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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.

Sunscreen and Sunburn for Hawaii Visitors: 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.

More than Everything You Wanted To Know Sun Burn and Sunscreen

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.

Apply sunscreen half an hour before going out and re-apply every 30 minutes, Poipu Beach, Kauai Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Freed from the dark and cold of winter or rainy spring weather on the mainland, visitor’s to Hawaii often assume that, although warmer and more sunny, the tropical sun in Hawaii is fairly safe to move about in without much protection—after all, it feels so good, what could be more natural than sun light, right? Nothing could be farther from the truth and these tourists risk a nasty sunburn, ruining their vacation and creating future health problems, by not taking our sunshine seriously.

Your mainland skin, deprived of summer sun for many months, is actually very susceptible to burning, and to forming incipient skin cancers, Remember the song: “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun!” and take steps to insure that you protect your skin, your health and your vacation.

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 you first arrive in Hawaii, try limiting your exposure to 15 minutes the first day, increasing slowly each day to a maximum of one hour; Kua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sun tan and sun burn are both caused by ultraviolet radiation (UV) in sunlight. Your body’s natural defense against UV radiation is to increase the amount of brown pigment (melanin) in the epidermis as exposure increases. Melanin absorbs and scatters the UV radiation, dissipating it as heat.

Ultraviolet radiation is divided up into three bands, UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC rays do not reach earth’s surface so are unimportant here. UVA radiation does not cause sunburn, but rather oxidizes existent melanin in the skin to a light brown “quick tan” that lasts only a few days. UVA exposure also triggers the release of more melanin into the skin; this can cause melanoma if exposure is intense or prolonged. It is important to note that many sunscreens do not block UVA radiation, at all.

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.

Laurie Maus safely enjoys a day at Hapuna Beach, Kohala Hawaii, using proper sun protection and eyewear: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

UVB exposure acts unilaterally to increase the body’s output of melanin and yields a tan that takes upwards of 3 days to to develop, depending upon your skin. This is why some experts advise getting a “base tan” before going to Hawaii–to start the body’s natural process of producing melanin.  Evidence is equivocal on whether this actually helps you acquire a better tan, but it does nothing to prevent sunburn of exposed, unprotected skin.  You will burn right through your pre-tan and peel to white–ruining your vacation and your tan–if you do not protect your skin.  Additionally, UVB is thought to be the more dangerous radiation, as prolonged exposure causes squamous and basal cell carcinomas. It should be noted extended use of UVB blockers can also cause Vitamin D deficiency.

Prevention of Sunburn

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.

Hikers on the summit of Mauna Kea look over to Mauna Loa. Altitude, snow and sun, an obvious recipe for sunburn: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The tropical sun is much more intense than temperate sunshine, even summer sun, and visitors often underestimate its devastating strength until too late–if you feel like you are starting to get pink, you have already waited too long to apply sunscreen. Additionally, the environment in Hawaii is conducive to exacerbating our already intense sunshine–reflection from water and sand (thus, the beach) greatly increase exposure to UV radiation, as does reflection from roadways, snow and increases in altitude. Since UV radiation pierces clouds, you can get a bad burn on even a cloudy day.  In addition, there are many common photo-sensitizing drugs (antihistamines, antibiotics, chemotherapy, cardiac drugs, etc—even many fragrances) that can cause one to be more susceptible to damage from the sun’s rays. If you are unsure if your prescription falls in this category, talk with your eye-doctor, your pharmacist or physician before traveling.

Arriving in Hawaii with a good tan is not prevention enough-you need good strategies for dealing with the savage tropical sun. You can stay indoors and severely limit your exposure; this gives safety and certainty but doesn’t sound like very much fun (unless you are on your honeymoon). A better strategy is to cover up with clothes, a sun hat, seek shade when possible and avoid exposure during peak sun times (between 10 am and 2 pm)…probably not much fun, either.

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.

Brad MacGowan at Hapuna Beach, Kohala Hawaii. Pink body and reflected light, a recipe for sunburn: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The best strategy is to obtain and use a quality sunscreen of at least SPF 50 and undertake a period of adjustment for your tender skin with lengthening times of exposure. Start with 15 minutes direct exposure (here we’re talking about sunbathing), adding about 10 minutes a day to a maximum of one hour. Coupled with judicious use of clothing and a sun hat, shade-seeking and limiting exposure until your skin is ready, should keep you from getting crisped and ruining your vacation.

How Sunscreens Work

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.

Sunhat, sunscreen, sunglasses and sunscreen clothing allow Jim Maus to safely wander amongst The Tropics, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

So let’s talk a little bit about sunscreens. Sunscreens act via three different mechanisms: organic compounds that absorb UV light (cf. oxybenzone); inorganic particulates that block and scatter all light including UV (cf. zinc oxide; these are the so-called “sun blocks”) and organic compounds that both absorb and block UV radiation (cf. Tinosorb M). Many commercial sunscreen preparations now contain a mixture of all three types of sunscreening agents

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.

Sunlight reflected by roadways and off lava flows is another potentially dangerous source of ultraviolet radiation Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie

The ability of your sunscreen to protect you is rated by the SPF (for UVB) and PPD (for UVA). The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a laboratory measure of the effectiveness of your sunscreen to block UVB radiation and is a ratio of the amount of radiation required to cause sunburn on your skin WITH the sunscreen to the amount of UV radiation required to cause sunburn without the sunscreen. Thus, a rating of SPF 50 means that it takes 50 times as much exposure to cause sunburn when wearing the sunscreen, than it does without it.

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.

Always be careful of sunlight reflected off water and sand; Wawaloli Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD), the sunscreen rating for UVA protection, is like SPF in that a PPA rating of 10 means you should be able to safely get ten times as much UVA exposure with the sunscreen than without.

The effectiveness of the sunscreen experienced by the tourist varies with such factors as skin type, amount applied and frequency of re-application (as well as how much sunscreen is absorbed by your skin), how much you sweat or rub off, and the kinds of activities one engages in (for instance, going snorkeling not only tends to wash the sunscreen off, but exposes you to increased radiation from water reflection).

Sunscreen application

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.

Ultraviolet radiation pierces cloud cover, so even on cloudy days sun burn is a risk, especially here at the summit of Kilauea Volcano at 4200 feet; Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

You should use 1-2 ounces of sunscreen (30-60 ml) ounces for your full body; most people get cheap, or are in a hurry, and do not use enough sunscreen. This is a mistake you are likely to make only once in Hawaii—the penalty is rather steep. You should apply the sunscreen 1/2 hour before initial exposure and then every 30 minutes thereafter. Your tube of sunscreen may claim to last all day, but it doesn’t. No, it REALLY doesn’t. No, no, no, I don’t care what the label claims, re-apply every 30 minutes.  Likewise, your sunscreen may claim to be waterproof, but at best it’s merely water resistant. Seriously.

You spent a lot of money and effort to get to Hawaii and sunburn is the number one way visitor’s have their vacations ruined—and it’s the the most easily prevented. Don’t scrimp on the sunscreen, don’t get lazy, do not figure you are “immune” or “tough”. You aren’t; the sun is bigger and meaner than anybody’s skin.

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.

Laurie Maus laughs in the tropical sun as she snorkels at Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Don’t forget to protect the tip of your nose, tops of your ears, inside your nostrils (Yes!)  or underneath your chin. Don’t forget your lips; use a lip balm with a sunscreen rating of SPF 30 or higher.

Eyes can sunburn, too, be sure to wear adequate eye protection in the sun (a complete discussion of sunglasses and eye protection for Hawaii visitors can be found here).

Remember when using a new sunscreen, test it for allergies and and skin reactions—especially waterproof sunscreen—on a small patch of skin. I once was guiding a climb in the Tetons when a client applied a new brand of sunscreen only to discover she was allergic to it. It was a waterproof variety and we were high on a rock face without much water available and this poor woman was rapidly breaking out in an itchy rash. I have this uncomfortable image of her wildly scrubbing and scratching the stuff off with sand and snow, dangling about 1000 feet off the valley floor. Don’t repeat that mistake.

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.

Hapuna Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Also, few people realize that your sunscreen kills coral and harms fish. Please do not apply it before going snorkeling, diving or swimming; use a t-shirt and ball cap to prevent sunburn, then apply your sunscreen immediately after getting out of the ocean and rinsing off with fresh water (a thorough discussion of this, and other snorkeling ethics topics, can be found here).

Treatment of Sunburn

Sunburn is quite common, with more than 30 percent of adults and 70 percent of children and adolescents reporting sunburn to their physician at least once during the course of a year; these figures are, of course, much higher for visitors to 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.

Sun light reflected off the water is a prime cause of sunburn. Also be careful during water activities that your sunscreen doesn't wash off; Kailua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie Mac

Unfortunately, sunburn is not immediately apparent. Redness develops between three and five hours after being out in the sun and peaks with 12-24 hours, fading within about 72 hours. Initially, skin will appear pink and may feel “itchy”. As severity increases, redness deepens and skin is noticeably hot to the touch. With severe sunburns, swelling, blisters and loss of tissue occurs. Severe sunburn is a true medical emergency and can be life-threatening; seek medical attention immediately.

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.

Even a cloudy day at Hapuna Beach can lead to severe sun burn for the unwary, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are numerous treatments for sunburn. First, get out of the sun, immediately, and stay out until the burn fades. The pain can be relieved with aspirin or Tylenol, although their effectiveness wanes after about 24 hours. Of the many commercially available sunburn remedies, none are clinically proven to do anything but provide a temporarily soothing palliative—although none have been demonstrated to do any harm. Here in Hawaii, we are particularly fond of using sap from the aloe plant (aloe, a Hawaiian word, is more properly pronounced “ah LOY” in Hawaii) which grows wild almost everywhere in the islands. Another local remedy that I find personally soothing is to brew a large kettle of green tea, cool it to a chill in the refrigerator and then sponge it over the affected parts of my body in the shower. Smells good, too.

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.

Hikers approach the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii at sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Remember, you worked long and hard to get your trip to Hawaii, it took a lot of effort to fly over here.  Now that you are here, you want to see it all. Just one hour unguarded in the fierce Hawaiian sun can cause you to spend that vacation in misery, indoors, in no mood for a holiday. Be smart, be prepared, don’t get cocky, lazy or cheap. Buy quality sunscreen, use it liberally and use it often.

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.

Ho'okena Beach on a semi-cloudy day is still a hazard for sunburn, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here. For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

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

Sun damage to skin is cumulative over your lifetime, so take good care of it: Poipu Beach, Kauai 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.

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

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

Sun worshipers at Ho'okena Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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Tour Guide Hawaii's Brand New iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts Paradise in the Palm of Your Hand!

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 http://www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Navigate to all the most popular visitor destinations, the most interesting attractions, the most romantic and secluded beaches; effortlessly find hikes, snorkel spots, historical and cultural landmarks, shopping and dining. And of course, our new App includes directions to, and rating of, all the public restrooms! Learn all about it, here. In addition to real GPS navigation, this app also allows you to navigate using Google Maps or, if no internet or phone service available, with on-board maps and driving directions! Our App is crammed full of entertaining and informative video presentations about how and where to snorkel, the best trails and beaches, what to pack to bring to Hawaii, cultural orientation and language tips!

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Interested in seeing what kind of information our App contains? In celebration of the release of our new App, we proudly present this list of blogs and web articles on Hawaii Travel, with URLs, of the unique and comprehensive Tour Guide Hawaii content. Enjoy this free information at your leisure, and order your App from iTunes, today!

Tour Guide Hawaii proudly presents the best, the most interesting, the most comprehensive material on Hawaii travel ever gathered in one place!

Best About Planning Your Hawaii Trip

What To Pack And Take To Hawaii: What You Need, What You Want, What You Can Leave Out Of Your Luggage: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/what-to-pack-and-take-to-hawaii-what-you-need-what-you-want-what-you-can-leave-out-of-your-luggage/

Getting To Hawaii, Getting Around Hawaii, Getting the Most From Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/getting-to-and-getting-around-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Frank’s Guide to Pronouncing Hawaiian Words: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/franks-guide-to-pronouncing-the-hawaiian-langauge/

What sunglasses should I buy to go to Hawaii?: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/what-sunglasses-should-i-buy-to-go-to-hawaii/

Best Beaches on Hawaii

A Quick Guide to The Best Beaches of Hawaii Island: Sun, Surf, Solitude: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/the-top-beaches-of-hawaii-island/

Green, Black, White, Grey and Piebald: The Colored Sand Beaches of the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/bgreen-black-white-grey-and-piebald-the-colored-sand-beaches-of-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

The Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 1, The Main Kohala Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/the-best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-1-the-main-kohala-coast/

The Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 2, The Kona and South Kohala Coasts: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/the-best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-2-the-kona-and-south-kohala-coasts/

Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 3, Unusual, Uncrowded and Untamed Beaches of South Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/07/best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-3-unusual-uncrowded-and-untamed-beaches-of-south-hawaii/

Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 4, Wilderness Beaches of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-4-wilderness-beaches-of-the-big-island/

Best Beaches in Hawaii Part 5–Best Beaches for Snorkeling: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-5-best-beaches-for-snorkeling/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii

My Favorite Scenic Drive: Hawaii’s Wild and Scenic Saddle Road!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/my-favorite-scenic-drive-hawaiis-wild-and-scenic-saddle-road/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; The Most Interesting, Amazing and Diverse Scenic Drive in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/a-scenic-drive-through-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-the-most-interesting-amazing-and-diverse-place-in-hawaii/

Big Island Whirlwind Road Trip: I have to see the whole Big Island all in one day!https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/big-island-whirlwind-road-trip-i-have-to-see-the-whole-big-island-all-in-one-day/

Kona Heritage Corridor Scenic Drive: An Exceptional Day Trip Exploration of Historical, Lovely, Up-Country Kona!:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/kona-heritage-corridor-scenic-drive-an-exceptional-day-trip-exploration-of-historical-lovely-up-country-kona/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #1: The Saddle Road…Kona to the Summit of Mauna Kea, Kaumana Cave and Hilo:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-1-the-saddle-road-kona-to-the-summit-of-mauna-kea-kaumana-cave-and-hilo/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #2: North Kona and Kohala, Ancient History, Sumptuous Beaches: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-2-north-kona-and-kohala-ancient-history-sumptuous-beaches/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #3: Kona to Hamakua and Hilo: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-3-kona-to-hamakua-and-hilo/

Best Scenic Drives in Hawaii #4: Kona Coast to South Point and Ka’u https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/best-scenic-drives-in-hawaii-4-kona-coast-to-south-point-and-kau/

Best Scenic Drives in Hawaii #5: Kailua Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Puna and Lava Viewing: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/best-scenic-drives-in-hawaii-5-kailua-kona-to-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-puna-and-lava-viewing/

What Do I Do on the Big Island? Explore Hawaii’s Incomparable, Fantastic and Wild South Coast!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/12/20/what-do-i-do-on-the-big-island-explore-hawaiis-incomparable-fantastic-and-wild-south-coast/

Road Trip Through Keauhou Historic District, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/wwwtourguidehawaicom-presents-a-road-trip-through-keauhou-historic-district-big-island-hawaii/

New iPhone/iPod Touch App Helps you Explore Hawaii’s Hidden, Romantic and Mysterious Places: The South Coast of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/new-iphoneipod-touch-app-helps-you-explore-hawaiis-hidden-romantic-and-mysterious-places-the-south-coast-of-hawaii/

Best About Hiking:

The Best Short Hikes on Hawaii Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/the-best-short-hikes-on-hawaii-island/

The Adventure and Romance of Hiking To Kilauea Volcano’s Active Lava Flows: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/tour-guide-hawaii-presents-the-adventure-and-romance-of-hiking-to-kilauea-volcanos-active-lava-flows/

Exploring the Summit Hikes of Mauna Kea: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/exploring-the-summit-hikes-of-mauna-kea-hawaii/

South Point’s Justly Famous Green Sand Beach Hike, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/south-points-justly-famous-green-sand-beach-hike-papakolea-bay-and-mahana-beach-hawaii/

Hiking to Captain Cook Monument on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/hiking-to-captain-cook-monument-on-the-kona-coast-of-hawaii/

Hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/24/hiking-the-kilauea-iki-trail-new-iphoneipod-touch-app-helps-you-find-all-the-unique-secluded-unusual-destinations-on-hawaii/

Hiking Hawaii’s Magnificent Waipi’o Valley: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/hiking-hawaiis-magnificent-waipio-valley/

Hike to Kamehameha’s Birthplace and the Forbidding Temple of Human Sacrifice, Mo’okini Heiau, on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/hike-to-kamehamehas-birthplace-and-the-forbidding-temple-of-human-sacrifice-mookini-heaiau-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Ka’u Desert’s Unearthly Hike to the Eerie Warrior Footprint Casts: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/2965/

Hiking Down Into Pololu Valley, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/hiking-down-into-pololu-valley-big-island-of-hawaii/

Kiholo Bay Beach Hike: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/kiholo-bay-beach-hike/

Hiking to Honomalino Bay, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/hiking-to-honomalino-bay-big-island-hawaii/

Historic Kailua Kona Town on the Big Island of Hawaii: A Walking Tour: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/historic-kailua-kona-town-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii-a-walking-tour/

Hiking and Camping at Hawaii’s Last Wilderness Beach: La’amaomao the Wind God and Makalawena Beach: Advice: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/hiking-and-camping-at-hawaiis-last-wilderness-beach-laamaomao-the-wind-god-and-makalawena-beach/

Driving and Hiking to the Summit of Mauna Kea, Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/07/26/advice-driving-and-hiking-to-the-summit-of-mauna-kea-big-island-of-hawaii/

Hidden Secrets of Hawaii: The Golden Ponds of Ke-awa-iki: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/hidden-secrets-of-hawaii-the-golden-ponds-of-ke-awa-iki/

Hiking at Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/hiking-at-kilauea-volcano-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Best About Snorkeling

The Best Snorkeling Spots on Hawaii Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/27/the-best-snorkeling-spots-on-hawaii-island/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part I: Gear: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-i-gear-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part II: Technique : https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-ii-technique-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part III: Protecting the Reef and Reef Animals: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-iii-reef-etiquette-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part IV: Snorkeling Safety: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-iv-snorkeling-safety-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part V: Best Snorkeling Beaches of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-v-best-snorkeling-beaches-of-the-big-island-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips Part VI: Wilderness Beaches of the Big Island!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/30/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-vi-wilderness-beaches-of-the-big-islanda/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #1: Introduction: Kona Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/26/franks-big-island-travel-hints-1-north-kona-and-kohala-ancient-history-sumptuous-beaches/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #2: Kona South to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Hilo:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/franks-big-island-travel-hints-2-kona-coast-south-of-honaunau-to-kau/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #3: Kona North to Waikoloa and the Kohala Coast:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/1794/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #4: Waikoloa to Pololu Valley; https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/franks-big-island-travel-hints-4-waikoloa-to-pololu-valley-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #5: Hawi to Kona via the Kohala Mountain road, Waimea and Waikoloa: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/franks-big-island-travel-hints-5-hawi-to-kona-via-kohala-mountain-road-waimea-and-waikoloa-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #6: Waimea and the Hamakua Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/04/franks-big-island-travel-hints-6-waimea-and-the-hamakua-coast-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints # 7: Around Hilo: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/06/franks-big-island-travel-hints-7-hilo-side-akaka-falls-to-panaewa-rainforest-zoo/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #8: Mysterious Puna!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/franks-big-island-travel-hints-8-mysterious-puna/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #9: Made for Adventure: The Jungles, Volcanoes, Hot Springs and Tidepools of Puna!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/franks-hawaii-travel-hints-9-made-for-adventure-the-jungles-volcanoes-hot-springs-and-tidepools-of-puna/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #10: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/franks-big-island-travel-hints-10-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park/

Frank’s Travel Hints # 11: Exploring Deeper Into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/13/franks-big-island-travel-hints-11-exploring-deeper-into-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-big-island-hawaii/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #12: More fun in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/franks-big-island-travel-hints-12-more-fun-in-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-big-island-hawaii-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #13: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Chain of Craters Road: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/17/franks-big-island-travel-hints-13-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-chain-of-craters-road/

Best Interesting Stories and General Reading about Hawaii

Exploring Hawaii’s South Point: Ka Lae And the Hike to the Green Sand Beach: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/exploring-hawaiis-south-point-ka-lae-and-the-hike-to-the-green-sand-beach/

The Beautiful, Enigmatic and Cryptic Petroglyphs of Hawaii Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/the-beautiful-enigmatic-and-cryptic-petroglyphs-of-hawaii-island/

Hawaii’s Amazing Lava Fossils: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/hawaiis-amazing-lava-fossils/

Exploring Punalu’u Black Sand Beach in Ka’u Hawaii: Hiking, Snorkeling, Ancient Temples and Endangered Sea Turtles: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/22/exploring-punaluu-black-sand-beach-in-kau-hawaii-hiking-snorkeling-ancient-temples-and-endangered-sea-turtles/

The Sugar Industry in Hawaii: Kona Sugar Company and West Hawai’i Railway Company: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/the-sugar-industry-in-hawaii-kona-sugar-company-and-west-hawai%E2%80%99i-railway-company/

Kilauea’s Eruption Just Keeps Getting More Fantastic!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/wwwtourguidehawaiicom-presents-new-video-of-kilauea-volcano-erupting/

Kalapana, Hawaii: From the Fires of Hades to the Eden of Rebirth: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/kalapana-hawaii-from-the-fires-of-hades-to-the-eden-of-rebirth/

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles: Honu of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/hawaiis-magnificent-honu-the-endangered-hawaiian-green-sea-turtle/
Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park: A Warrior becomes a King, an Island Archipelago Becomes a Kingdom:

https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/puukohola-heiau-national-historic-park-a-warrior-becomes-a-king-and-island-archepelago-becomes-a-kingdom/

Heartbreak of the Gods: Kuamo’o BattleField and Lekeleke Graveyard: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/29/heartbreak-of-the-gods-kuamoo-batlle-field-and-lekeleke-graveyard-big-island-of-hawaii/

A Brief History of Ranching in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/rodeo-to-rock-and-roll-a-brief-history-of-ranching-in-hawaii/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Exploring Kealakekua Bay Archeological and Historical District, Captain Cook Monument and Hikiau Heiau, Perhaps the Most Important Historical Sites in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/konas-fascinating-history-exploring-kealakekua-bay-archeological-and-historical-district-captain-cook-monument-and-hikiau-heiau-perhaps-the-most-important-historical-sites-in-hawaii/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Ahu’ena Heiau at Kamakahonu Beach: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/konas-fascinating-history-ahuena-heiau-at-kamakahonu-beach/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Pu’u Honua O Honaunau, The Place Of Refuge, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/konas-fascinating-history-puu-honua-o-honaunau-the-place-of-refuge/

Kona’s Fascinating History: The Ancient Temples and Villages, Fabulous Beaches and Scenic Hiking Trails of Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/3407/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Hulihe’e Palace: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/konas-fscinating-history-hulihee-palace/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Moku’aikaua Church–the First Christian Church in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/konas-fscinating-history-mokuaikawa-the-first-christian-church-in-hawaii/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Kamakahonu Rock, the Kailua Pier and Seawall: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/konas-fascinating-history-kamakahonu-rock-the-kailua-pier-and-seawall/

Exploring the jungle trails of Akaka Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/18/exploring-the-jungle-trails-of-akaka-falls-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Exploring Wailuku River Park and Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/exloring-wailuku-river-park-and-rainbow-falls-hlio-hawaii/

Exploring Laupahoehoe Park, Hamakua Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/exploring-laupahoehoe-park-hamakua-coast-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Exploring Kaumana Cave, Just Outside Hilo Along the Saddle Road on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/exploring-kaumana-cave-just-outide-hilo-on-the-saddle-road-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Exploring Wailuku River Park and Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/exloring-wailuku-river-park-and-rainbow-falls-hlio-hawaii/

Exploring the Kohala Coast: Discover Maka O Hule Navigation Heiau: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/4017/

Discovering Kohala: Driving the Scenic and Fabulous Kohala Mountain Road: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/discovering-kohala-driving-the-scenic-and-fabulous-kohala-mountain-road/

Exploring the Hamakua Coast, North of Hilo, Hawaii: Hakalau Canyon: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/exporng-the-hamakaua-coast-north-of-hilo-hawaii-hakalau-canyon/

Discovering Puna: Exploring Lava Trees State Monument on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/19/dicovering-puna-exploring-lava-trees-state-monument-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Exploring Puna: Ahalanui Pond at Pu’ala’a County Park in Puna, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/exploring-puna-ahalanui-pond-at-pu%E2%80%99ala%E2%80%99a-county-park-in-puna-hawaii/

Exploring Puna: Discover Charming, Eclectic, Surprising Pahoa Town!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/3982/

Discovering Puna: Explore Isaac Hale Beach Park at Pohoiki Bay, Puna Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/discovering-puna-explore-isaac-hale-beach-park-at-pohoiki-bay-puna-hawaii/

Exploring Mysterious, Magnificent, Unspoiled Puna: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/exploring-mysterious-magnificent-unspoiled-puna/

Exploring Puna: Discovering the Majestic, Primeval Tree Tunnels of Puna: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/exploring-puna-discovering-the-majestic-primeval-tree-tunnels-of-puna/

Rising From The Past: The Rebirth of Hapaiali’i Heiau, a Hawaiian Temple for Honoring Royalty: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/1118/

The Hawaiian Snow Goddess Poliahu and the Summit of Mauna Kea…: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/the-hawaiian-snow-goddess-poliahu-and-the-summit-of-mauna-kea/

The Call of Aloha…:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/the-call-of-aloha/

Why I love Hawaii…: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/why-i-love-hawaii/

Hilo Askance: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/hilo-askance/

Conjuring Visions of Paradise: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/conjuring-visions-of-paradise/

Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Field, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/823/

Volcano Art Center—A Kipuka of Creativity on the Rim of Madam Pele’s Home: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/volcano-art-center-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park/

Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/jagger-museum-hawaii-volcanoes-national-rark/

Captain Cook’s Legacy: Exploring the History and Waters of Kealakekua Bay: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/949/

Mo’okini Heiau: Warrior Kings and Human Sacrifice on Hawai’i: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/mookini-heiau-warrior-kings-and-human-sacrifice-on-hawaii-2/

by Donald B. MacGowan

Astronomical Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea from Pu'u Koholo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Astronomical Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea from Pu'u Kohola: 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.

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.

Huddle of Telescopes on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Huddle of Telescopes on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie 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 couple hikes you might otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Donnie’s Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea Summit Hikers: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Hikers: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Today, I’d like to take you to the top of Mauna Kea. At 13, 796 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea’s summit is the highest point in the State of Hawaii; since its base lies at 19000 feet below sea level, its has a base-to-summit height of 33,000 feet, making it the tallest mountain on earth. It’s also one of my most favorite places on earth.

Mauna Kea Icy Summit Warning: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea Icy Summit Warning: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea began forming on the sea floor about one million years ago. Its name means “White Mountain” in the Hawaiian language and it is snowcapped much of the winter, and the summit is covered with permafrost 35 feet deep. During the ice ages, Mauna Kea’s summit was glaciated 3 times, starting about 200000 years ago and ending only 11000 years ago. One can see the U-shaped valleys and cirques, striated bedrock, glacial tills covering the summit area and remnants of ice-damned lava flows from those times. There are even the remains of extinct rock glaciers near the summit.

Eric Carr, Master Cameraman, Filming on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Eric Carr, Master Cameraman, Filming on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Visitor’s Center and summit are reached via a road which turns off Saddle Road at about 6600 feet elevation near the 28 mile marker and tortuously stumbles its way up the south side of Mauna Kea to the Visitor Information Station at about 9300 feet. The road, though steep, is paved to the Visitor’s Center. Above that, the road is graded dirt for about 5 miles, returning to asphalt paving for the final sprint to the rim of the summit crater. Road conditions for the summit road are available at 808.935.6263.

Mauna Kea Moon From the Visitor's Information Station: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea Moon From the Visitor's Information Station: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The visitor’s center is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. 365 days a year. Informational multimedia presentations, souvenirs, and some food items are available here, as well as clean restrooms and drinking water. Every evening after dark the center allows visitors to stargaze through several telescopes and informational talks by visiting scientists are occasionally scheduled. Saturday and Sunday Center staff lead escorted summit field trips, but visitors must provide their own vehicle. Call 808.961.2180 for information. It is suggested that summit-bound visitors stop at the Visitor’s Center for at least half an hour before heading to the summit so they can acclimate.

Above the Visitor Information Station there are no public accommodations, no water or food and no gasoline service; the observatory buildings are closed to the public and usually locked. There are neither public telephones nor restrooms, only port-a-potties. An emergency phone is located in the entrance to the U of H 2.2 meter Telescope building.

Mauna Kea Summit Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving the summit road to the very top of Mauna Kea is neither as dangerous as the car rental companies want you to believe, nor as casual as many Big Island residents will tell you. True, the summit road is unpaved most of the way, it is steep and winding with limited view planes; the road is extremely hazardous when wet or icy, which is often, and it’s subject to frequent dense clouds, snow, rain and fog obscuring all vision. Also, balmy summer conditions may turn into lethal winter rages in minutes with little or no warning.

Cinder Cones and a Radio Telescope on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Cinder Cones and a Radio Telescope on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

However, the road is generously wide, routinely graded and poses no real threat to the cautious driver. The safe driver can expect to reach the summit in about ½ an hour after leaving the Visitor Information Station. Remember, it’s not the roughness of the road that will impede your car; it’s the elevation that will starve it for oxygen. To be safe, take as much time winding your way back down the mountain as you took coming up, using the lowest gear to save wear on brakes. Check your car rental agreement–many forbid you to drive this road. If you go anyway, your insurance is void, and you do so at considerable financial risk. Remember, people DO crater their cars on occasion.

The Weather Can Change in an Instant on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Weather Can Change in an Instant on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

If the weather turns frightful, simply head down immediately. Relax, be calm and drive carefully; you can be confident that, even if you have to slow to 10 miles per hour in places, you’ll be down to the safety of the Visitor’s Center in a mere 40 minutes or so.

Superstition to Science; An Ancient Hawaiian Temple Shares The Summit With The Most Modern Astronomical Obsdervatories on Pu'u Weiku Summit, Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Superstition to Science; An Ancient Hawaiian Temple Shares The Summit With The Most Modern Astronomical Obsdervatories on Pu'u Weiku Summit, Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The summit of Mauna Kea, hosting the largest assemblage of astronomical instruments and telescopes in the world, is truly an amazing place; a seductive juxtaposition of icy heights raised up from steaming tropical jungle; the age-old altars of sacred Hawai’ian gods alongside edifices of the most modern of sciences; of frigid landscapes carved during ancient ice-ages alongside fiery volcanic landforms; all wrapped around a fabulous trip with a wee rumor of danger, just for spice! Beautiful, awe-inspiring, 360 degree views of the entire Big Island also include the islands of Maui, Kaho’olawe and Lana’i on clear days. The glow from Kilauea Volcano can be seen on clear nights. Although daytime temperatures during the summer can peak in the 60s, it is generally cold-to-frigid, frequently wet and very windy on the summit. Plan and dress accordingly.

View from Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

View from Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The summit area is also culturally and religiously important to the native Hawai’ians, hosting many religious Heiau, an obsidian adze quarry and numerous other archaeological sites. Remember this landscape, and the archeological sites upon them, are sacred; take nothing but photographs, don’t even leave footprints. Some ruminations on the Hawaiian Snow Goddess, Poliahu, and personal reflections about the summit of Mauna Kea can be found here.

Mauna Kea Summit Trail: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Trail: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Parking is limited, but the hike from the top of the road to the actual summit is a must for any who have ventured this far and are in good shape. A stone altar and a USGS survey point mark the actual summit of the mountain, about a 15 minute walk up a cinder trail from the top of the road. A trail leading around the summit crater takes about 30 minutes to trek and traverses some very wild country with amazing views. Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water and hydrate frequently to help stave off altitude sickness. Do not leave the safety of the parking lot if you are feeling ill or the weather is at all chancy—in fact, in deteriorating or poor weather, or at the onset of queasiness, one should leave the summit immediately and descend.

Justly Famous Videographer Frank Burgess at Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Justly Famous Videographer Frank Burgess at Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Alternately, for those in excellent physical condition, one can hike to the summit from the Visitor’s center. Featuring unparalleled views, wild landscapes, archeological sites and more, the hike is about 6 miles in length, gains about 4500 feet in elevation and takes 6 to 10 hours to get up, depending on the hiker. There is no water available anywhere above the Visitor’s Center, so take enough to get up, and back down. Frankly, many people opt to hitch-hike down the mountain after hiking up. In fact, for folks short on time, or for whom scenery and not summit-conquering are the main goals, catching a ride to the summit and hiking down is a great alternative, and takes only about 3 1/2 hours.

Gary Burton and His Ddaughter Nearing Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Gary Burton and His Ddaughter Nearing Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Another absolutely stunning hike in the summit area, one that is accessible to nearly anybody in reasonable condition, is to Lake Wai’au. Park at either the lot at about 12000 feet, near the 5 mile marker, or the lot at about 13000 feet, near the 7 mile marker. Needless to say, one hike is uphill in and the other is uphill out; but both are less than a mile long and have similar elevation changes. I prefer the upper trail because the view of the summit astronomical complex on the hike out is phenomenal. An absolute jewel of an alpine tarn in its own right, at 13,020 feet Lake Wai’au is one of the highest permanent lakes in the world…permafrost seals the lake bed in the loose tephra and glacial drift on which it sits. It’s about 300′ by 150′ by 8 feet deep and, yes, I personally can vouch for its having been snorkeled. Not much to see in there, though.

Lake Wai'au on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lake Wai'au on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are a few health concerns about visiting the summit of Mauna Kea as well. In brief: children under 16, pregnant women, and people with respiratory, heart, or severe overweight conditions are advised not to go higher than the Visitors Information Station. Scuba divers must wait at least 24 hours after their last dive before traveling to the summit.

Mauna Kea's Snowy Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea's Snowy Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Acute mountain sickness, resulting from exposure to high altitude, includes nausea, headache, drowsiness, shortness of breath, and poor judgment.  Aspirin and lots of water are palliatives for altitude sickness, but the cure is immediate and rapid descent. Sufferers will notice almost complete cessation of symptoms upon regaining The Saddle. Altitude sickness can be dangerous, even life threatening, and rapid onset of comatose condition, or even death, may be unexpectedly swift.

On the Way Up on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

On the Way Up on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Finally, there is severe risk of serious sunburn and eye damage, particularly when there is snow on the ground. Be sure to wear sunglasses rated to at least 90% IR and 100% UV (both UVA and UVB); wear sunscreen rated to at least SPF 30. Long sleeves and pants help reduce the susceptibility to sunburn.

Mauna Kea's Vanishingly Rare Silver Sword Plants: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea's Vanishingly Rare Silver Sword Plants: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Most visits to Mauna Kea’s summit are extremely pleasant experiences, encompassing easy adventures which may feature mild altitude euphoria, fabulous views and a great sense of relief at reaching the paved road and public restrooms at the Visitor’s Information Station after leaving the summit.

Mauna Kea Science Huddle: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea Science Huddle: 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.

Mauna Loa Summit from Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Loa Summit from Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

From Mauna Kea's Summit Trail to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Mauna Kea's Summit Trail to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makalawena Beach: Perhaps the loveliest beach in Polynesia, Makalawena is the perfect sand crescent, beach backed by palms and iron wood trees with morning-glory-draped sand dunes.  A easy mile hike in from Kekaha Kai State Park keeps this beach uncrowded. Snorkeling here is better than perfect, camping here is so wonderful we don’t know why it’s not mandatory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

What Do I Take When I Go To Hawaii?

The MacGowan Family Deplanes in Sunny Hawaii; You Want To BE sure You Have Everything You Need to Enjoy Your Vacation, but Not So Much You Have To Haul a Pile of Luggage: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The MacGowan Family Deplanes in Sunny Hawaii; You Want To Be sure You Have Everything You Need to Enjoy Your Vacation, but Not So Much You Have To Haul a Pile of Luggage: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Packing Your Bags for Hawaii: With airlines charging for a second–or even for the first–piece of luggage, and strict “50 pounds each” weight limits being enforced, the thrifty traveler is wise to plan ahead carefully, to avoid racking-up expensive fees. I used to travel by the motto “Don’t check baggage unless you can afford to lose it; if you can afford to loose it, why did you bring it?”; thus I never traveled with anything more than carry-on. While it is always good to travel lightly, with the advent of stringent new carry-on limits and my advancing age (and concomitant increasing desire to travel in comfort) I have learned to travel with only one piece of checked baggage plus carry-on. The key is packing intelligently so you can pack less.

MacGowan Family and Luggage for 3 for a Fourteen Day Trip to Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

MacGowan Family and Luggage for 3 for a Fourteen Day Trip to Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Be Smart About Your Carry On Baggage: Most airlines allow you to bring one carry-on bag and a personal item such as a purse or a lap-top. I push this a little by bringing a carry-on bag plus my lap-top in a computer pack which also has room for one video camera, my SLR Camera and an emergency change of clothes (in case all my other luggage is lost). Usually they let me get away with this. Because I trust neither baggage handlers nor TSA inspectors and my luggage has been lost more times than I remember, I pack my other cameras and more of my clothes in my other carry on bag so they don’t have to be checked. In this bag I also carry a quart of water and some snacks.

You’ll want at least one book to read on the flight; your tickets, reservation confirmations, travelers checks, list of phone numbers, spare glasses (contacts and solution) and medications should be put in a water-proof bag in the carry-on bag you intend to hold most tightly to.

Remember that more books, extra batteries, memory cards, video tape or film, masks-fins-snorkels, insect repellent, sun cream, beach towels–all the extra hoopla one might want on a Hawaii vacation–can be purchased at WalMart or Costco on-island as cheaply as the mainland. If you do pack film, and it is in your carry-on, be sure to protect it against x-rays.

Checked Luggage; First, Plan for Your Activities: Know your itinerary and pack only what you need; resist the temptation to toss in all those extra unnecessary wardrobe items.  You may be planning on some particular activities in Hawaii requiring specific gear or clothing–it is best to think this through thoroughly.  Many people intend to save money by bringing their own snorkeling gear. This is false economy if it causes you to pay for additional luggage. Buying snorkel gear on island is fairly inexpensive and renting is faster, easier and even cheaper. The same can be said of renting diving gear and golf clubs. Activities such as hiking and horseback riding require a fairly specific wardrobe, but if you plan correctly, you only have to bring your hiking/riding boots and an extra pair of suitable pants and shirt. If you plan on visiting the mountain summits, remember that they can be quite cold–even snowy or rainy–so plan and pack an appropriate wardrobe, accordingly. If you bring boots, I advise wearing them (and all your other bulky clothing) on the plane to save room and weight in your bags. As for photography gear or musical instruments–any expensive or delicate equipment for that matter–my philosophy is to never turn loose with it. Never check your cameras, your guitar, your laptop, etc–it’s a recipe for theft, loss or destruction.  A humorous, but true, video by Dave Carroll and the Sons of Maxwell about this can be found here.

You Need More Suntan Lotion Than You Think...Put it on Before You Go Out in the Sun and Keep Putting It On Throughout The Day.  Likewise, Drink More Water Than You Think You Need...Drink Before You Get Thirsty, When You Get Thirsty and Drink Again After You've Just Had Some Water.  No, Drink Some More--I'm Serious: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

You Need More Suntan Lotion Than You Think...Put it on Before You Go Out in the Sun and Keep Putting It On Throughout The Day. Likewise, Drink More Water Than You Think You Need...Drink Before You Get Thirsty, When You Get Thirsty and Drink Again After You've Just Had Some Water. No, Drink Some More--I'm Serious: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Next, Plan for the Weather: Being tropical, temperatures at sea level in Hawaii vary only by about 10 degrees between day and night and throughout the year. It’s hot during the day, plan a cool wardrobe. The windward side is generally rainy and the “up-country” towns (mountains) frequently can experience afternoon showers. Evenings, particularly up-country, are delightfully cool as there is generally an evening or “down-mountain” breeze. With forethought, your wardrobe can cover all these situations without being bulky, heavy or ornate. Remember to pack layers of clothing for warmth, rather than one or two bulky coats and sweaters-this allows for maximum adaptability and a certain amount of built-in variability to your wardrobe. This also means that if an emergency hotel-room laundry session is required, with many light layers of clothing your laundry will dry much more quickly.

Don't Forget Some Lightweight Raingear: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Don't Forget Some Lightweight Raingear: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Finally, Specifics: Be efficient–coordinate around a basic, neutral color so everything you bring matches everything else. Black or khaki are the traditional traveler’s choices. Dark colors show dirt less than light colors, and this can be a saving grace where doing laundry is impractical. Choose clothes for lightness, packability and washability.  Remember that suits in Hawaii are unnecessary; even Circuit Court judges wear Aloha Shirts under their robes here. A nice shirt, generally an Aloha Shirt, and a pair of khakis are the wardrobe of choice at the finer restaurants and nightclubs–everywhere else, it’s shorts and sandals. I would advise a basic wardrobe consisting of a polo-style shirt and a couple Aloha Shirts, one pair of long khakis and three pair of shorts, a swimsuit, a couple tank tops or t-shirts, a sunhat and a light jacket for evenings; that’s all you really need to cover most bases. Women may want to toss in a light sundress or skirt. Sandals are all you’ll need or want in the way of footwear (your feet will be HOT)–you may want to toss in a pair of running shoes for exercise or hiking. Unless you are attending a formal event such as a wedding, don’t worry about dressing up or you will not only find yourself carting far too much luggage, but awkwardly overdressed as well.

Be thoughtful about your wardrobe and activities: for instance, you may wish to think about bringing two swimsuits–you will be amazed how pleasant being in the water is in the hot tropics.  Whether you are just cooling off in the pool or snorkeling with the turtles and fish, you’ll probably want to swim everyday. Swimsuits rarely dry overnight and it’s a lot more pleasant to get into a warm, dry suit than a wet, cold one.  Also, if you plan on riding horseback or exploring the higher elevations such as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or Mauna Kea, be sure to bring some jeans and appropriate footwear, a medium weight fleece sweater and light rain jacket/windbreaker. A compact traveler’s umbrella is always a good idea.

Don’t forget to pack your toiletries and personal items; I used to carry these on, in case of lost luggage, but restrictions on liquids and gels and razors make this impractical. Medications, of course, go in the carry-on. Sun block, sun hat, sunglasses and sun-burn cream (I use an aloe gel) will make your vacation smoother, but can be purchased cheaply locally if you don’t quite have room for them.

Brad MacGowan on Kauai...A Tripod is Essential If You Intend To Photograph The Volcanic Eruptions Or Do Any Video Photography: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Brad MacGowan on Kauai...A Tripod is Essential If You Intend To Photograph The Volcanic Eruptions Or Do Any Video Photography: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Other Things to Bring: Just as an aside, two things you need to be head’s up about when you are in Hawaii–if you begin to feel thirsty, you’ve waited too long to get a drink of water; if you begin to feel the sun, you’ve waited too long to put sun block on. Drink more water than you think you need, apply sun block before you go out and re-apply more often that you think you need. Your body is used to more moderate climates and won’t warn you in time of the danger.  In fact, sometimes it’s dry enough on the leeward side that you won’t even feel yourself sweat—it evaporates before you get wet.  So remember to keep drinking water—alcohol, coffee and ice tea (as well as caffeinated sodas) are both diuretic and vasodilatory, so are counterproductive to keeping hydrated.  Drink water. Lots and lots of water. Although bottled water is abundantly available, being a thrifty traveler, I always bring my own reusable water bottles.  These may be carried on, but you need to take them through Security Screening empty, filling them at a water fountain before boarding—this also allows you to have water to drink during the flight, remembering that tap water on some airlines has proven to be unsafe.

The tropical sun in Hawaii is so fierce, and so many people ruin their vacations by seriously underestimating it, that I have written separate articles specifically covering sunburn and sunscreen and sunglasses.  Please read these short articles, be sure you have a good pair of sunglasses that give 100% UV protection and an SPF 30 or better sunscreen.  Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out in the sun and every 1/2 hour there after.

Lora Aller Hydrates on a Kona Coast Hike; Taking a Small Pack Helps Keep Water Bottles, Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Camera and Other Necessities Handy and Easy to Carry: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lora Aller Hydrates on a Kona Coast Hike; Taking a Small Pack Helps Keep Water Bottles, Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Camera and Other Necessities Handy and Easy to Carry: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Many people plan ahead by leaving ample room in their luggage to bring back souvenirs and gifts; recent luggage restrictions are making this impractical. Rather than buying new outfits for my trip, I spend the week before my trip weeding through my wardrobe, packing one very nice set of clothes and the remainder are items that were already bound for the thrift store. Thus, I simply abandon them at the end of my stay and thereby have more than enough space in my luggage for anything I buy. Remember—Hawaii is part of the US and the U.S. Postal Service sells flat-rate, pre-paid, boxes for very inexpensive rates. Ask for “Flat Rate Shipping Boxes” and ship those gifts home safely, cheaply and with no fuss on your part.

You should toss in a small fanny pack or day-pack for day trips…it’s amazing how many things you find you need to carry around during the day (sunscreen, water bottles, guidebook, camera, small purchases) and a pack helps to keep them organized and in hand.  A small pack can also double as a laundry bag on the flight home.

A Small Pack Come In Very Handy For Keeping Your Stuff Together and Right At HAnd: Photo by Donald MacGowan

A Small Pack Come In Very Handy For Keeping Your Stuff Together and Right At Hand: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Although this is not the time for a discussion of vacation photography in general, let me say a few words about cameras.  This is Hawaii for Pete’s sake, one of the most beautiful places on earth!  You are going to want to take pictures while you are here, you are going to wish you had taken pictures all the long years down the road after you return.  You do not have to be like me, packing two video cameras, a digital SLR and a digital underwater camera; even if you are not camera savvy at all, there are easy alternatives.

Simplest by far, and not terribly expensive, are pre-loaded, disposable film cameras.  Available for $5-10 each, and costing about the same for film developing, these are the most basic point-shoot-enjoy photographic choice.  There are even disposable underwater cameras if you plan on any swimming, kayaking or snorkeling.  May I suggest that you have your film developed in Hawaii—WalMart, Kmart and Costco all have 1-2 hour processing at reasonable prices.  The color balance in Hawaii, because of its equatorial position (angle of sun and thickness of atmosphere) and the richness of the colors of flora, land and sea, is different to what most film-processing shops know and thus, if you wait until you return home to develop the film, the colors will turn our disappointingly.  Getting your film processed on island also allows you to share prints with people you meet or are visiting.

Digital cameras may at first seem confusing, but are really much easier to deal with than film cameras, have such great storage capacity that they quickly pay for themselves in film and processing costs and produce images that, even for the rank beginner, are startling and gorgeous.  You don’t even need a computer to enjoy your digital pictures, just take them to any film processing shop and they’ll make prints for you—much more cheaply than prints from film.  If you plan to buy a digital camera for the trip, or are not quite used to the one you have, start practicing with it about a month before you leave…standing with your arm around your lover in the perfect sunset, with the palm trees swaying, the hula girls dancing on the beach and the humpback whales leaping in the ocean (oh, yes, these scenes DO happen!) is not the time to be fiddling with camera and instruction booklet trying to figure out how the damn thing works.  Secondly, be sure to bring that instruction book, all accessory cords, chargers and adapters in a small plastic baggie when you come—they are expensive to buy on vacation and you never know what you’ll need.  Experience will teach what you can leave behind on successive trips.  If buying a new digital camera to immortalize your trip to Paradise, think about getting a waterproof version.  Most major camera manufacturers produce fine, submersible digital cameras, good to 40 feet or so, that are every bit as good as the regular cameras and are not very much more expensive.  Many also have video features that allow you to take brief video clips, even underwater.  One final note on your camera—never let go of it.  Keep it in your carry-on bag during the flight, in your pocket or you day pack on the trip, do not leave it in your rental car or your hotel room or lunch table.  Ever.

Amanda, Liz and Amy Maus Pose for the Underwater Camera: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Amanda, Liz and Laurie Maus Pose for the Underwater Camera: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Another useful item, many tourists bring their GPS from home to help navigate—be sure to download the maps for Hawaii before you come; some brands of GPS do not offer Hawaii coverage.  A few of the rental car agencies have GPS units for rent at reasonable prices.  The best solution, however, are the folks at Tour Guide Hawaii (808.557.0051; http://www.tourguidehawaii.com) who offer a hand-held computer with an onboard GPS at very reasonable rental rates (a video about the Tour Guide product is available here).   They have stuffed into this device over six hundred points of interest (did you hear that?  600!) of recreational, cultural and historical importance. They have produced a short audio/video presentation for each site, telling you all about it, the history and culture, what to bring, what to do while there; they even have the public restrooms listed! These presentations play as you approach the points of interest, or can be searched for at any time or location. Thus, the device can be used to preview all the sites around the island in the comfort of your hotel room, pre-plan trips or to get information and turn by turn navigation on the road.  Combining cutting-edge technology and old-fashioned story-telling, the unbelievably easy to use, fabulously informative and terrifically fun Tour Guide Self-Guided GPS Tours are an amazing bargain and a great way to see Hawaii. They are now offering a pared-down version (50 of the top areas and attractions—AND the restrooms!) that is downloadable to iPhone and iPod.

Finally, one of the most enduring visions I have of travel is standing exhausted, late night at the luggage carousel as hordes of weary travelers lift first one anonymous piece of black luggage, then the next, searching for their own anonymous black luggage amongst a sea of ubiquitous black nylon and leather travel bags.  Not everyone is comfortable carrying the bright Hawaiian print luggage I have (although I always instantly recognize my bags…except when returning to Hawaii where EVERYBODY has this luggage), but there are ways to customize and personalize your bags.  One of the more common, and therefore useless, is the nylon rainbow-colored strap…there are almost as many of these wrapped around anonymous black luggage as there are plain black bags themselves.  Airlines don’t like straps and cords flopping around off the luggage, for obvious reasons, but you can buy colorful and unique baggage tags or tie a bit of uniquely colored ribbon or a small scarf to the handle of your luggage…just something that  screams “Mine!” to you as it slides down onto the carousel so you do not have to search plaintively through the weary lot of black bags with rainbow belts on them.

The MacGowan Family Deplanes From Airforce 1--Even Traveling in Style Your Luggage Can Get Lost So Plan Ahead: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The MacGowan Family Deplanes From Airforce 1--Even Traveling in Style Your Luggage Can Get Lost So Plan Ahead: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

This is Hawaii, remember?  You came to have fun!

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

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan


Aloha! I’m Donnie MacGowan and I live on the Big Island of Hawaii. Today, I’d like to take you to the top of Mauna Kea. At 13, 796 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea’s summit is the highest point in the State of Hawaii; since its base lies at 19000 feet below sea level, its has a base-to-summit height of 33,000 feet, making it the tallest mountain on earth. It’s also one of my most favorite places on earth.

Mauna Kea began forming on the sea floor about one million years ago. Its name means “White Mountain” in the Hawaiian language and it is snowcapped much of the winter, and the summit is covered with permafrost 35 feet deep. During the ice ages, Mauna Kea’s summit was glaciated 3 times, starting about 200000 years ago and ending only 11000 years ago. One can see the U-shaped valleys and cirques, striated bedrock, glacial tills covering the summit area and remnants of ice-damned lava flows from those times. There are even the remains of extinct rock glaciers near the summit.

The Visitor’s Center and summit are reached via a road which turns off Saddle Road at about 6600 feet elevation near the 28 mile marker and tortuously stumbles its way up the south side of Mauna Kea to the Visitor Information Station at about 9300 feet. The road, though steep, is paved to the Visitor’s Center. Above that, the road is graded dirt for about 5 miles, returning to asphalt paving for the final sprint to the rim of the summit crater. Road conditions for the summit road are available at 808.935.6263.

The visitor’s center is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. 365 days a year. Informational multimedia presentations, souvenirs, and some food items are available here, as well as clean restrooms and drinking water. Every evening after dark the center allows visitors to stargaze through several telescopes and informational talks by visiting scientists are occasionally scheduled. Saturday and Sunday Center staff lead escorted summit field trips, but visitors must provide their own vehicle. Call 808.961.2180 for information. It is suggested that summit-bound visitors stop at the Visitor’s Center for at least half an hour before heading to the summit so they can acclimate.

Above the Visitor Information Station there are no public accommodations, no water or food and no gasoline service; the observatory buildings are closed to the public and usually locked. There are neither public telephones nor restrooms, only port-a-potties. An emergency phone is located in the entrance to the U of H 2.2 meter Telescope building.

Driving the summit road to the very top of Mauna Kea is neither as dangerous as the car rental companies want you to believe, nor as casual as many Big Island residents will tell you. True, the summit road is unpaved most of the way, it is steep and winding with limited view planes; the road is extremely hazardous when wet or icy, which is often, and it’s subject to frequent dense clouds, snow, rain and fog obscuring all vision. Also, balmy summer conditions may turn into lethal winter rages in minutes with little or no warning.

However, the road is generously wide, routinely graded and poses no real threat to the cautious driver. The safe driver can expect to reach the summit in about ½ an hour after leaving the Visitor Information Station. Remember, it’s not the roughness of the road that will impede your car; it’s the elevation that will starve it for oxygen. To be safe, take as much time winding your way back down the mountain as you took coming up, using the lowest gear to save wear on brakes. Check your car rental agreement–many forbid you to drive this road. If you go anyway, your insurance is void, and you do so at considerable financial risk. Remember, people DO crater their cars on occasion.

If the weather turns frightful, simply head down immediately. Relax, be calm and drive carefully; you can be confident that, even if you have to slow to 10 miles per hour in places, you’ll be down to the safety of the Visitor’s Center in a mere 40 minutes or so.

The summit of Mauna Kea, hosting the largest assemblage of astronomical instruments and telescopes in the world, is truly an amazing place; a seductive juxtaposition of icy heights raised up from steaming tropical jungle; the age-old altars of sacred Hawai’ian gods alongside edifices of the most modern of sciences; of frigid landscapes carved during ancient ice-ages alongside fiery volcanic landforms; all wrapped around a fabulous trip with a wee rumor of danger, just for spice! Beautiful, awe-inspiring, 360 degree views of the entire Big Island also include the islands of Maui, Kaho’olawe and Lana’i on clear days. The glow from Kilauea Volcano can be seen on clear nights. Although daytime temperatures during the summer can peak in the 60s, it is generally cold-to-frigid, frequently wet and very windy on the summit. Plan and dress accordingly.

The summit area is also culturally and religiously important to the native Hawai’ians, hosting many religious Heiau, an obsidian adze quarry and numerous other archaeological sites. Remember this landscape, and the archeological sites upon them, are sacred; take nothing but photographs, don’t even leave footprints.

Parking is limited, but the hike from the top of the road to the actual summit is a must for any who have ventured this far and are in good shape. A stone altar and a USGS survey point mark the actual summit of the mountain, about a 15 minute walk up a cinder trail from the top of the road. A trail leading around the summit crater takes about 30 minutes to trek and traverses some very wild country with amazing views. Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water and hydrate frequently to help stave off altitude sickness. Do not leave the safety of the parking lot if you are feeling ill or the weather is at all chancy—in fact, in deteriorating or poor weather, or at the onset of queasiness, one should leave the summit immediately and descend.

Alternately, for those in excellent physical condition, one can hike to the summit from the Visitor’s center. Featuring unparalleled views, wild landscapes, archeological sites and more, the hike is about 6 miles in length, gains about 4500 feet in elevation and takes 6 to 10 hours to get up, depending on the hiker. There is no water available anywhere above the Visitor’s Center, so take enough to get up, and back down. Frankly, many people opt to hitch-hike down the mountain after hiking up. In fact, for folks short on time, or for whom scenery and not summit-conquering are the main goals, catching a ride to the summit and hiking down is a great alterative, and takes only about 3 1/2 hours.

Another absolutely stunning hike in the summit area, one that is accessible to nearly anybody in reasonable condition, is to Lake Wai’au. Park at either the lot at about 12000 feet, near the 5 mile marker, or the lot at about 13000 feet, near the 7 mile marker. Needless to say, one hike is uphill in and the other is uphill out; but both are less than a mile long and have similar elevation changes. I prefer the upper trail because the view of the summit astronomical complex on the hike out is phenomenal. An absolute jewel of an alpine tarn in its own right, at 13,020 feet Lake Wai’au is one of the highest permanent lakes in the world…permafrost seals the lake bed in the loose tephra and glacial drift on which it sits. It’s about 300′ by 150′ by 8 feet deep and, yes, I personally can vouch for its having been snorkeled. Not much to see in there, though.

There are a few health concerns about visiting the summit of Mauna Kea as well. In brief: children under 16, pregnant women, and people with respiratory, heart, or severe overweight conditions are advised not to go higher than the Visitors Information Station. Scuba divers must wait at least 24 hours after their last dive before traveling to the summit.

Acute mountain sickness, resulting from exposure to high altitude, includes nausea, headache, drowsiness, shortness of breath, and poor judgment. Aspirin and lots of water are palliatives for altitude sickness, but the cure is immediate and rapid descent. Sufferers will notice almost complete cessation of symptoms upon regaining The Saddle. Altitude sickness can be dangerous, even life threatening, and rapid onset of comatose condition, or even death, may be unexpectedly swift.

Finally, there is severe risk of serious sunburn and eye damage, particularly when there is snow on the ground. Be sure to wear sunglasses rated to at least 90% IR and 100% UV (both UVA and UVB); wear sunscreen rated to at least SPF 30. Long sleeves and pants help reduce the susceptibility to sunburn. Sun screen and sunglasses, necessary to combat the deceptively severe tropical sun, are so important that I’ve written a separate articles about sun burn and sunscreen in Hawaii and what sunglasses you should bring to Hawaii. Too many visitors drastically underestimate the strength and ferocity of our sun and wind-up with vacation-ruining sunburns.

No trip would be complete without wild life footage; this was the only other living thing on the summit the day I shot this…and just to prove where we are, yup, there’s the summit!

Most visits to Mauna Kea’s summit are extremely pleasant experiences, encompassing easy adventures which may feature mild altitude euphoria, fabulous views and a great sense of relief at reaching the paved road and public restrooms at the Visitor’s Information Station after leaving the summit.

Well…thanks for spending a little time with me in one of my favorite spots…I’ve got to run now…this is Donnie MacGowan sending you a hearty “Aloha!”

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