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Historical Kona Heritage Corridor

Up-Country Kona is A Charming Amalgamation of True Old Hawaii and Counter Culture Weirdness--All With Stunning Views of the Ocean: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Up-Country Kona is A Charming Amalgamation of True Old Hawaii and Whimsical Counter Culture Weirdness–All With Stunning Views of the Ocean: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When the Kona Coast becomes too hot and humid upon a torrid afternoon, or post-littoral torpor sets in from sunbathing overindulgence at the beach, visitor’s to the Big Island Kona side should take a cue from locals and head up-country for the fresh, cool afternoon air. The Old Road, a 12 mile long remnant of the Mamalahoa Highway, runs through a beautiful slice of Old Hawai’i; coffee farms, fruit orchards, historical buildings, small towns and an old sugar mill grace the sunny slopes of Hualalai Volcano here.

Mauka, or Up-Country, Kona as this area is called, was once the beating financial heart of Hawai’i Island-along this road were built the first newspaper press, bottling company and telephone exchange on Hawai’i. Today, the road runs through the artist enclave of Holualoa, famed for its art galleries and coffeehouses. Sweeping views of the Kona coastline, the upper slopes of Hualalai Volcano and even Maui on vog-free days, make this road a trip a not to be missed treat. Let’s take a quick tour of the section of the Kona Heritage Corridor that runs along Highway 180 from it’s intersection with Highway 190 north through Holualoa, past the intersection with Highway 19 and into the town of Kainaliu.

Kona Mauka Offers Stunning Views Along The Coast and Of Sunsets: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kona Mauka Offers Stunning Views Along The Coast and Of Sunsets: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

M. Onizuka Store

Starting at the intersection of the Mamalahoa Highway (Hwy 180) and Highway 190 (Palani Road) and heading approximately South on the Mamalahoa Highway, one passes through tropical to temperate rainforest and comes to the verge of the cloud forest that softens the upper slopes of Hualalai Volcano. At about the 7 mile maker one passes the old M. Onizuka Store, the boyhood home of Astronaut Elisson Onizuka, who died in the Challenger space shuttle disaster. The M. Onizuka Store was founded in 1933 by Masamitsu Onizuka in 1933 who provided the residents of his community with general merchandise and means of transporting their purchases through the store’s one-man taxi service. Following her husband’s death, Mitsue Nagata Onizuka continued to run the store until the day she died in 1990. “May Peace On Earth Prevail” proclaims the post outside the residence where Elisson Onizuka, who had the honor of being the first astronaut of Japanese-American descent, grew up. History buffs are invited to explore Hawai’i’s rich involvement in man’s exploration of space at the Onizuka Space Museum at Kona International Airport.

Kona Mauka Was Once the Beating Financial Center of Hawaii Island:Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kona Mauka Was Once the Beating Financial Center of Hawaii Island:Photo by Donnie MacGowan

K. Komo Store

Boasting but a few necessary concessions to the march of time, the charming comfort of the family store of yesteryear lives on in the form of the K. Komo Store. Gasoline, sundries and good conversation are always available at this for real slice of “Old Hawai’i”. Serving the people of Keopu since the early 1900’s, and operated by the third generation of Komo family, K. Komo Store still grows, roasts, brews and sells their own brand of coffee. The store is registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

Holualoa Town

When the Dryland Forest on the Slopes of Hualalai Volcano Open Up Near Holualoa Town, There Are Amazing Views of the Kona Coast

When the Dryland Forest on the Slopes of Hualalai Volcano Open Up Near Holualoa Town, There Are Amazing Views of the Kona Coast: Photo by Donald MacGowan

With a name that means “the long sled track”, its position at the apex of Kona coffee country and its modern day eclectic profusion of art galleries, schools and studios, it’s easy to see that Holualoa, once the bustling center of North Kona commerce, has been through some changes in the past 200 years. Initially, Hawai’ians grew taro and sweet potato in small family farm plots called “kuleana” around Holualoa. It is interesting to note that today the word “kuleana” in Hawai’ian pidgin has taken on the meaning of “personal responsibility”. In any case, early in the nineteenth century, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese immigrants settled here and began planting large fields of oranges, breadfruit, coffee and cotton among other crops. A large sisal plantation for making ropes for sailing vessels was located just northwest of Holualoa…today, now-wild sisal plants, looking a bit alien with their tall, single stalk of blossoms, can be seen in profusion along Palani Road between Kailua and Kealekehe. Early in the 20th century the fields were turned over almost entirely to sugar production and Holualoa became the financial center of the Kona District. Luther Aungst established the Kona Telephone Co here in the 1890s, the first regional newspaper The Kona Echo was established at Holualoa by Dr. Harvey Hayashi, one of Kona’s first full time resident doctors. Many other schools, churches and industries, including the Kona Bottling Works, located here in the first half of the 20th century, but the collapse of the sugar industry brought financial doom that coffee growing only partially staved off. The community shrank drastically in population and commercial importance and by 1958 only about 1000 people lived in the Holualoa area. In a dreamy, upcountry Kona backwater, a community of artists, recluses, writers and seekers of the “Old Hawai’i Lifestyle” thrived here. Recently, an infusion of money from the newly invigorated “boutique coffee” industry has sparked a revival of commercial life in Holualoa, anchored in coffeehouses and art galleries.

Kona Sugar Company and West Hawai’i Railway Company

eKona Sugar Mill 2

The Jungle Has Nearly Reclaimed the Old Kona Sugar Mill Below Holualoa Town: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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. 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 above 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. Traces of the rail bed can still be seen from the top of Nani Kailua and Aloha Kona residential neighborhoods. Located just west of the town of Holualoa along Hualalai Road (the major intersection just south of town), 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.

Keauhou Store

The Old Keauhou Store in the Kona Heritage Corridor: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Old Keauhou Store in the Kona Heritage Corridor: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Originally Sasaki Store, Keauhou Store was founded by noted carpenter, coffee farmer and prominent local business man Yoshisuki Sasaki in 1919, and remains one of the great neighborhood stores of Kona. Run most recently by Yoshiuki’s son, Rikiyo, they once offered gas, sundries, fresh coffee and local produce; today, however, the Keauhou Store stands closed by the roadway, as traffic that used to pass by the front door now travels the makai highway. However, the front porch of Keauhou Store still serves as a gathering place for local coffee farmers and neighborhood children. A true remnant of Old Kona, Keauhou Store is worth a visit, especially to history buffs and photographers.Tong Wo Tong Cemetery

Although Chinese have lived in the Islands since the turn of the 19th Century, the first large scale immigration of Chinese came when they were brought over to work the cane fields in 1852. There was soon a burgeoning population of Chinese field workers and shopkeepers; by 1860 Chinese outnumbered Caucasians in Hawai’i. This community established the Tong Wo Tong Cemetery to honor their ancestors and commissioned Yoshisuki Sasaki, a noted local carpenter and prominent business man, to build the ornate gate in 1902. In English and Chinese the inscription on the gate reads “Tong Wo Tong Cemetery”.

Gateway to Tong Wo Tong Cemetery, Kona Heritage Corridor: Photo By Donald MacGowan

Gateway to Tong Wo Tong Cemetery, Kona Heritage Corridor: Photo By Donald MacGowan

Daifukuji Soto Mission

This Buddhist Temple has served the Mauka Kona community as a site for worship and retreat since opening on May 27, 1921. Reverend Kaiseki Kodama, who, since founding the first Kona Soto Mission in 1914, for years had held services at Hanato Store and other sites, planned the original mission building which was designed and built by Yoshisuki Sasakai. Reverend Hosokawa opened a Japanese Language School here in 1926; the school, living quarters and social hall all enlarged upon the original structure. The traditional Japanese music and dance-filled O Bon Festival is held here each July; visitors are welcome.

The Daifukuji Mission Near Kainaliu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Daifukuji Mission Near Kainaliu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lanakila Church/Kaona Uprising

Lanakila Church was the beginning and focal point for one of the strangest and more interesting episodes in Mauka Kona history during the latter half of the 19th Century. This, the last church built by the ubiquitous Reverend John D. Paris, was finished in 1867. Lanakila Church is still today a vibrantly strong, active parish of Congregationalists. The quiet country setting of this church gives little indication that it was in the center of a violent, deadly uprising in the late 1860s. Called the Kaona Uprising, the events of 1867 and 1868 comprised a perhaps natural reaction of the native Hawai’ians to having been so recently, and completely, dispossessed of their way of life, their naturist religion and their ancient traditions. The uprising started peaceably enough; in 1867 a man named Kaona introduced himself to the Reverend Paris, saying he had a great quantity of Hawai’ian Bibles he wished to distribute and asked permission to store them in the as-yet-unfinished Lanakila Church building. The Church elders assented and the Bibles were stored. However, Kaona and his followers tried to usurp the church building and its land for living space and at the pleas of Reverend Paris the Governor, Princess Ke’elikolani, eventually evicted them. Kaona moved his growing group of malcontents onto a neighbor’s property until rain and cold forced them to seek warmer lands downslope by the ocean. Growing more powerful with each new cult member, Kaona resisted the efforts of the local law enforcement, in the person of Sheriff Neville, to evict them, reportedly spitting on and destroying the first eviction order. Preaching Hellfire and Brimstone, and aided considerably by a rash of large earthquakes early in 1868, Kaona convinced his followers that he was the only true Prophet of God and that the earthquakes would destroy all but his most loyal followers. Sensing a mood of violence, Sheriff Neville determined to use force if necessary to evict Kaona and his band from their squatter’s camp. In the ensuing melee, Neville and one native policeman were killed. Kaona then whipped his band into a religious frenzy of blood lust, exhorting them to go forth, slay the white people and set fire to their farms and homes. Such was the violence and threat that the South Kona Magistrate organized a volunteer militia to for the protection of citizens, but the uprising wasn’t put down until the Steamer Kilauea brought troops from Honolulu to round up the violent mob several days later. Kaona was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment but was later pardoned and freed by King Kalakaua. He died a free man in Kona in 1883.

Graveyard at Lanakila Church, Kainaliu: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Graveyard at Lanakila Church, Kainaliu: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Aloha Theater

The Aloha Theater and its cafe, serve as a gathering place for the community and the home of independent, classic and second run films as well as the Hawaiian International Film Festival and various community events. Construction of the Aloha Theater began in 1929 and was finished in 1932, long before Hawai’i was a state. Starting life as a silent movie theater, it survived the changeover to ‘talkies’ as well as the great fire of 1948 that destroyed much of it’s side of town. Still in use today as a performing arts center by the Kona Association for the Performing Arts; their performances feature live music and dance as well as film. The Quonset-hut shaped original theater building and the original marquee still in use are very typical of the style used in other theaters of the plantation era in Hawaii. The Aloha Angel Café associated with the theater is a gustatory revelation and offers a wide-ranging menu of entrees, baked goods and deserts and is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The World Famous Aloha Theater and Aloha Angel Cafe in Kainaliu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The World Famous Aloha Theater and Aloha Angel Cafe in Kainaliu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kainaliu Town

Napping gently on either side of the Hawaii Belt Road, Kainaliu Town is one of the principle commercial centers of Mauka Kona. Kainaliu grew up at the intersection of two donkey tracks which servicee the sugar, coffee and ranching industries, sometime after the construction of Lanakila Church in 1867. The star attraction in Kainaliu is, by far, the Aloha Theater and Aloha Angel Café. This historic and beautiful theater is still the center for stage productions of all kinds as well as cinematic shows; it is the centerpiece for the Kona Association for the Performing Arts (KAPA). Another of the towns interesting attractions is the amazing Oshima Grocery and Dry Goods Store (“If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”). In addition the town boasts numerous other businesses, galleries, furniture, thrift, herbal medicine shops as well as several wonderful restaurants and coffee houses. Donkey Balls has a candy factory that offers fun tours and tasty samples and Captain Cook Coffee has a roasting house right in town that gives weekday tours. When the weather turns wet in West Hawai’i, or you need a relief from the heat on the beach, a day spent browsing and eating in cool, shady Kainaliu is a real treat.

Kainaliu Town Is Full Of Interesting Boutiques, Shops and Restaurants: Photo By Donald MacGowan

Kainaliu Town Is Full Of Interesting Boutiques, Shops and Restaurants: Photo By Donald MacGowan

To celebrate the conclusion of our Historical Soirée, as long as you are in Kainaliu Town, you really ought to stop in for a cup of famous Kona Coffee at any one of a number of local coffee shops…not the harsh sameness of the ubiquitously monotonous Starbuck’s, each individually special Kona coffee cafe reflects the personality of the local growers and roasters who produce Kona Coffee, widely held to be the best in all the world. Also, the singular and exclusive galleries and stores in Kainaliu makes erfect shopping for completely unique gifts to take home.

Sunset Over Keauhou From the Kona Historic District: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sunset Over Keauhou From the Kona Historic District: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

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Deeper and Deeper into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

As you continue driving around and exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park you will find many great hiking and bicycling opportunities. Tour Guide has some 50 sights to see in the park and has details such as, parking, food and water and restroom facilities along the way.

One of the best day hikes in the park is the Kilauea Iki Crater Trail. This four mile round trip hike, about three hours at a nominal pace, will descend into the crater itself. From the floor of the crater, you will see fern, Ohia, and tropical rainforest crowding right up to the rim. The floor itself is stark desert, by comparison, as the trail takes you across and then up the other side. Make sure to bring plenty of water and maybe even some snacks for this hike.

To see even more of the parks wonders, we at Tour Guide suggest a drive down the Chain of Craters Road. This drive unlocks dozens more sights, hikes and vistas from high mountain rainforest to the barren lava landscapes and scenic ocean views below. Along this road are a number of overlooks for some fabulous photography. It ends at the sea where waves crash and spew against cliffs with steam clouds in the distance where lava reaches the ocean. Let’s see what this stunning area has to offer.

Lua Manu is a pit crater formed before written records were kept of the eruptive activity in the park. You will notice no cinder around the rim. This indicates no eruption here but a lava lake that formed inside the pit. As it drained, the pit collapsed, the latest of which was in 1974.

There are several more pit craters to see along this route and then you will come to Hilina Pali Road. This nine mile road takes you to some of the most magical views of the National Park. From forest down to the coast, the breathtaking scenery with leave you with the awe and majesty of Mother Nature and Madam Pele. For the hearty campers, Tour Guide will lead you to Kulanaokuaiki Campground. There are restrooms here but no water is available. At the end of Hilina Pali Road is an overlook not to be missed.

Back on Chain of Craters Road, Tour Guide brings you to Pauahi Crater, a large hourglass shaped crater that has held lava from many different flows over the years. Most recently, the 1979 earthquakes opened the south rift of the crater and issued steam and lava fountains. Though this episode only lasted one day, it was precursor to the current flows from Pu’u O’o in 1983 that destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses miles away in the Puna District.

Tour Guide will guide you to Kipuka Kahali’i. A kipuka is a hole or space where the lava surrounded forest or grassland but did not burn it. This one was partially devastated by the 1969 hot ash eruption of Mauna Ulu. The tallest trees survived and some hearty species of plants have returned.

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

This post has been expanded and updated here.

Across the Roof of Hawaii

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saddle Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kipuka Huluhulu from Saddle Road: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kipuka Huluhulu from Saddle Road: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

Pu’u Huluhulu Nature Trails/Kipuka Aina Hou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station

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

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

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

Leg 5) John Burns Way to Mauna Kea Summit

Mauna Kea Summit

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

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

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

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

Kaumana Cave, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaumana Cave, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Kaumana Caves

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

Kaumana Cave's Skylight Entrance: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaumana Cave's Skylight Entrance: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

Leg 7) Take Hwy 200 into Hilo Town.

Hilo Town

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

Hilo's Charming Bayfront Shops: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hilo's Charming Bayfront Shops: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan


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

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

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

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

Sulfur Banks, on the crater side of the road, is just one of hundreds of gas seep on the flanks of the summit crater spewing hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and steam. Hematite, native sulfur and gypsum minerals precipitate out of the gas flux streaming through the rocks, making colorful splashes on the outcrops. Children and people with heat or respiratory conditions, or anybody with a weak stomach should be wary of venturing down the road to see this.

Non-sulfurous steam vents, mostly across the road from the crater and at the aptly named Steaming Bluff, result from rainwater percolating down through the ground being boiled by the hot rock beneath and streaming up vents to the surface. There is a short walk to the Steaming Bluff from the Sulfur Banks parking area which comes to a breathtaking view of the crater and more productive steam vents.

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

Written and produced by Donald B. MacGowan; narrated by Frank Burgess.  All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan and Frank Burgess.

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kona Inn Shops: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kona Inn Shops: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

Kailua Famer's Market: Photo by Harvey Bird Watching

Kailua Farmer's Market: Photo by Harvey Bird Watching

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

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

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

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

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

Public Queensbath Tidepool: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Public Queensbath Tidepool: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

by Frank Burgess

As you continue around the Crater Rim Drive, at Volcanoes National Park, there are dozens of great sights. A more recent crater, erupting with fire curtains in 1974, is Keanakako’i Crater. The pebbles around the rim were formed by froth from the lava as it was blasted into the air and cooled as they fell to the ground. This crater is a bit off-the-beaten-path, but Tour Guide shows the way.

Right along the Crater Rim Drive is the Devastation Trail (video here) formed by Kilauea Iki. When the Pu’u Pai vent erupted in 1959 it spewed pumice cinder and scalding ash burying the rainforest some ten feet deep. This caused the forested area to die leaving a barren wasteland where little has grown since. Tour Guide will take you on the three quarter mile paved hike, along the edge of this moonscaped region, and give more historical information as well.

At the end of the Devastation Trail is the Pu’u Pai overlook. This spot affords a view of Pu’u Pai (gushing hill) and Kilauea Iki (little Kilauea) (video here and here) and skirts the edge of the desert and rainforest as if some drew a line separating the two. Tour Guide gives the fascinating stories of 1900 foot lava fountains during this episode.

Super Tip: Bring plenty of water. I can’t stress this enough. There are few facilities available on the drives and hikes around the park, so make sure you stock up before leaving the Visitor’s Center. Besides, good hydration will keep you energized for all your fun activities. To your health.

On the east side of Crater Rim Drive is a delightful stop not to be missed, Thurston Lava Tube (video here). Tour Guide will tell you how lava tubes are formed when magma flows underground. It eventually empties leaving cave-like formations. Most lava tubes are very small; however Thurston Lava Tube is quite large. The National Park Service has paved a pathway through the tube, and installed lighting, to make this a 300 yard spelunking adventure for everyone to enjoy. The cave circles so that the entrance and exit end at the parking area. The giant ferns here invited the songs of exotic birds, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. This is one of the few locations where restrooms are available.

One of the best hiking and biking routes is the Escape Road (video here). Built for just what its name implies an alternate road for when the lava will inevitably cut the Chain of Crater Road, it makes a lovely down hill walk or bike ride. Tour Guide will show where to start at the Thurston Lava Tube parking area and end at the Mauna Ulu parking lot. This road meanders through some of the most cool and pristine rainforest to be found.

At the other end of the Escape Road is Mauna Ulu (video here), also accessible from Chain of Craters Road. This spot was formed by numerous eruptions between 1969 and 1974. A few yards down the road, you see the different types of lava formations left from these flows. Tour Guide will explain these types of lava in great detail. Across the expanse lies Pu’u Huluhulu, or shaggy hill. For those that are ready hike, there is a tree mile round trip hike to the top of Pu’u Huluhulu marked by cairns. From the summit, the views of the lava flows and coastline are indescribable.

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.

Copyright 2008 by Frank Burgess.  Photos and video opyright 2009 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.

 

Hiking Ke-awa-iki Beach, the Golden Ponds, Pueo Bay and Weliweli Point, Kohala Hawaii

by Donnie MacGowan

Donnie MacGowan amongst the Golden Ponds of Ke-awa-iki, Big Island Hawaii: Photo by Bart Hunt

Donnie MacGowan amongst the Golden Ponds of Ke-awa-iki, Big Island Hawaii: Photo by Bart Hunt

Want to find a beautiful beach not even many locals know about?  Don’t mind walking about 15 minutes over a lava road and a’a?  This tiny mostly black-sand and gravel beach has good snorkeling on the south (left as you face the water) side, where there is still a pocket of white sand.

This Black and White Sand Piebald Beach is Aboslutely Unique on the Island of Hawaii...Maybe in the World: Photo by Donald MacGowan

This Black and White Sand Piebald Beach is Aboslutely Unique on the Island of Hawaii...Maybe in the World: Photo by Donald MacGowan

This unique black and white sand beach was created after the 1859 eruption of Mauna Loa, when lava reached the north end of the beach, where the black sand is today.  Further south along the beach, the recent black sand has not had time to thoroughly mix with the pre-existing white sand.

If one continues south there are numerous tide pools to explore.

The North End of Ke-awa-iki Beach Turns to a Delightfully Weird Moonscape: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The North End of Ke-awa-iki Beach Turns to a Delightfully Weird Moonscape: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hiking north, one passes along the wild and open Kohala Coastline to Pueo Bay (Pueo mean “owl” in Hawaiian), where many freshwater springs make the snorkeling interesting but weird, due to large temperature and salinity gradients. There are numerous trails to make your way back to the car or Ke-awa-iki Beach.

Bart Hunt and the Curious Lone Palm Tree a Keawaiki Beach, Hualalai Volcano in the Background: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Bart Hunt and the Curious Lone Palm Tree a Keawaiki Beach, Hualalai Volcano in the Background: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Pueo Bay Looking North to Weliweli Point: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

From Pueo Bay Looking North to Weliweli Point: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

However, if one takes the trail running east behind Pueo Bay (intersection marked with coral), one comes to a pair of lovely golden pools, which can be seen for quite a distance, as they support a growth of hala trees.

Golden Ponds at Ke-awa-iki Spring Amazingly from the Seeming Lifeless A'a Lava Flow: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Golden Ponds at Ke-awa-iki Spring Amazingly from the Seeming Lifeless A'a Lava Flow: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A golden algae growing on the lava lends these pools their distinctive color.

Golden Algae Growing in the Hidden Freshwater Ponds at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by donald B. MacGowan

Golden Algae Growing in the Hidden Freshwater Ponds at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by donald B. MacGowan

If you bring an underwater camera, you can take spectacular photos of this gorgeous biologic wonder.

Golden Algae Growing in the Hidden Freshwater Ponds at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Golden Algae Growing in the Hidden Freshwater Ponds at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Feel free to frolic in the ponds before finishing the hike—just be sure not to damage the growth by walking on it too much.

Another interesting trail to thread are the many roads and trails leading to Weliweli Point from the Ponds or Pueo Bay, essentially just keep parallel to the coastline and they all converge at a private residence near the point–on clear days, unsurpassed views of Kohala Mountain and Haleakala on Maui can be seen here.

Weliweli to Haleakala on Maui: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Weliweli to Haleakala on Maui: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Return by taking the major dirt road back towards the highway, taking the millennia old King’s Trail south when that intersection is reached. Out in the a’a flow it’s hard to get lost, you can almost always see where you parked your car, and the trails all eventually lead there.

There is much to see here besides the beaches and the Golden Pons.

Bart Hunt at the Sacred Pond at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Bart Hunt at the Sacred Pond at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

There are remains of ancient heiau (temples) and villages.

Bart Hunt Explores and Ancient Heiau (temple) at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Bart Hunt Explores and Ancient Heiau (temple) at Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

And although no green sand beach is know to have formed, vesicular basalts in the area around Weliweli Point have abundant olivine (peridot) crystals.

Olivine Phenocrysts in Vesicular Basalt Near Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Olivine Phenocrysts in Vesicular Basalt Near Ke-awa-iki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Depending on how you thread the trails, it’s approximately 4 miles, round trip.

To Find the wonders of Ke-awa-iki: Drive just north of Mile 79, park where boulders block a gravel road. Take gravel road/trail towards the ocean, hike along the road, fence and trail 15 minutes to Ke-awa-iki Beach.  No facilities.

A video about Ke-awa-iki is available here.

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

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