and viewing, the lava, available here.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hiking to the La'epuki Lava Ocean Entry from the End of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hiking all the way out to the active flows is one of the most spiritually rewarding, awe-inspiring, curiosity quenching and amazing things one can do anywhere in the world—but it is neither for the physically unfit nor the meek of spirit. It is a long, hot hike (currently seven miles) over broken ground and glass-sharp rocks; the heat from the volcano is savage; the weather, if clear, is sweltering…frequent squalls blow in off the ocean and the rain and wind can get pretty wild out on the lava plain where there is absolutely no cover or shelter to protect you. No water or shade is available anywhere along the hike. Plan assiduously before you go, make sure you have TWO working flashlights per person for the long hike back in the dark.  For specific information about hiking to the lava flows from the end of Chain of Craters Road, please go here.   More about activities and sights at the end of Chain of Craters Road can be found here.

Lava Viewing Near Kalapana

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Yet another lava viewing photo from Waikupanaha, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At this time, there is nowhere else can you see lava flowing from a volcano into the sea; no Big Island visit is complete without seeing this awe-inspiring show. Currently lava is only flowing into the sea outside the Park. From the belt Highway, turn south at Kea’au on Highway 130, continuing through Pahoa to the 20 mile marker; take the exit clearly marked “Lava Viewing”, a right branch about, for two miles to the parking area. Port-a-potties are available here. The road is open from 2 p.m. until 10; no cars allowed in after 8. Lava viewing information is available from Hawaii County at 808.961.8093; check conditions before you go. The easy trail, a 20 minute stroll to the viewing area, is well-marked.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Littoral Explosion Plume at Waikupanaha Lava Ocean Entry, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The quality of viewing varies as lava flows nearer or farther from the trail. Viewing is best at dusk so bring flashlights for the hike out. Take close-toed walking shoes and a hat, long pants and long-sleeved shirt, at least 2 liters of water, sun block and a rain jacket and camera. It’s a good idea to bring a tripod for your camera, or your shots will be blurred. Remember food and gas are not available anywhere nearby after dark, so fill up BEFORE you park, bring snacks and drinks. There are port-a-potties available at the parking lot.  More about lava viewing at Kalapana can be found here.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Lava River, Hawaii: Photo Courtesy of Big Island Air

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.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The Best Lava Viewing at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is from the Air: Photo by Shannon Walker

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

Majestic Pololu Valley on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Majestic Pololu Valley on the Hamakua Coast 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.
At Pololu Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At Pololu Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Even choosing the beach you want to spend time on…which beach? How do you find the right beach for your particular needs? Are you going just to relax and sunbathe? Or is the trip to snorkel, boogie board or to explore? Do you want a beach that’s alive with fun people or one hidden, secluded and empty? Do you want a beach near your resort or one that’s at the end of a day of delicious wandering?
The Cliffs at Pololu: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Cliffs at Pololu: 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.
Bad News for Antsy Travelers at Pololu Valley; Tour Guide's New, GPS/WiFi Enabled, Video Travel App for iPhone and iPod Finds Everything For You in Hawaii--Even the Public Restrooms!: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Bad News for Antsy Travelers at Pololu Valley; Tour Guide's New, GPS/WiFi Enabled, Video Travel App for iPhone and iPod Finds Everything For You in Hawaii--Even the Public Restrooms!: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hiking into Pololu Valley

Violent, lush, wild; the north end of Hawai’i Island is as varied and exciting as it is unexpected. At the end of the highway are the Pololu Valley Overlook and the trail leading down to Pololu Beach. This is one of the most untamed, beautiful spots in the tropical Pacific and should not be missed. The trail down to the beach drops 400 feet in 20 minutes of hiking—be warned, the hike up is difficult for those not in good physical shape and the hike down should not be attempted if you have doubts about being able to hike back up.

Approaching Storm at Pololu Valley; Due to Frequent Rain Squalls Off the Pacific Ocean, Rain Gear is Highly Recommended For This Hike: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Approaching Storm at Pololu Valley; Due to Frequent Rain Squalls Off the Pacific Ocean, Rain Gear is Highly Recommended For This Hike: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Trail to Pololu Beach is dusty when dry, muddy when wet and a running creek in the rain.  Try to minimize trail erosion by staying on the trail, walking on rocks where possible and not cutting switchbacks: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Trail to Pololu Beach is dusty when dry, muddy when wet and a running creek in the rain. Try to minimize trail erosion by staying on the trail, walking on rocks where possible and not cutting switchbacks: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pololu Valley Itself is Private Land so Stay Close To the Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Pololu Valley Itself is Private Land so Stay Close To the Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The valley itself is private land, so stay close to the beach. The best place to cross the stream is usually about 80-120 feet inland and during either slack or high tide; spend a few minutes to find the stone ford for an easier crossing.

The Beach at Pololu Valley.  The Channel Here Between Hawaii and Maui Has The Third Highest Discharge of Water in the World, Behind the Bay of Fundy and the Straights of Magellan.  Because of the Unbelievable Ocean Currents This Generates, and Strong Rip Tides, We Do Not Recommend Swimming or Surfing at Pololu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Beach at Pololu Valley. The Channel Here Between Hawaii and Maui Has The Third Highest Discharge of Water in the World, Behind the Bay of Fundy and the Straights of Magellan. Because of the Unbelievable Ocean Currents This Generates, and Strong Rip Tides, We Do Not Recommend Swimming or Surfing at Pololu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Slow Running Stream in Pololu Valley is Rarely High Enough To Cut Through the Storm Berm; Therefore These Dry, Back Dunes Are The Best Place to Cross the Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Slow Running Stream in Pololu Valley is Rarely High Enough To Cut Through the Storm Berm; Therefore These Dry, Back Dunes Are The Best Place to Cross the Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The beach is not usually swimmable due to the violent surf and ocean currents, but makes a wonderful place to picnic and contemplate the awesome power and violence of nature.

Although It's Tempting to Explore, the Lush Meadows of the Interior of Pololu Valley Are Annoyingly Boggy AND Privately Owned: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Although It's Tempting to Explore, the Lush Meadows of the Interior of Pololu Valley Are Annoyingly Boggy AND Privately Owned: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

For the adventurous, the hike down to Pololu Valley may not be enough—for them may we suggest further hiking in this lightly-traveled area. Pololu is the starting point for over 40 miles of interconnecting tails, as well as the Kohala Ditch. Trails in this area are steep, unmaintained, crumbling and frequently quite slick, so caution is advised, particularly on hillslopes and in the rain, when trails may turn into streambeds and hillsides into waterfalls.

The hike over intervening ridges east into Honokane Nui Valley and Honokane Iki Valley provides spectacular views of this untamed, but private land. Climbing 600 muddy feet over the ridge, the trail then drops breathtakingly down to the valley floor. Before the stream, the trail divides at a bamboo grove—if you are proceeding on to Honokane Iki, follow the fork to the right through the bamboo, otherwise go left on to the wonderful, lonely, private, boulder beach.

Looking Back West Across Pololu Beach From the Start of the Honokane Nui Valley Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Looking Back West Across Pololu Beach From the Start of the Honokane Nui Valley Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Along the Honokane Nui Trail, Climbing East Out Of Pololu Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Along the Honokane Nui Trail, Climbing East Out Of Pololu Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Going on farther east into Honokane Iki Valley from Honokane Nui is very rewarding and easier than the hop from Pololu to Honokane Nui, climbing just 400 muddy feet over the ridge. There are numerous ruins from previous eras of population, ancient to recent, to explore in both these valleys. It is possible to wander the intersecting, disappearing, maddening trails all the way into Waipi’o Valley, 14 canyons and about 15 bushwhacking, stream-fording, slope-slipping, rain-slogging, breathtaking, aggravating, wonderful miles away. This is definitely a trip for more than a single day and permission must be gained to cross the private land.

The Beach at Pololu Valley From the Ridge Between Pololu and Honokane Iki Valleys: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Beach at Pololu Valley From the Ridge Between Pololu and Honokane Iki Valleys: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Under no circumstances should the hiker be seduced by the thought of an easy return back into Pololu Valley by skirting the headlands along the ocean. This is longer and much more difficult than it appears and has proven fatal to the unwary.

During the Wet Season The Stream in Pololu Valley Turns Into a Seasonal Lake: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

During the Wet Season The Stream in Pololu Valley Turns Into a Seasonal Lake: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Bart Hunt at Pololu--Numerous Squall and Storms Coming Off the Ocean Make the Weather at Pololu Very Exciting: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Bart Hunt at Pololu--Numerous Squall and Storms Coming Off the Ocean Make the Weather at Pololu Very Exciting: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Bring good insect repellent and wear hiking boots, with tabis in your pack for stream fording and beach walking. Stream water in the valleys is infected with leptospirosis bacteria, so bring plenty of water (at least two liters per person) in your pack. A camera is a must and due to frequent squalls off the ocean, rain gear is highly recommended.

Bart Hunt at Pololu Valley--The Trail Back Up Out of The Valley Seems Much Longer and Steeper than On the Way Down; Be Sure To Leave Plenty Of Time and Energy To Climb Back Up: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Bart Hunt at Pololu Valley--The Trail Back Up Out of The Valley Seems Much Longer and Steeper than On the Way Down; Be Sure To Leave Plenty Of Time and Energy To Climb Back Up: 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.

A Sweeping View of Magnificent Pololu Valley: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Sweeping View of Magnificent Pololu Valley: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Kona to Hamakua Coast: Spectacular Waterfalls, Incredible Canyons and Lush Rainforest

Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 9 hours.

This day offers spectacular waterfalls, lush rainforest and beautiful canyons, shopping, dining and 2-one hour hikes.

Highway 190 leaves Kona north to Waimea then on to Honoka’a and Waipi’o Valley in about 1 1/2 hours driving. The photos from the valley overlook are postcard gorgeous and Honoka’a has cute shops and restaurants. After a 1 hour drive, seeing several sites along the Hamakua Coast, Highway 220 branches to Akaka Falls. Follow the paved loop through the tropical jungle and smell exotic flowers along this not-to-be-missed, easy 1 hour waterfall hike. Be sure to stop in Honomu for the unique shops. Proceeding south on Highway 19, ten minutes, is the Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive (4 Mile). Along this road is Onomea Bay Trail, a 1 hour round trip hike, down to the ruggedly picturesque coastline. From there it’s 20 minutes to Rainbow Falls, Hilo’s signature waterfall. Hilo is the largest city on the island and has numerous shops, malls, museums, restaurants and beaches, such as Richardson Beach, near downtown. From Hilo, it is a 2 1/2 hour drive back to Kona.

Leg 1) In Kailua Kona, start at Ahu’ena Heiau, take Palani Road east to Hwy 190; take Hwy 190 through Waimea to Honoka’a.

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

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

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach
Centuries ago the inhabitants of this region built a series of sacred temples, or heiaus, which were originally used for the purpose of sacrificing human beings to their war god, Kuka’ilimoku. This particular archeological site is called Ahu’ena Heiau, which in Hawaiian means “Hill of Fire”.

Built originally in the 15th century and rededicated by Kamehameha the Great in the early 1800s as the main temple of his capital, the current structures seen at Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built in 1975 under the auspices of the Bishop Museum with financial help from the Hotel King Kamehameha and are constructed to 1/3 the original scale. There are restrooms and showers located on the pier near the beach. Adjacent Old Kailua Town is a treasure of shops, restaurants and aloha.

Waimea Town Nestled Against Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea Town Nestled Against Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

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

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

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

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

The Main Street of Honoka'a is Lined With Fun and Interesting Shops: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The Main Street of Honoka'a is Lined With Fun and Interesting Shops: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Honoka’a Town

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

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

Leg 2) At Honoka’a, turn north on Hwy 240 to Waipi’o Valley.

Deep and Mysterious Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Deep and Mysterious Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi’o Valley

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

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

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

Leg 3) From Waipi’o Valley, return to Honoka’a on Hwy 240, get on Hwy 19 and head south.

Leg 4) Take Hwy 19 south to Laupahoehoe then Kolekole, continue south to Hwy 220; west on Hwy 220 to Honomu, then to Akaka Falls.

Laupahoehoe on the Hamakua Coast: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Laupahoehoe on the Hamakua Coast: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Laupahoehoe Park

A place of great beauty, of awesome displays of oceanic power and of tragic memories, Laupahoehoe Park stands where 20 children and teachers at the Laupahoehoe School were killed in the tsunami of 1946. Inside the park on a small hill overlooking the jetty is a memorial stone inscribed with the names of those who died in the tsunami. There are restrooms, campgrounds, picnic facilities, pit barbecues and ball fields. The pounding of the raw ocean on the jetty reminds one that not every beach in Hawaii is made for swimming, however the fishing here is excellent.

Kolekole Beach Park, Hamakua Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kolekole Beach Park, Hamakua Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kolekole Beach County Park

The river you saw magnificently jumping with such abandon off the cliff at Akaka Falls ends its journey to the sea by sluicing through this Koa tree-filled canyon and smashing into the surf at Kolekole Beach Park. A wild beach, a jungle canyon and a waterfall swimming hole are fun things to do at Kolekole Park.

The visitor is advised to admire the ocean, but not go in. The currents and tides are lethally treacherous here.

Facilities at Kolekole Beach Park include picnic pavilions and tables, pit barbecues, showers, restrooms and drinking water.

Akaka Falls from the Air: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Akaka Falls from the Air: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Akaka Falls

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

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

Leg 5) Return Hwy 220 through Honomu to Hwy 19, then south on Hwy 19 to Old Mamalahoa Highway (or Kulaimano Road to Old Mamalahoa Hwy); this is the Pe’epekeo Scenic Drive. South and east on Old Mamalahoa Hwy to Onomea Bay; continue on Old Mamalahoa Hwy south to southern jct with Hwy 19.

Pe'epekeo Scenic Drive, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Pe'epekeo Scenic Drive, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive

Located just a few minutes north of Hilo on Highway 19, this “Old Road through Old Hawai’i”, a four-mile-half hour scenic wander, parallels Highway 19 but is removed worlds away from the traffic and hustle along the main road. Rolling along old cane fields, jungle-canopied in places, passing waterfalls and crossing creeks, the Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive is a special treat for the visitor who may be thinking they waited a century too long to visit Hawai’i. On a sunny day, on a rainy day, it doesn’t matter; this scenic drive is a joy. There are no services available along the scenic drive.

Onomea Bay, Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Onomea Bay, Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Onomea Beach Trail

Only a few miles north of tame and sedate Hilo Bay, Onomea Bay is subject to the full fury and magic of the open Pacific Ocean. Rugged, jagged, majestic, the wickedly sculpted cliffs along the bay belie the easy 15 minute walk down to the beach. Accessible to most walkers of even marginal condition, the trail leads alongside a botanical garden (be sure not to wander through any of their gates unless you are a paying customer) and meanders down to the canyon mouth, past a tiny waterfall at the end of the stream and to the beach. There are awesome opportunities for photo

Leg 6) South on HWY 19 to Hilo; get on Hwy 200 (Waianuenue Avenue), head south-southeast to Rainbow Drive and Rainbow Falls.

King Kamehameha Statue, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Kilgore Trout

King Kamehameha Statue, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Kilgore Trout

Hilo Town

Beautiful but wet, metropolitan but decrepit, bustling but laid back, Hilo is a lovely, maddening, heartbreaking, addictive study in contrasts. In can rain all day long for 50 days in a row, yet when the sun does shine, the views of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea from the Liliuokalani Gardens, or of Hilo Bay as you drive down from the mountains, or the rain-forest and waterfall choked gulches with lovely beaches along the highway north of town, make Hilo one of the most truly, achingly-lovely spots on earth.

More laid back and sleepier than bustling Kailua Kona, Hilo is the largest town on the island, and the county seat. The Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, Tsunami Museum, Lyman House Missionary Museum and the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo are all wonderful places to learn about various aspects of Hawaii. There are numerous shopping districts, two large malls and the Historic Old Hilo downtown shops to browse through, a variety of sprawling green parks, a fabulous tropical arboretum right downtown and a mile-long black-sand beach fronting the bay to explore. Hilo’s Farmer’s Market is a “must see” for any visitor who is spending time on this side of the island.

Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Prescott Ellwood

Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Prescott Ellwood

Rainbow Falls and Wailuku River Park

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

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

Leg 7) Return Hwy 200 (Waianuenue Road) to HWY 19, then east on 19 to Jct with Kamehameha Ave; Kamehameha Ave east to jct with Kalanianaole Ave to Richardson Beach Park.

Richardson Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Richardson Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Richardson Beach Park

Richardson Beach Park, with its towering palms, fresh water pools, delightful surf, secluded and calm tidepools, lawns and general ambiance of tropical paradise, is almost certainly very close to what most visitors expect from Hawai’i—hence it popularity.

Views of Mauna Kea at sunrise and sunset from this beach are unparalleled. The snorkeling here along the small black sand beach is the best of the Hilo area and the surf is a busy mix of beginner to intermediate level waves. Restrooms, showers, water, picnic tables and a lifeguard round-out the amenities of this wonderful place. There is also a Hawai’i County Police Department substation here.

Leg 8) Return on Kalanianaole Ave to Kamehameha Ave to Hwy 19; take Hwy 19 north to Honoka’a and jct with Hwy 190; drive Hwy 190 west to Kailua Kona.

Off the Pier in Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Off the Pier in Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

This post has been updated, expanded and superseded; please go here.

North Kona and Kohala: Ancient History, Sumptuous Beaches
Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site) 8 hours.

by Donnie MacGowan

The tour begins at the Keauhou Historic District with ancient battlefields, heiau (stone temples), surfing beaches and shopping in Kailua Kona. 15 minutes north of town is Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park. See how Hawai’ians used aquaculture to create thriving communities in desolate areas. Among the many coastal sites, Hapuna Beach State Park, 30 minutes north, is rated in the Top 10 Best Beaches of the world, then stop 20 minutes further at Pu’u Kohala National Historic Park to visit an enormous heiau erected to the war god, Kuka’ilimoku. After several more sites, the road ends at Pololu Valley where wild ocean, cliffs, rainforest, waterfalls and a black sand beach make for stunning photographs plus a one hour hike. Looping back, Highway 250 cruises 45 minutes over Kohala Volcano to the lush pastures of Waimea for history of ranching in Hawaii as well as great shopping and dining. From Waimea it is one hour back to Kona.

Leg 1) In Kailua Kona, start at Keauhou Historic District, southern point. Drive Ali’i Drive north to Kahalu’u Beach, Keauhou Historic District (north terminus), La’aloa Beach and Ahu’ena Heiau.

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

Kue'manu Heiau: the only temple to surfing gods still in use today: Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kue'manu Heiau: the only temple to surfing gods still in use today: Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

Kahalu’u Beach County Park

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

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

Loll in sand and sun under swaying palms, snorkel among rainbow-colored fish on a protected reef or ride surf where the Kings of Hawai’i defined the sport a thousand years ago! Kahalu’u is the crown jewel of Kona Coast County Beach Parks. This is the premiere snorkeling beach of the Island of Hawai’i; the snorkeling is in calm, shallow water. There is an abundance of fish of an enormous variety…perhaps the best display on the island. Go carefully into the water, being sure not to harass the endangered turtles, feed or harm the fish, nor touch or stand upon the corals.
There are numerous sites of historic importance around the park. It was here that the great queen, Ka’ahumanu, and her cousin Kuakini (later Territorial Governor) were raised. Abundant parking, disabled access, picnic tables, two shaded pavilions, two sets of public restrooms, showers and lifeguards round-out the facilities of this beautiful beach park.

La’aloa Beach County Park (White Sands/Magic Sands)

Boogie Boarders At La'aloaBeach, Kona Hawaii: Poto by Donne MacGowan

Boogie Boarders At La'aloaBeach, Kona Hawaii: Poto by Donne MacGowan

La Aloa Beach Park is a small, but fascinating, beach. The beach derives the name “Magic Sands” from the fact that for most of the summer and fall, it is a beautiful sandy beach. However, winter and spring storms wash the sand offshore, exposing a rocky terrace. With the onset of summer currents, the sands return. The surf is short, but spectacular, here, and many locals boogie board and body surf. Because of the violent, near shore nature of the break, it is not recommended for beginners.

The La’aloa Heiau, makai of the parking lot, is very sacred to the native Hawai’ians and a hotly contested archeological site. Although not fenced off, visitors are asked not to wander the grounds of the heiau, disturb stones or walls. A county facility, it boasts showers, toilets and running water in addition to a volleyball court and lifeguards stationed throughout the day (except State Holidays).

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach

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

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

Centuries ago the inhabitants of this region built a series of sacred temples, or heiau, which were originally used for the purpose of sacrificing human beings to their war god, Kuka’ilimoku. This particular archeological site is called Ahu’ena Heiau, which in Hawaiian means “Hill of Fire”.

Built originally in the 15th century and rededicated by Kamehameha the Great in the early 1800s as the main temple of his capital, the current structures seen at Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built in 1975 under the auspices of the Bishop Museum with financial help from the Hotel King Kamehameha and are constructed to 1/3 the original scale. There are restrooms and showers located on the pier near the beach. Adjacent Old Kailua Town is a treasure of shops, restaurants and aloha.

Leg 2) From Ahu’ena Heiau, drive Palani Road east to Hwy 19; go north on Hwy 19 to Koloko Honokohau National Historic Park.

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park

Kaloko Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaloko Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

At Honokohau, ancient Hawai’ians took advantage of abundant freshwater springs to site a large community centered on fishing, fishponds and taro fields. The National Historic Park preserves a vast complex of important archeological sites, including heiaus, fishponds, a fish trap, house sites, burials, a holua (sledding track), a Queen’s Bath and abundant petroglyphs. The Information Center, which is near Highway 19, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and has full facilities, restrooms and a small souvenir and bookshop.

Leg 3) Continue north on Hwy 19 to Kekaha Kai State Park, Kua Bay, Anaeho’omalu Bay, Waialea Beach and Hapuna Beach.

Kekaha Kai State Park

Makalawena Wilderness Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Makalawena Wilderness Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

At Kekaha Kai, there are a wonderful set of beaches plunked down in one of Hawai’i Island’s gem parks. The northernmost and loveliest beach is Mahai’ula and the smaller, more southerly, less fine one is Ka’elehuluhulu Beach. The water is fine for swimming and boogie boarding but may be a little murky for ideal snorkeling. There are numerous small springs along the entire beach making the near-shore water a little cold. Hidden in a little pocket of wilderness, perhaps the finest beach on the island, Makalawena Beach, is contained in this park. It is reached by a 20-30 minute hike over beaches and rough lava from the parking lot. Swimming and snorkeling on this uncrowded, indeed largely unknown, beach are beyond excellent. Facilities include public restrooms and picnic tables, but no drinking water.

Kua Bay

Kua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The site of Kona’s newest beach park, this is a lovely white sand beach. Although there is no shade to speak of, the swimming and boogie boarding in the crystalline waters is primo. Strong currents and large waves call for respect here, if the surf is up. Also, sometimes in winter the surf removes the sand to offshore, leaving a rocky shelf that is less fun to frolic on than the sandy beach.

Access is via a newly paved road recently opened to the public (on the ocean-side from the Veteran’s Cemetery). Park facilities include parking, picnic tables, restrooms and water. Wild goats are frequently seen in this area.

Anaeho’omalu Bay

Anaeho'omalu Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Anaeho'omalu Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The most photographed sunset view on the Island of Hawai’i, Anaeho’omalu Bay is the icon of what most visitors envision Hawai’i to be like before they get here…swaying palm trees, a clean beach fronting warm, safe, swimmable ocean and 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). Facilities and services are available at A-Bay and on the nearby resort grounds.

Waialea Beach (Beach 69)

Waialea Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waialea Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie 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. 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. 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. Restrooms, picnic tables, water and showers round out the facilities.

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapuna Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Always rated in the Top 10 of American beaches, Hapuna Beach is the premiere beach destination on the Island of Hawai’i. Long, wide and phenomenally sandy, it has everything one dreams of in a Hawai’ian beach: abundant sun, surf, clean, clear and quiet snorkeling water, shade and well-maintained facilities.

There are lifeguards, several pavilions, barbecues, picnic tables, restrooms, showers and a small café. The center of the beach is for wave play and boogie boarding, the north and south coves are quieter, for snorkeling or gentle floating. Although most patrons must walk about 100 yards down a path from the parking lot, Handicapped Parking exists right on the beach.

Leg 4) Continue North on 19 to jct with Hwy 270; north on 270 to Pu’u Kohola and Lapakahi State Park.

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park

Pu'u Kohola National Historical Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Pu'u Kohola National Historical Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

A temple inspired by a god-sent vision of greatness, Kamehameha built Pu’ukohola in response to a prophecy by Kaua’i kahuna Kapoukahi that foretold if he built a great temple to his war god Ku in one day, Kamehameha would prevail in his wars of conquest and unite the Hawai’ian Islands. Perhaps as many as 20,000 people passing stones hand-to-hand from Pololu Valley raised this massive Heiau in a single day.

Pu’ukohola is the largest stone structure in Polynesia, not counting the modern rock wall in front of the Kailua Lowe’s Hardware store. The National Historic Park has a very nice, new visitor’s Center and Book Shop, clean restrooms and picnic facilities. Adjacent to the Park is Spencer Beach Park which has a full range of facilities as well as wonderful, protected swimming and snorkeling.

Lapakahi State Historical Park

Lapakahi State Historical Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lapakahi State Historical Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

At Lapakahi State Historical Park you can walk through the partially –restored remains of a 600-year old Hawai’ian fishing village, Koai’e.

Bear in mind that Kohala was not always the barren wasteland seen today. Initially dryland forest, a thousand years ago or more the native Hawai’ians burned the forest to clear farmland for dryland crops such as sweet potato. Primitive farming techniques, overpopulation, overgrazing by cattle and climate changes caused this area to become desert like. Admission is free, self-guided tour takes about 45 minutes. There are portable toilets but no water available.

Leg 5) Continue north, north east on Hwy 270 to jct with Upolu Point Road (incorrectly spelled “Opolu Point Road” on Google Maps; sometimes also labeled “Upolu Airport Road”). Continue north on Upolu Point Road to Mo’okini Heiau.

Mo’okini Heiau

Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Have you ever seen anywhere as stark, impressive, primitive and ancient, yet still able to raise the hackles on your neck? Here, untold thousands of people were sacrificed to worship a new god, the war god Ku. Mo’okini Heiau stands today at the north end of Hawai’i, the well preserved remains of a terrible luakini heiau built by the powerful Tahitian kahuna Pa’ao in the 11th or 12th century. This heiau was the first temple of human sacrifice in Hawai’i and the first site in Hawai’i to be preserved as a National Historic Landmark under the Historic Sites Act of 1935. Mo’okini Heiau is now part of Lapakahi State Historic Park; as Mo’okini is an active Heiau and visitors are reminded to stay away if religious observances are being celebrated. There are no facilities here.

Leg 6) Return Upolu Point Road to Hwy 270, continue north east to King Kamehameha Statue, Pololu Valley.


King Kamehameha Statue and North Kohala

King Kamehameha Statue, North Kohala: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

King Kamehameha Statue, North Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The green and lush north end of Hawaii Island contains a treasure trove of interesting small towns, important historic sights and incredible scenery.

The dreamy mountain town of Hawi is one of the few remaining outposts of what locals call “old Hawai’i”. Several small shops, galleries and restaurants make this a pleasant place to visit and grab something to eat on the way to or from Pololu Valley.

At 5480 feet, Kohala Volcano is the northernmost and oldest volcano on the Island of Hawai’i still above sea level. Perhaps the most ecologically diverse area on the island, the Kohala Mountains are dissected by deep, lush tropical valleys, and the slopes are covered by dryland forest, lava deserts, lonely windswept steppes and end in some truly wild beaches.

In the center of the tiny town of Kapa’au on the mauka side of the highway, stands a storied statue of King Kamehameha the Great. There are a few charming restaurants, shops and galleries in Kapa’au, including the justly famous Kohala Book Shop—definitely worth spending some time poking around. Hawi and Kapa’au have the only food and gas available north of Highway 19.

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley, Hamakua Coast: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pololu Valley, Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Violent, lush, wild; the north end of Hawai’i Island is as varied and exciting as it is unexpected. At the end of the highway are the Pololu Valley Overlook and the trail leading down to Pololu Black Sand Beach. The trail down to the beach drops 400 feet in 20 minutes of hiking—be forewarned, the hike up is difficult for those not in good physical shape and shoes, rather than slippers, are best here. This is one of the most beautiful, untamed spots in the tropical Pacific and should not be missed. There are no facilities at the valley overlook or within the valley.

Leg 7) Return west on Hwy 270 to jct with Hwy 250; take Hwy 250 south to Waimea.

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

Waimea Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

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

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

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

Leg 8) At Waimea, take Hwy 190 to return to Kailua Kona.

Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

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

Across the Roof of Hawaii

by Donnie MacGowan

This post has been updated and expanded here.

Recent improvements to the Saddle Road make it no longer the grinding, intimidating drive it once was and open hundreds of square miles of unimaginably beautiful, strange and wondrous landscape to the Hawaii Island Visitor.

Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 12 hours

From Kona take Highway 190 to Highway 200 in 45 minutes of driving. Saddle Road, which cuts between the “saddle” of Mauna Loa on the south and Mauna Kea to the north, passes through ranch lands and the Pohakuloa Military Training Facility, for another 45 minutes, to the turn for Mauna Kea Access Road (John Burns Way). Nearby, Kipuka Huluhulu, or “shaggy hill”, is a 20 minute hike to the top and back. From here it is a 30 minute drive to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center. The small village is home to scientists and astronomers that work in the observatories and an amazing place to learn what their research tells us about our universe. Returning to Hwy 200, drive 45 minutes to the amazing Kaumana Cave lava tube, a short hike and a wonderful exploration. A further 30 minutes down Hwy 200 brings one to downtown Hilo, where there are shops, restaurants, fine museums, gorgeous waterfront beach parks and a fabulous Farmers Market. From Hilo, it is approximately three hours to return to Kailua Kona over Hwy 200; alternately one can take the faster though less scenic Hwy 19 to Waimea and then Hwy 190 into Kailua Kona, about a 2 1/2 hour drive.

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

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

Leg 1) In Kailua Kona, start at Ahu’ena Heiau; take Palani Road east to Hwy 190; take Hwy 190 to jct with Hwy 200, The Saddle Road

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach

Centuries ago the inhabitants of this region built a series of sacred temples, or heiau, which were originally used for the purpose of sacrificing human beings to their war god, Kuka’ilimoku. This particular archeological site is called Ahu’ena Heiau, which in Hawaiian means “Hill of Fire”.

Built originally in the 15th century and rededicated by Kamehameha the Great in the early 1800s as the main temple of his capital, the current structures seen at Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built in 1975 under the auspices of the Bishop Museum with financial help from the Hotel King Kamehameha and are constructed to 1/3 the original scale. There are restrooms and showers located on the pier near the beach. Adjacent Old Kailua Town is a treasure of shops, restaurants and aloha.

Hualalai Volcano from Saddle Road, Big Island Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hualalai Volcano from Saddle Road, Big Island Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Leg 2) Take Hwy 200, The Saddle Road, east to jct with John Burns Way (also called Mauna Kea Access Road).

Looking West from Highway 190 to Haualai Volcano Halfway between Kona and Waimea, Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Looking West from Highway 190 to Hualalai Volcano Halfway between Kona and Waimea, Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Saddle Road

Crossing the spectacular saddle between the towering bulk of the volcanoes Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa at about 6600 feet, The Saddle Road runs through brush, grass and forest lands, over lava fields and through some of the wildest and most breath-taking scenery on the Island. From this roadway, four of the 5 principal volcanoes that form The Big Island may be seen: Hualalai, Kohala, Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea. Because the western half of the road is in notoriously poor condition and consists, in reality, of only one operable lane for much of its descent from the saddle to the Mamalahoa Highway.

However, this road provides the only road access to the Mauna Kea Summit Area and Visitor Information Center, Mauna Kea State Park, Pohakuloa Training Area, Mauna Kea Astronomical Observatory Complex, Waiki’i Ranch and the Kilohana Girl Scout Camp. The Saddle Road also provides the only access to thousands of acres of public forest and open grass lands. Connecting Hilo from about milepost 7.8 on the Hawai’i Belt Road to the Mamalahoa Highway approximately 6 miles south of Waimea, the Saddle Road is widely used by island residents for cross-island travel, despite its somewhat poor condition and undeserved, evil reputation.

Mauna Kea From Mauna Kea State Park; Note V-Shaped Stream Valleys and Glacial Cirques: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea From Mauna Kea State Park; Note V-Shaped Stream Valleys and Glacial Cirques: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Saddle Road frequently has perfect weather, but also fairly routine are patches of intense rain, fog and high winds. It’s takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours straight driving time, depending upon weather, to make the full traverse from Kailua Kona to Hilo; however, one should be sure to leave time in the schedule to drive up to Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station or hike the Pu’u Huluhulu nature trails.

Along its entire 53 mile length between the turn-off from the highway just 6 miles west of Waimea and where it meets Hawaii Belt Road just north of Hilo, there is no gas and there are no services available; plan accordingly. Some food, water and restrooms may be available at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station which is a 30 minute drive up a side road off the Saddle Road about half way.

Kipuka Huluhulu from Saddle Road: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kipuka Huluhulu from Saddle Road: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Leg 3) Off a Spur road at the jct of John Burns Way and Hwy 200, on the south side, is Kipuka Huluhulu (“Shaggy Hill”) Nene Sanctuary.

Pu’u Huluhulu Nature Trails/Kipuka Aina Hou

Frequently described as simultaneously the most noticeable and the most overlooked landmark along the Saddle Road, Kipuka Pu’u Huluhulu rises more than 200 feet out of the surrounding lava flows. It’s name meaning “furry hill”, this forested cinder cone has multiple trails winding up through rare native koa trees to breathtaking 360° views of Hualalai, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa at the top, where you can also wander a meadow of native Hawaiian plants recently reintroduced in this protected natural habitat. By whatever trail, the summit of Kipuka Huluhulu is only about 20 minutes walk from the car.

Owing to the encapsulated nature of the kipuka, bird watching here is particularly fabulous; the Ā’akepa, Nene and the Ā’akiapola Ā’au, as well as the Kalij pheasants, pueo, i’o and turkeys are among the rare, endangered or just plain beautiful birds you will see here. The numerous roads and trails through the hundreds of square miles of adjacent lava flows makes for interesting, if hot and dry, mountain biking and hiking.

Parking and a unisex pit toilet are the only amenities available at Kipuka Pu’u Huluhulu.

Mauna Kea From Kipuka Huluhulu Nene Sanctuary: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea From Kipuka Huluhulu Nene Sanctuary: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Looking South from Mauna Loa to Mauna Kea from Near Lake Wai'au: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Looking South from Mauna Loa to Mauna Kea from Near Lake Wai'au: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Leg 4) Go north on John Burns Way to Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station.


Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station

The Visitor Information Station is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the day there are interactive computer exhibits about Mauna Kea, the observatories and astronomical research, plus there are video presentations and nature trails to hike. Many evenings after dark National Park personnel and astronomers put on public programs and discuss what the latest astronomical findings tell us about the nature of our universe. The souvenir shop has some food items, including hot chocolate, coffee and hot soup, for sale.

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

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

Leg 5) John Burns Way to Mauna Kea Summit

Mauna Kea Summit

Before you decide to go to the summit of Mauna Kea, stop, think, plan. Are you prepared for cold and high altitude? Do you understand the nature and dangers of altitude sickness and UV radiation? Are you experienced at traveling icy dirt roads? Is you car safe for the trip (many car rental agencies on the island forbid you to drive this road)? The Rangers at the Visitor’s center can brief you on altitude sickness, UV radiation preparedness, the condition of the road and all other information you need to decide whether to visit the summit (see a video here).

Lake Wai'au--the Seventh Highest Lake in the US--Whose Name Means "Swirling Water", Perches Near the Summit of Mauna Kea On The Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lake Wai'au--the Seventh Highest Lake in the US--Whose Name Means "Swirling Water", Perches Near the Summit of Mauna Kea On The Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The summit of Mauna Kea is truly an amazing place. Beautiful, awe-inspiring, 360 degree views of the entire Big Island, the summit is also culturally and religiously important to the native Hawai’ians and is home to several, world-class astronomical observatories and their support buildings. Because of the extremity of the altitude and the poor quality of the road above the Visitor’s Center, it is advised that extreme caution be exercised in deciding to visit Mauna Kea’s Summit. From the road’s end very near the summit, a short, 10 minute trail leads up Pu’u Weiku cinder cone to the actual mountain top and a Hawaiian religious shrine. Also near the summit is the 1-mile hike to Lake Waiau, the 7th highest lake in the US, as well as numerous archeological sites. Moving at altitude is strenuous, so conserve energy. Do not over-tax yourself, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and protect yourself from the sun, wind and cold. Leave the summit area and return to the paved road long before you are tired.

Kaumana Cave, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaumana Cave, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Leg 6) Return John Burns Way to Hwy 200; take Hwy 200 east to Kaumana Caves

Kaumana Caves

A skylight opening to 25-mile long Kaumana Cave is located at the county park near the 4-mile marker on the Hilo side of the Saddle Road. Concrete stairs take you down through the rain forest jungle to the bottom of a collapse pit forming two entrances to the cave. Most people are drawn to the entrance on the right, a large, opening leading to cavernous rooms. In this entrance, graffiti from hundreds of years ago to the present is preserved, scratched into the rocks. The entrance on the left, however, is more interesting, leading through squeezes and low spots to numerous rooms with fascinating speleo-architecture and cave formations. Both caves go to true dark in fewer than 300 feet in either direction. There are more than 2 miles of easily accessible, wild cave to explore here, but if you intend more than just a cursory inspection near the entrances, bring a hard hat, water and at least 3 sources of light. A quick tour of the caves takes fewer than 20 minutes.

Kaumana Cave's Skylight Entrance: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaumana Cave's Skylight Entrance: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Parking for the caves is located across the highway from the park; extreme care should be taken when crossing he road. Public restrooms, water and picnic tables are available at the park. As you approach Hilo from Kaumana Caves, Hwy 200 becomes variously called Kaumana Drive, then Waianuenue Avenue.

Astronomical Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea, From Downtown Hilo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Astronomical Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea, From Downtown Hilo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Leg 7) Take Hwy 200 into Hilo Town.

Hilo Town

Beautiful but wet, metropolitan but decrepit, bustling but laid back, Hilo is a lovely, maddening, heartbreaking, addictive study in contrasts. In can rain all day long for 50 days in a row, yet when the sun does shine, the views of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea from the Liliuokalani Gardens, or of Hilo Bay as you drive down from the mountains, or the rain-forest and waterfall choked gulches with lovely beaches along the highway north of town, make Hilo one of the most truly, achingly-lovely spots on earth.

Hilo's Charming Bayfront Shops: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hilo's Charming Bayfront Shops: Photo by Donald MacGowan

More laid back and sleepier than bustling Kailua Kona, Hilo is the largest town on the island, and the county seat. The Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, Tsunami Museum, Lyman House Missionary Museum and the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo are all wonderful places to learn about various aspects of Hawaii. There are numerous shopping districts, two large malls and the Historic Old Hilo downtown shops to browse through, a variety of sprawling green parks, a fabulous tropical arboretum right downtown and a mile-long black-sand beach fronting the bay to explore. Hilo’s Farmer’s Market is a “must see” for any visitor who is spending time on this side of the island.

Mauna Kea's Summit  from Highway 19 Near Waimea Town: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea's Summit from Highway 19 Near Waimea Town: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Leg 8) Return Waianuenue Avenue to Kaumana Drive to Hwy 200; take Hwy 200 west to jct with Hwy 190; take Hwy 190 west to Kailua Kona.

Trogdor at Keauhou Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Trogdor at Keauhou Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, please visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. Information about the author is available here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan