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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.

Sunset lights-up Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 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.

Mauna Ulu

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 and alpenglow at Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Mauna Ulu, or “growing mountain” is a still steaming, tall, shield-shaped hill formed by numerous eruptions along the rift between 1969 and 1974. Mauna Ulu is best seen by walking beyond the parking lot to where the end of road is covered in fresh lava flows. At Mauna Ulu, visitors can get an intimate look at both pahoehoe and a’a lava flow types.

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.

Mauna Ulu Crater from the air, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Pahoehoe, the less viscous and generally hotter liquid flow, moves fluidly like a river or glacier, the surface folding and molding, like poured taffy, into a ropey structure. Pahoehoe forms generally flat, fairly smooth, hard surfaces. A’a, on the other hand, is much cooler and has exolved much of its dissolved gas, so it is much more viscous, causing the upper surface to fracture into clinker-like boulders and fragments. Flowing a’a sounds and looks like a moving pile of hot glass shards; when it cools, it leaves behind rubbly piles of sharp fragments. Fields of pahoehoe and a’a make a landscape that look as if Madame Pele has bulldozed her land to flat surfaces, but left these acres of boulder piles here and there.

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.

Barren slopes of Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The hike to the summit of Mauna Ulu is fabulous and rewarding. However, it is a long, dry, serious hike with some dangers (rock fall, crater collapse, scalding steam and others) and should only be undertaken by those in good physical condition and experienced at hiking cross-country across broken and hazardous ground.

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.

Aerial view of Pu'u Huluhulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Pu’u Huluhulu (“shaggy hill”) is a 150 foot tall cinder cone formed in pre-contact times between Mauna Ulu and Pauahi Crater. There is a fascinating 3 mile round trip hike from the Mauna Ulu parking lot to the top of Pu’u Huluhulu that is marked by cairns (or “ahu”). The round trip hike from Mauna Ulu Parking lot to Pu’u Huluhulu and return takes about an hour and a half to two hours. From the vantage point of Pu’u Huluhulu’s summit are fine views of Mauna Loa, Kilauea, Mauna Kea, the coastline and the very interesting, active cinder cone, Pu’u O’o (hill of the bird”), about 5 miles away.

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.

Aerial View of Pu'u O'o Vent, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Pu’u O’o was built by the fire-fountains erupting along Kilauea’s rift zone between 1983 and 1986. Since 1986, the center of eruption has moved about 2 miles further down the rift to a vent called “Kupaianaha”, or ”mysterious” in Hawai’ian. However, within the maw of Pu’u O’o is an active lava lake, which serves as a window into the plumbing of the eruptive rift system.

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.

An a'a lava flow piled up on a pahoehoe flow in front of Pu'u Huluhulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 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.

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 rubble slopes of Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

Ohi'a blossom and Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

All media copyright 2010 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.

Sunset and alpenglow at Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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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.

Lapakahi State Park, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Graphic 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.

North Kona and Kohala: Ancient History, Sumptuous Beaches

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 majestic cliffs of North Kohala and Pololu Valley, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site) 8 hours.

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

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 famous Kona Sunset fades behind Ku'emanu Heiau, Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

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.

Reconstructed Hapaiali'i Heiau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

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.

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

Loll in sand and sun under swaying palms, snorkel among rainbow-colored fish on a protected reef or ride surf where the Kings of Hawai’i defined the sport a thousand years ago! Kahalu’u is the crown jewel of Kona Coast County Beach Parks. This is the premiere snorkeling beach of the Island of Hawai’i; the snorkeling is in calm, shallow water. There is an abundance of fish of an enormous variety…perhaps the best display on the island. Go carefully into the water, being sure not to harass the endangered turtles, feed or harm the fish, nor touch or stand upon the corals.

There are numerous sites of historic importance around the park. It was here that the great queen, Ka’ahumanu, and her cousin Kuakini (later Territorial Governor) were raised. Abundant parking, disabled access, picnic tables, two shaded pavilions, two sets of public restrooms, showers and lifeguards round-out the facilities of this beautiful beach park. More about Kahalu’u Beach can be found here.

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

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 Deserted Afternoon at La'aloa Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach

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.

Morning at Ahu'ena Heiau, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

Built originally in the 15th century and rededicated by Kamehameha the Great in the early 1800s as the main temple of his capital, the current structures seen at Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built in 1975 under the auspices of the Bishop Museum with financial help from the Hotel King Kamehameha and are constructed to 1/3 the original scale. There are restrooms and showers located on the pier near the beach. Adjacent Old Kailua Town is a treasure of shops, restaurants and aloha. More about Ahu’ena Heiau can be found here; more about Kamakahonu Beach and Old Town Kailua can be found here. Although not a part of the current trip, a walking tour of Kailua Kona 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.

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

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

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park

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

Empty and serene Makalawena Wilderness Beach, Kekahakai State Park in Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

Kekaha Kai State Park

At Kekaha Kai, there are a wonderful set of beaches plunked down in one of Hawai’i Island’s gem parks. The northernmost and loveliest beach is Mahai’ula and the smaller, more southerly, less fine one is Ka’elehuluhulu Beach. The water is fine for swimming and boogie boarding but may be a little murky for ideal snorkeling. There are numerous small springs along the entire beach making the near-shore water a little cold.

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.

Frequently Covered by an Afternoon Haze, Many People do not Realize the Potential Sunburn Risk at Kekahakai State Park: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hidden in a little pocket of wilderness, perhaps the finest beach on the island, Makalawena Beach, is contained in this park. It is reached by a 20-30 minute hike over beaches and rough lava from the parking lot. Swimming and snorkeling on this uncrowded, indeed largely unknown, beach are beyond excellent. Facilities include public restrooms and picnic tables, but no drinking water. More about Kekahakai State Park can be found here; more about hiking to Makalawena Beach can be found here.

Kua Bay

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Lovely Kua Bay, North of Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Anaeho’omalu Bay

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Anaeho'omalu Bay looking North, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Waialea Beach (Beach 69)

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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. A chain of tiny islands and pinnacles leads northward to crystalline water and a long coral reef for some of the most outrageous snorkeling and shore diving anywhere in the state. On windy days the water in the bay is a tad murkier than ideal for snorkeling, but most of the visitors to this beach don’t seem to mind. Restrooms, picnic tables, water and showers round out the facilities. More about Waialea Beach can be found here.

Hapuna Beach

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.

Hapuna Beach early in the morning, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

There are several pavilions, barbecues, picnic tables, restrooms, showers and a small dry goods vendor. The center of the beach is for wave play and boogie boarding, the north and south coves are quieter, for snorkeling or gentle floating. Although most patrons must walk about 100 yards down a path from the parking lot, Handicapped Parking exists right on the beach. More about the Crown Jewel of Hawaii Island, Hapuna Beach, can be found here.

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

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park

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Pu'ukohola Heiau at Pu'ukohola National Historic Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

Lapakahi State Historical 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.

Reconstruction of an ancient Hawaiian dwelling at Lapakahi State Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

Mo’okini Heiau

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Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

King Kamehameha Statue and North Kohala

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.

King Kamehameha Statue in Kapa'au, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

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.

Kohala Volcano from Honoka'ope Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

More about the interesting things to see and do in North Kohala around Hawi and Kapa’au can be found here.

Pololu Valley

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Black sand beach at Pololu Valley, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Violent, lush, wild; the north end of Hawai’i Island is as varied and exciting as it is unexpected. East of Hawi and Kapa’au, at the end of Highway 270 at the 28 mile marker, are the Pololu Valley Overlook and the trail leading down to Pololu Black Sand Beach. This is one of the most beautiful, untamed spots in the tropical Pacific and should not be missed. The trail down to the beach drops 400 feet in 20 minutes of hiking—be forewarned, the hike up is difficult for those not in good physical shape and shoes, rather than slippers, are best here. There are no facilities at the valley overlook or within the valley. More about Pololu Valley can be found here.

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

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

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.

Through the ironwood forests on the Kohala Mountain Road, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

From the “Old Hawaii” town and artist community of Hawi, Highway 250, the Kohala Mountain Road spills beautifully through mountain, upland meadow and forest to the heart of Paniolo Country and the town of Waimea. Snuggled between Mauna Kea and Kohala Volcano in Hawaii’s scenic mountain heart, seemingly always shrouded in mist and chilly, Waimea is definitely Hawai’ian cowboy country. Although jeans and flannel shirts appear to be the town uniform, Waimea is very sophisticated, boasting some of the finest shopping and restaurants and the most modern hospital on the island. Find out more about the Kohala Mountain Road here and more about Waimea, 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.

Lush Waimea Grasslands, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

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 Alpen Glow on Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Although not intended as a part of this particular trip, if you find yourself back in Kailua Kona with the spirit of exploration still upon you, a two-hour walking tour of Old Kailua Town can be found 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.

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.

Ke'eku Heiau Before Reconstruction, Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

Ke'eku Heiau Before Reconstruction, Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kapua Noni Heiau Last Iki Standing, Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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.

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.

South Point's Justly Famous Green Sand Beach is a Popular Hiking and Snorkeling Destination, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are many places on the Big Island of Hawaii that have undeserved infamous or unsavory reputations for one reason or another–the reputations of the road to South Point and Saddle Road come immediately to mind.  Once difficult, even dangerous, to drive, they have been more or less tame for decades–yet the reputation remains, passed on to unsuspecting visitor’s who trust what they are told.  Recognition of this must be balanced with the sure and certain knowledge that in the same breath they condemn the South Point road, someone may tell the same visitor of the hazards of, say, the road to the summit of Mauna Kea or The Road To The Sea in South Kona–both of which can be truly dangerous roads requiring skill, good weather and four-wheel drive to negotiate.

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 Past the Kaomoa Wind Farm to South Point from Ocean View in South Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

We here at Tour Guide have endeavored to collect and present the most up-to-date information on visiting over 500 locations on the Big Island, coloring the material with our decades of personal experience living on the Big Island.  Today, you may access that information here on this blog or by renting our GPS unit which shows location aware video presentations about all these sites.  Recently, we have released a version of our tours downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers more than 50 areas of island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and and the relaxing.

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.

Fishermen on the Cliffs at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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…

So, let’s talk about going to storied South Point on the Big Island which, despite what you may hear to the contrary, is a delightful drive and an amazing place to explore.

Hawaii’s South Point

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.

Visitor's Contemplate the View South from the Actual Point at South Point. Many People Drive All the Way Out Here, Take Pictures at the Point, and Then Drive Back, Never Dreaming of the Rich Tapestry of Wonders That Await Even Casual Exploration: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Haunting, windswept, wild, empty, beautiful. Imagine the gratitude and wonder of the first Polynesians who, after voyaging at sea without sight of land for more than a month, finally made land here at Ka Lae. This sweeping landscape arches openly and inviting from the tumultuous shore break at Ka Lae to the icy heights of Mauna Kea’s summit almost 14,000 feet above.

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.

South Point's Guardian Trucks at Kaulana Boat Launch, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

South Point is the farthest point south in the entire United States…not Key West Florida, as some guidebooks claim. The road to Ka Lae from the Hawai’i Belt Road is infamous, but has been greatly improved in recent years, although it’s still only 1-lane wide in many places. Even today some rental agencies admonish you not to take their cars down this road. Relax. The road is fine, although blind turns and hills command your attention and should curb your desire to speed. Also, all the roads, beaches, boat launching facilities and parking are free and public, despite what some signs and unsavory characters might try to tell you. Just don’t leave valuables in your car, and be sure to lock it up (there also is no “Visitor’s Center”, contrary to the sign).

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.

A lone cow contemplates Kamoa Wind Farm at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Along the road to Ka Lae are the brooding and dilapidated wind turbines of the Kamaoa Wind Farm. This wind farm, when all of the turbines are operating, can generate enough electricity to power 100 homes; unfortunately, usually 1/3 to ½ of the turbines are out of service at any given time. The surreal setting on the green plain with the cows grazing unconcernedly, coupled with the eerie, “sci-fi” sound of the generators makes this a unique place to stop, look and listen.

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 Actual South Point at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At South Point proper are a number of dilapidated structures and foundation ruins. The Army had a barracks here during World War II; the paved road was built in 1955; during the sixties, the Navy built a missile tracking station which the Air Force later took over and renamed South Point Air Force Station, which closed in 1978.

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.

Although There is Some Disagreement on the Interpretation, These South Point Petroglyphs are Believed by Most to Represent the First Three Polynesian Voyaging Canoes to Reach Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

History: The Polynesian pioneers who first reached South Point routinely made incredible voyages that put European seafaring and exploration of a millennium later to shame. More than a thousand years before Columbus, in tiny, twin-hulled canoes that were entirely of carved wood lashed together, using no nails or wooden pegs and employing sails made of tree bark, Polynesians embarked on a voyages that were thousands of miles farther than those of Christopher Columbus, and without the aid of a compass or charts with which to navigate. Using the stars, currents, patterns of migration of the birds and fish, patterns in the waves, water temperature and the color of the undersides of clouds, these explorers navigated, explored, sailed and paddled all across the Pacific spreading their culture, language and peoples at the time when the Roman Empire was crumbling and centuries before the Age of Vikings.

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.It is thought that voyagers from the Marquesas first landed on Hawai’i, at South Point, quite early in the fourth Century AD; certainly the earliest archeological artifacts found in the Hawai’ian Islands are found here. At Ka Lae the Polynesians established a thriving colony based upon the incredibly rich fishing grounds just offshore. The colony was connected to the rest of Polynesia by trade routes to the Southern Islands and regular trade and travel between the Marquesas, Marshals, and Tahiti continued for centuries. Evidence of their colony can be found at Kalalae Heiau, just below the light tower at the Point.

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.

Kalalae Heiau, South Point, Ka'u Heiau: Donald B. MacGowan

The small, but extremely well-preserved, Kalalae Heiau is classified as a ko’a, or fishing shrine, to the god Ku’ula. Just below the shrine and in the rocks to the west, one can find grooves and holes cut into the rock. These are attachment and guide points for anchor lines for ancient fishing canoes. The currents at Ka Lae are so strong, and flow uninterrupted to Antarctica, that Hawai’ians could not fish and keep their canoes from being driven away simultaneously, so they fed ropes, secured to the rocks out to the canoes, to keep them from drifting away with the currents.

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.

Kalalae Heiau has numerous sacred standing stones. On the main platform outside the heiau is a pohaku amakua referred to as “Kumaiea” which means “female”. On the smaller stone terrace just north is another standing stone associated with the god Kanaloa and referred to as “Kanemakua” (male). Inside the heiau wall is a stone called “Ku’ula” after the patron god of fishermen; north of the structure stand Makaunulau (named for a navigational star) and ’Ai’ai (a dependent or ward), south is Wahine hele (“place from where the women leave”): Photo Donald B. MacGowan

Like most animists, Hawai’ians invested worship and respect and intuited spiritual power in a range of natural objects and phenomena: rain, volcanic eruptions, the sea, sharks, fresh water springs, the surf and rocks, among many others. Pohaku O Kane, or sacred rocks, were among the most common spiritual objects of worship, whether they were naturally occurring in the landscape (pohakuia loa), or set on platforms (pohaku amakua) or carved (pohaku iki). Kalalae Heiau has numerous examples of the former two. On the main platform outside the heiau is a pohaku amakua referred to as “Kumaiea” which means “female”. On the smaller stone terrace just north is another standing stone associated with the god Kanaloa and referred to as “Kanemakua” (male). Inside the heiau wall is a stone called “Ku’ula” after the patron god of fishermen; north of the structure stand Makaunulau (named for a navigational star) and ’Ai’ai (a dependent or ward), south is Wahine hele (“place from where the women leave”). Examples of pohakuia loa include the Pohakuwa’a Kauhi (literally “canoe rock by the shrubs”) right at the shoreline, which was used to focus meditations before long canoes journeys, and Pohakuokeau (“stone of the currents” or “stone of the years”), which stands offshore. The name Pohakuokeau reflects the Hawaiian belief that the stones would turn over when there was a political change in government.

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.

Body Surfing at the Justly Famous Green Sand Beach, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo Donald B. MacGowan

Hike to Green Sand Beach: Absolutely unique to the island of Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the handful of green sand beaches composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these.

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.

Afternoon sun on bathers at The World Famous Green Sand Beach, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The sand grains on this beach are formed from olivine crystals weathering out of the lava and cinders from the cone over an eruptive vent that has been partially breached by the sea. The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the somewhat protected cove formed by the remnant of the cone makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot. Be very wary of currents and do not go out far nor in at all if the surf is high or there are strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.

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.

Hikers on the trail to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

To get there, turn left onto a signed, patchy-paved and dirt road immediately when you arrive in the Ka Lae area following signs to the Kaulana boat launch. Proceed down the road and park just to the left (south) of the Kaulana boat launch, where there is a dirt road that leads to the green sand beach; there is gate ¼ mile down this road. The gate is almost always locked and the road primarily provides access for hiking, ATVs or mountain biking: private vehicles are prohibited. Hiking distance is 2 ¼ miles each way along rolling tropical prairie (and if you cannot envision that, you really need to do this hike). Despite the multiplicity of dirt roads, you really cannot get lost as you are never out of sight of the shore.

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.

Hiking down the cinder cone to the Green Sand Beach is much easier than it appears, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

When you reach the end of the trail, you are a hundred or so feet above the beach on the rim of the remnant of the crater. Look closely for the faint track to scramble safely and easily to the beach (there is occasionally a blue trash barrel to mark this spot, but always there is a cairn of rocks). There is one sort of tricky spot where you have to inch your way over a 3-foot ledge, but almost anybody from senior to child can negotiate the hike to the beach. One can also easily scramble down from the middle (easternmost) of the cone where there is a short ladderway at the top, but this can be slippery. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up, either way back to the crater rim is easy to follow.

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.

Cliff diving at the Green Sand Beach is popular with locals. We do not reccomend it--the rip tides and currents around the rocks are very strong, the water is shallow and divers must be experienced and have perfect timing to hit the waves just right, South Point, Ka'u 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.

Cliff diving at the Green Sand Beach is popular with locals. We do not reccomend it--the rip tides and currents around the rocks are very strong, the water is shallow and divers must be experienced and have perfect timing to hit the waves just right, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Snorkeling: The waters at South Point are wild, crystalline turquoise and wicked. It is obvious from the surf and the currents that swimming is right out along most of this coastline. However in a few protected areas by the boat hoists there is reportedly safe snorkeling, close to the cliffs and only when the sea is calm. Hardy spear fishermen with mask and fins tether themselves with ropes to the steel ladders in the cliff-side; this is obviously risky for the casual snorkeler. The only recommended snorkeling is at the Kaulana boat launch or at the Green Sand Beach and then only in calm seas. But it is beautiful; perhaps as beautiful and wild a spot to snorkel as anywhere in 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.

The Justly Famous and World Renowned Green Sand Beach at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii, Famed in Song, Legend and Fable: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are no services. At all. None. And a goodly long way to drive to get to any…plan and act accordingly.

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.

About halfway in to the hike, the edge of the cinder cone above the green sand beach becomes visible, South Point, 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.

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.

Frank Burgess standing in one of the famous ruts in the old road to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii. This is why you want to hike instead of drive: 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.

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

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.

Moiokini Heiau, Kohala 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.

Kapakai Kokoiki (Kamehameha Akahi Aina Hanau) Heiau, Kohala 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.

Offerings Left at Kapakai Kokoiki Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: 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 a pair of important historical sights reached via a great hike, or a really good mountain biking trek, that you might have heard about, but might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks and could otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Kohala History and the Birthplace of King Kamehameha: Mo’okini Luakini Heiau and Kapakai Kokoiki (Kamehameha Akahi Aina Hanau) 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.

Holerhole Stone at Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Introduction: Have you ever been somewhere stark, impressive, primitive and ancient, that was able to raise the hackles on your neck? Mo’okini Heiau on the windswept northern tip of Hawaii Island is just one such 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.

A Windfarm on the Windswept Grasslands of Kohala, Near Mo'okini Heiau, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The history of Hawaii as a kingdom starts in the grasslands and jungle canyons of North Kohala at two prominent temples, or heiau, which were the respective foci of the swirl of great events and sweep of history that culminated in Kamehameha the Great’s creation of the Kingdom of Hawaii by conquering and uniting all the islands of Hawaii.

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 Windswept Grasslands Around Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

It was here in North Kohala, at Mo’okini Heiau, that a new religion was born. Passionate priests and princes from Tahiti reconstituted and revived the laws and society of Hawaii in the 11 and 12th centuries. New practices of religious worship were introduced and untold thousands of people were sacrificed at Mo’okini to worship a new god, the war god Kuka’ilimoku (also called “Ku”). Born nearby at Kapakai Kokoiki Heiau in about the year 1758, Kamehameha the Great was brought to Mo’okini for his birth rituals.

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

History: During the 11th century, warlike Tahitians arrived in the Hawai’ian Islands, conquering, enslaving, sacrificing and largely displacing the descendants of the original Marquesan settlers. Into this bloody landscape came Pa’ao, the terrible and powerful Tahitian kahuna who was affronted at the lack of respect the Hawai’ian Ali’i commanded and at the apparent weakness of the Hawai’ian gods. He sent back to Tahiti for the warrior chief Pili and together they brought worship of the powerful war god Ku to Hawai’i and strengthened the kapu system of laws and power of the Ali’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.

Inside Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Worship of Ku demanded human sacrifice, which was performed at luakini heiau throughout the parts of Polynesia where Ku was venerated. Pa’ao caused Mo’okini Heiau (literally meaning “many lineages”) to be raised (it is said to have happened in a single night) by as many as 20,000 men passing stones hand to hand from Pololu Valley, 14 miles distant. During this process, if a stone was dropped it was left where it lay to preserve the rhythm of passing; the scattered line of dropped stones can be followed all the way back to Pololu to this day.

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.

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

The alter stones were brought by war canoe from Pa’ao’s home heiau of Taputapuatea (lit. sacrifices from abroad), the most powerful and most feared heiau in Polynesia and the center of Ku worship. Boulders for cornerstones brought hundreds of miles across the sea from Taputapuatea were laid with sacrificed humans beneath them. This gave the heiau a formidable power and an air of menace and despair that clings to it to this day.

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.

Offerings at Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Outside the heiau walls can be found a large phallic rock and a flat stone with a cup-like depression near the top. Here, on this holehole stone, the baked bodies of human sacrifices were stripped of flesh and the bones saved to be rendered into fishhooks and dagger blades. Not much mention of the fate of the human flesh from these sacrifices is made, but it is universally documented that Polynesians everywhere were cannibals. This is a topic that is sometimes difficult for the modern descendants of these people to come to terms with and one which is best, and most polite, to simply accept and not comment or speculate upon.

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.

Framing for a hale pili (grass house) at Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There is no counting the tens of thousands of Hawai’ians who were made sacrifice here on this stone at barren, terrible Mo’okini over the centuries, but the sacrificial victims were all gathered by a class of kahuna called the Mu, or “body catcher”; the foundation of the dwelling of the Mu can still be found among the ruins of Mo’okini.

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.

One of the Great Wals at Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Well preserved, Mo’okini Heiau stands today at the north end of Hawai’i, the first temple of human sacrifice in Hawai’i and the first site in Hawai’i to be preserved as a National Historic Landmark under the Historic Sites Act of 1935. Mo’okini Heiau is now part of Lapakahi State Historic Park. As Mo’okini is an active Heiau, visitors are reminded to stay away if religious observances are being celebrated.

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.

Kamehameha Akahi Aina Hanau Heiau at Kapakai Kokoiki, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Four tenths of a mile past Mo’okini is the unlikely, lonely and windswept site of fulfillment of a long-standing prophesy amongst the ancient Hawai’ians, Kapakai Kokoiki Heiau, now named Kamehameha Akahi Aina Hanau. Long-foretold was the coming of a warrior king who would unite all the islands into a single kingdom and who would rule wisely, piously and long. Prophecy and legend held that this Ali’i would be terrible in his fierceness, unstoppable in his strength, just in his laws and faithful in his observances to the gods. The prophecy continued that the ruler would be born along the wild northern coast of Hawai’i, the most sacred of the Hawai’ian islands. This ruler would, according to the prophecy, wield power of proportion unknown to previous Hawai’ian Ali’i, but for all this destined greatness, he was prophesied to live a lonely 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.

Legendary Birthplace of Kamehameha at Kapakai Kokoiki, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Into this mythic context was born Kamehameha the Great, whose very name means “The Lonely One” in about the year 1758. The large boulders inside the enclosure at Kapakai Kokoiki Heiau are thought to be the same birthing stones on which Kamehameha’s mother, Chiefess Keku’iapoiwa, gave birth to the future ruler.

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.

Hawaii Bureau of Tourism's Idea of a Good Joke, Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Getting There: To reach these impressive sites, turn off Highway 270 onto the Upolu Airport Road near mile 20 (just west of Hawi) and continue 2 miles to the airport. We recommend that you park in the obvious dirt car park by the airport and hike or mountain bike the road 1.6 miles to Mo’okini Heiau, continuing on a further 0.4 miles to Kapakai Kokoiki Heiau. It is possible to drive 4-wheel drive vehicles down this road, but deep ruts, potholes and rocks make it impassable for most passenger vehicles. Also, Kohala is infamous for its ferocious and unpredictable rainstorms which render this road an ordeal in deep oozing mud and slime, unusable to motorized vehicles.

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.

Not far from Mo'okini Heiau is the Original King Kamehameha Statue in Kapa'a, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

This dirt road goes all the way (about 4 miles) past Mo’okini Heiau and the Kamehameha Birthplace to the old Coast Guard Loran Lookout; this makes a wonderful beginner’s mountain biking trip or day hike, especially considering the amazing historical sites along the way.

Retracing your path to the airport and back up to Highway 270, treat yourself to a visit in real Old Hawaii at the small towns of Hawi and Kapa’a. In these small towns you can find restrooms, many of the island’s best restaurants, interesting shops, fantastic art galleries and grocery stores.

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 Stones at Mo'okini Heiau, 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.

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.

Mauna Loa looms over the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 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.

Warrior Footprints of the Ka'u Desert as photographed in 2006, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 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.

Frank Burgess hikes the Ka'u Desert Trail: Photo by Donnie 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 a hike you might have heard about, but might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks and would otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Ka’u Desert Trail/ Warrior Footprints, Hawai’i Volcanoes 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.

The Ka'u Desert Trail as it winds away from the Parking Strip, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Just inside the National Park boundary, where the Hawai’i Belt Road enters Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from the West, is a small parking strip that many visitors, in a hurry to visit more well known attractions, might overlook. You should slow down and pay closer attention, because this small parking lot is the gateway to a host of wonders within the Mars-like landscape of the Ka’u Desert section of Hawaii Volcanoes 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.

The Ka'u Desert Trail is part of a vast system of intersecting trails within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

From about 4200 feet elevation down to sea level, the Ka’u Desert Trail wanders across this high, barren expanse of basalt and sand dunes formed of volcanic ash. Other trails intersect the Ka’u Desert Trail and travel from the Hawaii Belt Road east to Kilauea Crater as well as west to the intersection with the Ka’aha Trail then down the Hilina Pali to the coast. Seldom in a National Park is such unrelentingly inhospitable, but intensely spectacular, land made so accessible by trail.

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.

Unconsolodated ash sifts across the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There is no water, there is no shade, there is no protection from the elements; the land and climate are as unforgiving as they are alluring. For details about hiking or backpacking in this spectacular, empty portion of the Park, contact the Backcountry Office at the Kilauea Visitors Center (808.985.6000). Do not venture from your car here without carrying water.

Unconsolodated ash sifts across the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Ka'u Desert Footprints are preserved under a small ramada: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

But there is something more about this seeming unearthly spot that inspires people’s imagination and draws them to visit this lonely place. Less than a mile, scarcely a twenty minute walk, from the parking lot are the remains of footprints made by a party of doomed warriors more than 200 years ago.

Ka'u Desert Footprints are preserved under a small ramada: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The lunar-like surface of basalt and ash of the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kilauea’s eruptions are generally characterized by the leisurely, almost peaceful outpouring of lava and occasional more than mild earthquakes. However, it is not unknown for Madam Pele to erupt in a blast of fury, spreading ash and tephra for hundreds of miles. As recently as 1790 and again in 1924, such violent, steam-driven eruptions have occurred. These eruptions result from groundwater percolating downward through the earth to near the volcano’s magma chamber. The water becomes super-heated and, surging along existing structural weaknesses, makes new conduits to the surface, finally erupting in a roiling mass of superheated steam, ash, tephra and rocks. This type of eruption, and the ash they produce, are key to the mystery and eeriness of this site.

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 same footprint as shown above, but photographed in 2010; note that erosion and vandalism have greatly degraded the integrity of the cast: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The warrior footprints preserved here under a modern ramada are believed to have been formed in 1790. At this time, Kamehameha the Great was solidifying his military and political hold on the Island of Hawai’i, though not all his foes were vanquished. His cousin Keoua organized an army and, while Kamehameha was occupied elsewhere, he seized parts of Ka’u and Puna districts. Keoua sent an army overland to directly challenge Kamehameha…however, camping overnight at the volcano they were caught by the massive, explosive eruption. Fearing he had angered Pele, he organized his army into three columns for a hasty retreat from the falling ash. The first column seems to have emerged unscathed, but the second column went missing. When these warriors and their families were encountered by the third column, come searching for them, they were found dead on the ground, in close groups still clutching each other, overcome by the toxic volcanic fumes. The footprints seen here along Ka’u Desert Trail are from these doomed warriors and their families, made and preserved preserved in the the shifting ash dunes of the Ka’u Desert landscape. It is said that as many as 400 warriors, women and children died here.

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'u Desert Ohia Lehua Blossom: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The people of Hawai’i Island accepted Pele’s judgment against the interloping Keoua and, although he continued to fight, he never came close to turning the tide of battle against his cousin, Kamehameha. As an ostensible peace offering to his cousin, Kamehameha invited Keoua to the ceremony sanctifying the newly erected Pu’u Kohola Heiau. However, when Keoua’s canoe approached the temple grounds, he was seized and immediately sacrificed to the War God, Kuka’ilimoku, thus becoming the first human sacrifice at the new luakini heiau and ending a vexing political problem for Kamehameha, all at one 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.

The Ka'u Desert Trail as it reaches the Warrior Footprints: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

An emergency phone is available here; there are no other services.

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 Warrior Footprints are preserved under this Ramada in the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Frank Burgess

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.

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.

Ka'u Desert Ohia and Bee, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

The Justly Famous Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Justly Famous Green Sand Beach at South Point, 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.

On the Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

On the Green Sand Beach, South Point, 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.

Hawaii's Green Sand Beach at South point in the afternoon: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaii's Green Sand Beach at South point in the afternoon: Photo by Donnie 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 a hike you might have heard about, but might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks and would otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Everett Maynard, Co-Founder of Tour Guide Hawaii, Hikes to the Green Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Everett Maynard, Co-Founder of Tour Guide Hawaii, Hikes to the Green Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

South Point’s Justly Famous Green Sand Beach Hike; Papakolea Bay and Mahana Beach, Hawaii

Looking down on the green Sand Beach at South Point Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Looking down on the green Sand Beach at South Point Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Absolutely unique to the island of Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the handful of green sand beaches composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these.

The Amazing Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B.  MacGowan

The Amazing Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

To get there, turn left onto a signed, patchy-paved and dirt road immediately when you arrive in the Ka Lae area following signs to the Kaulana Boat Launch. Proceed down the road and park just to the left (south) of the boat launch, where there is a dirt road that leads to the green sand beach. The road has a gate which is sometimes locked as the road primarily provides access for hiking, ATVs or mountain biking: private vehicles are, ostensibly, prohibited but are becoming more and more common—this is the reason for the multiplicity of washed out tracks.

The two-track leading to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii is perfect for mountain biking: Photo by Donnie MacGowan!

The two-track leading to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii is perfect for mountain biking: Photo by Donnie MacGowan!

We suggest you walk—it’s more enjoyable and it saves wear and tear on a delicate ecosystem.

Severe erosion and deeply rutted roads result from ignorant tourists driving acros the plains...these ruts are larger than many cars! : Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Severe erosion and deeply rutted roads result from ignorant tourists driving acros the plains...these ruts are larger than many cars! : Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hiking distance is 2 ¼ miles each way along rolling tropical prairie (and if you cannot envision that, you really need to do this hike). Despite the multiplicity of dirt roads, you really cannot get lost as you are never out of sight of the shore. Road conditions along the road to the beach vary dramatically from week to week and the road becomes impassable with even a gentle rain; this is another reason we do not suggest drive but rather enjoy the short, pleasant hike.

Hikers returning from the Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hikers returning from the Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

About mid-way you begin to see the far side of the cone, out of which the bay has been eroded, poke up above the rolling grassland.

When you reach the end of the trail, you are a hundred or so feet above the beach on the rim of the remnant of the crater. There is a weather-beaten, old sign about 100 feet from the crater rim that directs you to the path down. Look closely for the faint track to scramble safely and easily to the beach (there is occasionally a blue trash barrel to mark this spot, but always there is a cairn of rocks). There is one sort of tricky spot where you have to inch your way over a 3-foot ledge, but almost anybody from senior to child can negotiate the hike to the beach.

Sound Advice to Visitor's...don't scratch messages in the canyon walls and don't take the sand! : Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Sound Advice to Visitor's...don't scratch messages in the canyon walls and don't take the sand! : Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

One can also easily scramble down from the middle (easternmost) of the cone using a set of stairs, but this can be slippery at the best of times—even dangerous if wet. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up the way back to the crater rim is easy to follow.

Hiking the cinder cone onto the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hiking the cinder cone onto the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Close up of the sand from the Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Close up of the sand from the Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The sand grains on this beach are formed from olivine crystals weathering out of the lava and cinders from the cone over an eruptive vent that has been partially breached by the sea. The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the somewhat protected cove formed by the remnant of the cone makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot.

Olivine Phenocrysts In Hawaiian Basalt...the source of the sand at Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Olivine Phenocrysts In Hawaiian Basalt...the source of the sand at Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Happy bathers getting wet at the Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Happy bathers getting wet at the Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Swimming, snorkeling and surfing are delightful within the confines of the bay. Be very wary of rip tides and ocean currents; do not go out far nor in at all if the surf is high or there are strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.

Boogie Boarders at the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Boogie Boarders at the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

No water is available anywhere along the hike or at the beach–be sure to take at least two liters of water per hiker for drinking.  If you plan on swimming, you may wish to take an extra liter or two of water to rinse hair and torso, as well as a dry change of clothes.  It’s miserable hiking in wet clothes with salty skin.

About half-way through the hike you begin to see the top of the cone out of which the bay holding the Green Sand Beach has been carved: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

About half-way through the hike you begin to see the top of the cone out of which the bay holding the Green Sand Beach has been carved: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are no services. At all. None. And a goodly long way to drive to get to any…plan and act accordingly.

Frank Burgess--just another day at work at Tour Guide Hawaii--hiking to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Frank Burgess--just another day at work at Tour Guide Hawaii--hiking to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, 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.

We do not reccomend you try this, it takes courage skill and timing--as well as strong swimming skills to return to the beach...Gren Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

We do not recommend you try this, it takes courage skill and timing--as well as strong swimming skills to return to the beach...Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Eric Carr heads home after another day at the office at Tour Guide Hawaii...South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Eric Carr heads home after another day at the office at Tour Guide Hawaii...South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

Astronomical Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea from Pu'u Koholo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Astronomical Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea from Pu'u Kohola: 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.

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.

Huddle of Telescopes on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Huddle of Telescopes on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie 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 couple hikes you might otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Donnie’s Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea Summit Hikers: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Hikers: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Today, I’d like to take you to the top of Mauna Kea. At 13, 796 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea’s summit is the highest point in the State of Hawaii; since its base lies at 19000 feet below sea level, its has a base-to-summit height of 33,000 feet, making it the tallest mountain on earth. It’s also one of my most favorite places on earth.

Mauna Kea Icy Summit Warning: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea Icy Summit Warning: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea began forming on the sea floor about one million years ago. Its name means “White Mountain” in the Hawaiian language and it is snowcapped much of the winter, and the summit is covered with permafrost 35 feet deep. During the ice ages, Mauna Kea’s summit was glaciated 3 times, starting about 200000 years ago and ending only 11000 years ago. One can see the U-shaped valleys and cirques, striated bedrock, glacial tills covering the summit area and remnants of ice-damned lava flows from those times. There are even the remains of extinct rock glaciers near the summit.

Eric Carr, Master Cameraman, Filming on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Eric Carr, Master Cameraman, Filming on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Visitor’s Center and summit are reached via a road which turns off Saddle Road at about 6600 feet elevation near the 28 mile marker and tortuously stumbles its way up the south side of Mauna Kea to the Visitor Information Station at about 9300 feet. The road, though steep, is paved to the Visitor’s Center. Above that, the road is graded dirt for about 5 miles, returning to asphalt paving for the final sprint to the rim of the summit crater. Road conditions for the summit road are available at 808.935.6263.

Mauna Kea Moon From the Visitor's Information Station: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea Moon From the Visitor's Information Station: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The visitor’s center is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. 365 days a year. Informational multimedia presentations, souvenirs, and some food items are available here, as well as clean restrooms and drinking water. Every evening after dark the center allows visitors to stargaze through several telescopes and informational talks by visiting scientists are occasionally scheduled. Saturday and Sunday Center staff lead escorted summit field trips, but visitors must provide their own vehicle. Call 808.961.2180 for information. It is suggested that summit-bound visitors stop at the Visitor’s Center for at least half an hour before heading to the summit so they can acclimate.

Above the Visitor Information Station there are no public accommodations, no water or food and no gasoline service; the observatory buildings are closed to the public and usually locked. There are neither public telephones nor restrooms, only port-a-potties. An emergency phone is located in the entrance to the U of H 2.2 meter Telescope building.

Mauna Kea Summit Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving the summit road to the very top of Mauna Kea is neither as dangerous as the car rental companies want you to believe, nor as casual as many Big Island residents will tell you. True, the summit road is unpaved most of the way, it is steep and winding with limited view planes; the road is extremely hazardous when wet or icy, which is often, and it’s subject to frequent dense clouds, snow, rain and fog obscuring all vision. Also, balmy summer conditions may turn into lethal winter rages in minutes with little or no warning.

Cinder Cones and a Radio Telescope on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Cinder Cones and a Radio Telescope on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

However, the road is generously wide, routinely graded and poses no real threat to the cautious driver. The safe driver can expect to reach the summit in about ½ an hour after leaving the Visitor Information Station. Remember, it’s not the roughness of the road that will impede your car; it’s the elevation that will starve it for oxygen. To be safe, take as much time winding your way back down the mountain as you took coming up, using the lowest gear to save wear on brakes. Check your car rental agreement–many forbid you to drive this road. If you go anyway, your insurance is void, and you do so at considerable financial risk. Remember, people DO crater their cars on occasion.

The Weather Can Change in an Instant on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Weather Can Change in an Instant on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

If the weather turns frightful, simply head down immediately. Relax, be calm and drive carefully; you can be confident that, even if you have to slow to 10 miles per hour in places, you’ll be down to the safety of the Visitor’s Center in a mere 40 minutes or so.

Superstition to Science; An Ancient Hawaiian Temple Shares The Summit With The Most Modern Astronomical Obsdervatories on Pu'u Weiku Summit, Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Superstition to Science; An Ancient Hawaiian Temple Shares The Summit With The Most Modern Astronomical Obsdervatories on Pu'u Weiku Summit, Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The summit of Mauna Kea, hosting the largest assemblage of astronomical instruments and telescopes in the world, is truly an amazing place; a seductive juxtaposition of icy heights raised up from steaming tropical jungle; the age-old altars of sacred Hawai’ian gods alongside edifices of the most modern of sciences; of frigid landscapes carved during ancient ice-ages alongside fiery volcanic landforms; all wrapped around a fabulous trip with a wee rumor of danger, just for spice! Beautiful, awe-inspiring, 360 degree views of the entire Big Island also include the islands of Maui, Kaho’olawe and Lana’i on clear days. The glow from Kilauea Volcano can be seen on clear nights. Although daytime temperatures during the summer can peak in the 60s, it is generally cold-to-frigid, frequently wet and very windy on the summit. Plan and dress accordingly.

View from Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

View from Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The summit area is also culturally and religiously important to the native Hawai’ians, hosting many religious Heiau, an obsidian adze quarry and numerous other archaeological sites. Remember this landscape, and the archeological sites upon them, are sacred; take nothing but photographs, don’t even leave footprints. Some ruminations on the Hawaiian Snow Goddess, Poliahu, and personal reflections about the summit of Mauna Kea can be found here.

Mauna Kea Summit Trail: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Trail: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Parking is limited, but the hike from the top of the road to the actual summit is a must for any who have ventured this far and are in good shape. A stone altar and a USGS survey point mark the actual summit of the mountain, about a 15 minute walk up a cinder trail from the top of the road. A trail leading around the summit crater takes about 30 minutes to trek and traverses some very wild country with amazing views. Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water and hydrate frequently to help stave off altitude sickness. Do not leave the safety of the parking lot if you are feeling ill or the weather is at all chancy—in fact, in deteriorating or poor weather, or at the onset of queasiness, one should leave the summit immediately and descend.

Justly Famous Videographer Frank Burgess at Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Justly Famous Videographer Frank Burgess at Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Alternately, for those in excellent physical condition, one can hike to the summit from the Visitor’s center. Featuring unparalleled views, wild landscapes, archeological sites and more, the hike is about 6 miles in length, gains about 4500 feet in elevation and takes 6 to 10 hours to get up, depending on the hiker. There is no water available anywhere above the Visitor’s Center, so take enough to get up, and back down. Frankly, many people opt to hitch-hike down the mountain after hiking up. In fact, for folks short on time, or for whom scenery and not summit-conquering are the main goals, catching a ride to the summit and hiking down is a great alternative, and takes only about 3 1/2 hours.

Gary Burton and His Ddaughter Nearing Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Gary Burton and His Ddaughter Nearing Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Another absolutely stunning hike in the summit area, one that is accessible to nearly anybody in reasonable condition, is to Lake Wai’au. Park at either the lot at about 12000 feet, near the 5 mile marker, or the lot at about 13000 feet, near the 7 mile marker. Needless to say, one hike is uphill in and the other is uphill out; but both are less than a mile long and have similar elevation changes. I prefer the upper trail because the view of the summit astronomical complex on the hike out is phenomenal. An absolute jewel of an alpine tarn in its own right, at 13,020 feet Lake Wai’au is one of the highest permanent lakes in the world…permafrost seals the lake bed in the loose tephra and glacial drift on which it sits. It’s about 300′ by 150′ by 8 feet deep and, yes, I personally can vouch for its having been snorkeled. Not much to see in there, though.

Lake Wai'au on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lake Wai'au on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are a few health concerns about visiting the summit of Mauna Kea as well. In brief: children under 16, pregnant women, and people with respiratory, heart, or severe overweight conditions are advised not to go higher than the Visitors Information Station. Scuba divers must wait at least 24 hours after their last dive before traveling to the summit.

Mauna Kea's Snowy Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea's Snowy Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Acute mountain sickness, resulting from exposure to high altitude, includes nausea, headache, drowsiness, shortness of breath, and poor judgment.  Aspirin and lots of water are palliatives for altitude sickness, but the cure is immediate and rapid descent. Sufferers will notice almost complete cessation of symptoms upon regaining The Saddle. Altitude sickness can be dangerous, even life threatening, and rapid onset of comatose condition, or even death, may be unexpectedly swift.

On the Way Up on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

On the Way Up on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Finally, there is severe risk of serious sunburn and eye damage, particularly when there is snow on the ground. Be sure to wear sunglasses rated to at least 90% IR and 100% UV (both UVA and UVB); wear sunscreen rated to at least SPF 30. Long sleeves and pants help reduce the susceptibility to sunburn.

Mauna Kea's Vanishingly Rare Silver Sword Plants: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea's Vanishingly Rare Silver Sword Plants: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Most visits to Mauna Kea’s summit are extremely pleasant experiences, encompassing easy adventures which may feature mild altitude euphoria, fabulous views and a great sense of relief at reaching the paved road and public restrooms at the Visitor’s Information Station after leaving the summit.

Mauna Kea Science Huddle: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea Science Huddle: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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Mauna Loa Summit from Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Loa Summit from Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

From Mauna Kea's Summit Trail to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Mauna Kea's Summit Trail to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan