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by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Maka O Hule Navigation Heiau: 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.

Maka O Hule Navigation Heiau

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.

The Standing Stones of Maka O Hule Navigation Heiau, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Near mile marker 15 on the Akoni Pule Highway is a unique navigational heiau of standing stones arranged to point to Tahiti and the other Polynesian islands.

Sometimes erroneously referred to as “the Stonehenge of Hawaii”, this one of a kind temple is actually thought to be an observatory for spotting the far-flung islands of the Polynesian Archipelago using the alignments of the standing stones with stars. The site is reached via a short, easy stroll long the dirt road leading north, away from Mahukona Beach Park on the Kohala Coastline. Lovely vistas along deep, cerulean ocean and crystal clear coves lead to a short scramble up an obvious dirt trail to the heiau.

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.

Maka O Hule Silhouette, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Ancient Polynesians had a system of navigation that made long voyages across thousands of miles of open ocean not only possible, but routine. Long before European seafarers were comfortable sailing out of site of land, Polynesians were regularly plying trade routes of a thousand or two miles across the world’s most violent ocean in small wooden canoes whose planks were tied together with rope made of coconut fiber, without the aid of a compass and using sails made of tree bark.

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.

Sentinel Stone at Maka O Hule Navigation Heiau, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

While Europeans were making short, stuttering voyages, navigating by dead reckoning with a compass or by keeping shoreline landmarks in sight by day, Polynesians voyaged out of sight of land for weeks at a time, navigating by the detailed knowledge of the patterns of star motions, tides, winds, changing ocean currents, migration patterns of animals, knowledge of how clouds might characteristically congregate over a certain island, weather patterns and the changes in the color of the sea. Their system of navigation kept track of the way those patterns changed in relation to each-other and with changing latitude and longitude, map concepts of which they had no knowledge.

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.

Haleakala Volcano from Maka O Hule Navigation Heiau, Koahala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

They knew intimately the interference patterns of large-scale wave-sets across the ocean and used them as a sort of Cartesian Coordinate system to plot their course. A Polynesian navigator could tell by the shape of a mid-ocean wave whether or not it had crested an island in the past 2 weeks.

Navigation lore was guarded jealously by the cadre of navigators on each island; for safeguarding this knowledge, using it by braving the ocean and for passing it on to the next generation, navigators were accorded very high status in society. At temples like Maka O Hule, this vast body of knowledge was passed on, master to apprentice, often as songs or chants, repeated and repeated until mastered and memorized.

Haleakala Volcano from Maka O Hule Navigation Heiau, Koahala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Hiking up to Maka O Hule, Kohala Coast: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

By the time Rome had fallen in Europe, most of Polynesia had been peopled and the enormously far-flung islands connected by canoe routes, kinship and trade. At least a century before the Europeans made landfall in the Americas, Polynesians were actively engaged in trade with various peoples in South America, California and the Northwest Coast, introducing the chicken to America and returning with sweet potatoes which they introduced to Polynesia.

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.

Segment of the Rebuilt King's Road between Mauhukona and Maka O Hule, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

In fact, such was the expertise and reputation of the Polynesian navigators that, on his first exploratory voyage of the Pacific, Captain James Cook obtained the services of a Polynesian navigator named Tupaia. Tupaia’s encyclopedic knowledge of Polynesia allowed him to draft for Cook an extremely detailed and accurate map, from memory, of all the islands, harbors, shoals and shallows within an 2000 mile radius of his home island of Ra’iatea.

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.

Maka O Hule Navigation Heiau, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Among the stones of Maka O Hule one can sense the reverence and wonder of the Hawaiians as they initiated their novice navigators in this sacred place of stones pointing along unbroken vistas to Tahiti, the Marquesas and the other Southern Islands. This is a spot for contemplation and awe. Wonderful and startling sunset photos with the stones in the foreground can be taken here. Remember that this is an extremely sacred site to native Hawai’ians and be respectful; do not walk within the temple precincts, touch or remove stones.

This heiau is most easily accessed by walking north along the old dirt road from the ruins of the pier at Mahukona Beach Park, although one can also hike directly down from the Akoni Pule Highway near mile marker 15.

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.

Keawe and Grass Dryland Forest along the Kohala Coast of 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.

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.

Silhouette of Standing Stones, Maka O Hule Navigation Heiau, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

At Tour Guide our goal is to insure you have the most fun, most interesting and enjoyable vacation here in Hawaii–that you are provided with all the information you need to decide where to go and what to see, and that you are not burdened with out-dated or incorrect information.

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

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.

Fishermen along the Mauhkona Coastline, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Graphic: 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.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park/Kaneele’ele Heiau/Kaimu Beach

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.

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

A truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing, Punalu’u’s black sand-lined coves and beaches are world-renowned.  Dozens of endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles swim the waters frequently basking on the beach here.  The wildness of the ocean and the serenity of the freshwater fishpond and coconut palm-shaded beaches make this an ideal place to spend some soul-recharge time.  Snorkeling, picnicking and camping, or just relaxing on the beach, are major destination pass-times here.  Near South Point and between the villages of Na’alehu and Pahala, Punalu’u is on Highway 11 between mile markers 55 and 56.

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 back at Punalu'u Beach From the ruins of the Pahala Sugar Company wharf, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Punalu’u means “springs you swim to”; it is the abundance of these fresh water springs just offshore that makes swimming at Punalu’u so cold and this settlement site so important to the ancient Hawai’ians.  In pre-contact times, due to the scarcity of fresh water along the Ka’u coast, Hawaiians would swim out into Kuhua Bay with stoppered gourds, dive down on top the springs, unstopper the gourds and, by upending them underwater, fill them with the fresh spring water emanating from the floor of the bay.  These springs are one of the very few sources of fresh water on this entire end of the island.

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.

Edangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle emerges from the ocean at Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo By Donald B. MacGowan

Dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles make the waters and beaches around Punalu’u their home; it is one of the few places outside the French Frigate Shoals in the NW Hawaiian Islands where they breed and lay eggs. Called Honu by Hawaii’s natives, they are 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.

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.

Honu, the Haaiian Green Sea Turtle at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Loss of habitat, hunting and molestation by humans has conspired to push them to the very verge of extinction. Protected now by state and federal law, the population of once millions of honu has been decimated to just a few hundred thousand.  Although they are making a comeback, Hawaii’s honu are still very much endangered.

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.

Visitors are charmed by a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, Honu, at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Do not approach basking turtles closely, never touch or pick them up; stay at least 30 feet from them if they are basking on shore. 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).

aniNew 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.

Turtle tracks in the black sand beach at Punalu'u, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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”.

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.

Reflection in the brackish ponds behind Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The large brackish pond behind the beach, once a very productive fish-growing pond, is also fed by a large spring called Kawaihu O Kauila (literally, “the overflowing waters of the Turtle Goddess, Kauila).  This spring is also where the mythical figure Laka slew the fierce, man-eating mo’o (sea serpent) Kaikapu (“forbidden water”).  There are some very, very mixed breed ducks that make this pond their home.

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.

Kane'ele'ele Heiau and Ninole Cinder Cone above Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

On the hill just south of the beach behind the pier is Kaneele’ele Heiau, which also is called Mailekini Heiau.  This temple very worth visiting but is often overlooked and not noticed by causal visitors simply because of its extreme size.  The heiau, standing on the hill overlooking the ruins of the pier and warehouse, is comprised of a stone platform no less than seven hundred feet long and five hundred feet wide.

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.

Kane'ele'ele Heiau looking west toward Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The name, meaning “darkness of the father god”, coupled with the heiau’s massive size, lends credence to the local legend that this was once the luakini heiau, or place of human sacrifice, of some importance for this district. A large sacrificial stone (now removed) outside the entrance, and bone pits discovered on the temple grounds during construction of the pier and warehouse, point to this as well.  Kaneele’ele is thought to represent two heiaus constructed end-to-end; Punalu’u Nui in the north and Halelau in the south.

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.

Section of Hawaiian paved trail between heiaus at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

West of the parking lot, above Ninole Cove, stand tumbled walls, all that remains of Ka’ie’ie Heiau.  Bordering the a’a lava flow, this temple once presided over a large fishpond that was destroyed by the a’a flow.

Other ruins in the park include the historic ruins of the Pahala Sugar Company Wharf and Warehouse, alongside Kuhua Bay.   After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor at the outset of World War Two, the Army destroyed the wall and pier facilities so the Japanese couldn’t use them to land on Hawai’i’s unprotected southern side.

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.

Punaluu Sun Bathers in dulge themselves on the gorgeous black sand at Punalu'u Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The beaches and land immediately adjacent to Punalu’u Harbor, Ninole Cove and Kuhua Bay are all part of the County Beach Park.  Snorkeling at Punalu’u is cold due to the number of off-shore springs and a bit weird (the black sand bottom makes the water dark even on the brightest days), but very rewarding, considering the density of sea turtles in the bay.   Strong off-shore winds, ocean currents and a fearsome rip mean swimmers and snorkelers should use caution and stay near shore when swimming at Punalu’u, but it’s hard to resist getting in with all those turtles.

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.

Punalu'u Camping--although exposed to the elements, you cannot beat the view, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Camping is permitted around the pavilions and is by permit only. Pitching camp here can be a windy, but wild and elemental, exercise in campcraft. Due to the exposed nature of the terrain, however, there is little privacy.

Available services include water, picnic tables, restrooms, electrical outlets, and pavilions, parking; camping by permit only.  During peak tourist time, there is a souvenir stand with some packaged food items and canned drinks for sale.

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.

The black sand is not only geologically delicate, it's in finite supply--please don't take it home with you; Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u 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.

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.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At Tour Guide our goal is to insure you have the most fun, most interesting and enjoyable vacation here in Hawaii–that you are provided with all the information you need to decide where to go and what to see, and that you are not burdened with out-dated or incorrect information.

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

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

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

Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan