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by Donald B. MacGowan

At Ho'okena Beach, Kona Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Ho’okena Beach County Park at Kauhako Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for waves, Ho'okena Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Moiokini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kapakai Kokoiki (Kamehameha Akahi Aina Hanau) Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Even choosing which beach you want to spend time on, or where you want to hike can be an exercise in confusion and conflicting advice.  Clearly, visitors to Hawaii could use help making quality decisions about how best to spend their time.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Offerings Left at Kapakai Kokoiki Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Tour Guide Hawaii is excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, let’s look at a pair of important historical sights reached via a great hike, or a really good mountain biking trek, that you might have heard about, but might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks and could otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Sacred Stones at Mo'okini Heiau, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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