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by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Bart Hunt Snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Kahalu’u Beach County Park

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A young snorkeler spots a Hawaii Green Sea Turtle, Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Loll in sand and sun under swaying palms, watch humpback whales dance in an exotic Kona sunset, 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.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Amanda Steven at Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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. Most days there is a food wagon selling sandwiches, burgers, shave ice and cold drinks at reasonable prices and a vendor renting snorkeling gear and boogie boards. This beach can be crowded on weekends, but there is always room for another snorkeler in the water.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Snorkelers enjoy the water, Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

This is the premiere snorkeling beach of the Island of Hawai’i; protected from the open sea by a sea wall, the reef is also protected against commercial aquarium fishing. Thus, the snorkeling is in calm, shallow water; frequently during low tide, one can actually walk to the sea wall, a couple hundred feet offshore. Also, there is an abundance of fish of an enormous variety, over 100 species…perhaps the best display on the island.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Bart Hunt Filming at Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For these two reasons, Kahalu’u is where many visitors head for their introduction to snorkeling. If you are unsure about snorkeling, there is a great video about snorkeling, actually filmed at Kahalu’u Beach, available here; remember if you can float you can snorkel. A series of very short articles dealing with various topics on snorkeling in Hawaii are available here, here, here, here, here and here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

Dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and a few Hawksbill Sea Turtles call this bay home, eating the limu (or seaweed) and thrilling the snorkelers. These turtles are generally observed along the shallow rocks and lava reef on the south (left as you face the ocean) side of the bay. Remember that these turtles are endangered and protected, it is a federal offense to approach, touch, handle or harass the turtles, in the water or out. More about the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle can be found here, and more about environmental awareness and protecting the reef animals can be found here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Laurie Maus uses a boogie board as a flotation device to aid snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Numerous freshwater springs and shallow water bathers make the near-shore snorkeling unpleasantly cloudy, but about 50 feet offshore the water turns crystal clear and the display of coral is nothing short of amazing. Outside the breakwater one may occasionally see deep water species such as marlin, tuna, dolphin and small sharks. Towards the south, where the bay shallows to a series of tide pools, many species of shrimp and seaweed not commonly seen in West Hawai’i are abundant.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The littlest snorkeler, Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Northward, and outside the bay, is an excellent surf break that is for intermediate or better surfers and boogie boarders. There is a fair current north out of the bay and along the coast…swimmers caught in this current should relax and swim with the current, angling towards land…they will come to shore a few hundred yards north of Kahalu’u and be able to walk back along the road. To avoid the current, simply stay well within the area of the bay enclosed by the seawall. If you feel the current begin to tug at you, simply turn toward shore, spot the pavilion and begin slowly swimming toward it; go slowly and steadily so as not to tire yourself.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The littlest surfer dude, Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Hawai’ian word Kahalu’u can be translated as “the place where people go into the water”; in ancient, as well as modern times, Kahalu’u was a place of recreation, relaxation and restoration. The Kahalu’u are is part of the greater Keauhou Historic District; to find out more about the many fascinating temples, palaces and sacred spots in and around Kahalu’u Bay, please go here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Niu Malu, Shade of the Coconut Palm, Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

One of the numerous sites of historic importance around the park, such as the seawall, Paokamenehune, which 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). In reality the seawall is only half man-made and half an augmented natural feature; building was 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.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sunset from Ku'emanu Heiau adjacent to Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Ku’emanu Heiau, perhaps the only ancient temple to honor the Gods of Surfing still standing, was a place of ritual human sacrifice. The springs on the northern edge of the park, Waikui Punawai, where luakini (human) sacrifices were ritually cleansed and today surfers rinse ocean water off themselves after surfing. Between St. Peters Church and the northern restroom is the Awa pae Wai O Keawaiki canoe landing which figured prominently in the Maui-Hawaii wars of the 16th Century.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Busy bathers at Kahalu'u Beach don't realize that they are wading in an ancient canoe landing, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The large pond between the northern restrooms and the small pavilion, Wai Kua’a’la loko, was the private bathing pond of Hawai’ian Ali’i in residence at Kahalu’u. Between the two pavilions is another ancient canoe landing and even into historic times, a halau wa’a, or canoe storage house, was situated here. An important heiau and royal residence, Mokuahi’ole, stood where the large pavilion is today. It was at this site that the great queen, Ka’ahumanu, and her cousin Kuakini (later Territorial Governor) were raised.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A local Hawaiian observes sunset by performing an impromptu hula at Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When you visit Kahalu’u go humbly and carefully, full with respect and the memory of the great kings and queens who lived here, and 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. Kahalu’u is unsurpassed as a spot to watch sunset, spot whales and dolphin, snorkel, surf, or just relax under the swaying palm trees in those warm aloha breezes.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Snack vendors at Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

In addition to snorkel rentals, view boards, boogie boards and many other water toys can be bought or rented at Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

For independent reviews of our product, written by some of our legions of satisfied customers, please check this out.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

John Funk, a Hawaiian native once featured on the cover of National Geographic, sells handmade craft items at Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Moon over Kahalu'u, Kona Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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by Donald B. MacGowan

Donnie MacGowan Snorkeling Self Portrait: Graphic from Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Richardson Beach Park and Ocean Center

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A quiet morning at Richardson Ocean Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The almost universal experience of visitors to Hawai’i is that, although it is certainly beautiful, delightful and a unique, special place, no matter what pre-conceptions a traveler may bring about Hawai’i, their experience is a bit different to what they expected.

Richardson Ocean Park, with its towering palms, fresh water pools, delightful surf, secluded and calm tidepools, lawns and general ambiance of tropical paradise, is almost certainly very close to what most visitors expect from Hawai’i—hence it popularity. If you are here on one of the two or three sunny days Hilo will have this year, Richardson Beach Park is perhaps the most lovely, calming and inviting place on the East side of the island.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lush gardens, palm tree sahde and inviting water make Richardson Ocean Park one of Hilo's most inviting destinations, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Views of Mauna Kea at sunrise and sunset from this beach are unparalleled. The snorkeling here along the small black sand beach is the best of the Hilo area and the surf is a busy mix of beginner to intermediate level waves. Hawai’i County Division of Aquatics Ocean Center is located at this park; lots of interesting information is available from these friendly, helpful folks.  The name derives from the owners of the first house built here, by George and Elsa Richardson, whose home is now occupied by the Richardson Ocean Center.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Ponds, inlets, paths and lawns, Richardson Ocean Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The main, near-shore swimming area is protected by a natural rock ledge, which makes it safe for even children to swim and snorkel here; entry is via the small black-sand beach. Frequented by dolphins and sea turtles and the best diversity of fish on this side of the island, the near-shore water is a little cold when getting in, due to fresh water springs, but soon warms-up a few dozen yards from shore. Experienced snorkelers will want to venture out and south, around the natural rock wall, to a small coral reef teeming with colorful fish.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The coves and troughs at Richardson Ocean Park make excellent snorkeling, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The currents and surf can occasionally be tricky here, so heads-up, pay attention to what the lifeguard is advising, don’t go in during high surf. Since Leiiwi Beach Park is adjacent, it is suggested that you explore both snorkeling areas on the same visit. Poking about the abundant tidepools will add enjoyment to post-swim explorations.

Palm tree shade and a rocky coast are part of the charm of Richarson Ocean Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Restrooms, showers, water, picnic tables and a lifeguard round-out the amenities of this wonderful place. There is also a Hawai’i County Police Department substation here.

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

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Warm water, cool shade, Richardson Ocean Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For independent reviews of our product, written by some of our legions of satisfied customers, please check this out.

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

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hidden in the afternoon clouds, Mauna Kea rises above Hilo Bay, from Richardson Ocean Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

Suntanning at Two Step Beach, Honaunau Bay, Kona Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Two-Step Beach at Honaunau Bay

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

Two Step Beach with the Pu'u Honua o Honaunau National Historic Park, Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Some of the finest, protected snorkeling and shore-diving in the world, and certainly one of the top 5 snorkel spots in the state, Two-Step Beach is located adjacent to the Place of Refuge, Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park. Hawaii has about 75% of the coral reefs in the United States; the Kona Coast contains about 57% of that…and Honaunau Bay has some of the most varied and extensive shallow-water coral gardens in Hawaii. If you want to see living coral by snorkeling, this is a great place to do it.

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

Brad MacGowan Snorkeling at Two Step Beach on Honaunau Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A wonderland of turtles, coral and fish, with frequent morning visits by dolphins, this snorkeling experience shouldn’t be missed. Although no swimming is allowed within the National Park, as a measure of respect of the sacredness of the Refuge site, Two-Step Beach offers a convenient place to enter Honaunau bay.

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

Morning at Two Step Beach, Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The name Two-Step Beach is somewhat misleading…there is little sand here. The easiest way to get in the water for beginners is to simply walk down the boat ramp. Water near the ramp is fairly cloudy and chilly (due to near-shore springs), but quickly warms and clears up as one swims past the little point of rocks separating Keoneele Cove from Honaunau Bay proper.

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

Two Step Beach in the morning sun, Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

More commonly, people enter by stepping off the short cliff into the water near the center edge of the lava bench. Two-Step beach gets its name from this short hop; there are two ledges that serve as steps down into the ocean. At low tide, it’s a simple matter of stepping down these steps: 1-2-OCEAN! At high tide, one simply steps off the edge and in. Getting out, one simply floats up to the steps, puts ones hands palms down and waits for a convenient, incoming wave to float you up and onto the bottom step—the process is more intuitive and physically easier than it sounds. Resist the temptation to put fingers into small holes and pockets in the rocks to haul yourself out—these are frequently filled with spiny sea urchins. Always lay your hands on the rocks palms down, don’t use fingers.

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

Gary Burton and his daughter at Hounaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The best snorkeling is along the cliff edges and the shallows adjacent to the shore, where most of the fish and some of the coral are. That being said, the deeper water hosts amazing coral gardens fairly close to shore. Remember that you cannot get out of the water anywhere within the confines of the Park.

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

Dolphin Rest Area, Two Step Beach, Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Remember not to harass or approach dolphin or sea turtles; they are federally protected species. A complete discussion of “snorkeling etiquette” and rules for protecting the reef and animals who live there may be found here. Briefly, do not step on or touch coral; do not feed the fish; do not approach turtles within 30 feet and do not approach marine mammals within 100 yards, Dolphins and seals may approach you, but remember, this ain’t Flipper—these are wild animals and sometimes bite. Do not reach out to them or swim towards them or their calves–they will interpret this as aggression and defend themselves vigorously.

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

Liz Fuller at Hounaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Two Step Beach is notorious among locals for the spectacular sunburns visitors get here—whether they underestimate the raw power of the tropical sun and the reflection from the lava, or misguidedly believe you cannot burn on a cloudy day (you can, UV passes right through clouds). Don’t be one of those visitors who winds up with a vacation ruining sunburn. This is of such importance, I have written a special article about sunburn and sunscreen and one about sunglasses; you should read them and follow their suggestions. Finally, please wait to apply sunscreen until you are out of the water; wear a t-shirt and ball cap into the ocean to prevent burn while you are snorkeling. Sunscreen lotions and creams kill the coral and harm the fish.

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

Carved bowls in the pahoehoe basalt at Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

To reach Two Step Beach, from Highway 11 head west (toward the ocean) on Highway 160 at the junction just south of Mile Marker 104. Drive about 5 miles to the entrance of Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park, turning right on a narrow 1-lane road (the only turn off) just before the National Park fee kiosk; follow this lane about 100 yards past the boat ramp at Keoneele Cove.

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

Picknic, parking and restroom facilities at Two Step Beach, Hounaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Parking for Two Step beach is along the shore under the trees, just beyond the boat ramp. If no parking is available here, go back and park in the National Historic Park lot (it costs $5 for park entrance fee—but you get to see the Park after snorkeling, and it’s worth it!)–your vehicle is safer and you can used the civilized restroom of the National Park. Parking, picnic tables, barbecues and portable toilets are available.

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

Looking across Honaunau Bay towards Pu'u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park from Two Step Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Curious about the ancient Hawaiians and what the Pu’u Honua National Historic Park is all about? Check out this informative article.

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

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

Snorkelers at Two Step Beach at Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

For independent reviews of our product, written by some of our legions of satisfied customers, please check this out.

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

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

Two Step Beach, Honaunau Bay, Kona Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan



by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Ai'iopio Fishtrap at Sunset, Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

Fishtrap at 'Ai'opio, Koloko Honokohau National Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

Aerial View of the South Entrance to Koloko Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii, Showing Ai'iopio Fshtrap: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Tour Guide Hawaii is excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, let’s look at one of Hawaii’s most interesting, fabulous and significant historical parks, Koloko-Honorary National Historic Park, just north of Kailua Kona. This park is almost wholly unknown to visitors…and, strangely, many locals as well; characterized by lovely, deserted beaches, ruins of villages and temples, basking sea turtles and miles of hiking trails, the place is flat amazing.  We will highlight just a bit of the information you might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks about this gem of a park; this information is just a fraction of what is available on Tour Guide’s iPhone App. You see how easily you could miss a lot of great stuff, fun things to do and amazing sights if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park

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

Looking toward the far end of Ai'iopio Beach, across the Ai'iopio Fishtrap, at Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A thriving Hawai’ian community out here in the middle of the desert? At Honokohau, ancient Hawai’ians took advantage of abundant freshwater springs to site a large community centered around fishing, fishponds and taro fields. The National Historic Park preserves a vast complex of important archeological sites, including several heiau, fishponds, fishtraps, house sites, burials, a holua (sledding track), a Queen’s Bath and abundant petroglyphs. An information center and bookshop is located between the two access roads off the highway and the best place to start any exploration of the National Park.

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

Pili Hale at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii; Kailua Kona and Hualalai Volcano are in the background: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The archeological sites at both the north and south ends of the Park are worth the little hiking it requires to see them. When exploring these ancient villages, springs and ponds and temples, remember that they are sacred to the Hawaiian people.  Please treat them gently, and with respect…leave only footprints, take only photographs.

As a beach, Ai’iopio Beach is one of Kona’s finest, most protected and fun places to swim. Abundant shade along a long wide beach and a protected reach make this a perfect place to take children, though the water is a little murky for ideal snorkeling.

The shady Ala Hele Kahakai, or shore trail, winds between the north and south ends of the park and intersects with the Ala Hele Ike Hawai’i trail, coming makai (seaward) from the Visitor’s center.

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

The Ancient Seawal; at Koloko Fishpond is Getting Some Modern Repairs at Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The North Entrance of the Park is reached along a one-lane dirt road just south of the Hinalani St. intersection with the Highway, near mile marker 96. This road is open Thursday through Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and it is not a good idea to get locked behind the gate. Fortunately short and in generally good condition, the dirt road quickly leads to the coast and many archeological sites which are worth the quick drive and short hike. Reconstructed Kaloko Fishpond spotlights the enormous construction projects the Hawai’ians were capable of undertaking in their heyday. A kuapa, or rock wall, separates the fishpond from the ocean, with a gated opening which allows fresh tidal waters to pass in and out of the pond, but through which the growing fish cannot swim. Aquaculture of this magnitude could feed thousands of people; however, other foodstuffs besides fish were grown at Kaloko. Looking around the countryside from the Kaloko fishpond it is possible to see many elevated planter boxes made of the local basalt rocks, in which taro was gown. Taro, prepared as poi and baked as unleavened bread, was a staple food for the early Hawai’ians.

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

Looking South Along the Coast from the Koloko Fishpond at the North End of Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The North Entrance has facilities limited to composting pit toilets and picnic tables.

In the middle of the Park, the Information Center, Hale Ho’okipa, is situated in an obvious parking lot in the middle of an a’a lava flow just south of the intersection of the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway and Hina Lani street on the ocean side of the road.

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

Hale Ho'okipa, the Visitor's Center at Koloko=Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo By Donald B. MacGowan

The Information Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and has full facilities including drinking water, restrooms and a small souvenir and bookshop. The Ala Hele Ike Hawai’i trail leaves the visitor centers a heads to the beach past numerous archaeological sites, both pre-contact and historic. The Old King’s Highway, a beautiful, narrow stone-paved path, passes through a’a and pahoehoe north and south from the Visitor’s Center to the other two Park entrances.

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

These enormous stone piles, as seen from near the intersection of the Ala Hele Kahakai and the Ala Hele Ike trails, lead to the Queen's Bath Golden Pond at Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Accessed by the Ala Hele Ike Hawai’i trail from the Visitor’s Center, and lying more toward the interior of the park, the Queen’s Bath, in particular, is quite unique. The natural pool was improved by the native Hawai’ians to provide smooth stones on which to sit and stand and to make it a pleasant place, even though it’s located in the middle of an inhospitable a’a field.

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

The Sacred Queen's Bath Golden Pond at Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii. When You Visit the Queen's Bath, Please "Malama Aina", Respect The Land. Do Not Wade or Swim in the Pond, Especially If You Are Wearing Sunscreen. Not Only is this Pond Sacred To the Native Hawaiians, But It Is a Delicate Micro-Environment Filled With Unique, Rare and Endangered Aquatic Life: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

You can also get there from the North Entrance by walking south beyond the north end of the beach to a large rock wall. Looking mauka (towards the mountain) along the wall, a series of enormous rock piles can be seen. Follow the trail along the border between the yellow grass and fresh lava, to and then between the first two rock piles; head for the only green shrubbery in the area and you’re at the pond!  When You Visit the Queen’s Bath, Please “Malama Aina”, Respect The Land. Do Not Wade or Swim in the Pond, Especially If You Are Wearing Sunscreen. Not Only is this Pond Sacred To the Native Hawaiians, But It Is a Delicate Micro-Environment Filled With Unique, Rare and Endangered Aquatic Life.

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

Ai'ipio Beach is a safe place to bring the family to enjoy the ocean. Generally uncroweded, sheltered from tides and currents, shallow and bath-water warm, it's a deflightful way to experience the ocean at Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At the south end of the park, adjacent to Honokohau Harbor, is Ai’iopio Beach, Hale O Mono Heiau and the Ai’iopio Fishtrap.

Different in design from the rock wall and fishpond structure seen at the Kaloko Fishpond in the northern end of the Park, Ai’iopio Fishtrap is a unique and ingenious invention of the Hawai’ians. Comprised of a large spiral built of basalt stones piled up in the bay, fish enter the trap’s system of canals and walls over the top at high tide, but are trapped within by the receding water of the out-going tide. Hale O Mono Heiau, an ancient Hawai’ian temple still in use for religious ceremonies today, stands guard over the fishtrap at the entrance to Ai’iopio Beach.

The hike along the beach from the North Entrance to the South Entrance is one of the few, beautiful wilderness beach hikes left anywhere in the State of Hawaii. The trail passes through the remnants of a once vibrant fishing and farming community; many ruins, fish ponds and springs dot the area, which is also famous today for its populations of wildlife and birds. One is virtually assured of seeing basking green sea turtles along the beach. Dolphin and pilot whales are frequently seen offshore. During Humpback Whale season, (November through March), the whales are often seen frolicking off the coast here. Of course, the famous Kona sunsets are incomparable from the wild and beautiful beach.

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

Ai'iopio Beach, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, South Entrance, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Sacred Hale O MonoHeiau at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

To see Hale O Mono Heiau and Ai’iopio Beach, turn makai (toward the sea) from the Highway onto Kealakehe St and then right (north) into the harbor area, and continue to the end of the paving on the north side of the yacht basin. A few minutes walk brings you to public porta-a-potties, Hale O Mono Heiau and the south end of Ai’iopio Beach. A small ranger station and port-a-potties are the only amenities available at this end of the Park; however a store, restaurant and public restroom are available at the adjacent yacht basin.

The hike along the beach from the North Entrance to the South Entrance is one of the few, beautiful wilderness beach hikes left anywhere in the State of Hawaii.  The trail passes through the remnants of a once vibrant fishing and farming community; many ruins, fish ponds and springs dot the area, which is also famous today for its populations of wildlife and birds.  One is virtually assured of seeing basking green sea turtles along the beach.  Dolphin and pilot whales are frequently seen offshore.  During Humpback Whale season, (November through March), the whales are often seen frolicking off the coast here.  Of course, the famous Kona sunsets are incomparable from the wild and beautiful beach.

This large, stone wall is some of the last remnants of the once thriving farming and fishing villages and sacred temples along this stretch of coastline, Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Haaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Few people realize that the Kona Coast in general, and in particular the region between Keauhou and Kailua, was the vibrant and populous social, political and religious center of the Hawai’ian Islands for nearly five hundred years. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park allows you see the some of the best ruins and reconstructions anywhere in the state, just as they sat after they were abandoned in the early 1800s. It would be a real shame for visitors to come all the way to the State of Hawaii and miss this important, spiritually refreshing and beautiful place.

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

Ala Mamalahoa, an ancient paved road that has been in use for over a milenium passes through the eastern side of Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park in Sunny Kona Hawaii--where all the fun is! Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

Paddling a Hawaiian outrigger canoe through the sunset, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Guide Hawaii is excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, let’s look at one of Hawaii’s most significant historical and cultural parks, Kealakekua Bay Archeological and Historical State Park, the adjacent village of Napo’opo’o and the Captain Cook Monument.  We will highlight just a bit of the information you might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks that is available on Tour Guide’s iPhone App. You could easily miss a lot of very interesting places, fun things to do and amazing sights if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federal Human-Sea Life Interaction Laws:

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

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

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

• Limit observation time to 30 minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Busy Day for Kayakers at Napo’opo’o Pier, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming to my island for a vacation? There are three things I always recommend the first-time visitor do. First, get in the air. Secondly–go to a luau. Finally, I advise people of every age to get in the water and go snorkeling. You will find your mind going back to that experience over and over through the years much more so than many of your other travel experiences. Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series will discuss Snorkeling Technique and Part IV will cover Snorkeling Safety; Part V of the series will cover snorkel spots on the Big Island.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

Now, let’s talk a moment about snorkeling etiquette and protecting the reef and the animals who live there.

Please do not feed the fish, it disrupts their natural feeding habits and you may be injured. Reef fish are territorial and do occasionally “nip”. You should not chase, harass or touch them (this includes octopi); the oils on your fingers will injure their skin and fish may carry diseases which they can pass to you on your hands. For photographing reef fish without feeding them, whether snorkeling or scuba diving, simply find their feeding spot (usually a boulder or dead coral head teeming with algae) and wait calmly and silently nearby. They will slowly begin to check you out and if you can remain still long enough, eventually surround you leading to excellent photos and a very memorable experience.

Snorkeling etiquette calls for protecting not only the reef animals, but also the fragile corals growing on the reef. Corals, actually colonies of very small animals, take hundreds of years to form the structures visible today; they feed, shelter and provide habitats for other reef animals. Coral reefs also protect the lagoons and shoreline from waves and sand erosion. Corals are at the very root of Hawai’ian history and culture; the Hawaiian creation chant places the origin of life in the sea, beginning with a coral polyp.

Simply touching corals to see what they feel like can cause the death of an entire colony. Oils from your skin can disturb the delicate mucous membranes which protect the animals from disease. Please don’t walk upon or stand on coral, as this can kill the living coral polyps which, as the builders of the entire reef structure, are the very foundation of the reef ecosystem. Sunscreen washing off your body can kill coral; wear a t-shirt and a swim cap for UV protection and put your sunscreen on AFTER you come out of the water.

Called Honu by Hawaii’s natives, the Hawaiian Green Sea turtle is beautiful, serene and seeming wise. Though their species have swum the oceans for over 200 million years, peacefully feeding on algae and invertebrates, this highly successful product of amphibian evolution is in grave danger. Loss of habitat, hunting and molestation by humans has conspired to push the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle to the very verge of extinction.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle at Papakolea Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Protected now by state and federal law, the population of once millions of individuals has been decimated to just a few hundred thousand; although they are making a comeback, Hawaii’s honu are still very much endangered.

Do not approach basking turtles closely, never touch or pick them up. Harassing turtles carries a stiff fine and in any case, touching the turtle is a good way to get a raging salmonella infection. If honu are swimming near where you are, do not approach or chase them; always swim to the side of them, never above (as a predatory shark would) nor below them (so they won’t feel that their soft belly is at risk).

Anyone who observes their beauty and grace underwater easily understands why the Hawai’ians base their word for “peace”, “honua”, on their name for the green sea turtle, “honu”.

Although harder for the snorkeler to approach, but certainly no less in danger of molestation, are the marine mammals: dolphin, seals and whales. In general, it is illegal, dangerous and generally a bad idea to approach marine mammals within 100 yards; 300 yards for females with calves. Dolphins and seals, in particular, may choose to approach you-just remember, this ain’t “Flipper”-these are wild animals and they bite. Hard. If approached, remain calm (absolutely entranced, of course, but calm); do not approach any young animals and do not reach out to them as they may interpret this as aggression on your part and possibly bite. Male seals may exhibit dominant behavior and have been known to *ahem* mount swimmers. Avoid these unpleasantries by observing and enjoying these animals from a distance. About whales…uh, wait a minute…if there is anybody out there crazy enough to swim out into the open ocean and harass a 60,000 pound animal with a mouth twice the size of a king-size bed, nothing I say is going to stop them…just use some common sense, OK? Leave them alone—besides…it’s the law.

And now a word about sharks–two words, actually: “Don’t Worry”. There’s good news and bad news about sharks in Hawaii–first the bad news: if you are in water deeper than your knees, you are probably within 200 yards of a shark. The good news? You will never know it. The truth is that you are not likely to see or encounter a shark…period. Tens of millions of people swim Hawaii every year without seeing so much as a dorsal fin break the water. Don’t worry–you are not what they eat (so you won’t attract them) and generally, they are more afraid of you than you are of them. To dispel visitor’s apprehensions about sharks, the Hawaiian Tourism Bureau used to advertise that tourists were more likely to get hit on the head by a falling coconut than bitten by a shark…but they decided THAT was not a real cheery statistic to crow about, either. In reality, there are only about three shark bites a year in Hawaii—which is amazing considering there are hundreds of thousands of people in the water, all day, every day of the year.

Photograph by Donnie MacGowan

A cloud of raccoon butterfly fish at Kahalu'u Beach: Photograph by Donnie MacGowan

Having said that, bear in mind that all sharks demand respect and there are several things you can do to make yourself generally safer in any shark encounter. Number one safety tip is: avoid them. Sharks are stealth hunters and in any conditions where they are obscured in the water, they will hunt. Therefore–do not go into the water until at least an hour after dawn, be out of the water by about 4 pm; do not enter the water if it is murky; avoid stream mouths; do not go in on dark, cloudy days. Obey beach closures; obey warnings from the Lifeguards. Little sharks don’t get to be big sharks unless they pay strict attention to avoiding whoever is bigger than they are–small sharks generally will glide silently away from you without you ever having known they were there.

Big sharks are different. They may approach you.

The most common conventional wisdom you hear is: if you are being stalked or approached, swim purposefully, not panicked, away from the shark at an angle. Do not swim at high speed straight from him, it will trigger his predator-prey response and he’ll chase you. Do not splash excessively; this sounds like a dying fish (i.e., dinner) to sharks. Remember that the larger sharks eat sea turtles…to a shark hunting below you, your outline paddling on a surfboard or boogie board, looks remarkably like a sea turtle. When you approach the water, seeing three or four sea turtles sunning themselves on the beach is normal; seeing twenty or thirty indicates that something very large and hungry is hunting the water nearby. The presence of dolphin nearby is no guarantee there are not also sharks nearby.

There are hundreds of bits of advice for surviving shark attacks from hundreds of shark experts and attack survivors from all over the world—I will not pass these on to you for two reasons. First and foremost, I am a not a shark expert; secondly, I have never needed any of them because I have followed these sensible rules for years and have never, not once, seen a shark while snorkeling. I’m out there 4 or five days a week, year round. You won’t see one either. Relax and enjoy your snorkeling…as I said…don’t worry.

Finally–many people ask “What’s the etiquette for, um–er–answering nature’s call?” Easy–for wet stuff, just swim a bit away from people and let go, maybe maintaining forward momentum so as not to create a “cloud”. No, this isn’t why the ocean is salty. For solid stuff, get your partner and both of you swim in and get out, visit the rest room. No exceptions for that.

Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series will discuss Snorkeling Technique and Part III will cover Snorkeling Etiquette; Part IV of the series covers Snorkeling Safety; Part V will cover Big Island Snorkel Spot and Part VI covers Wilderness Snorkeling.

A short video on this topic is available here.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, and beach activities on the Big Island in particular, visit http://.tourguidehawaii.com and http://tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. Information on the author is here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan


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

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

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

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

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

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


Snorkeling Etiquette on Kahalu’u Beach

By Donald MacGowan

Loll in sand and sun under swaying palms, watch humpback whales dance in an exotic Kona sunset, 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 Beach is the most popular snorkeling beach on the Island of Hawai’i with good reason; protected from the open ocean by a seawall, the reef is also protected against commercial aquarium fishing. The snorkeling is in calm, shallow water; there is an abundance of fish of an enormous variety…perhaps the best display on the island. Dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles call this bay home, eating the limu and thrilling the snorkelers. Numerous freshwater springs and shallow water bathers make the near-shore snorkeling unpleasantly cloudy, but about 100 feet offshore the water turns crystal clear and the display of coral is nothing short of amazing.

Outside the seawall is an excellent surf break that is for intermediate or better surfers and boogie boarders. There is a fair current north out of the bay and along the coast…swimmers caught in this current should relax and swim with the current, angling towards land.

Adjacent to Kahalu’u Beach is St. Peter’s Church, locally know as “The Little Blue Church”; it is the most photographed church in the State of Hawai’i. The history the St. Peter’s is fascinating and takes longer to tell than a tour of its Spartan interior and dozen pews. Originally built in 1880 on the site of La Aloa (Magic Sands) beach, the church was dismantled and hand carried piece by piece to its current location at Ku’emanu Heiau in 1912. In 1938, Father Benno of St. Michael’s added the belfry and the porch. Twice since it was situated here, St.Peters has been moved off its foundations by tsunami, but due to its small size and sturdy construction, has survived long in a harsh environment.

The Hawai’ian word Kahalu’u can be translated as “the place where people go into the water”; in ancient, as well as modern times, Kahalu’u was a place of recreation, relaxation and restoration. There are numerous sites of historic importance around the park, such as the breakwater, Paokamenehune, which 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. The springs on the northern edge of the park, at Ku’emanu Heiau, Waikui Punawai, where luakini sacrifices were ritually cleansed and today surfers rinse ocean water off themselves after surfing. Between St. Peters and the northern restroom is the Awa pae Wai O Keawaiki canoe landing which figured prominently in the Maui-Hawaii wars of the 16th Century. The large pond between the northern restrooms and the small pavilion, Wai Kua’a’la loko, was the private bathing pond of Hawai’ian Ali’i in residence at Kahalu’u.

Between the two pavilions is another ancient canoe landing and even into historic times, a halau wa’a, or canoe storage house, was situated here. An important heiau and royal residence, Mokuahi’ole, stood where the large pavilion is today. It was at this site that the great queen and wife of Kamehameha the Great, Ka’ahumanu, and her cousin Kuakini (later Territorial Governor) were raised.

Most days there is a food wagon selling sandwiches, burgers, shave ice and cold drinks at reasonable prices and a vendor renting snorkeling gear and boogie boards.

Since Kahalu’u Beach is where most people go to snorkel, let’s take a moment to talk about reef etiquette and the animals which inhabit the coral reefs. Please do not feed the fish, it disrupts their natural feeding habits and you may be injured. Reef fish do occasionally “nip”, so do not chase, harass or touch them (this includes octopi). The oils on your fingers will injure their skin and they may carry diseases which they can pass to you on your hands.

No discussion of Kahalu’u would be complete without a word about Hawaii’s Green Sea Turtles. Called Honu by Hawaii’s natives, the Hawaiian Green Sea turtle is beautiful, serene and seeming wise. Though they have swum the oceans for over 200 million years, peacefully feeding on algae and invertebrates, this highly successful product of amphibian evolution is in grave danger. Loss of habitat, hunting and molestation by humans has conspired to push the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle to the very verge of extinction. Protected now by state and federal law, the population of once millions of individuals has been decimated to just a few hundred thousand; although they are making a comeback, Hawaii’s honu are still very much endangered. Honu may grow up to 45 inches and weigh as much as 400 pounds at maturity, reached at 25 years of age.

Hawaiian Green sea turtles can easily be differentiated from the other near shore sea turtle in Hawaii, the much less common Hawksbill turtle, by counting the scales between the eyes. Hawksbills have four scales between the eyes and Hawaiian Green Sea turtles have two. Lady honu crawl on shore to lay their eggs, generally after migration to the quieter shores of the French Frigate Shoals, 800 miles northwest of Hawaii, or the black sand beaches on the south end of the Big Island of Hawaii.

Do not approach basking turtles closely, never touch or pick them up. Harassing turtles carries a stiff fine and in any case, touching the turtle is a good way to get a raging salmonella infection. If honu are swimming near where you are, do not approach or chase them; always swim to the side of them, never above (as a predatory shark would) nor below them (so they won’t feel that their soft belly is at risk).

Anyone who observes their beauty and grace underwater easily understands why the Hawai’ians base their word for “peace”, “honua”, on their name for the green sea turtle, “honu”.

Snorkeling etiquette calls for protecting not only the reef fish, but also the fragile corals growing on the reef. Corals, actually colonies of very small animals, take hundreds of years to form the structures visible today; they feed, shelter and provide habitats for other reef animals. Coral reefs also protect the lagoons and shoreline from waves and sand erosion. Corals are at the very root of Hawai’ian history and culture; the Hawaiian creation chant places the origin of life at the sea, beginning with a coral polyp.

Simply touching corals to see what they feel like can cause the death of an entire colony. Oils from your skin can disturb the delicate mucous membranes which protect the animals from disease. Please don’t walk upon or stand on coral, as this can kill the living coral polyps which, as the builders of the entire reef structure, are the very foundation of the reef ecosystem. Sunscreen washing off your body can kill coral; wear a t-shirt and a swim cap for UV protection.

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