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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.

Looking across Kealakekua Bay to the Captian Cook Monument, Where Captain James Cook was Killed: Graphic from Photo by Donald B. 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.

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 Across Kealakekua Bay to the Cook Monument from Manini Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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.

Aerial View of the Cook Monument and Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Kelly Kuchman

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 of Hawaii’s most significant historical and cultural parks, Kealakekua Bay Archeological and Historical State Park, the adjacent village of Napo’opo’o and the Captain Cook Monument.  We will highlight just a bit of the information you might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks that is available on Tour Guide’s iPhone App. You could easily miss a lot of very interesting places, fun things to do and amazing sights if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Kealakekua Bay Archeological and Historical District, Captain Cook Monument and Hikiau Heiau

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 Kealakekua Bay from Napo'opo'o Road; The White Obelisk at the Captain Cook Monument is Just Visible in the Center Right of the Picture: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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.

Cook Monument from Napo'opo'oi Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Across the bay from Napo’opo’o stands the solitary white obelisk that marks the lonely Captain Cook Monument rising among the ruins of Ka’awaloa Village. High along the cliff walls can be seen numerous burial caves of the iwi (bones) of Ali’i, and in the late afternoon light, a greyish streak is visible on the northwest wall. Local legend has it that a canon-ball fired by Cook to impress the Hawai’ians left this streak as it smeared and bounced along the cliff. Close in along the beach, historic Hikiau (Moving Current) Heiau stands through the ages, witness to the tsunami of enormous changes that swept through Hawai’i with the coming of Cook and the Europeans, which began right here at Kealakekua Bay.

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

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.

Kealakekua State Historical Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Modern Amenities: Kealakekua State Historical Park and Napo’opo’o Beach County Park stand adjacent to Hikiau Heiau and run along a cobble beach that has fabulous snorkeling although few people go in here due mostly to locals wrongly informing them of restrictions involving dolphin encounters. The dolphin restrictions apply to areas farther out in the ocean than most people swim. There are also pavilions, picnic tables and barbecues, available water and public restrooms in 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.

Hikiau Heaiu at Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Favored to figure prominently in some of the most important history of Hawai’i, Hikiau (moving currents) Heiau is a large, extremely well preserved luakini heiau along the shores of the ancient surfing beach at Napo’opo’o. On January 28, 1779, Cook presided over the first Christian ritual performed in the Hawai’ian Islands when he read the burial service for crewmember William Whatman at Hikiau Heiau.

North from the heiau is a sacred fresh water pond and site of village ruins behind the sand-and-boulder beach. This beach, once glorious grey sand, has been eroding for years and most of the remaining sand was washed away during Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

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.

Snorkelers at Cook Monument use the old pier as an entry spot, Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Snorkeling: Swimming to the monument from Napo’opo’o is recommended only for well-conditioned long-distance swimmers used to crossing mile-long stretches of open ocean; the swim takes about an hour each way. Bear in mind that this bay has the highest population density of hammerhead sharks of anywhere on Earth—not that anyone has ever been known to have been attacked. Snorkeling and scuba diving at the monument is unrivaled anywhere in Hawai’i, but access is hampered by lack of navigable roads nearby. The monument may be reached either by boat from Napo’opo’o or by hiking the trail down from the Highway. Numerous tidepools, vast underwater topography, caves and spires, a several-hundred foot drop-off and an abundance of varied sea life including dolphin, hammerhead sharks, eels and manta rays are the highlights of underwater exploration of this bay.

Kayaking: Many shops along the Kona coast rent kayaks to visitors for the short paddle to the monument, and this is highly recommended over swimming the mile of open ocean. Put in at the old concrete pier in Napo’opo’o and expect to take between 30 and 45 minutes to paddle to the monument. Frequently there are locals on the pier who will help you launch your kayak for tips…these people are local residents with a life-long connection to the bay—they are great sources of advice, information, local humor, stories and aloha…and they deserve their tips. Don’t go out if the swells are large, or if there is a strong offshore wind.

Be sure to return to the pier well before dark, remembering that there is little twilight in tropical regions. Take at least a half gallon of water for each person and food—none of either are available at the monument and paddling is hot, thirsty and hungry work, and you will certainly want to rinse the salt off your body before paddling back to the pier. The rewards of snorkeling the crystalline waters at the monument, the immersion in history and the panoramic views of the cliffs lining the bay are certainly more than worth the effort of paddling across the bay.

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.

Dolphin Watchers Prepare to Snorkel at Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Word About Dolphin Encounters: Dolphins frequent this bay and you are admonished to keep at least 100 feet from them, although they may approach you more closely. Consider yourself lucky to see them and leave it at that. It is a violation of Federal Law to chase, feed, harass, molest or otherwise annoy dolphins.

Never reach out to touch or feed a dolphin; they are wild animals (this ain’t Flipper!) and will bite. Noting that they are among that class of Cetacea called “Peg-toothed whales”, these bites can be anywhere from a mild nip to life threatening if the dolphin becomes angered.  Always obey the areas closed to boaters and swimmers in the bay, these are “dolphin resting ares” and are important to maintaining the health of the dolphin pods.

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.

Kayakers Amidst a Pod of Dolphin in Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Federal Human-Sea Life Interaction Laws:

• Stay at least 50 yards from dolphins, monk seals and sea turtles.

• It is not illegal for an animal to approach you, but it is against the law to approach, chase, surround, touch or swim with dolphins (or other marine mammals) and sea turtles.

• Do not harass, swim with, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal or turtle.

• Limit observation time to 30 minutes.

• Feeding marine mammals and turtles is prohibited under federal law.

• Report suspected violations to the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964.

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.

Panoramic Views of the Kona Coast are Just One Reward For Hiking the Trail to Captain Cook's Monument: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hiking: Hiking down to the monument from Highway 11is a great deal of fun—great scenery, wonderful trail and involves complete immersion in Hawai’ian pre- and post-contact history and offers the opportunity for some of the finest snorkeling anywhere on the planet. However, the return hike is hot, thirsty and strenuous; but it is also highly rewarding, granting panoramic views all up and down the Kona Coast. The trail leaves the Napo’opo’o Road just 500 feet below where it drops off Highway 11 near a large avocado tree, right across from a group of three coconut trees, right at telephone pole Number 4. The parking spots and trailhead will show signs of obvious use, usually in the form of recently deposited horse apples from the many trail riders frequenting the area.

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.

Ka'awaloa Village Cart Road to Cook Monument, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The first avocado tree is the harbinger of wonderful things to come, as the trail passes through an area rich in guava, mango, papaya and avocado that are free for the gathering. The 2.5-mile hike takes about 2-2 1/2 hours to descend, somewhat more time to come back up. After following a jeep road for about 50 feet, the trail turns left when the jeep road turns right onto private property. Although overgrown by tall grass for the next half mile, the trail runs more or less straight down the left side of a rock wall to the sea. As the pitch straightens out, keep to the left when the trail first forks and proceed to the beach. You will strike shore several hundred feet northwest of the monument—stroll through the remains of Ka’awaloa Village along the beach on your way to pay homage to Europe’s most prolific explorer, James Cook. You will want to bring a change of dry clothes for the hike back and the comments about taking water in the section above apply equally, if not doubly, to hiking to the monument. Simply put, it’s hot, thirsty work to get there and back and climbing back to the highway in wet clothes with salty skin is miserable.

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 hike along the shoreline to Captain Cook's Monumnet is dangerous and difficult and has several passages that must be swum in dangerous currents and surf, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

It is also possible, but much less safe or pleasant, to hike most of the way to the monument along the shoreline. This hike is an uninteresting exercise in scrambling over boulders along the beach and contains at least two places that have to be swum in dangerously rough water; as such, the safety of this trek is totally at the whim of ocean tides and swells. Highly not recommended.

The hike along the shoreline to Captain Cook's Monumnet is dangerous and difficult and has several passages that must be swum in dangerous currents and surf, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Bart Hunt Rehearses On Camera for a Video About Captain Cook, Captain Cook Monument, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B.MacGowan

History: It was in this broad bay that Captain James Cook made his deepest impression on, and longest visit with, native Hawai’ians when he first arrived late in November of 1778. And it was along the shores of Kealakekua Bay where he met his tragic end in February 1779 during his second visit. Forever altered from the moment of Cook’s arrival, the evolution of Hawai’ian society would soon change in ways the Native Hawai’ians could scarcely have imagined just days before the Englishman made shore here

Arriving in his ships Resolution and Discovery at the height of Makahiki, a season of peace, worship, hula, games and feasting, Cook was greeted as the personification of the god Lono, feted as a divine guest and treated with feasts, gifts, respect and awe. A god of plenty and agriculture, Lono’s personal sign was a tapa cloth hung from a crossbeam suspended from a single pole, a profile not too unlike that of the sailing ships Cook arrived with.

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.

Hikiau Heiau, Napo'opo'o, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

On January 28, 1779, Cook presided over the first Christian ritual performed in the Hawai’ian Islands when he read the burial service for crewmember William Whatman at Hikiau Heiau. After sailing from Hawai’i to search for the Northwest Passage along the Alaska Coastline shortly thereafter, Cook and his crew had to return to Kealakekua Bay abruptly and unexpectedly to repair a mast. With the celebratory mood of Makahiki over, dismayed about the previous behavior of the sailors and noting that the Englishmen had consumed an inordinate amount of food, Cook and his men were greeted much less warmly upon re-arriving. Tensions ran high and when a group of Hawai’ians stole a rowboat to scavenge the nails. Cook attempted to take Chief Kalanio’pu’u as hostage to insure the boat’s return and to reassert his authority. A scuffle broke out and Cook was killed by the Hawai‘ians in the ensuing melee.

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 Shallows Where captain James Cook Fell, Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Captain King’s eye-witness account of Cook’s death is as stark and barren as the cliffs that loom above the site: “Four marines were cut-off amongst the rocks in their retreat and fell as sacrifice to the fury of the enemy…Our unfortunate Commander, the last time he was seen distinctly, was standing at the water’s edge, calling for the boats to stop firing and pull in…” In this battle, five Englishmen died and 17 Hawai’ians, five of them chiefs, were killed. Eight more Hawai’ians were killed in a subsequent melee near the heiau.

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.

Marker in the Intertidal Zone where Captain James Cook Died, Near the Cook Monument, Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Cook’s body was sacrificed to Ku, the war god, at Puhina O Lono (burning of Lono) Heiau, his flesh baked, bones flensed and body parts distributed to various Ali’i. It is said that, as a mark of honor, Kamehameha received Cook’s hair. Ever the astute politician, Kamehameha returned this grisly trophy to the British sailors soon afterward. It is neither polite nor wise to raise this subject with modern Hawai’ians, but noting that the ancient Hawai’ians were habitual cannibals used to ritually consuming the flesh of their vanquished foes, it is reasonable to assume that Cook’s mortal coil received this treatment. In fact, this cannibalistic honoring of Cook as a worthy foe comes down to us in a Hawai’ian wives’ tale of village children stealing and eating Cook’s baked entrails because they mistook them for those of a dog.

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.

Text on Cook Monument Obelisk, Kelalakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Fearing a bloodbath after the initial fracas, Captain Clerke ordered the men of Resolution and Discovery to stand down, and the mortal remains of James Cook that had been returned by the Hawai’ians were buried at sea. Exacting revenge, a few Englishmen snuck ashore on more than one occasion, killing numerous villagers in their anger.

Summing-up the feelings of the crew after Cook’s burial at sea, the ship’s surgeon wrote: “In every situation he stood unrivaled and alone. On him all eyes were turned. He was our leading star which, at its setting, left us in darkness and despair.”

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.

Turquoise Waters of Kealakekua Bay: Photo by Donnie MacGowan_edited-1

In 1874 British sailors erected the current white obelisk monument to Captain Cook on a spot quite a bit distant from where he was actually killed. The area remains a piece of British Territory on American soil and is maintained by Brit sailors passing through.

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 cattle industry in Hawaii began on February 22, 1793, at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island. British Navigator George Vancouver presented to Kamehameha the Great four cows; in 1804, the first horses in Hawaii landed here. Today, many varieties of cow graze contentedly above the cliffs overlooking Kealakekua Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

In the mid-to-late 1800s to the early 1900s Kealakekua Bay was a busy sugar and cattle port and there was a large wooden hotel at the end of the carriage road near the present site of the monument. The concrete pier at Napo’opo’o is the only physical remnant to remind us of this town’s former prominence. Regular steamer traffic bearing passengers, mail and trade goods made this port quite prominent until increasingly better roads began to be built through Kona and Kailua Bay supplanted Kealakekua Bay as a center of shipping and commerce; Napo’opo’o has slowly shrunken into elegant tropical neglect ever since.

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.
Busy Day for Kayakers at Napo’opo’o Pier, Kona 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.

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.

Locals sell handicrafts on the precincts of once-mighty Hikiau Heiau, Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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 Captain Cook Monument at Ka'awaloa on Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan.

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

Across the bay from Napo’opo’o stands the solitary white obelisk that marks the lonely Captain Cook Monument rising among the ruins of Ka’awaloa Village. High along the cliff walls can be seen numerous burial caves of the iwi (bones) of Ali’i, and in the late afternoon light, a greyish streak is visible on the northwest wall. Local legend has it that a canon-ball fired by Cook to impress the Hawai’ians left this streak as it smeared and bounced along the cliff. Close in along the beach, historic Hikiau (Moving Current) Heiau stands through the ages, witness to the tsunami of enormous changes that swept through Hawai’i with the coming of Cook and the Europeans, which began right here at Kealekekua Bay.

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

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

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

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


This post has been expanded and updated, here.

by Donnie MacGowan

It’s springtime on the Big Island which means monsoon season here in Kona.

A Spring Monsoon Cloudburst in Kailua Kona (it dropped 2.6 inches of rain in 72 minutes, then we returned to brilliant blue sky and sun) : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Spring Monsoon Cloudburst in Kailua Kona (it dropped 2.6 inches of rain in 72 minutes, then we returned to brilliant blue sky and sun) : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Remembering that Kona Side of Hawaii is basically arid to semi-arid, “monsoon” simply means that rather than our usual brilliant weather of sapphire skies and tropical sun, we get a few days of grey skies and drizzle and a tropical cloudburst or two–nothing like the folks over on Hilo Side have to contend with.  But during the monsoon when we get a couple sunny days, we like to break out of the office, hit the road and see our favorite places.

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

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

This time, we decided to take a ride down the Kona Coast and into Ka’u. Our first stop was at picturesque Napo’opo’o, where the Kealakekua State Historic Monument, Hikiau Heiau and the Captain Cook Monument are.

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

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

As well as immensely important historically (this is where Cook first met the Hawaiians, as well as the place where he died), dolphin, whales and some of the best snorkeling in the Pacific are here.

Next, we drove along the shoreline, past ancient battlefields, tiny beaches, awesome sea arches and historic churches to the National Historic Monument at Pu’u Honua O Hounaunau, the Place of Refuge.

Sacred Iki nd Hale Keawe at Pu'u Honua O Hounaunau, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sacred Iki and Hale Keawe at Pu'u Honua O Hounaunau, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This ancient site is enormously important historically and culturally and is very sacred to the native Hawaiians. Adjacent to the Monument is Two Step Beach which, like Kealakekua Bay, hosts unbelievably wonderful snorkeling. In addition to the great Ali’i of Hawaii, James Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson spent time here.

Two Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay--Some of the Best Snorkeling in the Pacific: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Two Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay--Some of the Best Snorkeling in the Pacific: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving South through the coffee country of Kona Mauka, we decided to drive down to Ho’okena Beach and do some snorkeling.

Ho'okena Beach In The Morning: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Ho'okena Beach In The Morning: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Recent changes to the beach include more parking, a kayak and snorkel gear rental and snack shop as well as full time caretaker and security…the camping may be a bit more regulated these days, but the beach is much cleaner and safer–it is a joy to visit again after it got so run-down a few years back.

Morning Campers at Ho'okena Beach Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Morning Campers at Ho'okena Beach Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving through Kona macadamia nut country across the old lava flows from Mauna Loa, we decided to check out the town of Miloli’i and hike into Honomalino Beach.

An Idyllic Morning at Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

An Idyllic Morning at Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Miloli’i calls itself the “Last Fishing Village in Hawaii” and is a tight-knit enclave of native Hawaiians. The town is beautiful, if obviously impoverished, and the locals, if treated with respect, are friendly and engaging. Be wary…they can also be a bit frisky, so leave no valuables in your car when you hike out to Honomalino Beach, about 20 minutes south along the spectacular coastline.

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Miloli’i, our wanderlust drew us down to South Point–the southern most point in the United States, and a region of deep mystery, spirituality and fascination. Near the Ka Lae Heiau, one of the most sacred in all Polynesia, we found some rare (perhaps modern) kite petroglyphs in the Queen’s Pond.

Kite Petroglyphs at South Point...Are These Modern? : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kite Petroglyphs at South Point...Are These Modern? : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Crossing the tip of South Point, we drove to the Kaulana Boat Ramp and hiked into Mahana Beach–South Point’s famed Green Sand Beach.

Bathers at Mahana Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donad B. MacGowan

Bathers at Mahana Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

It’s always a treat to visit and a fascinating experience–beautiful, secluded, mysterious.

Mahana Green Sand Beach in the Afternoon: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach in the Afternoon: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We drove back to the Highway past the Ka Lae Wind Farm, then down through Waiohinu and Na’alehu. Waiohinu is where Mark Twain stayed as he wrote his “Letters From Hawaii”, and the monkey pod tree he sat under is still by the roadside.

Coastline of Ka'u from near Na'alehu, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Coastline of Ka'u from near Na'alehu, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Finally, we wound up at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach to visit the amazing sea turtles and watch the sunset.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Ambles Off into the Punalu'u Sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Ambles Off into the Punalu'u Sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Returning to Kailua Kona in the waning light, we arrived back in town just in time for seafood buffet dinner at the King Kamehameha Beach Resort. Could there be a more perfect day?

Kailua Kona in the Evening Light from Kailua Harbour: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kailua Kona in the Evening Light from Kailua Harbour: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

Copyright 2009 Donald B. MacGowan.  All photos copyright 2009 Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

This post has been expanded and updated here.

Trip 3: South Kona, Ka’u and Puna: Wild Southern Coastline, Immense Volcanic Mountains and Mysterious South Point

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

Headed south from Kona, connect to Highway 11 and drive 20 minutes to sample Kona Coffee. Numerous farms offer tours to discover the history and processing of this highly prized beverage. In this region are Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook Monument, the locations where Hawai’ian history was forever changed and the best snorkeling in the state. Follow the beach road 10 minutes to Pu’u Honua ‘O Honaunau National Historic Park. Discover why this spiritual complex was a “place of refuge”. Continuing south 1 hour, after some beach time and a short hike, is South Point Road. This is where early Polynesians arrived and started a village based on the rich fishing grounds offshore. Nearby is the trail for a 3 hour round trip hike to a Green Sand Beach (bring drinking water). Then drive 30 minutes south to visit endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtles at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. From Punalu’u it is a 2 hour drive back to Kona.

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

From Hapaialii Heiau to Keeku Heiau, Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Hapaialii Heiau to Keeku Heiau, Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

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

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

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

Captain Cook Monument and Kealakekua Bay from Manini Beach at Napo'opo'o, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan
Captain Cook Monument and Kealakekua Bay from Manini Beach at Napo’opo’o, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kealakekua Bay Historical District and Captain Cook Monument

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

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

Pu'u Hounua O Hounaunau, The Place of Refuge: Photo by Donald MacGowan
Pu’u Hounua O Hounaunau, The Place of Refuge: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

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

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

Leg 3) Return to Hwy 11 via south leg of Hwy 160, continue south on Hwy 11 to Ho’okena Beach Road; Ho’okena Beach Road west to Ho’okena Beach.

Ho'okena Beach, South Kona: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ho'okena Beach, South Kona: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ho’okena Beach County Park

Brilliant snorkeling, decent boogie boarding, passable shell collecting and wonderful camping—it’s a wonder Ho’okena Beach is not more popular with visitors. Nestled alongside the ruins of Ho’okena Village, this beach is a wonderful place to spend a morning or a weekend.

Frequented by dolphin, stuffed full of pelagic and reef fish and turtles and boasting crystal clear, warm and calm waters, Ho’okena is a must-see beach for avid snorkelers and divers as well as sea kayakers. During the winter months, female Humpback whales and their babies frequent the waters off this bay.

Wonderful beach camping, new showers and restrooms, picnic tables and abundant fresh water make this county park a gem. Camping is by permit only on a first come-first served basis.

Leg 4) Return to Hwy 11 via Ho’okena Beach Road; continue south on Hwy 11 to Miloli’i Road; Miloli’i Road to Miloli’i Beach Park; trail to Honomalino Beach.

Honomalino Beach, South Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Honomalino Beach, South Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Honomalino Bay

A true gem of West Hawai’i and rarely crowded, Honomalino Bay is reached by a 20 minute hike from the south end of Miloli’i Beach County Park. The hike starts between the bathrooms and a yellow church and is always along the right fork of the trail, in and out of the surf line, to avoid private property.

Snorkeling is very interesting on the north side in the rocks, when the surf is low. The water, though very clear, is sometimes quite cold due to spring discharge in the sand on the beach. There are no services here, leave no valuables in your car.

Leg 5) Return to Hwy 11 via Miloli’i Road and continue south on Hwy 11 to South Point Road; South Point Road to South Point.

Cow and Windfarm: South Point--Ka Lae--Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Cow and Windfarm: South Point--Ka Lae--Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

South Point (Ka Lae)

Haunting, windswept, wild, empty, beautiful. Imagine the gratitude and wonder of the first Polynesians who, after voyaging at sea without sight of land for more than a month, finally made land here at Ka Lae. Polynesians established a thriving colony based upon the incredibly rich fishing grounds just offshore. South Point is the farthest point south in the entire United States. The road to Ka Lae from the Hawai’i Belt Road is infamous although greatly improved in recent years; check your rental agreement before driving here. There are no services…plan and act accordingly.

Leg 6) Head back north on South Point Road to Kaulana Boat Launch Road; take road to boat launch, Green Sand Beach trail to Green Sand Beach.

Mahana Green Sand Beach, South Point Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach, South Point Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Trail to Green Sand Beach

Absolutely unique to the island of Hawai’i are the handful of green sand beaches composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for underwater photographs. Watch for strong currents; do not go out far nor if the surf is high or there are strong winds.

To get there, follow signs to Kaulana boat launch; park left (south) of the boat launch. Hiking distance is 2 ¼ miles each way along rolling tropical prairie. Stay in sight of the shore and you cannot get lost. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up the way back to the crater rim is easy to follow. There are no services here; plan and act accordingly.

Leg 7) Return from Kaulana Boat Launch Road to South Point Road to Hwy 11; proceed southeast on Hwy 11 to Punalu’u Road; Punalu’u Road to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park.

Bradford MacGowan Filming at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Bradford MacGowan Filming at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park

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

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

Leg 8) Return Punalu’u Road to Hwy 11; take Hwy 11 west and north to Kailua Kona.

Sunrise at Ahu'ena Heiau in Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Sunrise at Ahu'ena Heiau in Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

One of the unexpected joys of many people’s trips to the Big Island is their discovery of the rich and varied tapestry history that wraps the Island of Hawaii. .Hawaii is the only state in the union that has king’s palaces, temples to the gods of surfing and and architectural history that spans a millennium and a half. Many people don’t realize that the Kona Coast was an important region of major fishing villages, taro farms and religious centers for a millennium and a half. However, the Kona region rose to ascendancy as a religious and political center when King Umi founded his capital here in the 16th century. In 1812, King Kamehameha established Kailua Kona as the Capital of his newly united Kingdom of Hawaii.

For almost 400 years, temples and palaces around Kona served as a kind of “Rome of the Pacific”, one of the great political and cultural centers in Polynesia, until the capital of the Kingdom was moved to Honolulu in 1850 by Kamehameha III. Slipping into a sleepy, territorial back-water torpor, Kailua Town and the Kona district dozed gently through the plantation era and early statehood into modern times. Today, booming and exciting, this fast-paced area is the center of the Big Island’s financial and cultural reawakening in the new century. Just remember, when I describe the Kona District as a “booming and exciting… fast-paced area”, I mean “booming and exciting” in a very Hawaiian, mellow and relaxed way.

Some of the most important historical sites in all of Polynesia are right here in Kona-let’s take a quick tour of the Kealakekua Region of Kona, the portion that lies along the Hawaii Belt Road from Kainaliu south, turning at the junction with Highway 160 down to Napo’opo’o and into Honaunau. It was in this region the Kings of old ruled and dispensed justice; where the great explorer Captain James Cook spent time among the Hawaiians and ultimately lost his life; and where the two sustaining agricultural industries of ranching and coffee farming were born on Hawaii and flourish today.

Kainaliu Town
Lapping gently on either side of Highway 11, Kainaliu Town is one of the principle commercial centers of Up Country Kona. Kainaliu grew up at the intersection of two donkey tracks to service the sugar, coffee and ranching industries, sometime after the construction of Lanakila Church in 1867.

The star attraction in Kainaliu is, by far, the Aloha Theater and Aloha Angel Café. This historic and beautiful theater is still the center for stage productions of all kinds as well as cinematic shows; it is the centerpiece for the Kona Association for the Performing Arts (KAPA). Another of the towns interesting attractions is the amazing Oshima Grocery and Dry Goods Store (“If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”). In addition the town boasts numerous other businesses, galleries, furniture, thrift, herbal medicine shops as well as several wonderful restaurants and coffee houses. Donkey Balls has a candy factory that offers fun tours and tasty samples and Captain Cook Coffee has a roasting house right in town that gives weekday tours. When the weather turns wet in West Hawai’i, or you need a relief from the heat on the beach, a day spent browsing and eating in cool, shady Kainaliu is a real treat.

Aloha Theater
The Aloha Theater and its cafe, serve as a gathering place for the community and the home of independent, classic and second run films as well as the Hawaiian International Film Festival and various community events.

Construction of the Aloha Theater began in 1929 and was finished in 1932. long before Hawai’i was a state. Starting life as a silent movie theater, it survived the changeover to ‘talkies’ as well as the great fire of 1948 that destroyed much of it’s’ side of town. Still in use today as a performing arts center by the Kona Association for the Performing Arts, performances feature live music and dance as well as film. The Quonset-hut shaped original theater building and the original marquee still in use are very typical of the style used in other theaters of this period in Hawaii.

The Aloha Angel Café associated with the theater offers a wide-ranging menu of entrees, baked goods and deserts and is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Kona Hongwanji Mission
Originally built in Ho’okena in 1897, this Shin Buddhist Temple was moved to Kainaliu in 1906. The stone arch was built in 1915 and the temple itself has been extensively modified through the years, although the current structure’s arrangement dates from 1980. On the main alter is a carved sandalwood image of the Amida Buddha which was consecrated in 1933.

Kalukalu Homestead (Greenwell Farm)/Greenwell Store/Kona Historical Society Museum
Members of the Greenwell Family have been important in Kona history and society since Henry Nicholas Greenwell bought 300 acres of farmland at Kalukalu in 1850. Leaving the British military service at age 23 for adventure in gold rush California, Henry Greenwell was injured off-loading supplies and he sailed to the Hawai’ian Kingdom in search of a doctor for healing. Once ensconced in Kona, and like many early pioneers in Hawai’i, Henry Greenwell had several businesses and served the community in many ways: he was not only a farmer, but also a rancher and sheep herder, dairy farmer, importer, school agent, postmaster and the Customs Agent at Kealakekua Bay. He married Edith Caroline Greenwell in 1868 and they raised 10 children. During his lifetime in Kona, he and his neighbors, competitors and partners presided over the massive agricultural change in West Hawai’i as the small, Hawai’ian kuleana, or family garden plots, were rapidly displaced by large scale sugar and coffee farms and ranches.

The original Greenwell home at Kalukalu was torn down in 1960s, however the store Henry Greenwell built in 1875 is still standing and is operated today as a museum by the Kona Historical Society. Greenwell’s store was one of the very first commercial ventures to serve the growing upland Kona settlements; until then, poor wagon roads meant most stores and businesses were located along the coast at ports such as Kailua and Napo’opo’o.

Greenwell Farms, 15 acres planted in coffee which produces around a million pounds of coffee a year, is open for free tours Monday through Saturday from 8 to 4:30; tours last 15-20 minutes. In the Greenwell Store original buildings, the Kona Historical Society has its offices, archives and runs a small museum. The museum has an interesting array of artifacts from early Kona life and coffee and sugar farming as well as an impressive archive of historical photographs, which may be seen by appointment. The Museum is open weekdays only, from 9-3; $2 admission.

D. Uchida Coffee Farm
Have you ever wondered what life was like on a Kona coffee farm during the early 1900’s? The D. Uchida Coffee Farm is where you can listen and relive the story of Kona’s first Japanese coffee farmers.

The present day Kona Historical Society has collaborated with the Kona coffee community, creating a project which both amuses and informs the visitor of the chronicles of Kona Coffee. It is a chance to peek into a past Kona life style which is close to being altogether erased. The Kona Historical society arranges tours daily.

Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden
Hawai’ian culture and society, due to the limited resources of island living, revolved around the efficient and knowledgeable use of a vast array of plants for building, medicine, food, clothing and just about every other aspect of life in the Hawai’ian archipelago. The Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens preserves this ancient knowledge and the rapidly disappearing plants in a delightful garden which is now run under the auspices of the Bishop Museum. Amy Greenwell had a ferocious and wide-ranging curiosity about plants and their cultural uses, so this garden hosts not only indigenous Hawaiian plants and herbs, but also a variety of tropical botanical specimens from around the Pacific.

The park is open from dawn to dusk seven days a week and there are free guided tours on the first and second Saturday of the month at 10 am.; other tours can be taken by arrangement.

Manago Hotel
Built in 1917 by a Japanese mail-order bride and her husband with an initial investment of $100, The Manago Hotel started out as a single house and evolved, through numerous remodelings, into the oldest continually-operating hotel on Hawaii Island.

Kinzo Manago and his wife Osame bought the original cottage, stove and land with borrowed monies. Providing meals and futons to overnight guests, the Managos continually remodeled and enlarged the house to meet the rising demand of travelers on the Big Island.

The toko-bashira, or good-luck post necessary to any Japanese business, was acquired back in 1917. At that time all they could afford was a coconut log which the artist soaked in the ocean to soften and to keep termites out. When you visit, be sure to see it in the lobby, still hard as a rock, still beautiful after nearly 100 year.

Today, the grandchildren of Kinzo and Osame operate the Hotel with all the tradition, hard work, affection and commitment to service that their parents and grandparents put into the Hotel. The restaurant still serves world famous stuffed pork chops, best on the Island. Whether you come to eat, to stay or just to see this wonderful piece of living Hawai’ian history, be sure to take a stroll through the lobby and look at the photographs of Old Kona.

Kealakekua Bay Archaeological and Historical District/Captain Cook Monument/
Kealakekua Bay is one of the most truly magical spots in the State of Hawai’i. Beautiful and peaceful Kealakekua Bay (Pathway of the Gods) opens beneath steep, beetling cliffs on the ancient surfing beach along the shoreline of Napo’opo’o Village. The site of arguably the most important single event in the history of Polynesia and of unparalleled, majestic scenery, Kealakekua Bay is today home to pods of frolicking dolphins, hosting the greatest density of hammerhead sharks anywhere in the Pacific Ocean and providing some truly breathtaking snorkeling.

Captain James Cook made his longest visit with, and deepest impression on, the native Hawai’ians when he first arrived late in November of 1778. And it was along the shores of Kealakekua Bay where he met his tragic end in February 1779 during his second visit. Forever altered from the moment of Cook’s arrival, the evolution of Hawai’ian society would soon change in ways the Native Hawai’ians could scarcely have imagined just days before the Englishman made shore here.

In 1874 British sailors erected the current white obelisk monument to Captain Cook on a spot quite a bit distant from where he was actually killed. The area remains a piece of British Territory on American soil and is maintained by Brit sailors passing through.
One can see the monument, across the bay from Napo’opo’o, rising among the ruins of Ka’awaloa Village. Today, most tourists choose to come by boat to visit the actual monument. However, the monument is also accessible by hiking a trail down from the highway; this hike takes 4-6 hours round trip and drinking water is not available anywhere along the journey. Perhaps the most sought-after snorkeling area in Hawai’i, visitors also frequently kayak from Napo’opo’o to the monument to enjoy the Class Triple-A waters and abundant sea life.

High along the cliff walls can be seen numerous burial caves of the iwi (bones) of Ali’i, and in the late afternoon light, a greyish streak is visible on the northwest wall. Local legend has it that a canon-ball fired by Cook to impress the Hawai’ians left this streak as it smeared and bounced along the cliff. Close in along the beach, historic Hikiau (Moving Current) Heiau stands through the ages, witness to the tsunami of enormous changes that swept through Hawai’i with the coming of Cook and the Europeans, which began right here at Kealakekua Bay.

St. Benedict’s Catholic Church (Painted Church)
In 1899, Catholic Father John Velghe landed in Honaunau and built his parish church. Having decorated the inside of previous parishes in the Marquesas and Tahiti with painted scenes from Biblical stories, he proceeded to decorate the interior of the church with scenes whimsical to inspiring, earning this church the nick-name it is most commonly known as “Painted Church”.

Place of Refuge/Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park
One of the most enchanting, beautiful, and restful spots in all the Hawai’ian Islands, Pu’u Honua O Honaunau is a place of ease and regeneration for even the most weary and jaded soul. Of enormous historical and cultural significance, the sacred grounds at Honaunau are the best-preserved and largest remaining Pu’u Honua, or Place of Refuge, complex in Hawai’i.

The temple and royal complex and royal residences at Pu’u Honua O Honaunau, established as a National Historical Park in 1961, are vast, well preserved and pervaded by a soul-filling peace. On the grounds of the refuge itself stands the stone platform, ‘Ale’alea, which was used for sports, the Keoua Stone, legendary resting place of the Ali’i and the Ka’ahumanu Stone, where it is said the favorite wife of Kamehameha the Great hid after quarrels with her husband.

Down the center of the Park runs the Wall of Honaunau, 100 feet long, 10 feet tall and 17 feet thick. It separated the palace grounds of the Ali’ from the temple grounds of the Pu’u Honua. The wall was made without mortar or dressing the stones and has survived for over 500 years.

In the royal residence area are the canoe landing at Keone’ele Cove, Heleipolala Fishpond, several reconstructed residences and a canoe hale as well as the famous Hale Keawe, where the iwi (bones) of as many as 23 Ali’i ancestors of Kamehameha were once stored.

King’s Trail/Lava Tube
The King’s Trail, or Ala Ali’i, was renamed the Trail of 1871 when residents were asked to square their tax bill to the monarchy by repairing the over-grown and run-down trail. The trail leaves the road from the City of Refuge proper along the road to the National Park Picnic Area, or can be joined by the Shoreline Trail, taken out of the south end of the picnic area. Along the trail are ruins of several Hawai’ian villages, Heiau, cattle pens and so forth. The trail also crosses over a large lava tube, which is only about 150 feet long and leads to spectacular views of the ocean, where it emerges from the cliff about 40 feet above the water.

To celebrate the conclusion of your Historical Soirée, as long as you are in Honaunau you really ought to plunge into the refreshing waters at Honaunau Bay at wonderful Two Step Beach, swim with the colorful tropical fish, amazing green sea turtles and playful dolphins . Or, you could stop in for a cup of famous Kona Coffee at any one of a number of local coffee shops between Captain Cook and Kainaliu…not the harsh sameness of the ubiquitously monotonous Starbucks, each individually special Kona coffee cafe reflects the personality of the local growers and roasters who produce Kona Coffee, widely held to be the best in all the world. Also, the singular and exclusive galleries and stores along this stretch of highway makes perfect shopping for completely unique gifts to take home.

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

Aloha is a Hawaiian word for hello, goodbye and a word they use for love. In the literal translation, “alo” is life and “ha” is breath. So when you say “Aloha”, and someone returns the greeting, you are sharing the breath of life.

The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest land mass in the state. I fact, all the other Hawaiian islands will fit inside the Big Island and only take up about half of it.

Therefore realize it takes 6-7 hours to drive around this island, if you don’t stop anywhere. I always suggest if you are going to drive and see the sights yourself, split the driving into 3 days and pick up your GPS Tour Guide (808-557-0051).

The first drive day, go to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. From Kona it will take 3 hours of non-stop drive time to reach the entrance. Tour Guide has over 50 sights to see inside the park with tons of great info and photos. The park entrance fee is $10.00 per carload and is good for 7 days, so you can go back and see sights you may have missed the first time if you wish. Bring a cooler with sandwiches and lots of water as there are few places inside the park to buy food. If you prefer a hot lunch, the Volcano House is reasonably priced ($15.00 buffet) and has a spectacular view. The Volcano House is also steeped in history and is not to be missed.

I wear shorts, tee shirt and comfortable walking shoes. BUT, also bring my sweat pants and sweatshirt. At 4200 ft. elevation, temperatures can vary from 80 to 45 degrees and weather conditions can change in a matter of minutes, so BE PREPARED. My advice is leave early (7:AM) and expect to get back about dark (6-7 PM). Tour Guide will get you there and back safely and has all the info about hiking, biking, museums and much more.

There are a number of great sights between Kona and the volcano that could be a whole day of sight seeing, all found in your Tour Guide.

When leaving Kona going south, you will enter the coffee country. There are several farms that offer free coffee sampling and tours. Just look for the signs along the highway. Kona Joe’s (visit here and see video) is one of my favorites. They grow their coffee on trellises like fine wine in Napa or Sonoma. Kona Joe’s offers tours, has a coffee bar and gift shop, is immaculately maintained and has breathtaking views of the Kona Coast. For tour times, see their ad in Tour Guide.

Continuing south, brings you to the turn off for Kealakekua Bay (Napo’opo’o Road). At the bottom of this beautiful winding road, turn right to see the Capt. Cook Monument. Tour Guide will give great info about this historic area.

Stay along the coast headed south, on the single lane road for 4 miles, and you will arrive at Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park, also known as the “Place of Refuge”. Tour Guide help will make this magical spot come alive; for even more information, visit here.

For nearly a thousand years sites around the Keauhou Historic District served as the political, cultural and religious centers for the people of the Hawaiian Islands. Many of the most important, best preserved and certainly the most interesting historical, pre-historical and cultural sites lie within the Keauhou Historic District, which stretches from Kahalu’u Beach Park south to Kuamo’o Bay. There are more than a dozen fascinating archeological features and sites that are easy to walk to, well maintained and quite interesting. Starting on Ali’i Drive just north of Kahalu’u Beach, let’s work our way south through this incredibly rich region.

Ku’emanu Heiau is located just south of Ali’i Drive mile marker 4.5 and just north of Kahalu’u. It is perhaps the only ancient temple in the world dedicated solely to the sport of surfing. This was a luakini heiau(a temple where human sacrifice was practiced) and on the north side of the site is a laupa’u, or bone pit where the remains of the sacrificed were discarded. The temple is still sacred to native Hawai’ians so remember to be especially respectful of this unique site. Do not disturb, nor take as souvenirs, offerings left upon the lele platform. Remember: take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints; Ku’emanu Heiau is a particularly striking place to photograph the sunset.

Those vine covered ruins across the street from Kahalu’u Beach are the remains of Old Helani Church, built by the Rev. John D. Paris in 1861. The church, however, was erected on a the grounds of the ‘Ohi’a-Mukumuku Heiau; a powerful and holy religious temple around which swirls some of the darkest folklore and ghosts stories told around the Hawai’ian Islands.

Held in Hawai’ian folktales to have been built by the gods, ‘Ohi’a-Mukumuku Heiau was re-dedicated to the war god, Kuka’ilimoku, by the Hawai’i Ali’i Lonoikamakakahiki so that he might vanquish his foe, the Ali’i of the Maui, Kamalalawalu, during their 16th century battles. It is said of these battles that when the Maui attacked the Hawai’i, the numbers of warriors was so vast that just as the first of the Maui war canoes were landing on Hawai’i, the last of their canoes were still leaving Maui. Ultimately victorious over the Maui, Lonoikamakakahiki took Kamalalawalu over to the nearby Ke’eku Heiau and sacrificed him alive to celebrate his great victory. Local ghost tales tell of Kamalalawalu and his war dogs still haunting both Ohi’a-Mukumuku and Ke’eku Heiaus.

Paokamenehune Seawall, is partly a natural and partly man-made feature enclosing the southern end of Kahalu’u Bay. Paokamenehune predates the 15th century temple complexes in the area and is held in legend to have been built by the menehune (sort of the Hawai’ian equivalent to leprechauns). However, building was actually initiated by Hawaiian leaders to enclose the bay as a large fishpond. Whether the work became beyond the powers of the Ali’i at the time to administer or the surfing faction won-out in the battle over use of Kahalu’u Bay is not known, but the breakwater was already in disrepair and disarray at the time of European contact in the 18th century.

Kapua Noni Heiau, located on a small point of land between the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Hotel’s pool and the sea, was built by the Ali’i Kalanio’pu’u. This walled enclosure was dedicated to ensuring the abundance of fish. Just north of the Heiau is a canoe landing and the sacred bathing pool, Poho’okapo. Po’o Hawaii Pond, a few dozen meters to the east, is a rare freshwater spring that was strictly reserved for the use of the Ali’i as a fish and bathing pond. Near the pond is the homesite of King Kalakaua. The original Hale Kahakai O Kalakaua, or seashore home of King Kalakaua, was built here in the 1880s; King Kalakaua built his own house and an exact replica for his friend the Court Jester. Both were destroyed in 1950; this replica was erected in 1980, about a century after the original had been built.

Between the canoe landing and the Po’o Hawai’i Pond (King’s Pond) are two sacred ku’ula stones. Carved or natural, large or small, stones used to attract fish are referred to as pohaku ku’ula. These two ku’ula are named Kanaio and Ulupalakua and were brought by voyaging canoe from Maui in 1751.

Look at the larger stone to see the images of a turtle, a fishhook and shark represented on it, using a combination of the natural lines of the stone and engraving. The round hole near the top indicates that this was also a “luakini” stone, or stone for human sacrifice. A loop of rope was passed through the hole, around the victim’s neck, and tightened until strangulation was complete. It is not known if human sacrifice at this stone was used as punishment, to propitiate the gods for good fishing, to dispatch enemy combatants for ritual cannibalism, or some combination of these.

On opposite sides of the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Hotel Tennis Courts lie the homesite of the legendary Mo’o Twins and Punawai Spring. The fertility pit at Punawai Spring is an example of the rare freshwater springs in this area which were the only source of drinking water and were the only reasons villages could survive in Kona. In modern times, the Hotel has promoted wedding ceremonies in the glade around Punawai springs, a Western reflection of the ancient practice of Hawai’ian girls bathing in them to insure fertile child-bearing years. Legend tells us that the Mo’o Twins were prophetesses of the lizard goddess who, through time, became goddesses in their own right. Learned in medicine, storytelling and song, the Mo’o Twins were revered and beloved of the local population they served.

The reconstructed Hapaiali’i Heiau (Temple for Elevating Chiefs), a temple associated with ceremonies involving changes in rank of Ali’i and as a calendric and astronomical observatory, lies on the grounds of the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort, across the narrow tidal inlet from Ke’eku Heiau. Not much is known about this Heiau; some traditions hold that it predates Ke’eku Heiau, others maintain it was built around 1812 by Kamehameha the Great. Rebuilt in 2007 and rededicated on the Winter Solstice of 2007, Hapaiali’i Heiau today is perhaps the best standing example of ancient Hawai’ian temple architecture

Immediately south of the grounds of the Keauhou Beach Hotel are the remains of a heiau that served as both a luakini heiau (place of human sacrifice) and pu’uhonua (place of refuge). Built by the Hawai’ian Ali’i Lonoikamakakahiki in the 16th century, Ke’eku Heiau is one of the most famous religious sites in the State of Hawai’i because of its veneration in folk tales involving the 16th century wars between the Hawai’i and the Maui. Ke’eku is where the victorious Hawaii Ali’i, Lonoikamakakahiki, is said to have sacrificed the defeated Maui Ali’i, Kamalalawalu, in celebration of the great victory. The Heiau has walls an impressive 6 to 11 feet thick, and measures 150 by 100 feet in area and is currently undergoing restoration.

Carved into the rock in the inter-tidal region in front of Ke’eku Heiau is an impressive set of ki’i pohaku (petroglyphs). Due to geological subsidence of the island over the past several hundred years, these petroglyphs are visible only at low tide; be wary of the rocks when wet—they are extremely slippery. There is one large anthropomorphic petroglyph in particular that is said to represent the sacrificed Maui Ali’i, Kamalalawalu.

Lonoikamakakahiki Homesite, on the grounds of the Kona Surf and Racquet Club, is a good example of the ravaging of archaeological heritage in West Hawai’i, and the disrespectful and wasteful way in which we deal with these important resources.

Here at Lonoikamakakahiki Residence is a king’s palace, 500 years old, and built by one of Hawai’i’s greatest kings, Umi. This site was later inhabited by at least two other important kings (Lonoikamakakahiki and Kalanio’pu’u) as well as Kamehameha the Great. In any other state this would be an archaeological treasure, a park or preserve, but certainly showcased and cared for. In this case, in Hawai’i, a few remnant walls were grudgingly reprieved from the bulldozer’s blade when the Kona Surf and Racquet Club was built by the Bishop Estate (Kamehameha Schools); the rest of this historical treasure was bulldozed into oblivion for all time. It is not even generally available for causal viewing, locked away behind the Kona Surf and Racquet Club’s iron gates where only paying Club guests and pedestrian visitors can see it. Of course, there is no available (legal) parking nearby.

The history of the temple and palace precincts of Lonoikamakakahiki Residence is deeply intertwined with some of the greatest events in the history of the Island. During the 16th Century, when Hawai’i was threatened by the attack of the Maui, Chief Lonoikamakakahiki was in residence here. Historic events again overtook this location late in the 17th Century when Captain Cook was killed at Kealakekua. Kalanio’pu’u, who was then Chief of all the Island of Hawai’i, fled here to hide from British sailors bent on vengeance. Kalanio’pu’u survived the days of battle and revenge and became a figurehead elder statesman, helping to shape his fellow Hawai’ians attitudes towards the newcomers, their incredible wealth and their new religion. Kalanio’pu’u was fond of hula and built the sacred hula grounds here which today lie under the tennis courts. Here, Kalanio’pu’u passed his latter years and divided his lands between his son, Kiwalao and his nephew, Kamehameha, passing his political power on to Kiwalao and his control of the warriors, along with the war god, Kuka’ilimoku, to Kamehameha.

After years of warfare and ruling his island kingdom, the elderly Kamehameha the Great moved his Royal Court from O’ahu to Kailua in the second decade of the 19th Century. He passed a year here at Lonoikamakakahiki Residence while his palace and temples at ‘Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built and re-dedicated. The royal residence has been uninhabited since Kamehameha moved to ‘Ahu’ena Heiau.

Anybody wishing to view these important and impressive archeological ruins must park at the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort or Kahalu’u County Beach Park and walk more than half a mile south along Ali’i drive to the “Public Shoreline Access” at the Surf and Racquet Club.

The scenic pullout on the Kamehameha III Highway at Ohi’a Lava Caves overlooks the Kona Coastline from Keauhou Bay north past Kailua Bay to Keahole Point. This is one of the best places to watch sunset in all of Kona and is also a grand spot for spotting whale spouts, watching sunsets and canoe races.

Directly below the scenic overlook is the Ohi’a Lava Tube cave complex. These caves were used at various times as general living quarters, shade during the blazing summers and cover from infrequent storms; springs deep with in the caves also augmented scarce supplies of fresh water for Kona residents. The caves also served as places for sacred ritual and burial of important Ali’i.

Today, exploration of the caves is unsafe and most of the accessible entrances are gated or sealed; visitors are asked to refrain from entering the caves to preserve the sanctity of native burials.

A lovely natural harbor backed by volley ball courts, canoe halau and lawn, the County Park and pier at Keauhou Bay is a lovely place to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, eat a picnic lunch, or dive into the invitingly cool waters at the end of a hot day.

Along the cliffs fronting the bay is a nature trail planted with native Hawai’ian healing plants with explanatory signs which runs to the birthplace of Kalani Kauikeaouli, who later became King Kamehameha III when his older brother Liholiho (Kamehameha II) died of measles in England. Legend has it that Kalani was still born, but the kahuna attending the royal birth immediately immersed him in the cold waters of a nearby spring, where he was at once revived. There are not many places in America where one can easily walk to the exact birthplace of a King, and this pleasant spot is one such, not to be missed.

In ancient times, the Ali’i competed with each other in the sport of Holua, or sledding. A long, steep, track way paved with stones would be constructed down slope and then covered with tamped dirt and topped with dried grass. The Ali’i would race down these tracks on wooden sleds, or “holua” as competition. These races were very dangerous and only the Ali’i were allowed to compete. This particular holua is unique because, not only is it the largest and longest and best preserved in Hawai’i, but also because when constructed it went all the way into the sea at Keauhou Bay. Despite this important archeological site being a National Historic Landmark, much of it was bulldozed by developers building resorts and a golf course. The nearby village of Holualoa is named after this sled way; “holua” meaning “sled” and “loa” meaning “long”.

The Historic Landmark is best viewed from Ali’i Drive, directly across from the Kona Country Club parking lot.

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

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

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general, and the Big Island in particular, go to www.tourguidehawaii.com, and here.

Captain Cook Monument Trail

Produced by Donald B. MacGowan; featuring Frank Burgess and R. Barton “Bart” Hunt.

This hike is a fine walk through tall grass, open lava fields and dense, dryland forest, opening onto one of the most pristine ocean beaches in the world. Hiking down to the Captain Cook’s Monument from Highway 11 is a great deal of fun—great scenery, wonderful trail that involves complete immersion in Hawai’ian pre- and post-contact history and offers the opportunity for some of the finest snorkeling anywhere on the planet. However, the return hike is hot, thirsty and strenuous; but it is also highly rewarding, granting panoramic views all up and down the Kona Coast. The trail leaves the Napo’opo’o Road just 500 feet below where it drops off Highway 11 near a large avocado tree, right across from a group of three coconut trees, right at telephone pole number 4; parking is tight, but safe. The parking spots and trailhead will show signs of obvious use, usually in the form of recently deposited horse apples from the many trail riders frequenting the area.

The first avocado tree is the harbinger of wonderful things to come, as the trail passes through an area rich in guava, mango, papaya and avocado that are free for the gathering. The 2.5-mile hike takes about 1-1 1/2 hours to descend, somewhat more time to come back up. After following a jeep road for about 50 feet, the trail turns left when the jeep road turns right onto private property. Although overgrown by tall grass for the next half mile, the trail runs more or less straight down the left side of a rock wall to the sea. As the pitch straightens out, keep to the left when the trail first forks and proceed to the beach. You will strike shore several hundred feet northwest of the monument—stroll through the remains of Ka’awaloa Village along the beach on your way to pay homage to Europe’s most prolific explorer, James Cook. Remember to bear right at the trail junction when returning uphill, or you will face a long, hot and unpleasant time wandering the a’a fields of Napo’opo’o.

It is also possible, but much less pleasant, to hike most of the way to the monument along the shoreline from Napo’opo’o. This hike is an uninteresting exercise in scrambling over boulders along the beach and contains at least two places that have to be swum in rough water; as such, the safety of this trek is totally at the whim of ocean tides and swells. Highly not recommended.

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