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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.
Mahana Green Sand Beach on Papakolea Bay at South Point, Ka’u Hawaii: 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.

The Colored Sand Beaches of the Big Island 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.

This tiny beach at Pawai Bay is more typical of Hawaii Island beaches than the enormous, mile-long white sand beach at Hapuna, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Our Big Island is geologically quite young and the landscape is immature, so our beaches tend to be smaller than those on the older islands, and are therefore all the more precious. What the Big Island has that some of the other islands lack, though, are beaches with spectacularly colored sand…white sand, black sand, green sand and even grey sand.

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.
Secluded, beautiful Makalawena Beach lies in the heart of a tropical wilderness just north of the Kona Airport, Kona-Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The creamy white sand beaches of picture postcards and hapa haole songs result from the accumulation of small particles of coral reef and crushed shell fish shells. As the reefs grow, wave and storm action break it into small pieces and many fish, such as the parrot fish and the humuhumunukunukuapua’a munch the coral, spitting-out sand sized particles, and the coral they swallow comes out…er…the other end as sand-size pellets of sandy waste. In this way, one coral-eating reef fish can produce up to a ton of white sand a year. Because our white sand beaches result from physical degradation of soft, biological material, the sand grains tend to have rounded edges. Thus, unlike sands derived from rock and mineral sources, such as the California beaches, they do not stack well and tend to produce poor sand castles.

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.
Waialea Beach, or Beach 69, is an out-of-the-way gem that is rarely crowded on the Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Beautiful white sand beaches occur all over the Big Island, but are biggest and best developed on the Kona and Kohala coastlines, as coral reefs prosper best on the lee-side of the island. Prime examples of white sand beaches include Anaeho’omalu, Hapuna, Waialea and Makalawena Beaches. Snorkeling at these white sand beaches is a joy—the water is a brilliant turquoise due to the amount of light reflected back into the water by the sandy shore bottom. However, this sandy bottom itself is relatively barren of life, so if seeing fish is your main snorkeling goal, be sure to choose a beach with a nearby reef, such as Waialea Beach, since the fish live in and around reefs and rocky cliffs.

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’s most famous black sand beach, Punalu’u Beach, Ka’u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Black sand beaches are strange and spectacular, and, because of their thermal properties, are warm even on a chilly day (Oh, yes, we do have chilly days here in Hawaii–in mid-winter temperatures can dip into the low 70s and even rarely the upper 60s!). In fact, it is the black sand beaches of the Big Island that are the choice among egg-laying female Hawaiian green sea turtles for laying their egg clutches on, precisely because of their warmth.

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.
Littoral Explosions as Lava Enters the Sea at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Black sand beaches result from the fiery, explosive mix of hot liquid lava entering the ocean. The skin of the lava stream is instantly chilled as it flows into the water and then blasted off when the ocean water flashes to steam. Black sand also results from mechanical action during the natural physical erosion of the basalt (the name for the rock our lava becomes once it cools). You’d think that sand forged in the volcano would be tough and enduring, but in truth, it’s very, very fragile and black sand beaches do not last long over time. For this reason, although the sand is beautiful and rare, we ask you not to take any home with you.

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.
Kaimu Beach, Hawaii’s Newest Black Sand Beach, Near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Black sand beaches occur all over the island… two of the largest are on the north end of the island, crossing the mouths of Waipi’o and Pololu Valleys, respectively. These are not visited as often as some of the others as both entail something of a hike down into the canyons. What once must have been a heart-achingly beautiful, large black sand beach fronts Hilo Town right on Hilo bay, but much of it has been eroded, polluted and degraded by industrial encroachment or simply paved over as a result of urbanization. By far the most popular black sand beach is at Punalu’u. Not only is the beach lovely, inviting and easily accessible, it’s almost guaranteed that the visitor will see Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles basking on this beach. The youngest and most vibrant black sand beach is Kaimu Beach at the end of the Kalapana-Kopoho Road. Kaimu beach, lovely if barren, is a crescent of sand that lies at the end of an unforgiving expanse of basalt from the 1990 flows. The old beach and the fishing village of Kalapana that once stood here are long gone, buried under 50-75 feet of lava—an unimaginable catastrophe

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.
Black sand is made by the interaction of hot. liquid lava and cold ocean water, such as this littoral flow at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Snorkeling at the black sand beaches can be dark and mysterious, as little light is reflected back into the water from the sandy bottom, but the bouldery nature of the off-beach sea floor assures the prospect of abundant life and many reef fish. Be aware…because black sand beaches mostly occur on the youngest, and therefore most exposed, portions of our island, many are characterized by big waves, strong currents and nasty rip tides. Swim only where you see others swimming, and only when a life guard is present.

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.

Mahana Green Sand Beach at Papakolea Bay, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Wild, surreal, enchanting, the Big Island’s green sand beaches are a rare geologic occurrence that appear in only a few choice spots on our island and almost nowhere else in the world. Although they take a little effort to get to, you should not travel all the way to Hawaii and not see these jewel-like beaches.

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 olivine (also called peridot) crystals weathering our of the cinder cone make up the sand at Mahana Green Sand Beach on Papakolea Bay, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The green sand is composed almost entirely of the mineral olivine, or peridot as the gem quality crystals are known. These crystals precipitate out of the molten lava while it sits in the magma chamber reservoir before it erupts onto the surface. The liquid lava is melted from rocks at great depth within the earth; the chemical composition of the melt is at equilibrium at extremely high pressures and temperatures. As the magma migrates upward, many miles, through the Earth’s crust, it cools and pressure decreases; this causes crystals to precipitate from the melt. In magmas world wide, olivine is almost always observed to precipitate out first.

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.

Small but marvelous Mahana Green Sand Beach on Papakolea Beach at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

In Hawaii, lavas migrate up to the surface so quickly, and then are expelled from the magma chamber onto the surface so quickly, that usually they have little time for many crystals to form. But when lava does sit in the magma chamber awhile, the olivine crystals do precipitate, and they slowly settle to the bottom of the melt. As liquid lava begins to erupt onto the surface, much of the olivine is left behind in the residual liquid. Thus, lavas erupted from the latest stages of these magma chambers sometimes are enriched with crystalline olivine. Since late stage magmas are also relatively cooler and less fluid, their eruptions are more explosive and they tend to form more spatter cones than flows. The green sand beaches of the Big Island result where the ocean has breached one or another of these spatter cones, and the winnowing action of the waves has washed away all the particles except for the relatively denser olivine grains.

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 intense color of the sand at Mahana Green Sand Beach makes the waters at Papakolea Bay a very strange, and reflects an eerie light back along the amphitheater walls, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are tiny green sand beaches all along the southern coastline on either side of South Point, but the largest and most accessible is Mahana Beach on Papakolea Bay at South Point, reached by a moderate hike of about 2 ¼ miles along the wild coastline northeast of South Point, following an old 4WD two-track. Because of the unique sand color, snorkeling at the Green Sand Beach is a must…underwater pictures, if you are equipped with a suitable underwater camera, are quite stunning. Just be careful of the treacherous currents, rip tides and big waves. This is the wild and open ocean and this side of the island is completely unprotected. Once again, due to its rarity and the irreplaceable nature of this resource, we ask that you enjoy our Green Sand beaches, but don’t take any sand home with you.

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.

Children hard at play on Hookena Beach, Kona Hawaii; a typical gray sand beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Warm, comfortable and inviting, grey sand beaches result from mixing of black sand particles with white sand along a stretch of beach and as such, are represented by a continuum of grey hues. In fact, many Big Island beaches probably fit more with a definition of grey sand beach than properly occupy either of the two distinct end member compositions, black sand or white sand beach. Ho’okena, Kahalu’u and Honomalino are three of the largest and most popular grey sand beaches on the Big Island. There is one entirely unique beach, Ke-awa-iki, which today is a dominantly black sand beach, but the black sand has incompletely mixed with the older white sand on the southern portion of the beach, leaving a stretch of strange, but oddly artistic, piebald black and white sand.

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 exotic black-and-white sands of Keawaiki Beach, Kohala 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.
The wild surf at Wawaloli Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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by Donald B. MacGowan

The area around Miloli'i and Honomalino Beach are infused with the je nais se quois of Old Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The area around Miloli'i and Honomalino Beach are infused with the je nais se quois of Old 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.

View of Honomalino Bay, Looking North: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

View of Honomalino Bay, Looking North: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Even choosing the beach you want to spend time on…which beach? How do you find the right beach for your particular needs? Are you going just to relax and sunbathe? Or is the trip to snorkel, boogie board or to explore? Do you want a beach that’s alive with fun people or one hidden, secluded and empty? Do you want a beach near your resort or one that’s at the end of a day of delicious wandering?

The Kona Coast Near Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Kona Coast Near Miloli'i: 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 one, hidden but gorgeous, beach hike you would otherwise not find if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Hiking to Honomalino

Along the Honomalino Trail: Phto by Donald B. MacGowan

Along the Honomalino Trail: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A true gem of West Hawai’i, and rarely crowded, Honomalino Bay lies on the southeast flanks of Mauna Loa along the southernmost Kona Coast. The beach is reached by a 20 minute hike starting in the Old Hawaiian Fishing Village of Miloli’i, which is perhaps the last, truly Hawai’ian fishing village in West Hawai’i. Miloli’i is a tightly knit local community who are perhaps best left to themselves by the casual visitor. Though the surfing and the snorkeling here are excellent, the beach lovely and the facilities in good repair, the visitor may not find the aloha for outsiders terribly abundant. Especially on weekends.

Parking for the Hike is at the Miloli'i County Park Pavilion: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Parking for the Hike is at the Miloli'i County Park Pavilion: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The Hike to Honomalino Beach Starts between the County Park Restrooms and this Yellow Church: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The Hike to Honomalino Beach Starts between the County Park Restrooms and this Yellow Church: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The Trailhead for the Honomalino Bay Hike: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Trailhead for the Honomalino Bay Hike: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

However, by hiking south to Honomalino Bay, the causal visitor finds everything they are looking for in a quiet, secluded beach. Park at the Miloli’i County Beach Park; the hike begins at an obvious trailhead near the end of the road, between the restrooms and the yellow church. The trail wanders along the coast, in and out of the surf line, to the wild and untamed Honomalino Bay—a wonderful place to picnic, snorkel or kayak.

When Hiking to Honomalino Beach, Stay on the Trail, Avoid Private Property and When in Doubt, Take the Right Fork: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

When Hiking to Honomalino Beach, Stay on the Trail, Avoid Private Property and When in Doubt, Take the Right Fork: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Keawe Thickets along the Honomalino Beach Trail Mean You Should Wear Sturdy Shoes to Avoid the Ginormous Thorns: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Keawe Thickets along the Honomalino Beach Trail Mean You Should Wear Sturdy Shoes to Avoid the Ginormous Thorns: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

As the trail to Honomalino Beach Winds Toward the Shore, It Passes Several Private Residences and Private Property; Be Sure To Respect These People's Property and Privacy: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

As the trail to Honomalino Beach Winds Toward the Shore, It Passes Several Private Residences and Private Property; Be Sure To Respect These People's Property and Privacy: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

On the hike in, be sure to keep always to the right at any fork in the trail to avoid trespassing on private property. Honomalino Beach itself is fronted by private property and dwellings, so be respectful of these peoples’ homes and privacy.

The Honomalino Beach Trail Squeezes Between Private Residences and a Private Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Honomalino Beach Trail Squeezes Between Private Residences and a Private Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Snorkeling is most interesting on the north side in the rocks, or the extreme southern reach of the bay. Go in only when the surf is low; be cautious of the open ocean currents and rip tides. The water, though very clear, is sometimes quite cold due to spring discharge in the sand on the beach.

Behind the Berm, in the Back Dunes of Honomalino Beach, Is a Shady Paradise on Hot Days: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Behind the Berm, in the Back Dunes of Honomalino Beach, Is a Shady Paradise on Hot Days: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Exploring on foot in the area of the bay and further south provides many wonders and archeological treasures, from abandoned temples and villages to the largest holua, or sledding track, in Hawaii. Remember to respect the Hawaiian natives, their culture and their sacred sites…take noting but pictures, don’t even leave footprints, stay on established roads and trails.

Superb Snorkeling Exists on the North Side of the Bay by the Rocks: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Superb Snorkeling Exists on the North Side of the Bay by the Rocks: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There is no fresh water anywhere along this hike, so be sure to bring plenty of drinking water. It’s also nice to bring a couple of extra quarts of water to rinse off after swimming, and dry clothes to hike out in.

There are no provisions for restrooms or trash disposal, either, so wait until you are back at the county park for restrooms and remember to hike out with everything you brought in, including trash.

Honomalino Beach Looking South and East Into the Morning Sun: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Honomalino Beach Looking South and East Into the Morning Sun: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

As the trail crosses significant swathes of both sharp aa lava fields and thick keawe tree copses (with there numerous, impressive and painful thorns), it is imperative that you wear at least running shoes, if not hiking boots, to protect your feet.

Hiking Back to Miloli'i You'll Be Glad of Sturdy Shoes to Fend Off the Huge Keawe Thorns: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hiking Back to Miloli'i You'll Be Glad of Sturdy Shoes to Fend Off the Huge Keawe Thorns: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

No services at all are available at the beach, and there are no commercial services in Miloli’i. Please leave no valuables in your car.

Sharp a'a Lava Along the Honomalino Trail Makes You Glad You Wore Real Shoes!: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sharp a'a Lava Along the Honomalino Trail Makes You Glad You Wore Real Shoes!: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Could You Have Found This Without Tour Guide? The House in Miloli'i Where Elvis Presley Lived in the Movie "Girls Girls Girls": Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Could You Have Found This Without Tour Guide? The House in Miloli'i Where Elvis Presley Lived in the Movie "Girls Girls Girls": Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Many people, flying along the highway from Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, dash through South Hawaii as quickly as possible to reach the park without realizing they are missing some of the best, and least visited, places in the whole state. This southern end of the island is where the Polynesians first landed and began their colonization of the Hawaiian Islands; it is home to the beaches where most of the endangered green sea turtles breed and lay their eggs in the main Hawaiian chain, and it is home to some of the most amazing history and awesome history anywhere in the world.

Ghostly Steam and Glow of Lava at Waikupanaha: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Ghostly Steam and Glow of Lava at Waikupanaha: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Clearly, the visitor to Hawaii can use some help finding the more secluded, wild and exotic destinations and attractions. To help you get more out of your Hawaii vacation, Tour Guide Hawaii has released a brand new iPhone/iPod Touch App which navigates you to all the most popular visitor destinations, the most interesting attractions, the most romantic and secluded beaches; helps you effortlessly find hikes, snorkel spots, historical and cultural landmarks, shopping and dining. And of course, our new App includes directions to, and rating of, all the public restrooms! Learn all about it, here.

Bradford MacGowan Filming at Punalu'u Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Bradford MacGowan Filming at Punalu'u Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

In addition to real GPS navigation, this app also allows you to navigate using Google Maps or, if no internet or phone service available, with on-board maps and driving directions! Our App is crammed full of entertaining and informative video presentations about how and where to snorkel, the best trails and beaches, what to pack to bring to Hawaii, cultural orientation and language tips!

Before you rush off to buy our new App on iTunes…let’s take a few minutes and explore some of the fabulous and fantastic things to see and do along the Hawaii Belt Road through South Hawaii that you might not miss if you weren’t using our fabulous App. Of course, our App has much more detail in its video content than we can present here, but this will serve as an indication of what you might otherwise miss.

Huge Portions of Hawaii Island Have Simply Broken Off and Slid Into The Sea in Giant Landslides; Here is the Escarpment from Onesuch Landslide on Kealakekua Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Huge Portions of Hawaii Island Have Simply Broken Off and Slid Into The Sea in Giant Landslides; Here is the Escarpment from One-such Landslide on Kealakekua Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Loa South Flank Land Slides: The flanks of the Hawai’ian volcanoes are unusually unstable because of their extreme youth, rapid growth and because the flows are very thin, discontinuous and are comprised of loosely stacked a’a lava, air-fall material, pahoehoe lava with the loose rubble that forms when the lava flows into the sea. Because of this instability, many extremely large landslides in the past have broken loose, and this is the reason for the steep topography on the lower southern flanks of Mauna Loa. The angle of repose of Hawaiian lava flows (how steeply the land must tilt to get the lava to flow) is roughly 6 degrees, and looking at the gentle slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, one sees that they come very close to this angle. Therefore, topography on the island that is steeper than about 6 degrees represents either faulting, erosion due to water movement or to landslides. One such twenty-mile long landslide, from about Mile 109 on Highway 11 to just north of Miloli’i, slid away about 120,000 years ago. One can see the scar from where the landslide broke loose along Kealakekua Bay and the precipitous cliffs that enfold the Captain Cook Monument as well as the steep hills of South Kona and northwest Ka’u. This landslide generated a tsunami wave of sufficient height to completely wash over the 1427-foot tall summit of Kaho’olawe and wash high up on the mountains of Lana’i. Coral rubble deposited by this tsunami can be found to this day on top of Kaho’olawe and at altitudes in excess of 1000 feet on Lana’i.

Secluded, Romantic, Beautiful Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Secluded, Romantic, Beautiful Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Honomalino Bay: As the highway creeps along the edge of the land slide escarpments on Mauna Loa, every so often an opportunity to turn downhill and explore what’s “over the edge” presents itself…one such spot is just south of the 89 mile marker…the turnoff to Miloli’i fishing village and Honomalino Beach. The village and villagers of Miloli’i itself are a very insular Hawaiian community, wary of outsiders, and best treated with aloha and respect, from a distance. However, one of the true gems of West Hawai’i is Honomalino Beach. Rarely crowded, this lovely beach is is reached by a 20 minute hike from the south end of Miloli’i Beach County Park.

Drive slowly through their ocean-front village past the wreckage of the sea water desalinization plant, past the house inhabited by Elvis Presley in the movie “Girls, Girls, Girls” to the Miloli’i County Park. Park in the lot by the covered pavilion. The hike starts between the bathrooms and a yellow church and is always along the right fork of the trail, in and out of the surf line, to avoid private property. An interesting hike in and of itself, wandering along the beaches, through the dryland forest and over aa lava flows, it wanders about a mile and a quarter to the palm-lined beach. Snorkeling is very interesting on the north side of the beach, along the rocks, when the surf is low.  The water, though crystalline and clear, can sometimes be a bit chilly in spots doe to freshwater spring discharge through the sand.

The Old Mamalahoa Highway Rolls Through The Rural South Coast of Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Old Mamalahoa Highway Rolls Through The Rural South Coast of Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Old Mamalahoa Highway: A scenic stretch of the old Mamalahoa Highway between mileposts 88 and 86 offers a glimpse into what life in Old Hawai’i was like. This rough old road remnant rolls through macadamia orchard and wild countryside and is worth the detour. Driving this stretch of road, remember that to Island residents, the Hawai’i Belt Highway is relatively new; many people living in Hilo will tell you they haven’t been to Kona in 20 years or more because the road is just too hard to drive, you know they are remembering the old highway like this, as it used to be, not as it exists today.

Lehua Blossom and Bee in an Upland Ohia Forest: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Lehua Blossom and Bee in an Upland Ohia Forest: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Manuka State Park: An easy 1-2 hour stroll, a great place for a picnic or a break from driving The Belt Highway, Manuka State Natural Area Reserve and Manuka State Wayside Park lie between the 82 and 81 mile markers and offers the unique setting of both lush wet, and dry-land, forest. The arboretum around the parking lot was planted of native and trees first introduced during the 1930s to the 1950s. The hike, which circles through the forest to a pit crater, takes 1-2 hours and has well-marked nature points of interest along the way. The trail also winds over both newer and older lava flows, so it’s easy to see how the forest develops through stages as the lava ages and weathers. Although an easy walk, some of the footing is loose, so sturdy shoes should be worn; no water is available along the trail, so you should carry a quart per person. This also is a very pleasant place to observe some of Hawai’i’s unique forest birds at dawn and sunset. The cool, inviting and fragrant Wayside Park has ample parking, picnic tables, restrooms and water available. There is a small covered pavilion at which “by permit-only” camping is allowed.

View Across HOVE to the Windmills at South Point, Big Island Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

View Across HOVE to the Windmills at South Point, Big Island Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’ian Ocean View Estates (H.O.V.E.): Check your gas gauge, check your canteen, check your lunch box! Hawai’i Ocean View Estates is the last outpost of civilization for miles around. Hawai’ian Ocean View Estates is the world’s largest residential subdivision. As such, it lacks only three things: water, electrical power and, most importantly, residents. Built in the 1960s, ownership of the subdivision has passed from hand to hand, but lack of utilities has kept residence numbers low. Despite this, a hardy settlement has sprung up with a great sense of community, even though many residents rely strictly on catchment for water and personal generators for electricity. The climate in Ocean View is perfect year round, but there are no public beaches or cultural amenities, so it hasn’t flourished as a town. Ocean View boasts a few stores, restaurants, churches and a post office. Public restrooms are available below the Post Office.

Disaster of 1868 Lava Flows, South Flank of Mauna Loa: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Disaster of 1868 Lava Flows, South Flank of Mauna Loa: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Disaster of 1868/Kahuku Village: Ferocious earthquakes! Floods of glowing lava! Tsunamis swallowing hapless survivors! Between the 71 and 72 mile markers of Highway 11, just west of the South Point Turn-off, is the wild scene of a natural disaster the proportions of a Cecil B. DeMille film. The only remaining reminders of the disaster are the lava flow of 1868 exposed here, and the ruins of Kahuku Village which lie beneath it. Starting on March 27, 1868 and continuing for five relentless days, earthquakes shook the Ka’u region, including the worst earthquake recorded in Hawai’ian history, one of 7.9 magnitude on the Richter scale. Hundreds of landslides were loosed, cinder cones collapsed and small tsunamis continuously licked the Ka’u coastline. On the second of April, after a massive convulsion, a giant river of lava burst through from underneath, inundating everything in its path. A giant tsunami washed over the coastline, swallowing whole villages and canoe fleets, killing 46 people. Massive landslides flowed across the land, burying parts of Punalu’u and Ninole and ultimately killing 31 people.

Kae Lae, the Southern Most Point in the US: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kae Lae, the Southern Most Point in the US: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

South Point: This sweeping landscape arches openly and inviting from the tumultuous shore break at Ka Le to the icy heights of Mauna Kea’s summit almost 14,000 feet above. The farthest point south in the entire United States, South Point is haunting, windswept, wild, empty, beautiful. Although still only 1-lane wide in many places, the road to Ka Lae from the Hawai’i Belt Road has been greatly improved in recent years. The roads, beaches, boat launching facilities and parking are all free and on public land, contrary to 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. The brooding and dilapidated wind turbines of the Kamaoa Wind Farm are along the road to Ka Lae. 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.

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. The only recommended snorkeling is at the Kaulana boat launch and at the green sand beach…and then it is recommended only in calm seas. But it is beautiful; perhaps as beautiful and wild a spot to snorkel as anywhere in Hawai’i.

Mahana Bay and the Green Sand Beach at South Point: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Bay and the Green Sand Beach at South Point: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hike to Green Sand Beach: Unique and special, Hawai’i’s green sand beaches are as beautiful as they are strange. The beach sands are composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point, the best known, is reached by turning left onto a signed, patchy-paved and dirt road immediately when you arrive in the Ka Lae area. Follow signs to the Kaulana boat launch and park just to the left (south) of it. The dirt road that leads along the shore to the green sand beach is sometimes gated and locked. 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. When you arrive above the beach on the crater rim, there is a faint track to scramble safely and easily to the beach. One can also easily scramble down from the middle (easternmost) of the cone, but this can be slippery. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up the way back to the crater rim is easy to follow. When visiting here, plan and act as if there were no services, and no rescue available.

A Community-Painted Mural on the Waiohinu General Store: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Community-Painted Mural on the Waiohinu General Store: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Waiohinu/Mark Twain Monkey Pod Tree: Waiohinu is a for-real Old-Hawaii town, as are it’s neighbors Na’alehu and Pahala. Waiohinu boasts a gas station and store, public restrooms, a small hotel and numerous bed and breakfasts as well as Margo’s Corner, a privately-operated campground. It is always wise to fill your gas tank at the first opportunity when traveling on the Southern Coast because there are no service stations operating at regular, predictable hours, or at all after dark, in most of these tiny towns. Waiohinu has another more historic distinction. It is here that Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) planted a Monkey Pod so he’d have a shady spot to sit and write. Although the original tree blew down in a hurricane in 1957, a new tree has sprung-up from the surviving roots and can be seen in the center of town by the State Historical Society Marker commemorating Mark Twain’s visit.

Downtown Na'alehu, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Downtown Na'alehu, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Na’alehu: Lovely, scenic, sleepy Na’alehu, the southernmost town in America is the not-so-bustling mercantile hub the southern end of Hawai’i Island. Here is the Na’alehu Fruit Stand, the source of wonderful fresh fruit and the best pizza on the Island; the Punalu’u Bakeshop, known Island-wide for its malasadas and Portuguese Sweet Bread. The Union 76 gas station is your best bet for after-dark gas in South Hawai’i, but don’t bet the farm on it being open on any given night. Especially during fishing season. The Na’alehu Police station, on the east end of town, is the only outpost of law and order constabulary between Captain Cook and Volcano.

Whittington Beach Park, Tucked Into a Small Cove Along A Portion of the Hawaii Coastline Reminescent of Big Sur: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Whittington Beach Park, Tucked Into a Small Cove Along A Portion of the Hawaii Coastline Reminiscent of Big Sur: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Whittington Beach Park/Honuapo Bay: The wild, ragged southern coastline of Ka’u, reminiscent of Big Sur, reaches its apogee here at Honuapo Bay. Although the County Beach Park is in poor repair and frequented by a less-than-desirable element, the raw sense of connection to the ravenous ocean, the eerie mood of the collapsed Pahala Sugar Co. wharf and the joy of ever-renewing life in the many tidepools and ponds that dot this shoreline make this Park a must-see stop. There are two, perhaps not conflicting, but interesting interpretations to the name Honuapo in Hawai’ian. If the reading is “honu apo”, it means “caught turtle”, a reference to the many dozens of Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles who make this bay their home. However, if you read the words as “honua po” it means “land of the gods”; clearly in such a wildly beautiful, stark and powerful landscape, this is an apt name, as well. The true meaning is lost to the mists of time and depredation on native culture made by the missionaries, but knowing how modern speakers of Polynesian delight in the multiplicity of puns and double entendres their tongue is mother to, it is not far fetched to imagine the ancient Hawai’ians giving the bay this name with both meanings intended.

Enangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle on Punalu'u's Famous Black Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle on Punalu'u's Famous Black Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park: Punalu’u’s black sand beach, a truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing is home to dozens of endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles. The wildness of the ocean and the serenity of the freshwater fishpond and coconut palm-shaded beaches make this an ideal place to spend some soul-recharge time. Snorkeling, picnicking and camping, or just relaxing on the beach, are major destination pass-times here. Due to chilly waters, off-shore winds, strong currents and a fearsome rip, swimmers and snorkelers should use caution when swimming at Punalu’u, but it’s hard to resist getting in and swimming with all those turtles. Camping is permitted around the pavilions by permit only and can be a windy, but wild and elemental, exercise in campcraft. Due to the exposed nature of the terrain, however, there is little privacy.

The Burnout Shell of A Sugar Refining Warehouse in Pahala: Phoito by Donald B. MacGowan

The Burned-out Shell of A Sugar Refining Warehouse in Pahala: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Pahala: Friendly, clean, quiet, scenic; Pahala seems a perfect community. Twenty years ago Pahala was a bustling center of activity for the Pahala Sugar Company, but with the demise of the sugar industry, Pahala residents have either moved on to other towns seeking new employment, or hunkered down the await what future may come. There are a few good art galleries and the old Plantation House Inn, which offer the traveler a look into post-plantation life in South Hawai’i. Pahala is also the only outpost for groceries, gasoline, banking, post-office and restaurant activities between Na’alehu and Volcano; one should be careful, however, as business hours tend to be irregular and never extend much past dark. The causal traveler should also be wary of a couple of bad speed traps on either side of Pahala. A re-birth, of a sort, is underway in Pahala and other small towns in Hawai’i; because of the extremely undervalued real estate, compared with the extremely over-valued real estate elsewhere in Hawai’i, mainlanders and retirees are buying up land as residents finally sell. This has caused a small renaissance in service-sector employment, but it will take a generation or two for these tiny towns to rebuild and return to their former bustling selves.

In Peaceful and Serene Wood Valley You Will Feel Insulated From the Hustle and Bustle of Western Civilization: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

In Peaceful and Serene Wood Valley You Will Feel Insulated From the Hustle and Bustle of Western Civilization: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Wood Valley: A few miles upslope of Pahala into the macnut groves is the tiny community of Wood Valley. There are no services available here, except for a couple of bed and breakfast establishments and the Nechung Dorje Drayang Ling Buddhist Temple, which serves as a place of teaching and retreat. If time permits, it’ is a very worthwhile way to spend a lunch hour by procuring a take-away meal in Pahala, then driving the short way up into Wood Valley to enjoy lunch in the utter tranquility that steeps this community.

Lava from Kilauea Flows Smoothly into the Ocean at La'epuki in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava from Kilauea Flows Smoothly into the Ocean at La'epuki in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a magical, spiritual, wondrous, strange and beautiful place comprised of great contrasts and contradictions: dry as dust desert to teeming tropical jungle; frigid sub-arctic wasteland to steaming black sand beaches to rivers of flowing lava. The star attractions in the Park are a pair of active volcanoes; Mauna Loa is the largest mountain on earth and Kilauea is most active volcano on earth. However, there are numerous other wonders from lava tubes to crawl down, black sand beaches with sea turtles to watch, mysterious petroglyph fields to explore, tropical jungles to hike through, endangered bird species to find, happy-face spiders to amuse and an otherworldly volcanic landscape so fresh it’s still steaming. Famed for its fabulous views of Mauna Loa and Kilauea as much as for its interesting exhibits,

The Jagger Museum (named for geologist Thomas A. Jagger) is open daily from 8:30a.m. to 5:00p.m. Exhibits include murals by Herb Kawainui Kane, seismograph charts of eruptions and earthquakes, geological displays and display about the natural and human history of the Park.

Perhaps the finest short day hike in the park, a four-mile, 2-3 hour trip down into, across and back out of Kilauea Iki Crater gives one an intimate feel for volcanoes, Hawaiian-Style. Along one side, thick fern and ohi’a forest skirts along the rim and on the other, lush tropical rainforest crowds to the very brink of the crater; bleak volcanic desert lines the crater walls and covers the floor. The start and finish of the hike are along well marked, wide trails. The remainder is an easily followed, well marked trail with stone ahu (cairns) over the crater floor. As always when hiking in the Park, it is wise to avoid the noonday sun, and to remember that afternoon showers are common, especially near where this hike meets the crater rim.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. During daylight hours, an access fee is charged. The Visitor Center has a 24-hour information line at 808.985.7017 and there is a 24-hour eruption hot-line at 808.985.6000. Within the Park tune to A.M. radio 530 for continuous information broadcast. Whether returning to Kona or to Hilo after visiting the Park, remember that after dark except for perhaps in Kea’au, there is little or no food and no gas available on the south end of Hawaii Island after dark.

Gas Stations, Stores and Restaurants Close Early Along the South Coast, Be Sure You Have Everything You Need Before Leaving Volcano Village!: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Gas Stations, Stores and Restaurants Close Early Along the South Coast, Be Sure You Have Everything You Need Before Leaving Volcano Village!: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Volcano Village: One should plan ahead and expect to fill the gas tank and tummy in Volcano Village, across the highway from Hawaii volcanoes National Park. Gas prices are not, contrary to what you may have heard, any more confiscatory in expense than anywhere else on the island and Volcano is home to some first class restaurants, bakeries, interesting shops and even the island’s only winery. Plan on staying a while and enjoying the aloha in this mountain town while you recharge yourself from your busy day in South Hawaii.

Could You Have Found This Without Tour Guide?  Here is the House Elvis Presley Lived in in the Movie "Girls, Girls, Girls": Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Could You Have Found This Without Tour Guide? Here is the House Elvis Presley Lived in in the Movie "Girls, Girls, Girls": Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Remember to check out our new for touring all of Hawaii…using the Tour Guide Hawaii iPhone/iPod Touch App will save you time, save you money and allow you to see and do more with your Hawaii vacation; this quick video tells you how.

Sunrise on Mauna Loa from Jagger Museum: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sunrise on Mauna Loa from Jagger Museum: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

All Media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

This post has been expanded and updated, here.

by Donnie MacGowan

It’s springtime on the Big Island which means monsoon season here in Kona.

A Spring Monsoon Cloudburst in Kailua Kona (it dropped 2.6 inches of rain in 72 minutes, then we returned to brilliant blue sky and sun) : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Spring Monsoon Cloudburst in Kailua Kona (it dropped 2.6 inches of rain in 72 minutes, then we returned to brilliant blue sky and sun) : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Remembering that Kona Side of Hawaii is basically arid to semi-arid, “monsoon” simply means that rather than our usual brilliant weather of sapphire skies and tropical sun, we get a few days of grey skies and drizzle and a tropical cloudburst or two–nothing like the folks over on Hilo Side have to contend with.  But during the monsoon when we get a couple sunny days, we like to break out of the office, hit the road and see our favorite places.

Kealakekua Bay and Captain Cook Monument from Napo'opo'o: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kealakekua Bay and Captain Cook Monument from Napo'opo'o: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This time, we decided to take a ride down the Kona Coast and into Ka’u. Our first stop was at picturesque Napo’opo’o, where the Kealakekua State Historic Monument, Hikiau Heiau and the Captain Cook Monument are.

The Captain James Cook Monument at Ka'awaloa Village in Kealakekua: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Captain James Cook Monument at Ka'awaloa Village in Kealakekua: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

As well as immensely important historically (this is where Cook first met the Hawaiians, as well as the place where he died), dolphin, whales and some of the best snorkeling in the Pacific are here.

Next, we drove along the shoreline, past ancient battlefields, tiny beaches, awesome sea arches and historic churches to the National Historic Monument at Pu’u Honua O Hounaunau, the Place of Refuge.

Sacred Iki nd Hale Keawe at Pu'u Honua O Hounaunau, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sacred Iki and Hale Keawe at Pu'u Honua O Hounaunau, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This ancient site is enormously important historically and culturally and is very sacred to the native Hawaiians. Adjacent to the Monument is Two Step Beach which, like Kealakekua Bay, hosts unbelievably wonderful snorkeling. In addition to the great Ali’i of Hawaii, James Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson spent time here.

Two Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay--Some of the Best Snorkeling in the Pacific: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Two Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay--Some of the Best Snorkeling in the Pacific: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving South through the coffee country of Kona Mauka, we decided to drive down to Ho’okena Beach and do some snorkeling.

Ho'okena Beach In The Morning: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Ho'okena Beach In The Morning: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Recent changes to the beach include more parking, a kayak and snorkel gear rental and snack shop as well as full time caretaker and security…the camping may be a bit more regulated these days, but the beach is much cleaner and safer–it is a joy to visit again after it got so run-down a few years back.

Morning Campers at Ho'okena Beach Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Morning Campers at Ho'okena Beach Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving through Kona macadamia nut country across the old lava flows from Mauna Loa, we decided to check out the town of Miloli’i and hike into Honomalino Beach.

An Idyllic Morning at Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

An Idyllic Morning at Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Miloli’i calls itself the “Last Fishing Village in Hawaii” and is a tight-knit enclave of native Hawaiians. The town is beautiful, if obviously impoverished, and the locals, if treated with respect, are friendly and engaging. Be wary…they can also be a bit frisky, so leave no valuables in your car when you hike out to Honomalino Beach, about 20 minutes south along the spectacular coastline.

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Miloli’i, our wanderlust drew us down to South Point–the southern most point in the United States, and a region of deep mystery, spirituality and fascination. Near the Ka Lae Heiau, one of the most sacred in all Polynesia, we found some rare (perhaps modern) kite petroglyphs in the Queen’s Pond.

Kite Petroglyphs at South Point...Are These Modern? : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kite Petroglyphs at South Point...Are These Modern? : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Crossing the tip of South Point, we drove to the Kaulana Boat Ramp and hiked into Mahana Beach–South Point’s famed Green Sand Beach.

Bathers at Mahana Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donad B. MacGowan

Bathers at Mahana Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

It’s always a treat to visit and a fascinating experience–beautiful, secluded, mysterious.

Mahana Green Sand Beach in the Afternoon: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach in the Afternoon: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We drove back to the Highway past the Ka Lae Wind Farm, then down through Waiohinu and Na’alehu. Waiohinu is where Mark Twain stayed as he wrote his “Letters From Hawaii”, and the monkey pod tree he sat under is still by the roadside.

Coastline of Ka'u from near Na'alehu, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Coastline of Ka'u from near Na'alehu, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Finally, we wound up at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach to visit the amazing sea turtles and watch the sunset.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Ambles Off into the Punalu'u Sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Ambles Off into the Punalu'u Sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Returning to Kailua Kona in the waning light, we arrived back in town just in time for seafood buffet dinner at the King Kamehameha Beach Resort. Could there be a more perfect day?

Kailua Kona in the Evening Light from Kailua Harbour: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kailua Kona in the Evening Light from Kailua Harbour: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

Copyright 2009 Donald B. MacGowan.  All photos copyright 2009 Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.