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by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The Mauna Ulu A'a and Pahoehoe Lava Flows at Alanui Kahiko, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Pahoehoe flow at night on Kilauea, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo Courtesy of Big Island Air

Pahoehoe, A’a, Pele’s Tears and Pele’s Hair

It is obvious to even the most causal observer that various lava formations and lava fields of Hawaii display two distinctly different types of lava flows. Some flows are very smooth, with obvious, well-preserved flow structures, looking almost like poured taffy that has hardened. Others appear more clunky, clinkery and jagged like a field of sharp boulders and cobbles. These two unique rock types result from two distinctly different types of lava flows, Pahoehoe and A’a.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Pahoehoe lava flow, showing well-developed flow structures at La'epuki, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The onomatopoetic word “pahoehoe” flows across your tongue in the same fashion that pahoehoe lava flows down the volcano. Gelatinous and smooth, it looks a bit like small waves with bulbous, lobate “toes” at the front of the flow. As the advancing lobe cools, a thin crust forms on its surface. This crust is expanded and broken by the pressure of lava flowing in behind, in a continually advancing flow. A distinctive breaking-glass sound is made when that cooling crust fractures, which can be disorienting and surprising at first.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A flowing field of pahoehoe lava, note the intense orange glow just under the chilled surface, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Hawaiian word “pahoehoe” means “to paddle a canoe vigorously” or “well stirred” and indeed, pahoehoe lava has the look of water being furiously paddled by canoeists, or indeed, of well-stirred poi. These highly fluid pahoehoe flows form from the hottest lava with high dissolved fluid content. As the lava cools and de-gasses, the second kind of flow, a’a lava, is formed from it.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

An a'a lava flow, piled up on a pahoehoe flow in front of Pu'u Huluhulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A’a flows travel along as a dense mass of highly viscous lava covered in sharp, broken shards called clinkers. Like a tractor tread, a’a clinkers fall off the advancing front of the flow and are buried as the flow moves forward over them, sounding for all the world like a herd of wild bulls has run amok in the world’s largest china shop.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The Kuamo'o Battlefield, near Kailua Kona Hawaii is an example of a Hawaiian battle that was fought on an a'a flow. Note the large Hawaiian tombs made of a'a: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A’a lava, which cools to great piles of razor sharp clinkers, has given rise to the myth that its name derives from Hawaiian’s walking across the cooled a’a barefoot, wincing and saying “Ah! Ah!” with every cringing step. In fact, the word “a’a” in Hawaiian not only means “to blaze or glow” but also “to dare or challenge”. It is a testament to the toughness of Hawaiian warriors that when choosing the site for a battle field, inevitably they chose to fight on an a’a field—using the razor sharp a’a strewn along the landscape as a weapon in and of itself.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

An a'a lava flow engulfs pahoehoe lava flow at Alanui Kahiko, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Flows generally emerge from the volcano as pahoehoe and change to a’a as they cool and de-gas or as they are subjected to stress and strain forces. It is especially common to find pahoehoe flows changing to a’a in the midst of a steep drop over a cliff, or when butted-up against an impediment to flow. Like the cucumber becoming a pickle, once pahoehoe turns to a’a, in can never turn back into pahoehoe.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Littoral explosions cause lava to splatter out into the blowing wind where Pele's Tears and Pele's Hair can form, Waikupanaha, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Where fire fountains and geysers of lava occur, Pele’s hair and Pele’s tears will form. Pele’s hair are thin, fiber-like strands of basalt glass pulled and spun from the lava fountain by the blowing wind,. Pele’s tears are the droplet-sized, cooled splashes of basalt glass that from from showering, spraying lava.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Pele's Hair from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Pele's Tears from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.
All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.
New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Pahoehoe lava flowing on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, showing large-scale flow structures: Photo Courtesy of Big Island Air

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hikers pause to look over the summit from Mauna Loa from the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii Graphic From Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A view from the summit of Hualalai to Mauna Loa Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Volcanoes of Hawaii Island

The Hawaiian Archipelago, part of the Hawaiian Island-Emperor Seamount chain, is the most isolated island group earth and is comprised entirely of volcanic islands and their fringing reefs.  The archipelago was formed as one of the Earth’s great tectonic plates, the Pacific Plate, moved steadily northwest over a stationary plume of molten material welling up from the Earth’s mantle, called a “hot spot”.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Fumes bellow from skylights in an active lava tube on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Photo by Kelly Kuchman

Creating a chain of volcanic islands that, today, stretches from the Aleutian Islands to the Big Island of Hawaii, this hotspot gave rise to at least 129 separate volcanoes in the past 86 million years.  There are 19 islands and atolls, and dozens of separate islets, seamounts, reefs and shoals in the Hawaiian Island portion of this chain, stretching from Kure Atoll to Hawaii Island (please go here for a complete discussion of the geologic history of the Hawaiian Islands).

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Halema'uma'u Crater and Eruption on Kilauea, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’i is the youngest island in the Archipelago and first began forming about a million years ago as volcanic vents opened above the mantle “hot spot” on the ocean bottom and molten lava began pouring onto the sea floor. Over the centuries, the making of the Big Island as we know it today eventually entailed the growth and conjoining of six separate volcanoes, building all the way up from the seafloor, some 18,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.  These volcanoes, from northwest to southeast, are named Mahukona, Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, and become younger as one moves north to south.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava Flowing Into the Sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Mahukona Volcano, just off the Big Island’s northwest coast, was the first volcano to start forming. Now submerged beneath the surface of the ocean because it is sinking into the Earth’s crust under its own vast weight, Mahukona is no longer visible.  As the Pacific Plate slowly continued moving northwestward over the hotspot, the location of the rising magma moved relatively southeastward, and through time the rest of the Big Island volcanoes formed along that path.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kohala Mountain from the slopes of Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B MacGowan

After Mahukona, Kohala Volcano, the precursor to today’s Kohala Mountain, erupted next.  As Kohala Volcano emerged from the sea and joined with Mahukona, a much larger Big Island began forming. With continued movement of the Pacific Plate, the center of volcanism migrated on to Mauna Kea and Hualalai, the middle-aged volcanoes, and finally on to Mauna Loa and Kilauea, which are the youngest volcanoes on the island.  Over the geologically short time of several hundred thousand years, these volcanoes erupted thousands of thin flows which spread over, and built upon, older flows; each volcano growing until it finally emerged from the sea. As time went on, lava flows from one volcano began to overlap flows from other, nearby volcanoes and eventually the peaks coalesced into a single island, the Big Island.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava from Kilauea flows into the sea at La'epuki, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

In geologically recent times, a new volcano, Lo’ihi, began forming about 18 miles off the southeast coast of the Big Island.  In time, Loihi may join its mass with that of Kilauea, again changing the size and shape of the Big Island.  It is estimated that Lo’ihi, whose summit lies approximately 3,178 feet below the surface of the ocean today, will begin to protrude above the surface in about 10,000 years.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hualalai Volcano from Saddle Road, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Currently, the remnants of Mahukona and Kohala volcanoes are completely extinct; Hualalai and Mauna Kea are considered dormant and Mauna Loa, Kilauea and Loihi are still very active.   This means that eruptions of Mahukona and Kohala are not at all likely. Eruptions of Mauna Kea and Hualalai are probable at some time in the future, though the major phase of mountain building is over for these volcanoes.  Movement of the Pacific Plate has moved both Hualalai and Mauna Kea off the hot spot so only remnants of liquid magma reside beneath them. These late-stage, mature Hawaiian volcanoes experience violent, explosive eruptions which are spectacular but comparatively small, volume-wise.  Late-stage Hawaiian volcanic eruptions are characterized by crater-forming explosions, tephra-cone building and ash ejecting events.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mauna Loa from Bird Park in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Mauna Loa and Kilauea are both considered active volcanoes. Although inflation and dilation events are common on the summit of Mauna Loa, it has not erupted since 1984; Mauna Loa could, however, erupt at any time.  Since 1833 when accurate records began to be kept, there have been 33 eruptions of Mauna Loa, making it one of the most active volcanoes on earth.  Its name means “long mountain”, and Mauna Loa is capable of erupting huge amounts of lava in a very short time, dwarfing the current output of Kilauea.  The most massive mountain on earth, this prolific effusion of molten rock accounts for Mauna Loa’s vast bulk.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea eruption in Halema'uma'u Crater at night, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kilauea, once believed to be a mere satellite vent on Mauna Loa, is known to be a separate and distinct volcano with its own, geologically separate magma chamber and subterranean plumbing. Nearly half a million years old, Kilauea’s most recent eruption has been continuous since 1983 making it currently the world’s most active volcano. Indeed, between 1983 and 2009 about 700 acres of new land were produced by lava flows from Kilauea.  Articles on how to see the active lava flows on Kilauea can be found here and here. A detailed guide to enjoying Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, featuring Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes can be found here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea buried the town of Kalapana in the early 1990s and formed Kaimu Black, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Because the time-scale of human experience is virtually instantaneous compared to the aeons-long march of geologic history, there is continuing human drama, a tension, between short-sighted humans attempting to establish roads, villages and towns, and the ongoing geologic processes of the landscapes they choose to inhabit.  In very recent decades, the towns of Kapoho, Kalapana and Kaimu have been inundated, destroyed and buried by Kilauea Volcano (please see a related article on the death and rebirth of Kalapana, here).  As more people move to Hawaii, more such drama is inevitable.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mauna Loa floats above the fields of Kohala, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The evolution of Hawaiian volcanoes continues even after the major phase of eruptive activity subsides. There are great differences, obvious to even the most casual observer, between the elongated, fluted ridge-like shape of Kohala Mountain and the lower angled slopes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea.  Likewise, steep-sided Mauna Kea has a greatly different physical aspect than does gently-sloped, shield-shaped Mauna Loa.  These differences are accounted for by the differences in their relative ages, and thus eruptive and erosive stages.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The steeper, crater-poked slopes of Hualalai indicate it has moved on to the later stages of volcanism Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Remembering that the angle of repose of Hawaiian lava is about 6 degrees, the shield-shaped, gentle slopes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea reflect the fact that they are quite young and are still in the shield-building stage, being built-up by successive flows of highly fluid lava.  The much steeper flanks of Hualalai and Mauna Kea volcanoes are due to the late-stage, explosive eruptions, to erosion and to ashfall which piles up much more steeply than the flowing lava.  The fluted ridges of Kohala volcano result from the deep dissection of the once shield-shaped slopes of the original volcano by streams and surface flow of water.  The distinctive steep valleys and great cliffs seen on the north and east sides of Kohala Volcano result from later process of normal faulting and giant landslides (see further discussion in an article about Waipi’o Valley, here).

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Glacial cirques and moraines along the Mauna Kea summit ridge, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Another process, operative in the geologically recent past, has served to shape the slopes of the volcanoes of the Big Island, at least those which are or great height.  Glaciers covered the summit of Mauna Kea (and possibly Mauna Loa) three times between 200,000 and 13,000 years ago, leaving behind many glacial features such as cirques, u-shaped valleys and scoured bedrock; surviving into the present is a remnant rock glacier near the summit of Mauna Kea (a related article on the summit of Mauna Kea and the Hawaiian Snow Goddess, Poliahu, can be found here; details on exploring Mauna Kea can be found here).  Any evidence on Mauna Loa of ice-age glaciers has been covered by recent eruptions.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kohala Volcano is subsiding, cut by enormous valleys and giant cliff-forming landslides, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Simultaneously with the ongoing eruptions and island building, due to their enormous mass, the great volcanoes of the Hawaiian Chain begin to subside into the oceanic crust.  After the majority of eruptions cease, with cooling and with a great amount of time, they eventually disappear beneath the surface of the sea completely, as Mahukona Volcano already has.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Originally carved above sea level, these 500-year old petroglyphs at Keauhou today are awash due to subsidence of Hualalai Volcano: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Today, the Big Island of Hawai’i comprises more than twice the area of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined.  It’s size is not anomalous, however, considering the geologic history of the archipelago. All the other Hawaiian Islands experienced the same pattern of volcanic eruption, growth and coalescence, as well as the gradual subsidence and submersion that Hawaii Island has, and thus at one time may have been as large as the Big Island.  Indeed, geologists have demonstrated that Maui at one time formed a single landmass, known as Maui Nui or “Big Maui”, with the islands of Lana’i, Moloka’i, and Kaho’olawe.  Continued subsidence submerged the larger landmass, leaving the four, smaller islands above the ocean surface. Ultimately, this will happen to the Big Island, as well.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Looking from Mauna Kea summit to Mauna Loa, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The relentless movement of the Pacific Plate carries it, with the all the islands piggy-backed, inexorably northward to the Aleutian Trench, where it is subducted underneath the North American Plate, melted, and recycled as volcanic material in the Aleutian Island volcanoes.  The Emperor Seamounts are currently undergoing such destruction, and, the evolution of the Hawaiian-Emperor Chain is such that, eventually this fate also awaits the Big Island…but not for tens of millions of years.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Magical Sunset at the lava ocean entry at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Given the ephemeral nature of this precious island, this geologic certainty should serve to make us love and treasure the Big Island more deeply, as well as to spur us to protect and preserve it more completely.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Silent sunset descends upon Hawaii Island at Kahalu'u Beach: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Near the summit of Kohala Mountain, Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Full moon over Mauna Kea, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Visitors Watch the Halema'uma'u eruption of Kilauea at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Aerial view of Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Photo by Shannon Walker

The Geologic History of the Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Islands, part of a much longer chain of oceanic islands and seamounts called the Hawaiian-Emperor Chain, is comprised of 8 principal islands and 124 islets, shoals, atolls, seamounts and banks, all volcanic in origin.  The Hawaiian Islands proper extend from Kure Atoll in the mid-Pacific, trending southeast to Hawaii Island (the Big Island) and Lo’ihi submarine volcano.  The eight major islands of the Hawaiian chain are named, from northwest to southeast, Ni’ihau, Kauai, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Lana`i, Kaho`olawe, Maui, and Hawai`i. Unraveling the geologic history of the Hawaiian Islands provides a fascinating glimpse into structures and process occurring deep within our Earth.  To understand how the Hawaiian Islands were formed, let’s review a bit about the nature of our planet.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Lava Stream, Hawaii Photo courtesy of Big Island Air

Layered like an onion, our seeming solid earth is actually a heaving mass composed of various solid, partially-molten, semi-plastic and liquid layers.  The solid crust (or lithosphere), which covers the entire surface of the earth, seems strong and robust but is, in fact, quite thin and malleable.  About the same thickness relative to the rest of the planet as an onion skin is to an onion, the Earth’s silica-rich crust more or less floats upon a much thicker, partially molten, more iron and magnesium-rich, semi-plastic layer of much hotter material called the “mantle”.  Below the mantle are the liquid outer core and the solid inner core of the Earth.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Halema'uma'u Crater and eruption on Kilauea, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Earth’s crust comes in basically two varieties, oceanic crust which is quite thin (only 5-7 km thick) and continental crust, which is much thicker than oceanic crust (up to 200 km thick).  Oceanic crust is composed almost wholly of an effusive volcanic rock type called “basalt”, its intrusive volcanic, subsurface equivalent called “gabbro” and a thin covering of sediment. The continental crust, which underlies the seven continents and the more massive islands, and upon which most human activity takes place, on the other hand, is composed not only of basalt and gabbro, but all the other rock types as well.  Continental crust is much less dense than oceanic crust, being much more silica-rich, and therefore is more buoyant on the mantle.  This, in part, accounts for its relative thickness and higher elevation compared to the denser, thinner oceanic crust.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava from Kilauea flows into the sea at La'epuki, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Earth’s crust is further divided-up into various distinct pieces, called “tectonic plates”, all moving relative to each other. Plates are composed almost wholly of either oceanic or continental crustal material. These plates “float” on the semi-plastic mantle, and are carried along by currents on the mantle’s surface. Mantle currents are caused by various physical process of heat transport within the mantle.   Think of a pot of boiling soup; the point of the boil in the soup is analogous to the heat transfer in the mantle and the skim of chilled soup riding around on the surface is analogous to the moving tectonic plates carried on top of the mantle.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hikers pause to look over at the summit of Mauna Loa From the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Interactions along the edges of these plates, whether slipping past each other (such as along the San Andreas Fault), one riding up over another (such as beneath the Himalayan Mountains), or one being subducted beneath the other (such as along the western edge of North America), accounts for much of the earthquake, mountain-building and volcanic activity seen on the surface of the earth, and plate margins are certainly the most geologically active places on earth.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea eruption in Halema'uma'u Crater at night Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Occasionally, exceptions to this generality occur, and the Hawaiian Islands are one such spectacular exception. To understand the forces and process which shape the Hawaiian Islands, we must look a little closer at the origin and movement of the crust and the structure of the mantle.  Happily, we need only concern ourselves with oceanic crust in general and the Pacific Plate in particular, as well as one, singular feature of the mantle.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Skylight at Kupaianaha Vent, Kilauea Volcano Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Oceanic crust is continually created by volcanic action along giant ridges which run generally north-south down the middle of the ocean basins.  The hot liquid magma at the ridges is much less dense than the surrounding, cold crustal rocks, and so “floats” these ridges and the still hot, newly-formed oceanic crust, up above the surrounding ocean basin, thus forming the ridge.  As volcanic eruptions along these ridges add hot, new material to the edge of the oceanic plates, the mass of new material drives the older oceanic crust away from the ridge, down both sides of it.  As the new material cools and becomes less dense, it sinks and further drives the crust away from the ridges.

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Lava Flowing Into the Sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Called “Mid-Ocean Ridge Spreading”, this process can be likened to a conveyor belt where new crust is created at the mid-ocean ridge, and is driven along by buoyancy and gravity, farther and farther away from the ridge until the plate’s leading edge interacts in some way with another tectonic plate.  Thus we see that the floors of the ocean basins, all around the world, are in constant, relative motion.  The Pacific Plate, upon which the Hawaiian Islands are built, has been moving at a rate of about 3.9 inches per year to the northwest, relative to other plate motions, for about the last 42 million years.

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Sunset on Haleakala from Kiholo, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

But what causes the enormous volcanoes that comprise the Hawaiian Archipelago to form in the middle of the ocean basin?  As mentioned above, the mantle is far from uniform either compositionally, thermally or in terms of the processes controlling its internal motions.  There are places on the earth where, for a variety of reasons, hot and buoyant mantle plumes rise above the general surface of the mantle, into the crust, carrying great amounts of heat and semi-liquid material quite near the earth’s surface.  Called “Hot Spots”, extreme volcanism can result from these thermal plumes.  The volcanic fields at Yellowstone in North America are one such example of this “hot spot magmatism”; the Hawaiian Islands are yet another.

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The heavily-dissected mountains of Kauai completely obscure the original shield shape of the volcano Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Hawaiian Hot Spot has caused the creation of at least 129 volcanoes on the ocean floor, the center of volcanism on the Pacific Plate continually migrating across the plate as it travels over the hot spot. Of these 129 volcanoes, 123 are extinct, three are dormant and three are active.  At first, the trend of volcanoes was almost due north-south.  Then, somewhere between 41 and 43 million years ago the relative motion between the Pacific Plate and the hot spot changed, becoming more northwesterly; this caused a sharp bend in the line of island-forming volcanoes.

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Aerial view of Pu'u O'o vent on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Although all were formed by the same, continuing tectono-volcanic processes, two island groups are named from this bent line of islands, atolls and seamounts.  North of the bend are the Emperor Seamounts, a long chain of islands, seamounts, atolls and reefs trending steeply southeast to northwest between Abbot Seamount in the mid-Pacific and Meiji Seamount near the Aleutian Trench.  South of the bend are the Hawaiian Islands, trending from the active volcanism at the Big Island and Loihi Volcano today, gently northwest to Kure Atoll in the mid-Pacific. Movement of the Pacific Plate over the hotspot is such that Midway and Kure Atolls were where the Big Island is now, directly over the hot spot, about 30 million years ago.

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The steep sides of Mt. Rainier in Washington result from its relatively high-silica, viscous lava Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The chemical composition of the Hawaiian magmas plays a central role in determining the physical form of the Hawaiian Islands.  All crustal rocks are formed of minerals composed of aluminum and silicon oxides with varying amounts of iron, magnesium, sodium, calcium, potassium and other elements stirred in.  In lava, silica tends to polymerize and greatly increase the viscosity of the melt—thus silica-rich lavas are fairly “sticky”, forming slow moving lava flows that pile-up into steep volcanoes which are typified by explosive eruptions. Silica-poor melts, on the other hand, because they are not so polymerized, form very fluid lavas that flow quickly and easily, forming gently-sloped volcanoes typified by relatively quiescent eruptions.  Remember the key words here are: “relatively quiescent”.

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Mauna Loa floats above the fields of Kohala, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

One glance at the profile of the Hawaiian volcanoes is enough to convince us that the lavas must be very silica poor, since they are very gently-sloped and the eruptions relatively peaceable; certainly civilized enough so that the casual viewer may approach them quite closely in relative safety.  Compare these with the very steep-sided, highly explosive eruptions of volcanoes like Mt. St. Helens, which is comprised of lava much more intermediate in silica composition, or the smoking hole in the ground that is the Yellowstone volcanic field, left by a massively explosive, very silica rich (and very, very viscous) lava erupting.

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Layered basalts in Waimea Canyon on Kauai show the structure of the Island, flow upon flow: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The rocks formed when the lava from Hawaiian volcanoes hardens are called “basalt”.  Although you hear the term “lava rock” used by laymen, it is a nonsensical word geologically and the registered trademark of a commercial product.  Commonly misapplied, it makes even less sense than the equivalent of using the term “water solid” instead of “ice”. The name “basalt” denotes both the silica-poor composition, as well as the fact that it was erupted onto, and it has cooled at, the Earth’s surface.  When lavas cool within a magma chamber before being erupted onto the surface, they are called an “intrusive volcanic” rock; intrusive volcanic rocks formed from lavas of basalt-like composition are called “gabbros”.  There are a few rocks in the Hawaiian islands of differing composition and texture than basalt and gabbro, but they are unimportant to this discussion.

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The classic, low-angle shield shape of Mauna Loa seen from Hilo, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The angle of repose, which is controlled by the viscosity of the melt, is about 6 degrees for Hawaiian basalts. Melt viscosity is a function of its temperature, silica content and fluid composition.   Hawaiian basalts are very fluid because of the low silica content and high eruptive temperature (in excess of 1100 degrees C); this low viscosity accounts for low angle, “shield shape” of Hawaiian volcanoes.

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Kohala Volcano is dissected by several major fault-bounded valleys, further obscuring its original shield shape Photo by Donald B MacGowan

As soon as the Hawaiian volcano forms, other forces begin to act upon it, affecting the general “shield shape” of the volcano: tides and waves attack the edges, rivers and streams begin to dissect the shield into ridges.  As time goes on, erosion from surface water flow produces fluting along those ridges.  Great landslides produce enormous cliffs; faulting produces huge valleys and collapse produces enormous craters and calderas.  Further, the later stage of Hawaiian volcanism is typified by increasing violence, which makes deep explosion craters, steep-sided cinder cones and steeply sloped, but easily eroded, ash deposits.

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Stream erosion dissects the shield volcanoes into valley and knife-like ridges Photo by Donnie MacGowan

To look at the volcanoes of Hawaii starting in the southeast at Kilauea and Mauna Loa and moving northwest, one can see this evolution quite clearly.  Kilauea and Mauna Loa, being quite young, are still broad and shallow-sloped, basically the classic shield-shape.  Mauna Kea and Hualalai are obviously more mature, showing steeper slopes, a reflection of greater ashfall and greater erosion, as well as pocked with explosion craters and cinder cones.  Moving father along, Kohala Mountain is so deeply eroded and festooned with long, fluted ridges as well as cut by enormous canyons, that it is almost unrecognizable as a shield volcano.  And so it continues as one proceeds north through the older islands and the more highly eroded mountains; the original shield shape of the volcanoes become more and more obscured by deeper and deeper erosion.  By the time one gets to the famous and spectacular Na Pali Cliffs of Kaua’i, all that is left of the original volcano are the deeply fluted, now almost knife-like, ridges.

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Ancient Petroglyph, Keauhou Historic District, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The great mass of these volcanoes causes them to begin to sink back into the mantle.  This is evident on even relatively young volcanoes.  For instance, on the slopes of Hualalai Volcano on the Big Island, along the shore at Keauhou, numerous petroglyphs commemorating the famous victory of King Lonoikamakahiki of Hawaii over King Kamalalawalu of Maui were carved in the rock around the end of the 16th century.  Although when they were originally carved they stood above sea level, in the intervening four centuries, the island has sunk sufficiently that they are now mostly awash in the sea and submerged at high tide.

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Glacial cirque and terminal moraine on Mauna Kea, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Another process, operative in the geologically recent past, has served to shape the slopes of the Hawaiian volcanoes, at least those which are or great height.  Glaciers covered the summit of Mauna Kea (and possibly Mauna Loa and Haleakala) three times between 200,000 and 13,000 years ago, leaving behind many glacial features such as cirques, u-shaped valleys and scoured bedrock; surviving into the present is a remnant rock glacier near the summit of Mauna Kea.

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Valleys and Ridges of the Famous Na Pali Coast, Kauai Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The complex interaction of volcano growth, coalescing of various volcanoes forming a single island and the eventual subsidence of the volcanoes into the crust determines the shape and size of the individual Hawaiian Islands through time.  Today, the youngest islands are largest and the oldest islands, generally, are the smallest…this trend continues throughout the Hawaii Island/Emperor Seamount chain.

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Lava flows from Kilauea to the sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

In the case of the Big Island, even though the first volcano to form, Mahukona, has completely subsided below sea level, the Big Island still comprises more than twice the area of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined, due to the large number of volcanic peaks forming it. However, through their history, all the Hawaiian Islands will experience the same pattern of growth, coalescence, subsidence and submersion, and so may have been much larger at one time.

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Haleakala from Kohala, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Maui, today comprised only of the remnant peaks of Haleakala and the West Maui Mountains, at one time formed a single giant landmass with the islands of Lana’i, Moloka’i, and Kaho’olawe.  As the continual northwest movement of the Pacific Plate carried Maui away from the Hawaiian hot spot, continued subsidence submerged the larger landmass, known as Maui Nui, or “Big Maui”, into the oceanic crust, leaving only these four, very much smaller, islands above the surface today.

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Superstition to Science, Pu'u Weiku Summit, Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

In fact, Kaua’i, Ni’ihau and O’ahu all represent the tiny remnants of once much larger landmasses that are actively subsiding into the oceanic crust.  Tracing the Hawaiian Archipelago to the northwest, and thus to very much older islands, we see this evolution continue as the great volcanoes are completely submerged below the surface leaving only the fringing coral reefs and a tiny remnant island above sea level, such as we see at Laysan Atoll and Midway Island. Continuing along through the chain to the Emperor Seamounts, not even that much is left as all traces of these islands, once proud and beautiful like the Hawaiian Islands today, become totally submerged beneath the surface of the ocean.

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Alpen Glow on Hualalai Volcano and Sunset on Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Add to this mental picture the fact that the Pacific Plate relentlessly drives northwestward, carrying all the Hawaiian-Emperor Chain with it, northward to the Aleutian Trench, where it is subducted and destroyed beneath the North American Plate.  Eventually, in the far-distant future, this fate awaits all these beautiful, precious islands.  Such is the ephemeral nature of the Hawaiian Islands, and this vision of their very delicate and temporary nature should make us respect and wonder at their splendor and beauty, all the more.  And increase our desire to protect and preserve them.

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The steeper, crater-poked slopes of Hualalai indicate it has moved on to the later stages of volcanism Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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Watching Lava Pour Into the Sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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Lava ocean entry, Waikupanaha, Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Kolekole Beach Park: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track.  Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

Kolekole Beach Park

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Stormy surf at Kolekole Beach, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Surprising, wild, lovely, peaceful Kolekole Beach Park is the jungle gem of the Hamakua Coast beach parks. The river you saw magnificently jumping with such abandon off the cliff at Akaka Falls ends its journey to the sea by sluicing down through this Koa and palm tree filled gulch and smashing into the surf at Kolekole Beach Park. Neatly hemmed on three sides by dense jungle canyon, Kolekole features lawns, picnic facilities, and a water-fall festooned swimming hole, all leading the visitor to the pounding, cobble beach in the furious surf.

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The rope swing over the falls and lovely swimming hole are popular with everybody, Kolekole Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kolekole Beach park is located just north of mile marker 14 on Highway 19; the narrow access road turns sharply uphill just before the massive bridge over Kolekole Gulch. Kolekole means “raw” or “scarred” in Hawaiian suggestive of the raw gash of Kolekole Gulch, but the term has come to mean “talk story” in pidgin and that is what locals come here to do, “talk story” with friends and family as the fish, surf, barbecue and relax.

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Kolekole Jungle from the Old Mamalahoa Highway, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The lovely, jungle-draped access road tumbles down the steep slopes of Kolekole Gulch to the side of Kolekole Stream, which rises at about 8000 feet on eastern slope of Mauna Kea, flows over Akaka Falls and then down to Kolekole Beach. In addition to the koa trees, varieties of palm, banana, fern and liana vine and lots of orchids can be found along this road, growing down to the river. A remnant of the Old Mamalahoa Highway turns off from the access road at the bridge over Kolekole Stream, and runs through the incredible jungle all the way to Hakalau Gulch. This section of road used to be a very scenic drive until the earthquake of 2006 rattled the depression-era bridges.

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Highway 19 Overpass at Kolekole Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

That huge, 100 foot high bridge that spans Kolekole Gulch, running over the park at the mouth of the stream, was originally built by the Hawai’i Consolidated Railway Company as a railway bridge. Debris from major damage to the bridge by the tsunami of 1946 are visible underneath, even today. Damage to this, and the other bridges up and down the Hamakua Coast forced the closure of the railroad line. The bridges had been repaired and rebuilt for automobiles by 1949, opening the connection between Honoka’a and Hilo once again.

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The wild surf at Kolekole Beach is generally too rough to swim in, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Although locals surf and swim unconcernedly here, the visitor is advised to admire the water, but not go in. Not only are the currents and tides lethally treacherous here, but stream mouths and murky water are prime hunting grounds of Hawai’i’s own tiger, Mano, the shark. Remember that most all Hawai’i streams are infected with leptospirosis and giardia; do not drink from the streams, do not allow stream water to get into your mouth and do no attempt swimming in the stream if you have any open cuts or scratches.

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Kolekole River from the road, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Facilities at Kolekole Beach Park include picnic pavilions and tables, pit barbecues, showers, restrooms. There is no drinking water at the park; remember to bring your own. Camping is available by permit only; details are available here.  The park can be crowded on weekends but is generally deserted during the week.

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Picnic Grounds at Kolekole Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

The Old Mamalahoa Highway Crosses over Kolekole River, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

Everett Maynard at Kolekole Beach, Hilo Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Waikupanaha lava ocean entry, Puna Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track.  Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

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

Flowing lava from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Drive through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Puna

Truly a land of heart-rending beauty and stark contrasts, Hawaii’s best scenery and most exotic locations are showcased in this scenic drive through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the District of Puna. Although many visitors tour the National Park, very few ever venture into neighboring, fascinating, Puna—which is a real shame. The icy heights of Mauna Loa’s summit contrast against the steaming jungles of Puna, where wave-washed, fiery lava flows form land so new it’s still steaming. With secret hot springs, ancient temples, lava trees, craters, caves and beaches—and of course the glowing lava–this scenic drive displays the amazing diversity, indescribable beauty and soul-filling serenity of the paradise we call Hawaii.

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Hiking to the lava flows in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

This scenic drive can be started from anywhere on the island, but the road log begins at the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park just northwest of mile marker 28 on Highway 11. The tour is laid out so that you spend the morning in the Park, the afternoon touring Puna and wind up at the Waikupanaha Lava viewing area in late afternoon—in time to make the very short hike in and watch Madam Pele’s fireworks at dusk. It’s best, less hurried, if you start this tour before nine in the morning, at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, however that means a 6:30 am departure time for those leaving Kona (the mileage signs may say only 97 miles from Kailua to the Park, but the road is only 35 miles an hour—slow down! Dis ain’t da mainland!). Remember the drive back to your resort will be in the dark. The roads are well marked and safe, but food and gas will be impossible to find at night outside of Kea’au or Kona. You’re going exploring…be prepared!

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The current eruption in Halema'uma'u Crater on the summit of Kilauea Volcanoes, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leg 1) Proceed on Hwy 11 to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Entrance and jct with Crater Rim Drive; Crater Rim Drive west to Kilauea Visitor’s Center to Jagger Museum, then back around Crater Rim Drive to the intersection with Chain of Craters Road.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

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The night time glow from Halema'uma'u Crater on Kilauea Volcano seems as if the door to Hades itself has been left ajar; Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a magical, spiritual, wondrous, strange and beautiful place comprised of great contrasts and contradictions: dry as dust desert to teeming tropical jungle; frigid sub-arctic wasteland to steaming black sand beaches to rivers of flowing lava.

The star attractions in the Park are a pair of active volcanoes; Mauna Loa is the largest mountain on earth and Kilauea is most active volcano on earth. However, there are numerous other wonders from lava tubes to crawl down, black sand beaches with sea turtles to watch, mysterious petroglyph fields to explore, tropical jungles to hike through, endangered bird species to find, happy-face spiders to amuse and an otherworldly volcanic landscape so fresh it’s still too hot to walk on.

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Sunrise on Mauna Loa from Crater Rim Drive; Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. During daylight hours, an access fee is charged. The Visitor Center has a 24-hour information line at 808.985.7017 and there is a 24-hour eruption hotline at 808.985.6000. Within the Park tune to A.M. radio 530 for continuous information broadcast. There tourist items available for sale and one restaurant and in the park, however generally shopping, restaurants and gasoline are only available in the nearby village of Volcano.

A more thorough discussion of exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is contained here.

Kilauea Visitor Center

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Kilauea Visitor's Center at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Newly remodeled and updated, the Kilauea Visitor’s Center is an outstanding resource of information on Hawaii’s volcanoes and the National Park; the not-to-be-missed first stop in the park you must make. The Center is run by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff that has the most up-to-date information on viewing the eruption, hiking and camping, bird watching, stargazing and just about any other topic of interest to Park visitors.

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Kilauea Crater, with the current eruption of Halema'uma'u Crater inside, from the Jagger Museum, Hawai Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Available for sale in the Center are maps, guidebooks, books and videos about the volcanoes, Hawai’iana, history, plants and every topic you can imagine pertinent to the Park, even souvenirs. There are free brochures and pamphlets on various trails, attractions, hiking safety and lava viewing hazards and precautions. The Visitor Center is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; there are public restrooms, water and pay phones available. Starting at 9 a.m. and showing every hour on the hour is a 20 minute informative movie about the Park; the film changes from time to time, but always contains spectacular footage of eruptions, information on volcanology and the natural and human history of the Park.

Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory

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

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Students learn from the interesting and varied displays at the Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When entering the parking lot of the Museum/Observatory, be especially careful of the Federally-protected Hawaii Goose, the Nene, who seem to congregate here. The Nene is the State Bird of Hawai’i, and this parking lot and its surrounding area constitute one of the best places for viewing them.

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Rainbow over the Holei Pali at Kealakomo Overlook, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leg 2) Crater Rim Drive to intersection with Chain of Craters Road; Chain of Craters Road to End of Road.

End of Chain of Craters Road

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Ancient Hawaiian rock carvings at Pu'u Loa Petroglyph Field, the largest petroglyph field in all of Polynesia: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Many visitors to the Park don’t bother with the drive down Chain of Craters Road, not knowing what marvels await them on this fabulous exploration of Hawaii’s volcanic exploration. The story of Hawaii’s fiery birth is laid bare along this 22-mile tour beside an active volcanic rift zone, featuring heart-stopping drops into craters, driving through recent flows, across an enormous fault with a 1000 foot throw and past steaming volcanic peaks. Along Crater Rim Drive is Pua Loa Petroglyph field, a glimpse into the barely-remembered past of how ancient Hawaiians related to the mysteries of their Goddess Pele and her volcanoes. At the end of the road is the fabulous, untamed coastline with booming waves pounding sea cliffs and arches—the intensity, wildness and energy of this place are almost an electric experience.

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The wild, pounding ocean, the distant eruption and the eerie emptiness can make the End of the Road on Chain of Craters Road feel like the End of the World! Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The end of Chain of Craters Road is currently at the 19 mile marker near the Holei Sea Arch. This is where the road was cut off by flowing lava and the old, 2 million dollar visitor center was destroyed. During those times when the lava is flowing near the end of the road, here, one can walk right up to it. There are displays about the volcano and natural history of the area, as well as a wealth of information on hiking to, and viewing, the lava, available here.

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

When lava is flowing near the end of Chain of Craters Road in the National Park, you can walk right up to it! Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Generally, the flowing lava is 2-6 miles away from the end of the road. Hiking all the way out to the active flows is one of the most spiritually rewarding, awe-inspiring, curiosity quenching and amazing things one can do anywhere in the world—but it is neither for the physically unfit nor the meek of spirit. It is a long, hot hike over broken ground and glass-sharp rocks; the heat from the volcano is savage; the weather, if clear, is sweltering…frequent squalls blow in off the ocean and the rain and wind can get pretty wild out on the lava plain where there is absolutely no cover or shelter to protect you. No water or shade is available anywhere along the hike. You should carry working flashlights (check them before you leave) for the hike back in the dark. If you go, be prepared.

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Pohoiki Bay at Isaac Hale Beach Park in Puna, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leg 3) Follow Chain of Craters Road back uphill to Crater Rim Drive, follow Crater Rim Drive back to Park Entrance and then to Hwy 11. Go east on Hwy 11 to jct with Hwy 130 at Kea’au; take Hwy 130 south to Pahoa.

This is about the mid-point of the trip. From here, you plunge deep into the jungles, beaches, lava flows and mystery that is Puna. Since this trip description assumes you will stay at the lava viewing area until after dark, and most gas stations, stores and many restaurants close at dusk in this part of Hawaii, it is highly advisable that you fill your gas tank and buy sufficient food and water to last until you return to your resort. No, honestly—do it now.

Puna District and Pahoa Town

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Morning reflection in a hot spring near Ahalanaui Hot Pond at Pu'ala'a County Park, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Uncrowded, off the beaten track and largely undiscovered by tourists, Puna District is a magnificent wonderland; from incredible tree-tunneled roads, geothermal fields of steam vents, lovely beach parks, hot ponds, hikes on raw lava flows and jungle trails, and unequaled snorkeling, the land cries out for the visitor to explore a little bit.

At the center of Puna is Pahoa Town; wild, untamed and even a bit unruly, with its false-front, western-style buildings and raised wooden sidewalks, Pahoa looks more like it belongs in Wyoming. But Wild West isn’t the only subculture evident here…tie-dye banners and the general “flower-power” ambiance some businesses and citizens lend Pahoa give it a decidedly “’60’s” feel.

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Charming Pahoa Town Maintains Its Eclectic Mix of Western and neo-Victorian Architecture, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

It has been said of Pahoa that if it weren’t for counter-cultural influences, it would have no cultural influences at all. The charm and allure of this way of living is evident when you consider that the region around Pahoa is the fastest growing portion of the island. Pahoa has some of the best restaurants on the island, THE best natural foods store and a great public pool.

Follow these links to find more information about exploring mysterious and alluring Puna in general and Pahoa in particular.

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The Lacy Tree Tunnels of Puna, Famed in Song, Legend and Fable; Puna, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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Casts of Ohi'a trees at Lava Tree Monument, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leg 4) At Pahoa, get on Hwy 132 and drive south to Lava Trees State Park.

Lava Trees State Monument

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Looking down the tree mold at Lava Trees State Monument, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Under a lacy canopy of monkeypod trees, casts of ohi’a trees stand as monuments to a fast-moving pahoehoe lava flow that passed through here in 1790. When the lava hit the water-saturated ohi’a trees, it cooled and began to congeal around them. The original ohi’a trees burned away but the quickly cooled lava around them stands here today, hollow, with imprints of the tree bark inside. Lava Trees Park offers trails to hike and a restful, bird-filled jungle to sit and listen to. You can spend between 20 minutes to an hour wandering the trails, here, exploring and discovering. Be careful, however, the area is riddled with hidden cracks in the ground which can make exploring hazardous. You may wish to avail yourself of the restrooms here; they are the last public facilities for some distance. Follow these links for more information on the wonders of Lava Trees State Monument and the amazing Tree Tunnels of Puna.

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Modern Stone Carving at Kalapana Village in Puna, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Leg 5) From lava Trees State Park take Hwy 132 to jct with Hwy 137 at Kapoho; take Hwy 137 southwest to Ahalanui Pond then to Kaimu Black Sand Beach and Kalapana Disaster of 1990.

Ahalanui Pond

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Ahalanui Hot Pond, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Also called “Secrets Beach”, this spring and ocean-fed, manmade pool was initially constructed when the springs ran chilly cold. Eruptions in Puna during the ‘50s and 60’s reworked the subterranean waterworks and now the springs run hot and the pool is a comfortably warm 90-95 degrees. The open connection to the ocean, keeps the water fresh. With the gentle aloha breezes, swaying palms and surf whooshing against the, it can be really hard to drag oneself out. Soak for a while. Picnic tables, pavilions, pit barbecues, showers, lawns and all the pleasantries of a civilized park are available at Ahalanui Pond. Leave no valuables in your car and be vigilant if you stay soaking here, after dark. Follow the links for more information Ahalanui Pond and nearby Isaac Hale County Beach Park.

Kalapana Disaster of 1990/Kaimu Black Sand Beach

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Coconut trees sprout near the newly formed Kaimu Black Sand Beach in Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

In 1990 the volcano goddess Pele determined it was time for some serious housecleaning in Puna. Lava flows from Kilauea’s East Rift engulfed the villages of Royal Gardens, Kaimu and Kalapana, destroying virtually everything.

Buried were a centuries old fishing village and a world famous black sand beach. When the lava came, it wiped out not just material possessions; it wiped out a way of life and a landscape cherished by generations. The Big Island’s newest black sand beach, Kaimu Beach, is a lovely if barren crescent of sand at the end of an unforgiving expanse of lava from the 1990 flows. The trail to the new black sand beach is marked with hundreds of young palms, numerous lava casts which include palms, pandanus fruit and even some fish that were caught in tide pools.

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Kaimu Black Sand Beach, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

From the lava hillocks along the trail you can get nice views of the eruption plume at Pu’u O’o, up on the flank of Kilauea, as well as the steam clouds down a few miles along the coast where the lava enters the sea. Restrooms and fast food are available at the end of the road. Follow this link to read more about Kalapana and Kaimu Black Sand Beach.

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Eruption plume at Waikupanaha Lava Viewing Area, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leg 6) From Kalapana, take Hwy130 (Ahia Road) just a tweak to the jct with old HWY 130; go west on old the highway to Waikupanaha Lava Viewing.

Lava Viewing Near Kalapana

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Lava Stream at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Nowhere else can you see lava flowing from a volcano into the sea; no Big Island visit is complete without seeing this awe-inspiring show. Currently lava is only flowing into the sea outside the Park. Drive south on Highway 130 through Pahoa to the 20 mile marker and take the right branch about two miles to the parking area. Port-a-potties are available here. The road is open from 2 p.m. until 10; no cars allowed in after 8. Lava viewing information is available from Hawaii County at 808.961.8093; check conditions before you go.

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Littoral explosions, Royal Gardens, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The easy trail, a 15 minute stroll to the viewing area, is well-marked. The viewing varies as lava flows nearer or farther from the trail. Viewing is best at dusk so bring flashlights for the hike out. Take close-toed walking shoes and a hat, long pants and long-sleeved shirt, at least 2 liters of water and sun block and a rain jacket and camera. Remember food and gas are not available anywhere nearby after dark, so fill up BEFORE you park, bring snacks and drinks. There are port-a-potties available at the parking lot. Follow this link to find more information about seeing the lava at the Waikupanaha Lava Viewing area.

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Lava Watching at Waikupanaha in Puna, Hawaii: Photo By Donald B MacGowan

Leg 7) Return to Hwy 130; Hwy 130 north through Pahoa to Kea’au and jct with Hwy 11.

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

My Neices Entering Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

From Kea’au, you are about 2 ½ hours from Kona (west) and about 15 minutes from Hilo (north), both on Hwy 11. The resorts on the Kohala coast are more than 3 hours away and are most quickly reached by going on Hwy 11 through Hilo to Hwy 19, following 19 through Waimea to the west coast and the junction with Hwy 270, along which lie all the Kohala resorts.

Food and gas are difficult to find at night outside Kea’au, Hilo, Waimea and Kona, so it’s best to be prepared and fill up the car and the cooler in Kea’au at noon, before touring Puna.

My Neices Entering Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaiii Volcaoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan  New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu, a still-steaming volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

My Neices Entering Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaiii Volcaoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan  New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Puna Tree Tunnels Just Outside Pahoa Town, Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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



Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #3: Kona North to Waikoloa and the Kohala Coast

by Frank Burgess, brought to you by Tour Guide Hawaii

Frank Burgess uses the Tour Guide App to explore shopping possibilities around Kailua Kona.jpg

Frank Burgess uses the Tour Guide App to explore shopping possibilities around Kailua Kona.jpg

Tour Guide Hawaii is proud to announce the release of their new iPhone and iPod Touch App available at iTunes…this App will help you plan your trip to Hawaii, help you decide what you want to see, how you want to see it and help you get there with GPS, interactive maps and on-board driving instructions.  The Tour Guide App presents hours of interesting videos and information about places of historical, cultural and recreational interest, giving you a sense of the people, the natural history and the unique specialness of each destination.  The information is so comprehensive and complete they even tell you where all the public restrooms are!  What else will Tour Guide help you find?  Let’s look at a trip north from Kona along the Hawaii Belt Road to the Waikoloa area…Tour Guide will not only help you find many amazing sights along the way, it will tell you all about them, what to take and what to expect.

Today’s hints cover the area from Kailua Kona north through Kaloko-Honokohau National Park to the Waikoloa Beach Resorts.  Driving north on Hwy 11 there isn’t too much to stop and see for several miles, so enjoy the panoramic views. Your Tour Guide download from iTunes will give you more detailed information about this area.

For an interesting day of driving, head north out of Kona on Hwy. 19. About 4 miles out of town we come across the Kaloko-Honokohau Historic Park. There is a new visitor center giving info on the significance of this area to ancient Hawaiians. Tour Guide has an extensive narration about this area. The adjacent Honokohau small boat harbor is an excellent spot to find hiking trails, beaches, snorkeling, whale watching and deep sea fishing.

Kaloko-Honokahau National Historic Park is an amazing place, containing an immense wilderness beach on the fringe of the Kailua Kona Metropolitan area, which features bathing springs, hiking trails, ancient villages, good snorkeling and better surfing. For a video about the park, go here.

Continue driving north past the Kona International Airport, you will be viewing lava fields dating back to 1802. Another 10 minutes brings you to the turn off for the Hualalai resorts. The Kona Village and Four Seasons resorts are surrounded by the beautiful Hualalai Golf Course, home of the PGA MasterCard Championship. Tour Guide lists every golf course on the Big Island. This whole resort area was built to be nearly invisible from the hwy.

After the Hualali Resorts, there is about 20 minutes of driving to reach the Waikoloa resorts. Tour Guide will you give info on some secluded beaches along the way. For most of these you will have to park on the hwy and hike to the shore. Since these beaches are so secluded, there will be no facilities. My favorite of these is Kua Bay. Here there is parking near the beach, restrooms and water available, but no shade. Since there is no sign on the hwy, Tour Guide will tell you where to turn to find this family friendly beach park.

Super tip: Hawaii is much closer to the equator than you may be used to. Even when it’s cloudy, the sun will burn the skin quickly. Your friendly staff at Tour Guide recommends you use sunscreen liberally and re-apply often, especially after swimming, snorkeling or hiking.  Drink more water than you think is necessary–avoid diuretics such as sodas, coffee and alcohol.

Next, as we head north, is the Waikoloa Beach Resorts. This beautiful resort area is cut right out of the jagged lava rock. It boasts the Marriott and Hilton Waikoloa which have shops and fabulous dining. Many coupons and much information of the restaurants and shops in this are can be found in two Big Island magazines, here and here. Hilton Grand Vacations operates a huge timeshare resort here and there are numerous condos all centered around two championship golf courses. Tour Guide will give turn-by-turn directions to the resorts and golf courses in this area.

The King’s Shops and Queen’s Marketplace, on Waikoloa Beach Drive, offers mid to high end shopping with some famous brand name stores. If an ultimate dining experience is what you’re after, world famous chef’s whip up their culinary delights to tempt your palate. There is also a food court for more casual dining. Tour Guide will take you to all of this, plus family activities like sun bathing, swimming, snorkeling, wind surfing and dinner cruises, focused around the most photographed sunset spot on the island, Anaeho’omalu Bay.

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, go to www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

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

Copyright 2009
by Frank Burgess; photography copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Point: This sweeping landscape arches openly and inviting from the tumultuous shore break at Ka Le to the icy heights of Mauna Kea’s summit almost 14,000 feet above. The farthest point south in the entire United States, South Point is haunting, windswept, wild, empty, beautiful. Although still only 1-lane wide in many places, the road to Ka Lae from the Hawai’i Belt Road has been greatly improved in recent years. The roads, beaches, boat launching facilities and parking are all free and on public land, contrary to what some signs and unsavory characters might try to tell you. Just don’t leave valuables in your car, and be sure to lock it up. The brooding and dilapidated wind turbines of the Kamaoa Wind Farm are along the road to Ka Lae. This wind farm, when all of the turbines are operating, can generate enough electricity to power 100 homes; unfortunately, usually 1/3 to ½ of the turbines are out of service at any given time. The surreal setting on the green plain with the cows grazing unconcernedly, coupled with the eerie, “sci-fi” sound of the generators makes this a unique place to stop, look and listen.

The waters at South Point are wild, crystalline turquoise and wicked. It is obvious from the surf and the currents that swimming is right out along most of this coastline. The only recommended snorkeling is at the Kaulana boat launch and at the green sand beach…and then it is recommended only in calm seas. But it is beautiful; perhaps as beautiful and wild a spot to snorkel as anywhere in Hawai’i.

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

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

Hike to Green Sand Beach: Unique and special, Hawai’i’s green sand beaches are as beautiful as they are strange. The beach sands are composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point, the best known, is reached by turning left onto a signed, patchy-paved and dirt road immediately when you arrive in the Ka Lae area. Follow signs to the Kaulana boat launch and park just to the left (south) of it. The dirt road that leads along the shore to the green sand beach is sometimes gated and locked. Hiking distance is 2 ¼ miles each way along rolling tropical prairie (and if you cannot envision that, you really need to do this hike). Despite the multiplicity of dirt roads, you really cannot get lost as you are never out of sight of the shore. When you arrive above the beach on the crater rim, there is a faint track to scramble safely and easily to the beach. One can also easily scramble down from the middle (easternmost) of the cone, but this can be slippery. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up the way back to the crater rim is easy to follow. When visiting here, plan and act as if there were no services, and no rescue available.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

This post has been greatly expanded and updated here.

Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 14 hours.

Ahu'ena Heiau, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Ahu'ena Heiau, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

We do not generally recommend trying to see the Big Island all in one day…there is a good reason it is called “The Big Island”. However, vacation schedules and group interests vary and a surprising number of visitors evince a keen desire to tour the entire island in a single day. *sigh*. They rarely attempt it twice. However, if we were to recommend a day trip round the island, commencing at Kailua Kona, the itinerary below would probably be your best bet at hitting the greatest number of highlights in the shortest possible time.

At 14 hours driving and touring time, there is little time for dilly-dally and the unhurried visitor will of necessity trim this ambitious schedule. Easy ways to shorten the itinerary if you find yourself falling behind include skipping legs 5-7 (i.e., follow Hwy 11 all the way from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park into Hilo; time savings of about 2 1/2 hours) or skipping legs 12-13 (i.e., traveling along Hwy 19 from Hilo through Honoka’a directly to Waimea; time savings about 2 1/2 hours). You may also choose simply to skip any individual site anywhere along this route; for instance, Leg 1, Upcountry Kona, can easily be done on another morning from Kailua Kona and can be omitted from this trip simply by driving Hwy 11 straight to Punalu’u, saving you perhaps an hour.

However ambitious, this schedule will allow you, if you start out about 6 in the morning and proceed apace, to circumnavigate the island seeing everything and arrive at Hapuna Beach in time for a delightful picnic dinner (no food available at beach, so stop and buy take-away in Waimea) and an absolutely unforgettable sunset.

If you are serious about undertaking this one-day, whirl-wind tour, we highly recommend you purchase AND USE Tour Guide Hawaii’s newly released  iPhone/iPod App…it uses GPS, Google Maps with driving directions and has onboard maps and driving directions where cell phone service and internet are not available.  It plays a video presentation with all kinds of information about history, culture, safety and the natural history about all the most fascinating sites on the island, including the whereabouts of all the public restrooms!  The iPhone App gives you detailed, accurate information on where to go, what to bring, what to expect when you get there and what to do next.  Available here, the App will give you much, much more detailed information than this blog post.

So what are you doing waiting around reading this for? It’s a BIG ISLAND you are trying to explore and you’ve got to hustle! Even though you are the one who decided to try it all in one day, remember that we warned you it would be a long, long day!

Leg 1) Start at north end of Keauhou Historic District on Ali’i Drive, head south on Ali’i Drive to jct with Kamehameha II Hwy; east on Kamehameha III to Hwy 11. Take Hwy 11 south to jct with Hwy 160, just south of the town of Captain Cook. Head downhill on Hwy 160 to Napo’opo’o Village, turn north on Pu’uhonua Beach Road to Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park at end of road; this is where you view the Captain Cook Monument.

Hapaiali'i Heiau in the Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapaiali'i Heiau in the Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

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

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

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

Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kealakekua Bay Historical District and Captain Cook Monument

A place of both dramatic historic events and unparalleled scenery, beautiful and now peaceful Kealakekua Bay (Pathway of the Gods) opens beneath steep, beetling cliffs on the ancient surfing beach along the shoreline of Napo’opo’o Village. The site of arguably the most important event in the history of Polynesia, home to pods of frolicking dolphins, providing some truly breathtaking snorkeling, Kealakekua Bay is one of the most magical spots in the State of Hawai’i.

Across the bay from Napo’opo’o stands the solitary white obelisk that marks the lonely Captain Cook Monument. It was in this broad bay that Captain James Cook made his deepest impression on, and longest visit with, native Hawai’ians when he first arrived late in November of 1778; and it was here where he met his tragic end in February 1779 during his second visit. At the State Park at the end of the road in Napo’opo’o are picnic facilities, pavilions and restrooms.

Leg 2) Return south on Pu’uhonua Beach Road to jct with Hwy 160; Hwy 160 south to Pu’u Honua O Hounaunau National Historical Park-this is the Place of Refuge.

Place of Refuge at Hounaunau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Place of Refuge at Hounaunau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Place of Refuge: Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park

A beautiful, peaceful, restful piece of Old Hawai’i, Pu’u Honua O Honaunau is a place of ease and regeneration for weary and jaded souls. Of enormous historical and cultural significance, the sacred grounds at Honaunau are the best-preserved remaining Pu’u Honua, or Place of Refuge, complex in Hawai’i. It is also a wonderful area to wander, snorkel, relax and picnic. For anyone who had any doubts about what Old Hawai’i was like, a trip to Honaunau will fill your imagination, your camera and your spirit.

A complex and strict order of law, known as the kapu system, controlled and governed everything in ancient Hawai’i. Under this system, judgment was death, immediate and final, unless the accused could escape to one of the designated places of refuge. There the accused would undergo a cleansing ceremony, be absolved of all crimes, and allowed to return to his family free of onus. The National Park has a Visitor’s Center and bookshop, full picnic and restroom facilities. Although no swimming or snorkeling is allowed within the Park, adjacent is Two-Step Beach on Hounaunau Bay, one of the premiere snorkeling spots on the Island.

Leg 3) Return to Hwy 11 via Hwy 160; continue south on Hwy 11 to Punalu’u Road; Punalu’u Road to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park.

Bradford Thomas Macgowan Filming at Punalu'u Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald Bradford MacGowan

Bradford Thomas Macgowan Filming at Punalu'u Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald Bradford MacGowan

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park

A truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing, Punalu’u’s black sand beach is world-renowned. Endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles swim the waters here and bask on the beach. The wildness of the ocean and the serenity of the freshwater fishpond and coconut palm-shaded beaches make this an ideal place to spend some soul-recharge time. The ocean here can be rough, so use caution when swimming.

Available services include water, picnic tables, restrooms, electrical outlets, and pavilions, parking; camping is by permit only. During peak tourist time, there is a souvenir stand with some packaged food items and canned drinks for sale, otherwise the nearest food, gasoline and other services are in either Pahala or Na’alehu.

Leg 4) Return to Hwy 11 on Punalu’u road; continue east on Hwy 11 to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Entrance and jct with Crater Rim Drive; take Crater Rim Drive west to Kilauea Visitor’s Center to Jagger Museum.

Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Frank Burgess' friend whose name momentarily escapes me

Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Frank Burgess' friend whose name momentarily escapes me

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a magical, spiritual, wondrous, strange and beautiful place comprised of great contrasts and contradictions: dry as dust desert to teeming tropical jungle; frigid sub-arctic wasteland to steaming black sand beaches to rivers of flowing lava.

The star attractions in the Park are a pair of active volcanoes; Mauna Loa is the largest mountain on earth and Kilauea is most active volcano on earth. However, there are numerous other wonders from lava tubes to crawl down, black sand beaches with sea turtles to watch, mysterious petroglyph fields to explore, tropical jungles to hike through, endangered bird species to find, happy-face spiders to amuse and an otherworldly volcanic landscape so fresh it’s still steaming.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. During daylight hours, an access fee is charged. The Visitor Center has a 24-hour information line at 808.985.7017 and there is a 24-hour eruption hotline at 808.985.6000. Within the Park tune to A.M. radio 530 for continuous information broadcast. There tourist items available for sale and one restaurant and in the park, however generally shopping, restaurants and gasoline are only available in the nearby village of Volcano.

Kilauea Visitors' Center, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea Visitors' Center, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea Visitor Center

Newly remodeled and updated, the Kilauea Visitor’s Center is an outstanding resource of information on Hawaii’s volcanoes and the National Park; the not-to-be-missed first stop in the park you must make. The Center is run by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff that has the most up-to-date information on viewing the eruption, hiking and camping, bird watching, stargazing and just about any other topic of interest to Park visitors. Available for sale in the Center are maps, guidebooks, books and videos about the volcanoes, Hawai’iana, history, plants and every topic you can imagine pertinent to the Park, even souvenirs. There are free brochures and pamphlets on various trails, attractions, hiking safety and lava viewing hazards and precautions.

The Visitor Center is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; there are public restrooms, water and pay phones available. Starting at 9 a.m. and showing every hour on the hour is a 20 minute informative movie about the Park; the film changes from time to time, but always contains spectacular footage of eruptions, information on volcanology and the natural and human history of the Park.

Halema'uma'u Crater at night from Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Halema'uma'u Crater at night from Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory

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

When entering the parking lot of the Museum/Observatory, be especially careful of the Federally-protected Hawaii Goose, the Nene, who seem to congregate here. The Nene is the State Bird of Hawai’i, and this parking lot and its surrounding area constitute one of the best places for viewing them.

Leg 5) Follow Crater Rim Drive back to Park Entrance and then to Hwy 11. Go east on Hwy 11 to jct with Hwy 130 at Kea’au; take Hwy 130 south to Pahoa.

Hot Ponds Near Pahaoa in Puna District: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hot Ponds Near Pahaoa in Puna District: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Puna District and Pahoa Town

Uncrowded, off the beaten track and largely undiscovered by tourists, Puna District is a magnificent wonderland; from incredible tree-tunneled roads, geothermal fields of steam vents, lovely beach parks, hot ponds, hikes on raw lava flows and jungle trails, and unequaled snorkeling, the land cries out for the visitor to explore a little bit.

At the center of Puna is Pahoa Town; wild, untamed and even a bit unruly, with its false-front, western-style buildings and raised wooden sidewalks, Pahoa looks more like it belongs in Wyoming. But Wild West isn’t the only subculture evident here…tie-dye banners and the general “flower-power” ambience some businesses and citizens lend Pahoa give it a decidedly “’60’s” feel. It has been said of Pahoa that if it weren’t for counter-cultural influences, it would have no cultural influences at all. The charm and allure of this way of living is evident when you consider that the region around Pahoa is the fastest growing portion of the island. Pahoa has some of the best restaurants on the island, THE best natural foods store and a great public pool.

Leg 6) At Pahoa, get on Hwy 130 to Kalapana.

Young Coconut Palms Planted in a Lava Crack Near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii" Photo by Kelly Kuchman

Young Coconut Palms Planted in a Lava Crack Near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii" Photo by Kelly Kuchman

Kalapana Disaster of 1990/Kaimu Black Sand Beach

In 1990 the volcano goddess Pele determined it was time for some serious housecleaning in Puna. Lava flows from Kilauea’s East Rift engulfed the villages of Royal Gardens, Kaimu and Kalapana, destroying virtually everything. Buried were a centuries old fishing village and a world famous black sand beach. When the lava came, it wiped out not just material possessions; it wiped out a way of life and a landscape cherished by generations.

The Big Island’s newest black sand beach, Kaimu Beach, is a lovely if barren crescent of sand at the end of an unforgiving expanse of lava from the 1990 flows. The trail to the new black sand beach is marked with hundreds of young palms, numerous lava casts which include palms, pandanas fruit and even some fish that were caught in tide pools.

From the lava hillocks along the trail you can get nice views of the eruption plume at Pu’u O’o, up on the flank of Kilauea, as well as the steam clouds down a few miles along the coast where the lava enters the sea. Restrooms and fast food are available at the end of the road.

Leg 7) From Kalapana take Hwy 137 to jct with Hwy 132 at Kapoho; take Hwy 132 northward to Lava Trees State Monument.

Lava Trees State Monument: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Trees State Monument: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Trees State Monument

Under a lacey canopy of monkeypod trees, casts of ohi’a trees stand as monuments to a fast-moving pahoehoe lava flow that passed through here in 1790. When the lava hit the water-saturated ohi’a trees, it cooled and began to congeal around them. The original ohi’a trees burned away but the quickly cooled lava around them stands here today, hollow, with imprints of the tree bark inside.

Lava Trees Park offers trails to hike and a restful, bird-filled jungle to sit and listen to. You can spend between 20 minutes to an hour wandering the trails, here, exploring and discovering. Be careful, however, the area is riddled with hidden cracks in the ground which can make exploring hazardous.

You may wish to avail yourself of the restrooms here; they are the last public facilities for some distance.

Leg 8) Return to Hwy 130; Hwy 130 north through Pahoa to Kea’au and jct with Hwy 11. Hwy 11 North to Hilo.

Hilo Farmer's Market: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo Farmer's Market: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo Town

Beautiful but wet, metropolitan but decrepit, bustling but laid back, Hilo is a lovely, maddening, heartbreaking, addictive study in contrasts. In can rain all day long for 50 days in a row, yet when the sun does shine, the views of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea from the Lilioukalani Gardens, or of Hilo Bay as you drive down from the mountains, or the rain-forest and waterfall choked gulches with lovely beaches along the highway north of town, make Hilo one of the most truly, achingly-lovely spots on earth.

More laid back and sleepier than bustling Kailua Kona, Hilo is the largest town on the island, and the county seat. The Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, Tsunami Museum, Lyman House Missionary Museum and the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo are all wonderful places to learn about various aspects of Hawaii. There are numerous shopping districts, two large malls and the Historic Old Hilo downtown shops to browse through, a variety of sprawling green parks, a fabulous tropical arboretum right downtown and a mile-long black-sand beach fronting the bay to explore. Hilo’s Farmer’s Market is a “must see” for any visitor who is spending time on this side of the island.

Leg 9) In Hilo, go north on Hwy 11 to jct with Hwy 19; take Hwy 19 to jct with Waianuenue Ave; head southwestward on Waianuenue Ave (Hwy 200) to Rainbow Falls.

Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Rainbow Falls and Wailuku River Park

The subject of recent and ancient legend, Rainbow Falls is the lovely emblem of Hilo town. The characteristic wishbone shape of Rainbow Falls is best seen at moderate river flows…too little water and only a single drizzle remains, too much runoff and the falls merge into a single, roaring flume. At any time, however, it’s a beautiful place and worthwhile to visit. The rainbows within the falls are best seen in the mid to late morning. Follow the trail to the left along the river bank to delightful swimming and wandering; please note, however, that swimming in rivers and near falling water is dangerous. Don’t go in if the current is swift or if recent rains have swollen the river.

Restrooms are by the parking lot and a souvenir shop is located across the street.

Leg 10) Return on Hwy 200 to Hwy 19, head north on Hwy 19 to Hwy 220 at Honomu; continue through Honomu to Akaka Falls.

Akaka Falls, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Akaka Falls, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Akaka Falls

There is a reason that Akaka Falls rates as the most visited tourist site on the Island of Hawai’i. Simply put, the 420 foot, free falling plunge of clear water down a fern festooned cliff is an amazing and beautiful site. Leaving the parking lot, the paved loop trail of about one mile, winds through a wonderful jungle of exotic flowers, ferns, orchids, ginger and bamboo. Two smaller falls are also seen along the way to the stellar Akaka Falls. Akaka Falls has restrooms but no other facilities.

When visiting Akaka Falls, be sure to save some time to explore the shops, galleries and cafes of Honomu on the way back to the highway; it’s unlike anywhere you’ve ever been before…guaranteed.

Leg 11) Return Hwy 220 through Honomu to Hwy 19, then north on Hwy 19 to Honoka’a.

Akaka Falls, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Akaka Falls, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Honoka’a Town

Built in the era of sugar great plantations and left culturally and economically isolated after the industry collapse, until recently Honoka’a was content to drowse along through the decades. A boom in real estate and return of vital human energy to the area has made a literal renaissance of the town. It boasts numerous wonderful restaurants, gift and boutique shops and the highest density of antique shops on the island. Be sure to stop to explore a little on your way to or from Waipi’o Valley…it’s a fun, happening kind of place and always steeped with aloha.

Driving north or south out of Honoka’a, remnants of old sugar mills, fields and wild cane can still be seen. When Captain Cook arrived in 1778, only wild sugar cane was growing; at its height in the mid-1960’s one in 12 people were employed in the sugar industry which produced in excess of a million tons of sugar annually. Though the business is gone, what is left are the people who once worked the fields and mills. The melding of the rich cultures of Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Portuguese, and others is what gives today’s unique Hawaii lifestyle its sweet flavor.

Leg 12) At Honoka’a, turn north on Hwy 240 to Waipi’o Valley.

Waipi'o Valley, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi'o Valley, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi’o Valley

Waipi’o Valley is arguably the most magical place on the Big Island. The steep canyon walls and verdant fields of the valley floor, the mile long black sand beach and numerous immense waterfalls that line the valley walls all call out to the visitor for exploration.

Always listed among the most beautiful spots in the State of Hawai’i, this valley is as hauntingly lovely as it is difficult to see in its entirety.

Tours down into the valley in vans, on horse drawn wagons and ATVs can be booked in Honoka’a. Over-flights in fixed wing aircraft and helicopters also offer fine venues from which to see this amazing piece of Hawai’i. Hiking down and wandering the immense black sand beach, exploring the ironwood copses and sand dunes and discovering the hidden waterfalls is also a popular way to see the canyon. Although the hike down is only a little over 1 mile and a thousand feet elevation loss, the climb back up is sweltering in the ferocious sun and heat. Think twice before hiking down. Facilities at the Scenic Overlook include a pavilion and restrooms; there are none within the valley itself.

Leg 13 Return on Hwy 240 to Honoka’a; at Honoka’a turn west on Hwy 19 to Waimea.

Waimea and Kohala Volcano from the Lower Slopes of Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea and Kohala Volcano from the Lower Slopes of Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

Snuggled between Mauna Kea and Kohala Volcano in Hawaii’s scenic mountain heart, seemingly always shrouded in mist and chilly, Waimea is definitely Hawai’ian cowboy country. Although jeans and flannel shirts appear to be the town uniform, Waimea is very sophisticated, boasting some of the finest shopping and restaurants and the most modern hospital on the island.

From Waimea, Highway 250, the Kohala Mountain Road, spills beautifully through mountain, upland meadow and forest to the “Old Hawaii” town and artist community at Hawi.

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

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

Leg 14) At Waimea, continue on Hwy 19 (also called Kawaihae Road) to Kawaihae; at Kawaihae, turn south on Hwy 19 to Hapuna Beach. If you have timed your trip right, you will arrive at Hapuna Beach before sunset. This is a most amazing place to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean with Haleakala on Maui looming on the horizon. If it is already dark, proceed on Hwy 19 south to Kailua Kona.

Inviting Hapuna Beach, Always on the List of the Word's Top 10 beaches: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Inviting Hapuna Beach, Always on the List of the Word's Top 10 beaches: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapuna Beach

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

There are lifeguards, several pavilions, barbecues, picnic tables, restrooms, showers and a small café. The center of the beach is for wave play and boogie boarding, the north and south coves are quieter, for snorkeling or gentle floating. Although most patrons must walk about 100 yards down a path from the parking lot, Handicapped Parking exists right on the beach.

Leg 15) Proceed on Hwy 19 south to Kailua Kona.

Downtown Kailua Town, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Downtown Kailua Town, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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For more information on Tour Guide Hawaii’s fabulous new iPhone and iPod App, please go here, here and here.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, or details on how to buy the iPhone/iPod App, please go to www.tourguidehawaii.com.