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Tour Guide Hawaii is excited and proud to announce the launch of their incredible, affordable, fabulous new Hawaii Travel iPhone/iPod Touch App

Tour Guide Hawaii's Brand New iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts Paradise in the Palm of Your Hand!

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 http://www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Navigate to all the most popular visitor destinations, the most interesting attractions, the most romantic and secluded beaches; 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. 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!

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.

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

Interested in seeing what kind of information our App contains? In celebration of the release of our new App, we proudly present this list of blogs and web articles on Hawaii Travel, with URLs, of the unique and comprehensive Tour Guide Hawaii content. Enjoy this free information at your leisure, and order your App from iTunes, today!

Tour Guide Hawaii proudly presents the best, the most interesting, the most comprehensive material on Hawaii travel ever gathered in one place!

Best About Planning Your Hawaii Trip

What To Pack And Take To Hawaii: What You Need, What You Want, What You Can Leave Out Of Your Luggage: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/what-to-pack-and-take-to-hawaii-what-you-need-what-you-want-what-you-can-leave-out-of-your-luggage/

Getting To Hawaii, Getting Around Hawaii, Getting the Most From Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/getting-to-and-getting-around-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Frank’s Guide to Pronouncing Hawaiian Words: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/franks-guide-to-pronouncing-the-hawaiian-langauge/

What sunglasses should I buy to go to Hawaii?: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/what-sunglasses-should-i-buy-to-go-to-hawaii/

Best Beaches on Hawaii

A Quick Guide to The Best Beaches of Hawaii Island: Sun, Surf, Solitude: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/the-top-beaches-of-hawaii-island/

Green, Black, White, Grey and Piebald: The Colored Sand Beaches of the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/bgreen-black-white-grey-and-piebald-the-colored-sand-beaches-of-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

The Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 1, The Main Kohala Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/the-best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-1-the-main-kohala-coast/

The Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 2, The Kona and South Kohala Coasts: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/the-best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-2-the-kona-and-south-kohala-coasts/

Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 3, Unusual, Uncrowded and Untamed Beaches of South Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/07/best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-3-unusual-uncrowded-and-untamed-beaches-of-south-hawaii/

Best Beaches in Hawaii: Part 4, Wilderness Beaches of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-4-wilderness-beaches-of-the-big-island/

Best Beaches in Hawaii Part 5–Best Beaches for Snorkeling: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/best-beaches-in-hawaii-part-5-best-beaches-for-snorkeling/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii

My Favorite Scenic Drive: Hawaii’s Wild and Scenic Saddle Road!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/my-favorite-scenic-drive-hawaiis-wild-and-scenic-saddle-road/

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; The Most Interesting, Amazing and Diverse Scenic Drive in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/a-scenic-drive-through-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-the-most-interesting-amazing-and-diverse-place-in-hawaii/

Big Island Whirlwind Road Trip: I have to see the whole Big Island all in one day!https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/big-island-whirlwind-road-trip-i-have-to-see-the-whole-big-island-all-in-one-day/

Kona Heritage Corridor Scenic Drive: An Exceptional Day Trip Exploration of Historical, Lovely, Up-Country Kona!:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/kona-heritage-corridor-scenic-drive-an-exceptional-day-trip-exploration-of-historical-lovely-up-country-kona/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #1: The Saddle Road…Kona to the Summit of Mauna Kea, Kaumana Cave and Hilo:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-1-the-saddle-road-kona-to-the-summit-of-mauna-kea-kaumana-cave-and-hilo/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #2: North Kona and Kohala, Ancient History, Sumptuous Beaches: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-2-north-kona-and-kohala-ancient-history-sumptuous-beaches/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #3: Kona to Hamakua and Hilo: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-3-kona-to-hamakua-and-hilo/

Best Scenic Drives in Hawaii #4: Kona Coast to South Point and Ka’u https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/best-scenic-drives-in-hawaii-4-kona-coast-to-south-point-and-kau/

Best Scenic Drives in Hawaii #5: Kailua Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Puna and Lava Viewing: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/best-scenic-drives-in-hawaii-5-kailua-kona-to-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-puna-and-lava-viewing/

What Do I Do on the Big Island? Explore Hawaii’s Incomparable, Fantastic and Wild South Coast!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/12/20/what-do-i-do-on-the-big-island-explore-hawaiis-incomparable-fantastic-and-wild-south-coast/

Road Trip Through Keauhou Historic District, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/wwwtourguidehawaicom-presents-a-road-trip-through-keauhou-historic-district-big-island-hawaii/

New iPhone/iPod Touch App Helps you Explore Hawaii’s Hidden, Romantic and Mysterious Places: The South Coast of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/new-iphoneipod-touch-app-helps-you-explore-hawaiis-hidden-romantic-and-mysterious-places-the-south-coast-of-hawaii/

Best About Hiking:

The Best Short Hikes on Hawaii Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/the-best-short-hikes-on-hawaii-island/

The Adventure and Romance of Hiking To Kilauea Volcano’s Active Lava Flows: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/tour-guide-hawaii-presents-the-adventure-and-romance-of-hiking-to-kilauea-volcanos-active-lava-flows/

Exploring the Summit Hikes of Mauna Kea: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/exploring-the-summit-hikes-of-mauna-kea-hawaii/

South Point’s Justly Famous Green Sand Beach Hike, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/south-points-justly-famous-green-sand-beach-hike-papakolea-bay-and-mahana-beach-hawaii/

Hiking to Captain Cook Monument on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/hiking-to-captain-cook-monument-on-the-kona-coast-of-hawaii/

Hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/24/hiking-the-kilauea-iki-trail-new-iphoneipod-touch-app-helps-you-find-all-the-unique-secluded-unusual-destinations-on-hawaii/

Hiking Hawaii’s Magnificent Waipi’o Valley: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/hiking-hawaiis-magnificent-waipio-valley/

Hike to Kamehameha’s Birthplace and the Forbidding Temple of Human Sacrifice, Mo’okini Heiau, on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/hike-to-kamehamehas-birthplace-and-the-forbidding-temple-of-human-sacrifice-mookini-heaiau-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Ka’u Desert’s Unearthly Hike to the Eerie Warrior Footprint Casts: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/2965/

Hiking Down Into Pololu Valley, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/hiking-down-into-pololu-valley-big-island-of-hawaii/

Kiholo Bay Beach Hike: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/kiholo-bay-beach-hike/

Hiking to Honomalino Bay, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/hiking-to-honomalino-bay-big-island-hawaii/

Historic Kailua Kona Town on the Big Island of Hawaii: A Walking Tour: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/historic-kailua-kona-town-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii-a-walking-tour/

Hiking and Camping at Hawaii’s Last Wilderness Beach: La’amaomao the Wind God and Makalawena Beach: Advice: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/hiking-and-camping-at-hawaiis-last-wilderness-beach-laamaomao-the-wind-god-and-makalawena-beach/

Driving and Hiking to the Summit of Mauna Kea, Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/07/26/advice-driving-and-hiking-to-the-summit-of-mauna-kea-big-island-of-hawaii/

Hidden Secrets of Hawaii: The Golden Ponds of Ke-awa-iki: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/hidden-secrets-of-hawaii-the-golden-ponds-of-ke-awa-iki/

Hiking at Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/hiking-at-kilauea-volcano-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Best About Snorkeling

The Best Snorkeling Spots on Hawaii Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/27/the-best-snorkeling-spots-on-hawaii-island/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part I: Gear: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-i-gear-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part II: Technique : https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-ii-technique-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part III: Protecting the Reef and Reef Animals: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-iii-reef-etiquette-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part IV: Snorkeling Safety: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-iv-snorkeling-safety-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips, Part V: Best Snorkeling Beaches of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-v-best-snorkeling-beaches-of-the-big-island-2/

Hawaii Island Snorkeling Tips Part VI: Wilderness Beaches of the Big Island!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/30/hawaii-island-snorkeling-tips-part-vi-wilderness-beaches-of-the-big-islanda/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #1: Introduction: Kona Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/26/franks-big-island-travel-hints-1-north-kona-and-kohala-ancient-history-sumptuous-beaches/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #2: Kona South to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Hilo:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/franks-big-island-travel-hints-2-kona-coast-south-of-honaunau-to-kau/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #3: Kona North to Waikoloa and the Kohala Coast:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/1794/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #4: Waikoloa to Pololu Valley; https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/franks-big-island-travel-hints-4-waikoloa-to-pololu-valley-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #5: Hawi to Kona via the Kohala Mountain road, Waimea and Waikoloa: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/franks-big-island-travel-hints-5-hawi-to-kona-via-kohala-mountain-road-waimea-and-waikoloa-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #6: Waimea and the Hamakua Coast: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/04/franks-big-island-travel-hints-6-waimea-and-the-hamakua-coast-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints # 7: Around Hilo: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/06/franks-big-island-travel-hints-7-hilo-side-akaka-falls-to-panaewa-rainforest-zoo/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #8: Mysterious Puna!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/franks-big-island-travel-hints-8-mysterious-puna/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #9: Made for Adventure: The Jungles, Volcanoes, Hot Springs and Tidepools of Puna!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/franks-hawaii-travel-hints-9-made-for-adventure-the-jungles-volcanoes-hot-springs-and-tidepools-of-puna/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #10: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/franks-big-island-travel-hints-10-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park/

Frank’s Travel Hints # 11: Exploring Deeper Into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/13/franks-big-island-travel-hints-11-exploring-deeper-into-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-big-island-hawaii/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #12: More fun in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/franks-big-island-travel-hints-12-more-fun-in-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-big-island-hawaii-4/

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #13: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Chain of Craters Road: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/17/franks-big-island-travel-hints-13-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-chain-of-craters-road/

Best Interesting Stories and General Reading about Hawaii

Exploring Hawaii’s South Point: Ka Lae And the Hike to the Green Sand Beach: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/exploring-hawaiis-south-point-ka-lae-and-the-hike-to-the-green-sand-beach/

The Beautiful, Enigmatic and Cryptic Petroglyphs of Hawaii Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/the-beautiful-enigmatic-and-cryptic-petroglyphs-of-hawaii-island/

Hawaii’s Amazing Lava Fossils: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/24/hawaiis-amazing-lava-fossils/

Exploring Punalu’u Black Sand Beach in Ka’u Hawaii: Hiking, Snorkeling, Ancient Temples and Endangered Sea Turtles: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/22/exploring-punaluu-black-sand-beach-in-kau-hawaii-hiking-snorkeling-ancient-temples-and-endangered-sea-turtles/

The Sugar Industry in Hawaii: Kona Sugar Company and West Hawai’i Railway Company: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/the-sugar-industry-in-hawaii-kona-sugar-company-and-west-hawai%E2%80%99i-railway-company/

Kilauea’s Eruption Just Keeps Getting More Fantastic!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/wwwtourguidehawaiicom-presents-new-video-of-kilauea-volcano-erupting/

Kalapana, Hawaii: From the Fires of Hades to the Eden of Rebirth: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/kalapana-hawaii-from-the-fires-of-hades-to-the-eden-of-rebirth/

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles: Honu of the Big Island: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/hawaiis-magnificent-honu-the-endangered-hawaiian-green-sea-turtle/
Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park: A Warrior becomes a King, an Island Archipelago Becomes a Kingdom:

https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/puukohola-heiau-national-historic-park-a-warrior-becomes-a-king-and-island-archepelago-becomes-a-kingdom/

Heartbreak of the Gods: Kuamo’o BattleField and Lekeleke Graveyard: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/29/heartbreak-of-the-gods-kuamoo-batlle-field-and-lekeleke-graveyard-big-island-of-hawaii/

A Brief History of Ranching in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/rodeo-to-rock-and-roll-a-brief-history-of-ranching-in-hawaii/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Exploring Kealakekua Bay Archeological and Historical District, Captain Cook Monument and Hikiau Heiau, Perhaps the Most Important Historical Sites in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/konas-fascinating-history-exploring-kealakekua-bay-archeological-and-historical-district-captain-cook-monument-and-hikiau-heiau-perhaps-the-most-important-historical-sites-in-hawaii/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Ahu’ena Heiau at Kamakahonu Beach: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/konas-fascinating-history-ahuena-heiau-at-kamakahonu-beach/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Pu’u Honua O Honaunau, The Place Of Refuge, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/konas-fascinating-history-puu-honua-o-honaunau-the-place-of-refuge/

Kona’s Fascinating History: The Ancient Temples and Villages, Fabulous Beaches and Scenic Hiking Trails of Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/3407/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Hulihe’e Palace: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/konas-fscinating-history-hulihee-palace/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Moku’aikaua Church–the First Christian Church in Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/konas-fscinating-history-mokuaikawa-the-first-christian-church-in-hawaii/

Kona’s Fascinating History: Kamakahonu Rock, the Kailua Pier and Seawall: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/konas-fascinating-history-kamakahonu-rock-the-kailua-pier-and-seawall/

Exploring the jungle trails of Akaka Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/18/exploring-the-jungle-trails-of-akaka-falls-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Exploring Wailuku River Park and Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/exloring-wailuku-river-park-and-rainbow-falls-hlio-hawaii/

Exploring Laupahoehoe Park, Hamakua Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/exploring-laupahoehoe-park-hamakua-coast-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Exploring Kaumana Cave, Just Outside Hilo Along the Saddle Road on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/exploring-kaumana-cave-just-outide-hilo-on-the-saddle-road-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Exploring Wailuku River Park and Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/exloring-wailuku-river-park-and-rainbow-falls-hlio-hawaii/

Exploring the Kohala Coast: Discover Maka O Hule Navigation Heiau: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/4017/

Discovering Kohala: Driving the Scenic and Fabulous Kohala Mountain Road: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/discovering-kohala-driving-the-scenic-and-fabulous-kohala-mountain-road/

Exploring the Hamakua Coast, North of Hilo, Hawaii: Hakalau Canyon: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/exporng-the-hamakaua-coast-north-of-hilo-hawaii-hakalau-canyon/

Discovering Puna: Exploring Lava Trees State Monument on the Big Island of Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/19/dicovering-puna-exploring-lava-trees-state-monument-on-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Exploring Puna: Ahalanui Pond at Pu’ala’a County Park in Puna, Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/exploring-puna-ahalanui-pond-at-pu%E2%80%99ala%E2%80%99a-county-park-in-puna-hawaii/

Exploring Puna: Discover Charming, Eclectic, Surprising Pahoa Town!: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/3982/

Discovering Puna: Explore Isaac Hale Beach Park at Pohoiki Bay, Puna Hawaii: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/discovering-puna-explore-isaac-hale-beach-park-at-pohoiki-bay-puna-hawaii/

Exploring Mysterious, Magnificent, Unspoiled Puna: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/exploring-mysterious-magnificent-unspoiled-puna/

Exploring Puna: Discovering the Majestic, Primeval Tree Tunnels of Puna: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/exploring-puna-discovering-the-majestic-primeval-tree-tunnels-of-puna/

Rising From The Past: The Rebirth of Hapaiali’i Heiau, a Hawaiian Temple for Honoring Royalty: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/1118/

The Hawaiian Snow Goddess Poliahu and the Summit of Mauna Kea…: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/the-hawaiian-snow-goddess-poliahu-and-the-summit-of-mauna-kea/

The Call of Aloha…:https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/the-call-of-aloha/

Why I love Hawaii…: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/why-i-love-hawaii/

Hilo Askance: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/hilo-askance/

Conjuring Visions of Paradise: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/conjuring-visions-of-paradise/

Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Field, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/823/

Volcano Art Center—A Kipuka of Creativity on the Rim of Madam Pele’s Home: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/volcano-art-center-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park/

Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/jagger-museum-hawaii-volcanoes-national-rark/

Captain Cook’s Legacy: Exploring the History and Waters of Kealakekua Bay: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/949/

Mo’okini Heiau: Warrior Kings and Human Sacrifice on Hawai’i: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/mookini-heiau-warrior-kings-and-human-sacrifice-on-hawaii-2/

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Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series covers Snorkeling Technique; Part III covers Snorkeling Etiquette; Part IV discusses Snorkeling Safety and Part V covers Big Island Snorkel Spots.

Waialea Beach in Kohala is the gateway to many small, secluded secret beaches on the Big Island...but why go any farther than this?  It's perfect! Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waialea Beach in Kohala is the gateway to many small, secluded secret beaches on the Big Island...but why go any farther than this? It's perfect! Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Of all the Hawaiian Islands, because it is the youngest, the Big Island has the fewest and smallest beaches…this leads to crowding during the height of tourist season at some beaches. Because Hawaii is still rural, there are still some wilderness (hike-to-only) beaches; a few of them are among the best on the island.

Many wild beaches may be camped upon but you must apply for a permit from the appropriate agency. Overnight camping on Hawaii beaches is simplified because of the mild climate–usually I take a few quarts of water, a couple sandwiches, my camera, dry clothes for post-snorkeling comfort, a fleece blanket and rice mat to sleep on (a beach towel will suffice) and a small tarp on the off-chance it rains. The key here is that if the weather turns truly ugly, you are rarely more than an hour from your car. You may wish to bring a few extra quarts of water to rinse the salt off after swimming—it’s difficult to sleep comfortably with salty skin.

Two things to bear in mind—although is sometimes doesn’t seem it, Hawaii DOES have tides…camp well back of the beach area. Secondly, beach fires are not only illegal, they are hugely dangerous on most beaches on the west side.

Ke-awa-iki Beach (park off Highway 19 just north of Mile 79; walk along gravel road towards the ocean to a fence and foot trail; about 15 minutes to beach): A little walking over a lava road and a’a rewards you with a beautiful beach many locals don’t know about. This tiny black-sand beach has good snorkeling on the south side, where there is still a pocket of white sand. This unique black and white sand beach was created after the 1859 eruption of Mauna Loa, when lava reached the north end of the beach, where the black sand is today. Further south along the beach, the recent black sand has not had time to thoroughly mix with the pre-existing white sand.

If one continues south there are numerous tide pools to explore.

Hiking north, one comes to Pueo Bay, where freshwater springs make the snorkeling interesting but weird, with large temperature and salinity gradients. If one takes the trail heading inland towards a conspicuous growth of hala trees, one comes to a pair of lovely golden pools. A golden algae gives these pools their distinctive color, but be sure not to damage the growth by walking on it. Finish the trek by hiking back across the a’a…approximately 4 miles, round trip.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Makalawena Beach on the Big Island is the epitome of Hawaiian white sand beaches...and it's always uncrowded: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Makalawena Beach (turn off Highway 19 south of Mile 90 at Kekahakai State Park; at the end of the road, take obvious trail north over lava field; the trail traverses rough lava and keawe breaks, so shoes are required): Makalawena is the finest swimming and snorkeling beach on the island and the most beautiful beach setting. This beach sports a series of coves, refreshing shade, big sand dunes and a nice freshwater pond to rinse-off in. A great backpacking getaway, a one-way through hike along the Ala Ali’i trail from Kekahakai State Park, past Makalawena to Kual Bay is a fabulous trip.  Do not forget your camera; this hike will be a major highlight of your trip to the Big Island.

The land fronting the beach is owned by Bishop Estate and is slated to be turned into a development of condos and resorts; vigilance and protest on the part of locals and visitors is the only way we can keep this last, wild Kona beach wild.

Pawai Bay (in Kailua Kona, drive to the end of the Old Airport County Beach Park; hike along the ocean to the first, obvious, sandy bay): Spectacular, secluded, secret; Pawai Bay is perhaps the most interesting snorkeling spot on the island. Walk along the sea cliffs and coves about 15-20 minutes north, to the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Camp at Pawai Bay. Remember, non-Hawaiians are restricted to travel along the tidal zone and only the edge of the shoreline…to venture even a few feet inland is trespassing. The ever-watchful security guards will remind you of this.  Repeatedly.

Pawai Bay hosts a choice sandy beach with a small channel leading to open ocean and exciting snorkeling. Many charter snorkel tours bring clients here, but you can visit free by making the short hike in. Submerged caverns, arches and caves are filled with fish and coral and pristine water. From the shore, this is not a snorkel adventure for rank beginners.

Swim through the sandy bay to the channel and out to the cliffs. Be wary of surginess and don’t go in when the surf is big. Once in the larger bay, look back toward shore where numerous small channels lead shoreward but dead-end in cliffs; your passage back is the only channel through which you can see sand at the end. Remember this when trying to get back into the little bay.

The bay itself lies on Queen Liliuokalani Trust lands. Non-native Hawai’ians are not allowed on the land or to use the facilities. State beach access laws allow you to visit as long as you stay immediately along the shoreline; the beach is patrolled 24/7.

Kealakekua Bay from the Captain Cook Monument. Simply the finest snorkeling.  Ever.  Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kealakekua Bay from the Captain Cook Monument. Simply the finest snorkeling. Ever. Photo by Donald MacGowan

Captain Cook Monument (The trail leaves the Napo’opo’o Road right at telephone pole number 4, just 500 feet below where it drops off Highway 11; parking is tight, but safe): This hike is a fine walk through tall grass, open lava fields and dryland forest, opening onto one of the most pristine ocean beaches in the world. Hiking down to the Monument is great fun—the return is hot, thirsty and strenuous but rewards you with panoramic views of the coast. The 2.5-mile hike takes about an hour down, somewhat more to return. The trail runs straight down the left side of a rock wall toward the sea. As the pitch straightens out, keep to the left at the fork and proceed to the beach through the abandoned village. You strike shore several hundred feet northwest of the monument—remember to bear right at the trail junction when returning, or you face a long and unpleasant time wandering the a’a fields.

Snorkeling at the monument is wild and scenic, from shallow tidepools north of the wharf to the steep drop-off under the cliffs. There is a concrete marker in the tidal zone denoting the exact spot Cook fell somewhat north of the actual monument.

Honomalino Beach (turn off Highway 11 just south of mile marker 89, drive through Miloli’i; start hiking between the county park and a yellow church. Keep along the right at forks in the trail, in and out of the surf line, to avoid private property): A true gem of West Hawai’i and rarely crowded, Honomalino Bay is reached by a 20 minute hike from the south end of Miloli’i Beach County Park. Snorkeling is very interesting on the north side in the rocks, when the surf is low. The water, though very clear, is sometimes quite cold due to spring discharge in the sand on the beach.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach at South point on the Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach (Turn off Highway 11 to South Point, follow signs to Mahana Boat Launch. Park just above the boat ramp for the 2 1/4 mile hike to the Green Sand Beach): Absolutely unique to Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the green sand. The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these. The sand grains here are olivine crystals, washed out of a cinder cone that has been partially breached by the sea.

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. At the start, there is a tricky spot edging over a 3-foot ledge, but below this the trail is wide and clear One can also easily scramble down middle 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.

The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the protected cove makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot but be wary of currents. Do not go out far, nor in at all in high surf or strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.

A video covering many of these topics is available here.

For more information about visiting and touring Hawaii in general, and exploring the fabulous snorkeling on the Big Island in particular, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. For information about the author, go here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

By Donnie MacGowan

Coming to my island for a vacation? There are three things I always recommend the first-time visitor do. First, go on an air tour. Secondly–go to a luau. Finally, I advise people of every age to get in the water and go snorkeling. The “one-one-one, experiencing the world through the fishes’ eyes” magic of swimming in those bath-warm lagoons surrounded by clouds of tropical fish is an amazing, restful and restorative pursuit-you will find your mind going back to that experience over and over through the years much more so than many of your other travel experiences. Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series discusses Snorkeling Technique and Part III covers Snorkeling Etiquette; Part IV of the series covers Snorkeling Safety and Part V discusses Big Island Snorkel Spots and Part VI discusses Wilderness Snorkeling on the Big Island.

Let’s Chat About Snorkeling, Part V: Hawaii’s Best Snorkeling Beaches

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Liz Maus Snorkeling at Honaunau: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaii’s varied landscape and dynamic shoreline provides for an amazing array of snorkeling experiences, from broad, sandy beaches with placid and inviting turquoise water to broken glass-sharp cliffs where the swimmer leaps into surgey dark water. Everywhere I’ve snorkeled on Hawaii, from lazily paddling in calm waters at Kahalu’u to rappelling into the wild surf and open ocean currents at Pau’ekolu, the snorkeling is wonderful, beautiful, exhilarating. But many of the best places to snorkel are difficult or scary for the beginning snorkeler, some could be lethal. Here’s a list of the crown jewel snorkeling spots that are easy for the beginner, tantalizingly fascinating for the experienced.

Westside Beaches:

Hapuna Beach (turn off Highway 19 at mile marker 69): Always rated in the Top 10 of American beaches, Hapuna Beach is long, wide and phenomenally sandy. The center of the beach is tailor-made for wave play and boogie boarding, the north and south coves are quieter, better for snorkeling or gentle floating. Although most of the shore is relatively free of currents, only experienced snorkelers who are strong swimmers will want to snorkel around the south end of Hapuna, past a sea arch and to the reef and cove of Beach 69—a long, but rewarding swim with some of the most incredible underwater vistas available to the snorkeler in the word.

Anaeho’omalu Beach (turn off Highway 19 at mile marker 76): 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. Although the water tends toward being cloudy, this is an excellent beach for beginning snorkelers.

Kekahakai State Park, Kua Bay (turn off Highway 19, between mile markers 88 and 89): Kua Bay has a lovely white sand beach and full facilities although there is no shade to speak of. Swimming and boogie boarding in the crystalline waters is primo, though strong currents and large waves call for respect, here; if the surf is up, don’t go in. Also, sometime in winter, the surf removes the sand to offshore, leaving a rocky shelf that is less fun to frolic on than the sandy beach.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Bart Hunt Snorkeling at Kahalu'u Bay: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kahalu’u Beach (in Kailua Kona, along Ali’i Drive, between mile markers 4.5 and 5): This is the premiere snorkeling beach of the Island of Hawai’i; protected from the open sea by a jetty, the reef is also protected against commercial aquarium fishing. Thus, the snorkeling is in calm, shallow water. Also, there is an abundance of fish of an enormous variety…perhaps the best display on the island. Numerous freshwater springs and shallow water bathers make the near-shore snorkeling unpleasantly cloudy, but about 50 feet offshore the water turns crystal clear and the display of coral is nothing short of amazing. There is a fair current north out of the bay and along the coast. Incredible archeological sites abound in this area and make a fine after-snorkel exploration on foot; ask for details at the concierge desk at the adjacent Keauhou Beach Resort.

Two-Step Beach (adjacent to Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park on Highway 160): Some of the finest, protected snorkeling on the Island is located at Two-Step Beach. A wonderland of turtles, coral and fish, with frequent morning visits by dolphins, this snorkeling experience shouldn’t be missed. No swimming is allowed within the Park out of respect for its sacredness; however, Two-Step Beach offers a convenient place to enter Honaunau bay. One can enter the bay either by the boat ramp, or by stepping off the short cliff into the water from near the center edge of the lava beach, where two ledges serve as steps down into the ocean. Getting in is a simple matter of stepping down these steps, “1-2-OCEAN!”–to get out, reverse the process.

Ho’okena Beach (turn off Highway 11 near mile marker 102): Brilliant snorkeling, decent boogie boarding, passable shell collecting and wonderful camping—it’s a wonder the large and warm stretch of sand at Ho’okena Beach is not more popular with visitors. Frequented by dolphin, stuffed full of pelagic and reef fish and turtles and boasting crystal clear, warm and calm waters, Ho’okena is a must-visit beach for avid snorkelers.

Southside Beaches:

Punalu’u Beach (turn off Highway 11 between mile markers 55 and 56): A truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing, Punalu’u’s black sand-lined coves and beaches are world-renowned. With dozens of endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles and superabundant abundant fish, this is a truly snorkeling experience–made unique because of the black sand bottom of the bay. 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. There are abundant Hawaiian cultural sites in the park that are worth visiting.

Photo by Bradford T. MacGowan

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Basks in the Sun at Punalu'u Beach: Photo by Bradford T. MacGowan

Kehena Beach (on Highway 137 near mile marker 19): A quick scramble down the bank on a dirt path quickly brings you to the Kehena Black Sand Beach. Once on the beach the first thing that may strike you is that many of the locals who frequent this park have forgotten to put on proper beach attire…or any other attire whatsoever, for that matter. In the shade of palms and ironwood this wonderful beach is generally sunny even when the rest of Puna is rainy. Swimming here is great near-shore, but ocean currents are strong and dangerous not far from shore. The locals are friendly but frisky, so don’t leave valuables in your car.

Pohoiki Bay at Isaac Hale Beach Park (on Highway 137 between mile markers 11 and 12): A lovely black sand beach with an expert surf break, Isaac Hale Beach Park is one of the very few real beaches and boat ramps in Puna District; as such this park sees a lot of traffic. It is also the site of the best surfing and some of the wildest snorkeling and scuba diving in Puna.

A short path along the shoreline leads from the parking lot, past a house with abundant “No Trespassing” signs, just a few minutes stroll then turns about 20 yards into the jungle to a secluded, perfectly lovely, natural hot spring that is wonderful for soaking. Locals usually don’t bother with swimwear here; you shouldn’t feel required to, either.

Kapoho Tidepools (turn off Highway 137 and head east on Kapoho-Kai Road, left on Kaheka and right on Waiopae): Stuffed with abundant sea life, this sprawling basin of lava tidal pools is a remarkable treasure for snorkelers of all abilities from the starkly frightened to the seasoned veteran. Moorish idols, yellow tangs, various wrasses and eels, sea urchins and sea cucumbers abound and there are even some nice corals in the deeper pools. The largest pool is called “Wai Opae”, which means “fresh water shrimp”.

Keeping to the left of the main channel keeps one away from most of the ocean currents, which can be surprisingly strong, even in small channels, where ponds empty into the ocean. No real facilities exist here beyond the parking lot, so come prepared.

Eastside Beaches:

Richardson Beach Park (Take Kalaniana’ole Street 3.6 miles east from the intersection of Highways 19 and 11 in Hilo): The almost universal experience of visitors to Hawai’i is that, although it is certainly beautiful and unique, no matter what pre-conceptions a traveler may bring about Hawai’i, their experience is a bit different to what they expected. Richardson Beach Park, with its towering palms, fresh water pools, delightful surf, secluded and calm tidepools and general ambience of tropical paradise, is almost certainly very close to what most visitors expect from Hawai’i—hence it popularity. The snorkeling here along the small black sand beach is the best of the Hilo area.

Frequented by dolphins and sea turtles, the near-shore water is a little cold when getting in, due to fresh water springs, but soon warms-up a few dozen yards from shore. The currents and surf can occasionally be tricky here, so heads-up, pay attention to advice from the lifeguards.

Be sure to watch for Part VI which talks about snorkeling the wilderness beaches of the Island of Hawaii.

A short video discussing many of these topics can be found here.

For more information about visiting and touring Hawaii in general, and exploring the fabulous snorkeling on the Big Island in particular, visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. For information about the author, go here.

All media copoyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Big sharks are different. They may approach you.

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

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

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

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

A short video on this topic is available here.

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

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan


By Donald B. MacGowan

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Donnie MacGowan Snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Coming to my island for a vacation? There are three things I always recommend the first-time visitor do. First, get in the air. Secondly–go to a luau. Finally, I advise people of every age to get in the water and go snorkeling. The “one-one-one, experiencing the world through the fishes’ eyes” magic of swimming in those bath-warm lagoons surrounded by clouds of tropical fish is an amazing, restful and restorative pursuit-you will find your mind going back to that experience over and over through the years much more so than many of your other travel experiences.

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

Part II: Let’s talk about technique: how are we going to do this?

First off, let’s talk about timing—when is it best to snorkel?  Sharks are night hunters and will be cruising the shallows shortly after dawn and just before dusk—so, for safety sake, don’t get into the water before about 8 am or after about 4 pm.  Next is comfort…chilly mornings and afternoons, when the sun is low on the horizon, make for chilly snorkeling.  About 8:30 or 9 in the morning is as early as I like to get wet for recreation…surfing, of course, demands more of a sacrifice to comfort, but for snorkeling, there is no reason to push the early hours.  Next, the colors are more saturated and details more pronounced with the sun strikes the water at an angle.  By about noon or 1, when the sun is directly overhead, the scenery begins to wash-out.  Additionally, starting about 11:30 or so, the daily breezes kick-up, making small, near-shore waves which get the fine grained silt stirred into the water, producing a murky view which persists until night time.  All in all, from every perspectives, the most ideal time for snorkeling is between about 9 am and noon.  Bear this in mind especially if you are hiking or kayaking to your snorkel destination, or are paying for a “snorkel tour”.  You will find that, relaxing as it is, 2 or 3 hours of snorkeling is more than sufficient to tire you and get you a little hypothermic.  Be sure to go in and rest on the beach BEFORE you get tired, BEFORE you get cold.

Now, before getting into the water, where is your partner? Never snorkel alone; never get more than 20 feet from your partner. Memorize the color of your partner’s mask and snorkel…this is how you will recognize him from a distance in the water. Be sure you and your partner are clear on where your exit point will be relative to your entry point, what part of the bay you intend to explore and how long you plan to be out.

Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Bart Hunt Filming Fish at Kahalu'u Beach: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Also before getting wet, you should make sure your mask is clean and that you have applied some form of defogger to it, either the commercially available solution (DO NOT get this stuff in your eyes!) or by simply rubbing some spit over the insides of the lenses. To clean and fog proof the mask lens, some people like to rub a wee bit of tooth paste on the glass…personally, I do not like to introduce the soapiness to the reef environment.  Now, pull the mask on your head, leaving it perched up on your hair as you enter the water. You should enter the water on a sandy patch of beach that does not drop off too steeply and is not in an area attacked by large waves.

Do not put your fins on before you are in the water. After wading out until the water is between knee and waist deep, face the incoming waves, sit down (this will also help you adjust to the temperature of the water–sometimes a bit of a shock but soon you get used to it) and pull your fins on.  Remember: never turn your back on the ocean.

From this position, duck your head under and get your hair and face wet (to help the mask seal). Now stand up and pull the mask down, arranging hair, strap and snorkel mouthpiece to maximize the seal integrity and personal comfort. This may take some adjusting to get all the hair out from under the seal, to get the snorkel mouthpiece in the right position and get comfortable. Don’t worry if there is a little fog on the mask at this point.  Be sure the strap from the mask rises up over the ball of your head, not over your ears.

There is a natural tendency for the novice to want to make the mask strap as tight as possible–thinking they are sealing out the water.  Counter-intuitively, tightening the mask strap actually makes the seal pucker and causes leaks.  The strap should hold the mask securely enough on your face so it doesn’t slip, slide or wobble, but should not be the least bit tight—water pressure against the lens will activate the seal once your face is in the water.

When the mask is sealed and you feel ready, bend at the knees, stretch arms forward and lean forward slowly until you are floating. Kick rhythmically, steadily, but at a pace you can keep up for some time. See? IT’S FUN! Oh, wait–don’t forget to breath! Seriously, some people may feel a little claustrophobia at first with the mask and snorkel, and in chilly water it’s natural to have short, gaspy breathing by instinct. Relax, concentrate on taking slow, even breaths. Snorkeling is relaxing, to be sure, but you have to be relaxed to snorkel. Breathe. Smoothly, rhythmically. Breathe.

Many people find they breathe and move more efficiently with their hands clasped behind their backs. Use your hands in sweeping motions to turn, or back up or fend-off too-near snorkelers, then clasp them back behind you again for cruising. Again, breathe. Smoothly, rhythmically.

If at any point you feel uncomfortable, simply stop, tread water (or stand up in the shallows), and put your mask up on top of your head. Look around you. See? It’s easy! But never, ever remove your mask all the way while in the water–you could drop it or it could be taken by a wave and then you’d be having significantly less fun, really quickly. If there is fog in your mask, pull your mask away from your face just a fraction of an inch and just for a moment while under water to allow just a little bit of water in. Pull your head out of the water, allow the water in the mask to rinse away the fog, then tilt the mask away from your face just a moment again to drain the water out. Practice this in a place you feel comfortable. When you get good, you can do this without even stopping–this technique also allows you to clear your mask of leakage (and all masks leak a little) while on the go.

What’s that gurgling noise? Occasionally, especially if the surf is up or you are frequently diving beneath the surface, water gets trapped in the snorkel. You can purge the snorkel simply by exhaling strongly through it and blowing the water out the top, or more easily by lifting your head above water, spitting out the mouth piece and allowing it to dangle in the air and drain clear. Cake. Practice makes perfect.

Poke your head out of the water frequently to check that your partner is within 20 feet of you and to keep yourself oriented relative to your entry and exit places. Stay alert–it’s easy to loose track of time, get carried farther than you thought by a current you didn’t even notice, wander out of your comfort zone, lazily paddle away from your partner, accidentally stray into a dangerous zone. So stay focused, stay oriented, always know where you are, where your partner is.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Amanda Maus Snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Gosh, what’s that down there on the bottom? Diving is what snorkeling is all about. Do not expect to go deeply; do not expect to stay down long; err on the side of safety, be conservative in your actions. The ocean is composed of stacked layers of water, frequently of surprisingly different temperatures and salinities, sometimes distressingly moving in different directions. It is entirely possible to be swimming in quiet water, dive a half dozen feet under the surface and find yourself caught by a current you didn’t even know existed…don’t fight it, but turn and kick to the surface immediately so you can evaluate this new wrinkle while catching your breath.

To dive efficiently, start off by floating flat, face down, on the water. Fill your lungs and empty them completely a few times to charge your blood with oxygen. One more big breath in, then let half out (a lung-full of air will make you floaty and keep you from diving very deeply); with your arms forward, pointing down at your target, bend at the waist, kick once for forward momentum, then lift your feet in the air, allowing the weight of your legs to push you under. Keep kicking as you submerge. Do not over estimate the depth you can dive or the time you can spend down. Learn your limits slowly and safely. Uncomfortable? Turn quickly and kick to the surface, breathe, rest, try it again.

Water pressure on the eardrums will make your ears ache in just a few feet of water; to alleviate the pain and adjust the pressure in your head, as you dive pinch your nose, close your mouth and “blow” to pop your ears. If pain, discomfort, dizziness or other distress continues, turn and kick to the top. Stay there for the duration of your swim.

Novices should NEVER enter caves or explore under overhangs.  No, I don’t care, don’t do it.  Be extremely careful when swimming near rock formations, pinnacles, spires or reefs…snagging your swimsuit on the rocks or coral while underwater can quickly evolve from a minor irritation to a life threatening emergency.

Where are all the fish? The water near shore may be murky from fresh-water springs, lots of people wading or surf action; swim out a little until the water gets crystal clear…that’s better. Although you will likely see large swarms of fish swimming about all over the bay, remember they live along the rocks and coral and not over sand, so that’s where the most interesting stuff is. Check out cliffs, ledges, pockets and boulders. Look closer. You can get a cheap, disposable underwater camera for less than ten bucks at WalMart–it may be the best $10 you spend on your whole trip. Get two. Don’t forget to take pictures of each other, too.

Before you get tired, before you feel your back getting sunburned, before you shoot the last picture, before the wind comes up or the surf builds, it’s time to get out. Don’t push it, the ocean plays for keeps and it never gets tired.  Remember your plan; where’s your sandy exit point?  Make sure your partner is with you. Swim together toward your exit point; keep swimming until you are in about the same depth of water where you put your fins on–it’s easiest to stand up from a floating position in about navel-deep water rather than deeper or more shallow.  Take off your fins, push your mask up on top of your head and walk in at your exit point. Make sure your partner is with you, again. Keep your eye on the ocean as you walk out onto the beach; never, ever turn your back on the ocean.

Wasn’t snorkeling amazing? Wait’ll you see those pictures!

After getting out, trust me, you are going to want to rinse yourself off–the ocean salt is really irritating to your skin as you dry off. You also need to thoroughly rinse your gear–the salt attacks and destroys the rubber and plastic. If there are not showers or any way to rinse off where you are snorkeling, you should bring a jug of water (about one gallon per person for body, hair and gear will do it) to do this. No, no, you really, really will want to rinse off after, I promise. After rinsing, apply sunscreen immediately.  No, right now!

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Humuele'ele at Honomalino Bay, Big Island, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Part III of this series will discuss snorkeling etiquette; Part IV will discuss snorkeling safety, Part IV will discuss the best places on the Big Island to go snorkeling and Part VI will discuss wilderness snorkeling.

To see a video covering many of these topics, go here.  For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, and beach activities on the Big Island in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. For information about the author, go here.

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

By Donnie MacGowan

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mask, Fins and Snorkel: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Coming to my island for a vacation? There are three things I always recommend the first-time visitor do. First, get in the air–seeing my island from the air is the only way to appreciate its vastness and diversity of landscapes-and it’s the best way to see the erupting volcano.

Secondly-go to a luau–for people with limited time, you will not be able to discover much about the magic of the local lifestyle, and although canned and packaged for visitor consumption, a luau is a good place to get an introduction to it.

Finally, I advise people of every age to get in the water and go snorkeling. The “one-one-one, experiencing the world through the fishes’ eyes” magic of swimming in those bath-warm lagoons surrounded by clouds of tropical fish is an amazing, restful and restorative pursuit-you will find your mind going back to that experience over and over through the years much more so than many of your other travel experiences. There are some things to bear in mind about snorkeling, however, so let’s take a moment to talk about gear (covered here, in Part I), technique (covered in our next post, Part II), reef etiquette and the animals which inhabit the coral reefs (which will be in Part III), safety (Part IV) and snorkeling wilderness beaches (Part VI).

First some advice about snorkeling gear:

Bringing vs. Renting vs. Buying: Bringing your personal snorkeling gear from home insures that you are familiar with the gear and you know that it fits…but it’s a hassle in your luggage. In this day and age of paying for extra baggage, it may be better to simply rent. Renting gear once you get to your destination is cheaper than buying it there and you don’t have to make room in your luggage to lug it home. If you do decide to buy, remember stores like COSTCO and WalMart sell great gear at low prices–you do not need to drop a fortune on snorkeling gear at a dive shop or specialty shop to get perfectly serviceable, safe and comfortable gear at affordable prices.

Fit: The mask should fit snugly over the face; you should be able to hold it onto your face with suction simply by taking in a quick breath through your nose. The strap should be snug enough to hold the mask in place against face but it should not be tight–if it is too tight, it’ll make wrinkles in the seal, letting water in. Simple water pressure against the outside of the mask seals it. If you wear glasses, either use contacts while snorkeling or get a mask that has vision-corrected mask lenses (which is more expensive, but almost universally available); it’s almost never possible to seal a mask around your glasses. The strap should pass up around the “ball” of your head, not over the ears…make sure the strap is easily adjustable and spend sometime getting the fit right–it’ll make you lots more comfortable and safe in the water.

Fins should fit snugly like shoes, but you should able to pull them on and off without a struggle. If they are too loose, you’ll either lose them or get blisters; if they are too tight, you’ll get cramps AND blisters. With fins you need to make a choice. Shoe-style fins are easiest for the novice to use, but if you have to enter the water over rocks, your feet may get abused as you wade out barefoot–it is unsafe to cross the beach or rocks wearing your fins; wait until you are in the water. Strap-style fins allow you to wear reef-walker shoes with the fins, which makes rocky entries easier. If you choose this option, make sure the fins fit over your feet with the reef shoes on.

Snorkels come in a confusing array of styles and an astounding range of prices. Although some have space-age design features, a decent snorkel with a comfortable mouthpiece and a simple splash guard is all that’s required. I personally prefer models with a flexible tube with a drain/purge valve connecting the mouth piece to the snorkel.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Laurie Maus Using a Boogie Board as a Floatie: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Floaties: Many beginners, and even experienced ocean explorers in surgey or high surf conditions, appreciate having a floatation device. Standard life-jacket styles are not recommended because they are designed to keep your head above the water while the whole point of snorkeling is to keep your head under the water. There are specially designed snorkeling vests and belts which work quite well, but are waaay spendy. Boogie boards are a nice alternative; they have a wrist leash so you won’t get separated from it and provide a floating platform to rest on, making your forays out over the reef longer and more enjoyable. Safer, too. Another, much less expensive, alternative is the foam “noodle” available in the toy department of all WallMarts and stores like that. I like to attach a boogie-board wrist leash to mine to keep it from floating away when I dive down. A large noodle will support even a full grown man upright in the water when ridden “horsey-style”.

All the gear you drag with you needs to be carried in something and by far the best way is in a nylon mesh bag; rental gear will come in one and you can buy them inexpensively where you buy your mask and fins. Since you must rinse your gear off with fresh water immediately after you climb out of the ocean, this allows the gear to “breathe” as it dries, obviating the annoying growth of mildew.

For after your swim, a large, thirsty towel is also a nice beach accoutrement, but do not use it to lie on the sand with. Buy a cheap rice mat instead (again, at WalMart or such)–it won’t collect sand, it’s cooler on the skin, smells nice and it means your towel will be clean and sand-free when you use it to dry-off. Don’t forget to bring drinking water…lots and lots of drinking water. Immersion in salt water is dehydrating by itself and just swimming around you’ve worked harder–and sweated more–than you realize. Wear a t-shirt when in the water to protect from the sun–suncream kills the corals so don’t put it on and then get in the water. Rinse yourself and your gear with fresh water immediately after you get out of the ocean and remember to apply sunscreen at this point and to wear your sunglasses. Sun screen and sunglasses, necessary to combat the deceptively severe tropical sun, are so important that I’ve written a separate articles about sun burn and sunscreen in Hawaii and what sunglasses you should bring to Hawaii. Too many visitors drastically underestimate the strength and ferocity of our sun and wind-up with vacation-ruining sunburns.

Don’t overestimate your skin’s tolerance for beach sun. For instance, now might be a good time to go inside and cool off, you know?

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Liz Maus Snorkeling at Hounaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, and beach activities on the Big Island in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com; for a video presentation covering much of this information, go here. For information on the author, go here.

Liz Maus Snorkeling in West Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Liz Maus Snorkeling in West Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Internationally famous snorkel bums and renowned Fun Hogs Donnie MacGowan and Bart Hunt say a few choice words about getting into the electrifying, high stakes world of Extreme Snorkeling.

For more information on how to snorkel, snorkeling gear, safety, reef etiquette, Big Island snorkel spots and wilderness snorkeling in Hawaii, check out these informative and fun articles by eZines Expert Author Donald B. MacGowan here, here, here, here, here and here.

Featuring Donnie MacGowan and Bart Hunt; Videography by Bart Hunt and Donnie MacGowan, Original Musical Score written, performed and recorded by Donnie MacGowan; Produced by Donnie MacGowan.
For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, please visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series covers Snorkeling Technique; Part III covers Snorkeling Etiquette; Part IV discusses Snorkeling Safety and Part V covers Big Island Snorkel Spots.

Waialea Beach in Kohala is the gateway to many small, secluded secret beaches on the Big Island...but why go any farther than this?  It's perfect! Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waialea Beach in Kohala is the gateway to many small, secluded secret beaches on the Big Island...but why go any farther than this? It's perfect! Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Of all the Hawaiian Islands, because it is the youngest, the Big Island has the fewest and smallest beaches…this leads to crowding during the height of tourist season at some beaches. Because Hawaii is still rural, there are still some wilderness (hike-to-only) beaches; a few of them are among the best on the island.

Many wild beaches may be camped upon but you must apply for a permit from the appropriate agency. Overnight camping on Hawaii beaches is simplified because of the mild climate–usually I take a few quarts of water, a couple sandwiches, my camera, dry clothes for post-snorkeling comfort, a fleece blanket and rice mat to sleep on (a beach towel will suffice) and a small tarp on the off-chance it rains. The key here is that if the weather turns truly ugly, you are rarely more than an hour from your car. You may wish to bring a few extra quarts of water to rinse the salt off after swimming—it’s difficult to sleep comfortably with salty skin.

Two things to bear in mind—although is sometimes doesn’t seem it, Hawaii DOES have tides…camp well back of the beach area. Secondly, beach fires are not only illegal, they are hugely dangerous on most beaches on the west side.

Ke-awa-iki Beach (park off Highway 19 just north of Mile 79; walk along gravel road towards the ocean to a fence and foot trail; about 15 minutes to beach): A little walking over a lava road and a’a rewards you with a beautiful beach many locals don’t know about. This tiny black-sand beach has good snorkeling on the south side, where there is still a pocket of white sand. This unique black and white sand beach was created after the 1859 eruption of Mauna Loa, when lava reached the north end of the beach, where the black sand is today. Further south along the beach, the recent black sand has not had time to thoroughly mix with the pre-existing white sand.

If one continues south there are numerous tide pools to explore.

Hiking north, one comes to Pueo Bay, where freshwater springs make the snorkeling interesting but weird, with large temperature and salinity gradients. If one takes the trail heading inland towards a conspicuous growth of hala trees, one comes to a pair of lovely golden pools. A golden algae gives these pools their distinctive color, but be sure not to damage the growth by walking on it. Finish the trek by hiking back across the a’a…approximately 4 miles, round trip.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Makalawena Beach on the Big Island is the epitome of Hawaiian white sand beaches...and it's always uncrowded: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Makalawena Beach (turn off Highway 19 south of Mile 90 at Kekahakai State Park; at the end of the road, take obvious trail north over lava field; the trail traverses rough lava and keawe breaks, so shoes are required): Makalawena is the finest swimming and snorkeling beach on the island and the most beautiful beach setting. This beach sports a series of coves, refreshing shade, big sand dunes and a nice freshwater pond to rinse-off in. A great backpacking getaway, do not forget your camera; this hike will be a major highlight of your trip to the Big Island.

The land fronting the beach is owned by Bishop Estate and is slated to be turned into a development of condos and resorts; vigilance and protest on the part of locals and visitors is the only way we can keep this last, wild Kona beach wild.

Pawai Bay (in Kailua Kona, drive to the end of the Old Airport County Beach Park; hike along the ocean to the first, obvious, sandy bay): Spectacular, secluded, secret; Pawai Bay is perhaps the most interesting snorkeling spot on the island. Walk along the sea cliffs and coves about 15-20 minutes north, to the Queen Lilioukalani Children’s Camp at Pawai Bay. Remember, non-Hawaiians are restricted to travel along the tidal zone and only the edge of the shoreline…to venture even a few feet inland is trespassing.

Pawai Bay hosts a choice sandy beach with a small channel leading to open ocean and exciting snorkeling. Many charter snorkel tours bring clients here, but you can visit free. Submerged caverns, arches and caves are filled with fish and coral and pristine water. From the shore, this is not a snorkel adventure for rank beginners.

Swim through the sandy bay to the channel and out to the cliffs. Be wary of surginess and don’t go in when the surf is big. Once in the larger bay, look back toward shore where numerous small channels lead shoreward but dead-end in cliffs; your passage back is the only channel through which you can see sand at the end.

The bay itself lies on Queen Lilioukalani Trust lands. Non-native Hawai’ians are not allowed on the land or to use the facilities. State beach access laws allow you to visit as long as you stay immediately along the shoreline; the beach is patrolled 24/7.

Kealakekua Bay from the Captain Cook Monument. Simply the finest snorkeling.  Ever.  Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kealakekua Bay from the Captain Cook Monument. Simply the finest snorkeling. Ever. Photo by Donald MacGowan

Captain Cook Monument (The trail leaves the Napo’opo’o Road right at telephone pole number 4, just 500 feet below where it drops off Highway 11; parking is tight, but safe): This hike is a fine walk through tall grass, open lava fields and dryland forest, opening onto one of the most pristine ocean beaches in the world. Hiking down to the Monument is great fun—the return is hot, thirsty and strenuous but rewards with panoramic views of the coast. The 2.5-mile hike takes about an hour down, somewhat more to return. The trail runs straight down the left side of a rock wall toward the sea. As the pitch straightens out, keep to the left at the fork and proceed to the beach through the abandoned village. You strike shore several hundred feet northwest of the monument—remember to bear right at the trail junction when returning, or you face a long and unpleasant time wandering the a’a fields.

Snorkeling at the monument is wild and scenic, from shallow tidepools north of the wharf to the steep drop-off under the cliffs. There is a concrete marker in the tidal zone denoting the exact spot Cook fell somewhat north of the actual monument.

Honomalino Beach (turn off Highway 11 just south of mile marker 89, drive through Miloli’i; start hiking between the county park and a yellow church. Keep along the right at forks in the trail, in and out of the surf line, to avoid private property): A true gem of West Hawai’i and rarely crowded, Honomalino Bay is reached by a 20 minute hike from the south end of Miloli’i Beach County Park. Snorkeling is very interesting on the north side in the rocks, when the surf is low. The water, though very clear, is sometimes quite cold due to spring discharge in the sand on the beach.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach at South point on the Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach (Turn off Highway 11 to South Point, follow signs to Mahana Boat Launch. Park just above the boat ramp for the 2 1/4 mile hike to the Green Sand Beach): Absolutely unique to Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the green sand. The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these. The sand grains here are olivine crystals, washed out of a cinder cone that has been partially breached by the sea.

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. At the start, there is a tricky spot edging over a 3-foot ledge, but below this the trail is wide and clear One can also easily scramble down middle 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.

The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the protected cove makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot but be wary of currents. Do not go out far, nor in at all in high surf or strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.

For more information about visiting and touring Hawaii in general, and exploring the fabulous snorkeling on the Big Island in particular, visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com. For information about the author, go here.

By Donnie MacGowan

Coming to my island for a vacation? There are three things I always recommend the first-time visitor do. First, go on an air tour. Secondly–go to a luau. Finally, I advise people of every age to get in the water and go snorkeling. The “one-one-one, experiencing the world through the fishes’ eyes” magic of swimming in those bath-warm lagoons surrounded by clouds of tropical fish is an amazing, restful and restorative pursuit-you will find your mind going back to that experience over and over through the years much more so than many of your other travel experiences. Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series will discuss Snorkeling Technique and Part III will cover Snorkeling Etiquette; Part IV of the series covers Snorkeling Safety and Part V will cover Big Island Snorkel Spots.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Bradford MacGowan Snorkeling at Pu'u Honua O Hounaunau: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Finally, let’s talk a minute about snorkeling safety.

First and foremost, as with all ocean sports, never turn your back on the ocean. Just as important, never snorkel alone; never get more than 20 feet from your partner. Memorize the color of your partner’s mask and snorkel…this is how you will recognize him from a distance in the water. Listen to advice from the lifeguards, obey posted warnings, always pay attention to the currents, surf conditions and surges over rocks. Plan your entry and exit before you get wet; try to enter and exit from sandy areas. You and your partner should agree on a plan about where you are getting in and getting out of the water, what part of the bay you are going to explore and how long you plan to be out. Don’t overestimate your abilities, plan conservatively, err on the side of safety. Don’t change this plan, once you are in the water, except to make it shorter and more safe.

Don’t confront incoming waves head-on, don’t try to jump over them and don’t turn your back on them; duck under incoming waves before they reach you.

Never snorkel on windy days. Offshore winds may take you unexpectedly our to sea or make it hard to swim back in and onshore breezes stack extra water, high on the beach making nasty rip-currents as it flows back into the ocean. Onshore breezes also bring in jelly fish and man-o-war.

If you are caught in a current, don’t panic; don’t swim against the current but rather swim diagonally across it toward shore. Keep going, you’ll make it.

Poke your head out of the water frequently to check that your partner is within 20 feet of you and to keep yourself oriented relative to your entry and exit places. Stay alert–it’s easy to loose track of time, get carried farther than you thought by a current you didn’t even notice, wander out of your comfort zone, lazily paddle away from your partner, accidentally stray into a dangerous zone. It’s easy to get overtired; get your partner and swim in BEFORE you feel fatigued, thirsty, sunburned; BEFORE the wind comes up or the surf builds. So stay focused, stay oriented, always know where you are, where your partner is.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lee Ann MacGruder Snorkels the shallows at Ho’okena Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sunscreen washing off your body pollutes the water and is a major factor in coral death–wear a t-shirt and baseball cap to avoid sunburn while in the water, waiting until you are out of the ocean and rinsed off to apply sunscreen. Sun screen and sunglasses, necessary to combat the deceptively severe tropical sun, are so important that I’ve written a separate articles about sun burn and sunscreen in Hawaii and what sunglasses you should bring to Hawaii. Too many visitors drastically underestimate the strength and ferocity of our sun and wind-up with vacation-ruining sunburns.

Many things in the ocean sting, most commonly sea urchins–avoid them, do not handle or step on them. White vinegar kills sea urchin stings from embedded spines and, regularly applied, helps to dissolve the spine. Other home remedies for sea urchin, jelly fish and other stings include the application of moistened tobacco, hydrogen peroxide or urine (this latter can be hard to self-administer and will quickly let you know who your real friends are). Like wasp stings, most stings from ocean creatures are not medically dangerous, merely a painful nuisance, but it’s best to be prepared with whatever remedy you choose in your beach kit. Some jellyfish stings and all man-o-war stings are potentially life-threatening and need to be treated at the emergency department of the nearest hospital.

This shouldn’t even need mentioning, but of course, if you’ve been drinking–even a little, you should not go snorkeling. Snorkeling is best done between about 9 a.m. and noon, anyway, so sobriety shouldn’t even be an issue. Oh, right; you’re on vacation–I forgot.

Don’t forget to drink lots of water…immersion in salt water is very dehydrating and just swimming around you’ve worked harder–and sweated more–than you realize. Be kind to your skin and rinse yourself and your gear with fresh water immediately after you get out of the ocean and remember to apply sunscreen and wear your sunglasses. Don’t overestimate your skin’s tolerance for beach sun; a nasty sunburn is distressingly easy to acquire and will absolutely ruin your vacation. Now might be a good time to go inside and cool off, rest a bit–you are on vacation, you know?

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Bradford MacGowan Photographs a school of Humuhumuele'ele at Kahalu'u Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

That’s a few of the technique, etiquette and safety tips you should bear in mind…remember to heed whatever advice the lifeguards give you–they are seasoned professionals who intimately know their beach; obey posted rules and be wary of riptides and currents. Most of all, spring for a cheap-o $10 disposable underwater camera, get in the water and enjoy…those fish won’t photograph themselves, you know!

For more information about visiting and touring Hawaii in general, and exploring the fabulous snorkeling on the Big Island in particular, visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com – a short video about snorkeling in Hawaii is available here. To see a funny video of my family learning to snorkel in Hawaii, go here. For information about the author, go here.

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

Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

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

Please do not feed the fish, it disrupts their natural feeding habits and you may be injured. Reef fish are territorial and do occasionally “nip” but you should not chase, harass or touch them (this includes octopi). The oils on your fingers will injure their skin and they may carry diseases which they can pass to you on your hands. For photographing reef fish, whether snorkeling or scuba diving, simply find a feeding spot (usually a boulder or dead coral head teeming with algae, and wait calmly and silently nearby. They will slowly begin to check you out and if you can remain still long enough, eventually surround you leading to excellent photos and a very memorable experience.

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

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

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

Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photograph by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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