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by Donald B. MacGowan

At Ho'okena Beach, 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.

Ho’okena Beach County Park at Kauhako 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.

Looking south at Ho'okena Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Brilliant snorkeling, decent boogie boarding, passable shell collecting and wonderful camping—it’s a wonder Ho’okena Beach is not more popular with visitors. Nestled alongside the ruins of Ho’okena Village at Kauhako Bay, this beach is a wonderful place to spend a morning or a weekend.

To reach Ho’okena Beach Park, take the turnoff between mile markers 101 and 102 just south of the town of Ho’okena. The narrow road drops steeply to the beach affording magnificent views of the Kona Coast, especially at sunset. Once you reach the bottom stay left through the minuscule village to the beach park, hemmed between lush tropical vegetation and soft warm sands, under majestic cliffs and swaying palm trees—truly a vision of paradise.

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.

Patient parent at Ho'okena Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The once-thriving Ho’okena Village, which in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the main rival to Kailua Kona for steamer traffic, was a major transshipment point for beef, sugar and mail, and once was host to author Robert Louis Stevenson. Ho’okena’s glory is now all but forgotten, a victim of ravaging of tsunamis, storms, earthquakes and the quiet passing of time. Today, the small cluster of dwellings at the beach, the stumpy remnant footings of Kupa Wharf and the ruins the village are all that remain.

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

Ho'okena boogie boarding and Big Smiles, Ho'okena Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Frequented by dolphin, stuffed full of pelagic and reef fish and turtles and boasting crystal clear, warm and calm waters, Ho’okena is a must-see beach and reef complex for avid snorkelers and divers as well as sea kayakers. During the winter months, female Humpback whales and their babies frequent the waters off this bay.

Folks generally snorkel in two main areas at Ho’okena. The first is easy and obvious to find; simply follow the tongue of sand, straight out from the left-hand side of the beach. This provides the easiest entry and safest snorkeling; lots of fascinating underwater topography, beautiful coral heads and abundant colorful fish are seen here and north towards the old pier in fairly shallow water. The underwater visibility in this spot can be less than ideal (although still great), but water clarity improves if you move south to the second area, to the far left of the 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.

Discovery! Ho'okena Beach, Kona Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

To go there, enter the bay as above, but swim out south (left) of the beach past the rocky finger jutting out in to the water; here you will find some tremendously colorful and intensely beautiful little reefs. A small patch of coral to be sure, but the vivid colors are some of the most stunning you will see in shallow water. The gradient to the beach is steep and the bottom drops once you enter the water; snorkelers should be aware that they will find themselves in deep water rather quickly. Be wary when swimming very far out from shore, there are strong currents out in Kauhako Bay; do not go in if the surf is high…remember there is no lifeguard.

There is no shortage of exploration to do onshore, either. The many trails leading back from the beach lead to copses of tropical trees, abandoned Hawai’ian villages, strange, twisted lava forms and springs. Eventually most trails lead south to a few small, sandy beaches where ocean current conditions make shell collecting possible. In about a mile, you reach Kalahiki Beach, across Limukoko Point, a place of quiet spirituality and incredible beauty, though poor snorkeling.

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.

Yoga on the beach, Ho'okena Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

You can also get here by hiking about 400 yards back above the beach along the road you drove in on, then south about a mile over the hills and through cow fields, down a little cliff and to Kalahiki Beach—it is very much worthwhile.

Bushwhacking inland through dense foliage brings one quickly to the ruins of Kalahiki Village and the famous, four-tiered heiau. Remember that these places are sacred to the Hawai’ians; if you go, go with respect for the Hawai’ians and malama aina in your heart. Do not litter, don’t disturb stone walls and platforms, do not take anything you didn’t bring with you, and take out everything you did bring in, when you leave.

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

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

Hiking north from the beach park along the lava bench, through small pockets of sand, you will pass the ruins of an old Catholic church. Abandoned after sustaining heavy damage in the late 1800s, it was reestablished up mauka between Honaunau and Captain Cook; you may know it as the “Painted Church”.   More ruins of Old Ho’okena Village lie overgrown in the jungle. After the church comes Kealia Beach, where, due to the cliffs, swimming is difficult but the snorkeling and near-shore scuba diving are excellent. Kealia Beach is also reachable by public road.

Hookena Beach on a semi-cloudy day is still a hazard for sunburn, Kona Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan.jpg

Camping on Ho'okena Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Although a County Park, camping at Ho’okena is handled through a private/public partnership with KUPA Ho’okena; reservations for camping can be made online (http://hookena.org/camping.html) or over the phone (808.328-7321). Same day reservations may be available on a first-come/first served basis, but advanced reservations are highly recommended—camping here is becoming ever more popular. Although there has been conflict in the past (sometimes quite violent) between locals and visitors, the park has become much safer since administration was taken over by KUPA Ho’okena. KUPA Ho’okena also rents, on-site, camping gear, masks/fins/snorkels and kayaks and has a snack stand.

Wonderful beach camping, new showers and restrooms, picnic tables and abundant fresh water make this county park a gem worth seeking 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.

Outrigger fishing canoes rest at Ho'okena Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Looking for waves, Ho'okena Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie 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, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hard at Play, Ho'okena Beach, Kona Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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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.

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.

Waialea Beach on the Kohala Coast, Hawaii Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waialea Beach (Beach 69)

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.

Beautiful Waialea Beach, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A perfect crescent of golden sand backed by abundant shade at the edge of the beach makes this an ideal, though little known, family beach. The beach is known locally as “Beach 69”, after the number on the telephone pole where the parking lot used to be—both pole and old parking lot are gone now, replaced by a new paved access road, parking lot and trail through the keawe breaks to the 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.

The cliffs at Waialea Beach are teaming with life and offer fine snorkeling for strong swimmers, Koahla Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Calmer, more protected and certainly less crowded than neighboring Hapuna Beach, Waialea is the perfect romantic getaway beach. Snorkeling here is fabulous when the surf is calm. In the water just behind the rocky pinnacle that splits the beach (right where the trail emerges from the trees) and along the rocks and point to the north are amazing displays of coral and 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.

Everett Maynard surveys the the tawny coral sands of Waialea Beach, which is mostly empty on weekdays, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Although the turquoise waters along the beach are perfectly clear for a morning snorkel, after about 11 a.m., and on windy days, the water in the bay is a tad murkier than ideal for snorkeling, but most of the visitors to this beach don’t seem to mind. Beyond the shore murkiness, a chain of tiny islands and pinnacles leads northward to crystalline water and a long coral reef for some of the most outrageous snorkeling and shore diving anywhere in the state.

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.

Waialea Beach has interesting rocks with abundant sea life to snorkel around, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A trail over the north headland leads to a secluded (often clothing optional) cove and then onward across small beaches and headlands about a mile to Hapuna Beach. Private property is adjacent to the trail along the way; please respect their privacy, don’t litter and keep passing through to the next 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.

Waialea Beach looking North, Kohala Coast: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Although most of the shoreline waters here are relatively free of strong currents, only experienced snorkelers who are strong swimmers will want to snorkel around the north end of Waialea, past the cove and the reef, past the sea arch and on to Hapuna—a long, but rewarding swim with some of the most incredible underwater vistas available to the snorkeler in the world.

Two caveats: this beach is a particular favorite with local folks and is crowded on weekends (but then, so are MOST beaches on the Big Island); and at high tide, there is precious little beach in front of the trees.

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.

Although frequently a bit cloudy later in the day, early in the morning Waialea Beach offers crystalline waters, Kohala Hawaii: Coast Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Take the Puako Road exit from the highway and turn north toward Hapuna (just before Mile Marker 70). Before the road bends south toward the town of Puako, take the first right turn (an obvious, if narrow, road). Near Pole 71, the newly paved road and parking lot indicate the County Beach Park and the start of the short trail to the beach. Restrooms, picnic tables, water and showers round out the facilities. There are no lifeguards.

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.

Sunny Waialea beach: sand, tidepools, snorkeling. Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Waialea Beach looking South, Kohala 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, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Waialea Beach on the Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

Aerial View of Kiholo Bay, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Aerial View of Kiholo Bay, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Sunset View of Haleakala on Maui From Kiholo Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Sunset View of Haleakala on Maui From Kiholo Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Even choosing which beach you want to spend time 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.

All that remains of a mile-long fishpond that was destroyed by flowing lava are these gorgeous, turquoise brackish ponds: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

All that remains of a mile-long fishpond that was destroyed by flowing lava are these gorgeous, turquoise brackish ponds: 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, hidden but gorgeous, beach hike you would otherwise not find if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Kiholo Bay on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kiholo Bay on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kiholo Bay Beach Hike

Snorkeling, country music history ancient fish ponds and medical science…what more could anyone ask for? One of West Hawaii’s best kept secret is gorgeous, amazing Kiholo Bay, those heavenly, turquoise waters and swaying palms you can’t quite glimpse clearly from the overlook at mile marker 82 on the Hawaii Belt Road.

The View of Kiholo Bay From the Hawaii Belt Road: Photo  by Donald B. MacGowan

The View of Kiholo Bay From the Hawaii Belt Road: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Dirt road into Kiholo Bay, just south of the 82 mile marker on the Hawaii Belt Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Dirt road into Kiholo Bay, just south of the 82 mile marker on the Hawaii Belt Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This remarkable, beautiful and sadly popular area is accessed in two ways; first, by a gravel road going ocean-ward from the highway immediately south of the Overlook pullout at mile marker 82. This road is only open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but accesses the south end of the bay, a pebbly beach terminated in austere a’a flows to the south. The round house on the beach was built by country and western singer Loretta Lynn, but was condemned and taken by the State when it created the beach park. Swimming and boogie boarding here are excellent in low to moderate surf, but beware of current and surginess; if the surf is high, do not go in.

Kiholo Bay, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kiholo Bay, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A trail south below the big mansion on the headland leads about three quarters of a mile to a tiny black sand beach with an amazing coral garden. This little beach is my favorite snorkeling secret on the island.

The road south from Kiholo Bay dead ends at an elaborate mansion; from there a trail can be taken around the headland to a remarkable black sand cove that provide gorgeous, if exposed, snorkeling: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The road south from Kiholo Bay dead ends at an elaborate mansion; from there a trail can be taken around the headland to a remarkable black sand cove that provide gorgeous, if exposed, snorkeling: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A 4WD road/trail continues north along the black pebble beach and cliffs to Kiholo Bay proper. This part of the Kiholo Area can also be accessed via a trail (used to be a dirt road) that leaves the parking lot immediately south of mile marker 81. Along the 4WD trail, on the mauka (uphill) side, is a freshwater spring and pond in a lava tube (Keanalele Water-hole), a great place to rinse off after swimming or hiking along the beach. Please rinse off excess suncream in the ocean before enjoying this refreshing pool.

Keanalele Water-hole, a freshwater Queen's Basth in a lava tube, near Kiholo Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Keanalele Water-hole, a freshwater Queen's Basth in a lava tube, near Kiholo Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Also along this portion of the beach are a number of mansions, most notably the Bali House (oh, you’ll know it when you see it) and the home of Earl Bakken, the billionaire inventor of the pace maker. Believe the no trespassing signs you see here. On clear days, views of Mauna Kea from this part of the beach are stunning.

There are some amazing multi-million dollar mansions along the beach; believe the "no-trespassing" signs: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are some amazing multi-million dollar mansions along the beach; believe the "no-trespassing" signs: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Just north of Kiholo Bay is a beautiful, turquoise brackish lagoon, all that remains of a 2-mile long fishpond erected by Kamehameha the Great around 1810, which was destroyed by the Mauna Kea lava flow of 1859. The water can be a might cloudy for snorkeling, but it’s full of turtles and, on calm days, has one amazing attribute. If wind is not driving surge-mixing of these ponds, lighter, fresh water from springs will float on top of the heavier salt water. This fresh/salt water interface produces a refractive lens that creates interesting and amazing optical tricks for the snorkeler.

A Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, or Honu, Suns Herself at Kiholo Bay on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, or Honu, Suns Herself at Kiholo Bay on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Full of turtles, beautiful to swim and a wonderful place to learn to surf, Kiholo Bay proper has it all. In addition, the sweat required to reach it has the added bonus of weeding out the undesirables. Please remember not to approach or harass the turtles. Dolphin (and humpback whale in season) frequent this bay—it is also illegal (and stupid) to harass them. Be careful to pack out everything you packed in, and help the environment by picking up that other guy’s litter, as well.

The Brackish Lagoons of Kiholo Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGown

The Brackish Lagoons of Kiholo Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

As of this writing, camping is not being allowed at Kiholo Bay, although many people do camp here…be advised that the road is locked at night and you will not be able to leave.

A relaxed lifestyle is enjoyed by the few, but extremely wealthy, residents of Kiholo Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A relaxed lifestyle is enjoyed by the few, but extremely wealthy, residents of Kiholo Bay: 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.

The View of Mauna Kea From Kiholo Bay, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The View of Mauna Kea From Kiholo Bay, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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