Skip navigation

Tag Archives: culture

This post has been updated, expanded and superseded; please go here.

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

by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

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

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

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

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

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

Kahalu’u Beach County Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach

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

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

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

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

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

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park

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

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

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

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

Kekaha Kai State Park

Makalawena Wilderness Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Makalawena Wilderness Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Kua Bay

Kua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

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

Anaeho’omalu Bay

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

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

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

Waialea Beach (Beach 69)

Waialea Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waialea Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapuna Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park

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

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

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

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

Lapakahi State Historical Park

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

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

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

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

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

Mo’okini Heiau

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

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

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

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


King Kamehameha Statue and North Kohala

King Kamehameha Statue, North Kohala: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley, Hamakua Coast: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pololu Valley, Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

Waimea Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

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

Advertisements

The recently restored Hapaiali’i Heiau (Temple for Elevating Chiefs), a heiau associated with ceremonies involving changes in rank of Ali’i, lies on the grounds of the Keauhou Ohana Beach Resort, across the narrow tidal inlet from Ke’eku Heiau. Until recently, the temple appeared to be noting more than a disorganized pile of rocks in a tangle of mangrove and keawe.  Not much is known about this Heiau and oral traditions in the area are contradictory; some local stories hold that it predates Ke’eku Heiau; other family traditions maintain it was built around 1812 by Kamehameha the Great.  During restoration, carbon dating of material recovered indicated that the Heaiu may have been erected, or substantially rebuilt, between 1411 and 1465.  According to cultural kahuna overseeing the reconstruction it took thousands of commoners about 10 years to build the original temple.

The Ruins of Hapaiali'i Heaiu in Spring 2006, Before Reconstruction; Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Ruins of Hapaiali'i Heaiu in Spring 2006, Before Reconstruction; Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The temple was reconstructed by using survey maps made of the area in 1906 and 1952 and currently measures 100 feet by 150 feet.  Completely surrounded by the sea at high tide and constructed entirely by dry-stack masonry, this reconstruction reminds us of the engineering sophistication of the Hawai’ians and the grandeur and beauty of the temples they erected.

Hapaiali'i Heiau During Reconstruction; note Ke'eku Heiau in Background: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapaiali'i Heiau During Reconstruction; note Ke'eku Heiau in Background: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

During the restoration project, funded by Kamehameha Schools, it was discovered that Hapaiali’i Heiau also served as a solar calendar.  On the winter solstice, from a vantage point directly behind the temples center stone, the sun sets directly off the southwest corner of the heiau; at the vernal equinox, the sun sets directly along the centerline of the temple and at summer  solstice, it sets off the northwest corner.  If you are visiting Hawaii during any of these seasons it is worth the trip to Hapaiali’i Heiau to see how well this ancient astronomical observatory still serves its function.  More information about the Keauhou Historic District can be found by visiting the Keauhou Kahalu’u Heritage Center at the Keauhou Shopping Center, open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Vog Tinged Sunset around Winter Solstice at the Reconstructed Hapaiali'i Heiau: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Vog Tinged Sunset around Winter Solstice at the Reconstructed Hapaiali'i Heiau: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

From Kahalu’u Beach, walk onto the Keauhou Ohana Beach Resort property through the gateway in the fence between them and follow the asphalt path to the pool deck, through the lobby of the resort and join the paved path that runs along the end of the Resort driveway. From the Resort parking lot, walk up the drive to the paved path that runs along the end of the driveway. Following along this path, one passes Punawai Spring first, then, where the path runs around the end of the tennis courts the homesite of the Mo’o Twins. Continuing on the path until it ends at a large tidal pool, the Hapaiali’i Heiau is immediately between you and the ocean.  Across the tidal pool is the equally fascinating Ke’eku Heiau and the nearly deserted Makole’a black sand beach.  Take a moment to stroll south and seaward over the tidal flats from Ke’eku Heiau and search out the large and fascinating petroglyph field at low tide (more information here). Remember that these are holy religious sites to modern native Hawai’ians; to not trespass, walk or climb on the temple proper; take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.

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

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

By Donald B. MacGowan and Frank Burgess

The Sugar Industry in Hawaii

Scattered across the Hawaii Island landscape are remnants of old sugar mills, fields and even some feral cane can still be seen. But when Captain Cook came to the Islands in 1778, only wild sugar cane grew.

Feral Sugar Cane Field, Hamakua, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Feral Sugar Cane Field, Hamakua, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

 

The climate in Hawaii offered a perfect environment for raising sugar cane; cooling ocean currents keep the average temperatures around 80 degrees, with frequent rains, abundant groundwater and year round sunshine. 


In 1834 the first successful sugar plantation company marked the beginning of Hawaii’s love affair with sugar. Sugar provided Hawaii an economic foundation allowing a cosmopolitan society to flourish which spurred U.S. Annexation and eventual statehood in 1959.


In its heyday during the early 1960s, one out of every twelve people employed in Hawaii was in the sugar industry whose workers were the highest paid in the world. Hawaii produced a million tons of cane sugar a year from about 221,000 acres of land on four islands.  Hand milling of cane was replaced by mechanical milling in the late 1800s.These mills easily handled a number of processes including washing, crushing, grinding, and centrifuging. Raw, milled sugar was then shipped to the California & Hawaiian Sugar Refining Corporation in Crockett, California.  Unable to compete in the global sugar market the Hawaiian sugar industry declined in the 1980s and the last plantation closed at Pahala in 1992.


Though the business is gone, what is left are the people who once worked the fields and mills. The melding of the rich cultures of Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Portuguese, and others is what gives today’s unique Hawaii lifestyle its flavor.  


Kona Sugar Company and West Hawai’i Railway Company

Such was the seductive lure of easy riches to be gained by growing sugar in Hawai’i at the beginning of the 20th Century, that investment capital for a large sugar plantation, sugar mill and railroad in Kona could be raised not once, but three times.  

Remnants of the old Kona Sugar Company Mill Near Holualoa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan
Remnants of the old Kona Sugar Company Mill Near Holualoa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Kona Sugar Company plantation was established in 1899 and every available scrap of land was stripped of whatever crops had grown there previously and planted in cane.  Although the sugar grew well enough about 500 feet elevation, a notable lack of fresh water in Kona’s semi-arid landscape made Wai’aha Stream the only logical choice for the mill site.  Unfortunately, the stream flow is vastly insufficient for year-round cane milling and the mill, built in 1901, went broke in 1903.  

 

Kona Sugar was bought by investors; renamed Kona Development Company, the plantation again went broke in 1916 and was in turn bought by investors in Tokyo. This group managed to eek out a profit until the industry imploded in 1926.  Originally planned to run 30 miles, the railroad was only built to total length of 11 miles in the 27 years of sugar plantation operation.  Work camps, communal baths, stables, workshops and all the requisite infrastructure of a giant agricultural plantation lay abandoned in the Mauka Kona countryside.

During World War II, the U.S. Army used the mill site as a training camp to acclimate troops to warfare on their way to the tropical Pacific Theater.  Fearing the tall smokestack of the mill would act as an artillery landmark for any invading forces, the Army pulled it down and Kona lost one of its first post-contact, industrial landmarks.

The Overgrown Walls of the old Kona Sugar Company Mill: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan
The Overgrown Walls of the old Kona Sugar Company Mill: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Traces of the rail bed can still be seen from the top of Nani Kailua and Aloha Kona residential neighborhoods.  Located along Hualalai Road, near the intersection with Hienaloli Road, are impressive stone breastworks and trestles for the railroad. Built by hand but still strong today, the rail bed can be explored and hiked from here.  Further up Hienaloli Road from the intersection with Hualalai Road, the old mill site remnants are still visible.

Abandoned Stone Trestle of the West Hawaii Railroad, Near Holualoa, Highway: Photo by Donnie MacGowan
Abandoned Stone Trestle of the West Hawaii Railroad, Near Holualoa, Highway: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Carving of a Honu, Green Sea Turtle, at Pu’u Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Carving of a Honu, Green Sea Turtle, at Pu'u Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan
    

by Donnie MacGowan


Lost in the dreaming mists of time are the origins and meanings of Hawaiian petroglyphs, the carved rock art of the ancient Hawaiians. Are they religious symbols or hunting magic? Accounts of journeys and conquests? No one is certain, as no historical records exist and those kahuna who knew the meaning of their magic took those secrets to their grave.

Anthropomorphic Petroglyph from, the Makaole’a Beach, Kona: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Anthropomorphic Petroglyph from, the Makaole'a Petroglyph Field Near Kailua Kona, HI: Photo by Donnie MacGowan     

Like most animists, Hawaiíians invested worship and respect in, and intuited spiritual powers to, a range of natural objects and phenomena: rain, volcanic eruptions, the sea, sharks, fresh water springs, surf and individual rocks. Pohaku O Kane, or sacred rocks, were among the most common spiritual objects of worship, whether they were naturally occurring in the landscape (pohakuia loa), rocks set on platforms (pohaku amakua), carved rocks (pohaku iki) or the petroglyphs themselves (k'i'i pohaku).

Petroglyphs from Pu'u Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

 

 

 

 

Petroglyphs from Pu'u Loa Field, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan     

Most petroglyphs in the Hawaiian Islands are found in fields, on broad expanses of smooth pahoehoe basalt which would have facilitated both carving the images as well as gatherings of celebrants, were they later used in sacred rituals. The biggest petroglyph fields are found on the island of Hawaii, with the field at Pu'u Loa in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park being the largest petroglyph field in all of Polynesia. In addition to the various petroglyph fields, smaller scattered groups and lone carvings are known throughout the Hawaiian Islands. A black market exists in stolen petroglyphs and these lone petroglyphs, although many are well known and documented, are becoming increasingly hard to protect from thieves. Heartbreakingly, most of the targeted petroglyphs are destroyed as ignorant thieves try to pry, hammer and chip them away from their native stone.


Elaborate Anthropomorphic Carving from Pu'u Loa Petroglyph Field: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan
Elaborate Anthropomorphic Carving from Pu'u Loa Petroglyph Field: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Although the age of the petroglyphs is difficult to determine, a stylistic evolution is clearly evident and can even be relatively dated where more recent petroglyphs are carved directly on top of older ones. The styles start with simple stick figures and crude geometric shapes and evolve into more humanoid figures with triangular chests. Carvings with elaborate headdresses and complex geometric designs came later and carvings of horses, cattle and European sailing vessels are the most recent and certainly post-date European contact. There are many petroglyphs which seem to defy even these simple classifications and are so stylistically unique that scholars argue whether they represent some variant art form that flourished briefly and died, or are a more modern carving by contemporary artists.
Simple Geometric Carving from Pu'u Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan
Simple Geometric Carving from Pu'u Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A More Complex Geometric Carving from Pu'u Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan
A More Complex Geometric Carving from Pu'u Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Quite Complex Geometric Petroglyph, Pu'u Loa: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan
Quite Complex Geometric Petroglyph, Pu'u Loa: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan
    

Puako Petroglyph Field

The right hand raised in this figure from Puako Petroglyph Field may indicate the compass direction "North West": Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Standing Figure from Puako Petroglyph Field; Many Authorities Believe the Raised Right Hand Signifies the Hawaiian Primary Geographic Direction We Call "North-west": Photo by Donnie MacGowan


This enormous field of over 1200 individual carvings makes you wonder why ancient Hawaiíians made their tortuous way across miles of inhospitable lava desert, far from any source of water and through thick keawe forest to leave their enigmatic and cryptic petroglyphs on this singular Pahoehoe lava flow. Carved between 1000 and 1800c.e., the Puako Petroglyph Field is the second largest field of ancient petroglyphs in Polynesia. Lying near the grounds of the Mauna Lani Resort, they are accessed today by a simple, 25-minute walk on the wide, easy Malama Trail. The meaning and message of these petroglyphs have never been divined, but in addition to the stone pictures, are numerous piko, small holes bored into the lava to accept an infantís umbilical cord during the religious birth ceremonies.

Puako has offered at least one clue in unraveling the enigma of Hawaiian petroglyphs. Based upon thousands of measurements and careful mapping, it is believed by most scholars that the human figure, with his right hand raised, indicates the Hawaiian principal compass direction, which we would call "Northwest" (see picture).

To get to the Malama Petroglyph Field turn into the grounds of the Mauna Lani Resort between the 73 and 74 mile markers and follow the signs to the parking lot for the trail to the Malama Petroglyph Trail. The best time to view the petroglyphs is just after dawn of just before dusk, because the angle of the sunlight accentuates the carvings. Due to their fragility and antiquity, rubbings and casting of the petroglyphs are forbidden. Full facilities, water and food are available at the resort.

Makaole'a Beach Petroglyph Field

European-Style Sailing Ship Petroglyph at Ke'eku Heiau, Keauhou Historic District: Photo by Donald MacGowan


European-Style Sailing Ship Petroglyph at Ke'eku Heiau, Keauhou Historic District: Photo by Donald MacGowan     

A small, forgotten beach along Aliíi Drive in front of the recently demolished Kona Lagoon Hotel, Makaoleía Beach has wonderful tidepools but poor swimming. Due to its relative isolation in the midst of town, this beach has a very lonely feel and makes a great place for a private picnic. The numerous petroglyphs lie both above and below the surface of the ocean and are only visible at low tide, to the south and west, seaward, perhaps a hundred meters from the reconstructed Keíeku Heiau. The petroglyphs were all carved on basalt above sea level; over the millennia the sheer weight of Hawaiíi Island has caused it to slowly subside, and the petroglyphs to be partially submerged. Am example of an authentic, but relatively recent, carving is a large petroglyph clearly depicting a European-style sailing vessel. Other famous petroglyphs from this field include the depiction of the headless Maui Aliíi Kamalalawalu, after he lost his battle for the Island of Hawaii to the victorious Hawaii Aliíi, Lonoikamakakahiki as well as an anatomically ìsuper-anatomically correctî carving of Lonoikamakakahiki, himself.

To reach Makaoleía Beach, park either in the Kahaluíu Beach Park or at Keauhou Outrigger Beach Resort. From Kahaluíu, walk onto the Keauhou Resort property through the gateway in the fence between them and follow the asphalt path to the pool deck, through the lobby of the resort and join the paved path that runs along the end of the Resort driveway. From the Resort parking lot, walk up the drive to the paved path that runs along the end of the driveway. Following this path, one passes Punawai Spring first, then, the Moío Twins homesite. Continuing on past reconstructed Hapaialíi Heiau around the margin of a large tidepool to reconstructed Keíeku Heiau, Makaoleía Beach runs south from the end of Keíeku Heiau. No services.

Pu'u Loa Petroglyph Field

A Few of the More Than 15,000 Individual Petroglyphs at Pu'u Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Few of the More Than 15,000 Individual Petroglyphs at Pu'u Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Just off Hawaii Volcanoes National Parkís Chain of Craters Road, along the side of the centuries-old Kaíu-Puna trail, worn smooth by generations of travelers, in the area of the Hill of Long Life (Puíu Loa) lies the largest petroglyph field in Polynesia It is estimated that the Puíu Loa field contains in excess of 15,000 carvings. A one mile segment of this ancient trail, from the parking lot along the Chain of Craters Road to the petroglyphs, has been marked with cairns (or ìahuî) by the Park staff to lead visitors to the petroglyphs. As you hike along this trail, notice the smoothness of the lava, the sheen on the trail worn by generations of travelers' feet.     

There are many theories concerning the origin and meanings of these carvings but one thing is certain. People stopped here for hundreds of years and left their mark on the stone. Among the designs are simple holes, spirals, concentric circles, human forms and others which are unrecognizable geometric shapes. The hills and swales of pahoehoe surrounding the boardwalk contain thousands more petroglyphs, but due to their fragility, you are advised to remain on the boardwalk to keep from damaging them.

Remember that these carvings, though many hundreds of years old, are extremely fragile so remain on the boardwalkódo not step into the petroglyph field, even for a better view, or onto the carvings themselves. The boardwalk passes by hundreds of carvings near enough for you to examine them minutely and photograph the completely. This self-guided tour takes about 1 hour.

South Point Petroglyphs

Kite Petroglyphs at South Point; An Academic Debate Exists on the Age and Origin of the Carvings: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kite Petroglyphs at South Point; An Academic Debate Exists on the Age and Origin of the Carvings: Photo by Donald MacGowan     

Unlike the three previous examples, there is no large petroglyph field at South PointÖcarvings are spread on rocks and in tidepools and lava tubes all up and down the coastline. There are several that are associated with the small, but extremely well-preserved Kalalae Heiau near the actual geographic South Point. Kalalae is classified as a koía, or fishing shrine, to the god Ku'ula.

There are several outstanding examples of Pohaku O Kane other than petroglyphs evident at Kalalae Heiau that one should note. On the main platform outside the heiau is a pohaku amakua referred to as ìKumaieaî which means ìfemaleî. On the smaller stone terrace just north is another standing stone, associated with the god Kanaloa, and referred to as ìKanemakuaî (male). The stone inside the walls is a called ìKuíulaî after the Hawaiian god of fishing; north of the structure stand Makaunulau (a Hawaiian navigational star) and 'Ai'ai (his ward), south is Wahine hele ("place from where the women leave"). Examples of pohakuia loa include the Pohakuwaía Kauhi (literally ìcanoe rock by the shrubsî) right at the shoreline, which was used to focus meditations before long canoes journeys, and Pohakuokeau (ìstone of the currentsî or ìstone of the yearsî), which stands offshore. The name Pohakuokeau reflects the Hawaiian belief that the stones would turn over when there was a political change in government.

K'i'i pohaku in the area are numerous but scattered, so it's up to the initiative and energy of the visitor to find them. True curiosities, the kite petroglyphs, are in a large Queenís Bath and easily located by walking east and south along the shore from Kalalae Heiau. These carvings are so stylistically unique to other Hawaiian petroglyphs that scholars are unsure of their origins. Do they represent some variant, and apparently rare, art form, or are they modern carvings by a recent artist? Even the associated archeological features and artifacts in the area feed this ambiguity. For instance, in the immediate area there are several pohakuia loa (rocks naturally standing in the area used for worship) and pohaku iki (carved rocks that generally have been stood-up) that are thought to be authentic. However, a large stone ìaltarî adjacent to the pool containing the kites is not only very unusual stylistically from other known Hawaiian features, but may actually be a modern construction and represent nothing more than a ìbenchî made by local fishermen. Additionally, a short distance nearby but away from shore, in a large lava tube with a freshwater spring used for diving by locals, is a turtle petroglyph which seems to be another example of the same carving style as the kites. Modern or ancient?

South Point, or Ka Lae, is the farthest point south in the entire United States. The road to Ka Lae from the Hawaiíi Belt Road is infamous, but has been greatly improved in recent years, although itís still only 1-lane wide in many places. Turn south off the Hawaii Belt Road at the well-marked turn just north and west of Waiohinu Town.

Cryptic Carvings of Enigmatic Human Figures from Near Ke'eku, Kona HI: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Cryptic Carvings of Enigmatic Human Figures from Near Ke'eku, Kona HI: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan     

Petroglyphs; enigmatic, ancient and undeniably beautiful are abundantly scattered across the Hawaiian landscape. It requires only curiosity, time and enrgy to seek the out. Who knows, maybe youíll be the one to tease some morsel of meaning from these cryptic and ancient messages to the gods.


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


All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan.

 

Melancholy, lonely, desolate; this beach cut into the fresh scar of an a’a flow 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 dryland forest along the lava ocean cliffs and provides some memorable hiking and sunset views.

Kuamo’o Battlefield is located at the very end of Ali’i Drive, somewhat appropriately. No facilities.

For more information on exploring the Big Island of Hawaii in general, and the ancient villages and temples of Kona in particular, visit: www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Produced by Donnie MacGowan. Written, directed and filmed by Donnie MacGowan.  Original musical score by Donald B. MacGowan.  All media copyright 2008 by Donald B. MacGowan; all rights reserved.

Video written and produced by Donald B. MacGowan; videography by Frank Burgess and Donald MacGowan; Narrated by Frank Burgess, Original music written and performed by Donnie MacGowan.

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

The Jaggar Museum is the premiere spot for viewing the current eruption at Kilaueas summit in Halemaumau Crater, which is astounding by day and nothing short of powerfully beautiful after dark. The overlook into the eruption is open 24 hours a day, but the Museum currently is only open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Founded by Dr. Thomas A. Jagger, the Hawaii Volcano Observatory (or, HVO) was the first of its kind in the world. Although closed to the public, the Observatory is the workplace of numerous world-famous geologists, geochemists and geophysicists who study volcanoes, eruptions, earthquakes and the effect of eruptions on contemporary ecologies.

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

For more information about traveling the Big Island in general and Island Activities in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.


Written and produced by Donnie MacGowan; videography and original musical score by Donald B. MacGowan.
Mo’o Twins Homesite and Punawai Spring
On opposite sides of the Keauhou Beach Hotel Tennis Courts lie the homesite of the legendary Mo’o Twins and Punawai Spring. Legend tells us that the Mo’o Twins were prophetesses of the lizard goddess who, through time, became goddesses in their own right. 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.

To reach Mo’o Twins Homesite and Punawai Spring, park either in the Kahalu’u Beach Park or at Keauhou Outrigger Beach Resort. From Kahalu’u, walk onto the Keauhou Outrigger Beach Resort property through the gateway in the fence between them and follow the asphalt path to the pool deck, through the lobby of the resort and join the paved path that runs along the end of the Resort driveway. From the Resort parking lot, walk up the drive to the paved path that runs along the end of the driveway. Following along this path, one comes first to the Punawai Spring. Where the path runs around the end of the tennis courts is a lovely little glade enclosed by a tidal pool…this is the homesite of the Legendary Mo’o Twins.

Paokamenehune
The breakwater predates the 15th century temple complexes in the area and is widely said to have been built by the menehune (sort of the Hawai’ian equivalent to leprechauns), but building was actually initiated to enclose the bay as a fishpond. Whether the work became beyond the powers of the Ali’i at the time to administrate or the surfing faction won-out in the battle over use of Kahalu’u Bay is not known, but the breakwater was already in disarray at the time of European contact in the 18th century.

To reach Paokamenehune Seawall, park either in the Kahalu’u Beach Park or at Keauhou Outrigger Beach Resort. From Kahalu’u, walk onto the Keauhou Outrigger Beach Resort property through the gateway in the fence between them and follow the asphalt path to the pool deck. From the Resort parking lot, walk up the drive and cross through the lobby to the pool deck. Walk across the tide flat to the water’s edge and follow it out to the obvious line of large stones that comprise the seawall. Beware of the rock with is very, very slippery when wet and bear in mind that walking along the seawall is extremely dangerous.

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

Written and produced by Donnie MacGowan; narrated by Frank Burgess. Videography by Donnie MacGowan and Frank Burgess.

Along the side of the centuries-old Ka’u-Puna trail, worn smooth by generations of travelers, in the area of the Hill of Long Life (Pu’u Loa) lies the largest petroglyph field in Polynesia It is estimated that the Pu’u Loa field contains in excess of 15,000 carvings. A one mile segment of this ancient trail, from the parking lot along the Chain of Craters Road to the petroglyphs, has been marked with cairns (or “ahu”) by the Park staff to lead visitors to the petroglyphs. As you hike along this trail, notice the smoothness of the lava, the sheen on the trail worn by generations of travelers’ feet.

There are many theories concerning the origin and meanings of these carvings but one thing is certain. People stopped here for hundreds of years and left their mark on the stone. Among the designs are simple holes, spirals, concentric circles, human forms and others which are unrecognizable geometric shapes. The hills and swales of pahoehoe surrounding the boardwalk contain thousands more petroglyphs, but due to their fragility, you are advised to remain on the boardwalk to keep from damaging them.

Pu’u Loa, the hill at the margin of the boardwalk, is the place where Hawai’ians came to bury the umbilical chord of their children. People came from all over the Hawai’ian Islands to bury their child’s piko, or umbilical chord stump, in this place of “mana” (Hawai’ian for power), the home of the Goddess Pele. Grinding out a cup-shaped hole, the Hawai’ians would place the piko in the ground to insure long life, and good grace from the Goddess, for their child.

Remember that these carvings, though many hundreds of years old, are extremely fragile so remain on the boardwalk—do not step into the petroglyph field, even for a better view, or onto the carvings themselves. The boardwalk passes by hundreds of carvings near enough for you to examine them minutely and photograph the completely. This self-guided tour takes about 1 hour.

For more information about touring Hawaii in general or visiting the Big Island in particular, go to www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

This post has recently been greatly expanded and updated…please go here to see the more recent, and more abundant, information.

Trip 4: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Lava Viewing Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 14 hours (return drive in the dark).

From Kona, connect to Highway 11 south 2 1/2 hours to Ka’u Desert Trail. A 40 minute round trip hike leads to footprints of ancient warriors who where caught in a sudden, ferocious eruption. Continue on Highway 11 to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Park Rangers at the Visitor Center will have the latest lava information. Chain of Craters Road has numerous craters, tons of hiking trails and several breathtaking vistas for great photographs. Upon exiting the Park, continue to Kea’au and Highway 130 (food stop). Proceed to Pahoa and the junction to Highway 132 and Lava Trees State Park. Here trees were inundated with fast flowing lava. When the trees rotted, it left these Lava Trees. Then on to Highway 137, following the coast to Kalapana and a 20 minute hike to the lava viewing area at Waikupanaha. (Arrive about dusk for optimal viewing.) From Kalapana back to Kona is a 3 1/2 hour drive (after dark).

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 Ka’u Desert/Warrior Footprints Trail.

Evening Light on Hualalai and Kailua Kona: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Evening Light on Hualalai and Kailua Kona: 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.

Mauna Loa Rises Above the Ka'u Desert at Warriror Footprints: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Loa Rises Above the Ka'u Desert at Warriror Footprints: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Ka’u Desert Trail and Warrior Footprints, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Just where Hawai’i Belt Road enters Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from the West, is a small parking strip that is the gateway to a host of wonders within the Ka’u Desert section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Although eruptions here are generally characterized by leisurely outpouring of lava, it is not unknown for Kilauea to violently erupt in a blast of steam and ash. It is this ash that preserves some human footprints, believed to have been formed in 1790 when enemies of Kamehameha the Great were caught by one such massive, explosive eruption. Perhaps as many as 400 men died in this eruption. An emergency phone is available here; there are no other services. Do not venture from your car here without carrying water.

Leg 2) Continue south on Hwy 11 to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Entrance and jct with Crater Rim Drive; Crater Rim Drive west to Kilauea Visitor’s Center to Jagger Museum, then back around Crater Rim Drive to Kilauea Iki Crater.

Kilauea Crater and the Current Halema'uma'u Eruption As Seen from Waldron Ledge, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea Crater and the Current Halema'uma'u Eruption As Seen from Waldron Ledge, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

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

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

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

Kilauea Visitors Center at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Kilgore Trout

Kilauea Visitors Center at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Kilgore Trout

Kilauea Visitor Center

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

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

View of Halema'uma'u from Jagger Museum, HVNP: Photo by Donald MacGowan

View of Halema'uma'u from Jagger Museum, HVNP: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory

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

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

Frank Burgess On Kilauea Iki Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Frank Burgess On Kilauea Iki Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea Iki Trail

Perhaps the finest short day hike in the park, a four-mile, 2-3 hour trip down into, across and back out of Kilauea Iki Crater gives one an intimate feel for volcanoes, Hawaiian-Style. Along one side, thick fern and ohi’a forest skirts along the rim and on the other, lush tropical rainforest crowds to the very brink of the crater; bleak volcanic desert lines the crater walls and covers the floor. The start and finish of the hike are along well marked, wide trails. The remainder is an easily followed, well marked trail with stone ahu (cairns) over the crater floor. As always when hiking in the Park, it is wise to avoid the noonday sun, and to remember that afternoon showers are common, especially near where this hike meets the crater rim.

Leg 3) Crater Rim Drive to intersection with Chain of Craters Road; Chain of Craters Road to End of Road.

Hiking from the End of Chain of Craters Road to the Lava Ocean Entry at La'epuki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hiking from the End of Chain of Craters Road to the Lava Ocean Entry at La'epuki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

End of Chain of Craters Road

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

Hiking all the way out to the active flows is one of the most spiritually rewarding, awe-inspiring, curiosity quenching and amazing things one can do anywhere in the world—but it is neither for the physically unfit nor the meek of spirit. It is a long, hot hike (currently seven miles) over broken ground and glass-sharp rocks; the heat from the volcano is savage; the weather, if clear, is sweltering…frequent squalls blow in off the ocean and the rain and wind can get pretty wild out on the lava plain where there is absolutely no cover or shelter to protect you. No water or shade is available anywhere along the hike.

Leg 4) Follow Chain of Craters Road back uphill to Crater Rim Drive, follow Crater Rim Drive back to Park Entrance and then to Hwy 11. Go east on Hwy 11 to jct with Hwy 130 at Kea’au; take Hwy 130 south to Pahoa.

In Hawaiian, "Puna" means "Spring" and Puna District in General, and the Area Around Pahoa in Particular, Is Dotted With Hot, Warm and Cold Springs: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

In Hawaiian, "Puna" means "Spring" and Puna District in General, and the Area Around Pahoa in Particular, Is Dotted With Hot, Warm and Cold Springs: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Puna District and Pahoa Town

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

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

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

Leg 5) At Pahoa, get on Hwy 132 to Lava Trees State Park.

Lava Trees State Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Trees State Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Trees State Monument

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

Leg 6) From lava Trees State Park take Hwy 132 to jct with Hwy 137 at Kapoho; take Hwy 137 southwest to Ahalanui Pond then to Kaimu Black Sand Beach and Kalapana Disaster of 1990.

Ahalanui Hot Pond: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahalanui Hot Pond: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahalanui Pond

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

Kaimu Beach near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaimu Beach near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kalapana Disaster of 1990/Kaimu Black Sand Beach

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

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

From the lava hillocks along the trail you can get nice views of the eruption plume at Pu’u O’o, up on the flank of Kilauea, as well as the steam clouds down a few miles along the coast where the lava enters the sea. Restrooms and fast food are available at the end of the road.

Leg 7) From Kalapana, take Hwy130 (Ahia Road) just a tweak to the jct with old HWY 130; go west on old the highway to Waikupanaha Lava Viewing.

Lava Viewing At Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Viewing At Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Viewing Near Kalapana

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

The easy trail, a 20 minute stroll to the viewing area, is well-marked. The viewing varies as lava flows nearer or farther from the trail. Viewing is best at dusk so bring flashlights for the hike out. Take close-toed walking shoes and a hat, long pants and long-sleeved shirt, at least 2 liters of water and sun block and a rain jacket and camera. Remember food and gas are not available anywhere nearby after dark, so fill up BEFORE you park, bring snacks and drinks. There are port-a-potties available at the parking lot.

Leg 8) Return to Hwy 130; Hwy 130 north through Pahoa to Kea’au and jct with Hwy 11. Hwy 11 west to Kailua Kona.  Take Hwy 11 west to Kailua Kona.

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

Sunset Over Oneoneo Bay, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Sunset Over Oneoneo Bay, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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.