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by Donald B. MacGowan

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Lapakahi State Park, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Graphic Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

North Kona and Kohala: Ancient History, Sumptuous Beaches

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

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

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

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

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

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

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

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

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

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

Kahalu’u Beach County Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach

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

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

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

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

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

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park

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

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

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

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

Kekaha Kai State Park

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

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

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

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

Kua Bay

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

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

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

Anaeho’omalu Bay

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

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

Waialea Beach (Beach 69)

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Beautiful Waialea Beach, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A perfect crescent of golden sand backed by abundant shade at the edge of the beach makes this an ideal, though little known, family beach. A chain of tiny islands and pinnacles leads northward to crystalline water and a long coral reef for some of the most outrageous snorkeling and shore diving anywhere in the state. On windy days the water in the bay is a tad murkier than ideal for snorkeling, but most of the visitors to this beach don’t seem to mind. Restrooms, picnic tables, water and showers round out the facilities. More about Waialea Beach can be found here.

Hapuna Beach

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

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

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

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

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park

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

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

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

Lapakahi State Historical Park

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

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

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

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

Mo’okini Heiau

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

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

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

King Kamehameha Statue and North Kohala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pololu Valley

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

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

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

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

At the End of Day, Ku'emanu Heiau Kona 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.

Keauhou Historic District

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

Sunset over Hapaiali'i Heiau from Mo'o Twins Homesite, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

For nearly a thousand years sites around the Keauhou Historic District served as the political, cultural and religious centers for the people of the Hawaiian Islands. Many of the most important, best preserved and certainly the most interesting historical, pre-historical and cultural sites lie within the Keauhou Historic District, which stretches from Kahalu’u Beach Park south to Kuamo’o Bay. There are more than a dozen fascinating archeological features and sites that are easy to walk to, well maintained and quite interesting. More exhaustive information about the Keauhou Historic District than can be presented in this article may be found by visiting the Keauhou Kahalu’u Heritage Center at the Keauhou Shopping Center, open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For information on other areas near by, a walking tour of the historic sites in downtown Kailua Kona is available here; a scenic drive through the historic sites of Kona Mauka is available here.

Starting on Ali’i Drive just north of Kahalu’u Beach, let’s work our way south through this incredibly rich region.  The first set of sites are located on either side of Kahalu’u Beach County Park.

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Offerings at Ku'emanu Heiau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Ku’emanu Heiau: Located just south of mile marker 4.5 on Ali’i Drive stands perhaps the only ancient temple in the world dedicated solely to the sport of surfing. Ku’emanu was a luakini heiau (a temple where human sacrifice was practiced) and on the north side of the site is a laupa’u, or bone pit where the remains of the sacrificed were discarded. After surfing, Ali’i washed themselves of saltwater in a nearby brackish pool called Waiku’i (pounding waters); the pond has become brackish and stagnant in recent times. This is a particularly striking place to photograph the sun or moon set, through the legs of the upraised anu’u platform.

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

Parking can be tight during times of good surf, and Ali’i Drive can be hazardous to cross.

This temple is sacred to native Hawai’ians so remember to be especially respectful of this unique site. Do not disturb, nor take as souvenirs, offerings left upon the anu’u platform. Remember, here and all through the Keauhou Historic District: take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.

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 interior of St Peter's Church lit by the setting sun, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Saint Peter’s Church: Locally known as “The Little Blue Church”, St. Peter’s is the most photographed church in the State of Hawai’i. The history the St. Peter’s is long and fascinating and takes longer to tell than a tour of its Spartan interior and dozen pews. Originally built in 1880 on the site of La Aloa (Magic Sands) beach, the church was dismantled and hauled piece by piece to its current location at the Ku’emanu Heiau in 1912. In 1938, Father Benno of St. Michael’s added the belfry and the porch. Twice since it was situated on the site of Ku’emanu Heiau, St. Peters has been moved off its foundations by tsunami, but due to its small size and sturdy construction, has survived long in a harsh environment.

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.

Old Helani Church Built over the ruins of 'Ohi'amukumuku Heiau at Kahalu'u, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Helani Church and ‘Ohi’a-Mukumuku Heiau: Those vine covered ruins across the street from St. Peter’s are the remains of Helani Church, built by the Rev. John D. Paris in 1861 of basalt block and lime mortar. When the local population moved inland about the turn of the century, a new Helani Church was established mauka (uphill) near the Old Mamalohoa Highway (see a driving tour of Kona Mauka, which includes the rebuilt Helani Church, here).

The church, however, was erected on a the grounds of the ‘Ohi’a-Mukumuku Heiau; a powerful and holy religious temple around which swirls some of the darkest folklore and ghost stories told around the Hawai’ian Islands. When you hear ghost stories about a white dog and a black dog, they are about the happenings on the grounds of the ‘Ohi’a-Mukumuku Heiau and Ke’eku Heiau, during the time when the Ali’i of Hawai’i, Lonoikamakakahiki, was battling for supremacy with the Ali’i of the Maui, Kamalalawalu, in the 16th century.

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The ruins of Old Helani Church cover the site of 'Ohi'amukumuku Heiau at Kahalu'u, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Beneath the ruins of Helani Church lie the ruins of ‘Ohi’a-Mukumuku Heiau, a place of dark legend and lore. Held in Hawai’ian folktales to have been built by the gods, ‘Ohi’a-Mukumuku Heiau was re-dedicated to the war god, Kuka’ilimoku, by the Hawai’i Ali’i Lonoikamakakahiki, so that he might vanquish his Maui foe. It is said of these battles that when the Maui attacked the Hawai’i, the numbers of warriors was so vast that just as the first of the Maui war canoes were landing on Hawai’i, the last of their canoes were still leaving Maui.

Lonoikamakakahiki had a particular disagreement with Kamalalawalu. When the invading Maui captured his leading general, he had his eyes gouged out and spears run through the eye sockets; Lonoikamakakahiki vowed a bloody revenge. See the section on Ke’eku Heiau, below, for details.

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Surfing has been a prime use of Kahalu'u Beach for more than a thousand years, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Archeological Sites at Kahalu’u Beach County Park: The Hawai’ian word Kahalu’u can be translated as “the place where people go into the water”; in ancient as well as modern times, Kahalu’u was a place of recreation, relaxation and restoration, thus, there are numerous sites of historic importance in the park. Between St. Peters Church and the northern restroom is the Awa pae Wai O Keawaiki canoe landing which figured prominently in the Maui-Hawaii wars of the 16th Century. The large pond between the northern restrooms and the small pavilion, Wai Kua’a’la loko, was the private bathing pond of Hawai’ian Ali’i in residence at Kahalu’u. Between the two pavilions is another ancient canoe landing and even into historic times, a halau wa’a, or canoe storage house, was situated here. An important heiau and royal residence, Mokuahi’ole, stood where the large pavilion is today. It was at this site that the great queen, Ka’ahumanu, and her cousin Kuakini (later Territorial Governor) were raised. More information about Kahalu’u Beach County Park is available here.

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Paokamenehune Seawall can be seen behind visitors playing at Awa pae Wai O Keawaiki canoe landing at Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Paokamenehune (Menehune Seawall): The breakwater is a combination of natural features and man-made wall. It predates the 15th century temple complexes in the area and is widely said to have been built by the menehune (sort of the Hawai’ian equivalent to leprechauns), but building was actually initiated to enclose the bay as a fishpond. Whether the work became beyond the powers of the Ali’i at the time to administrate or the surfing faction won-out in the battle over use of Kahalu’u Bay is not known, but the breakwater was already in disarray at the time of European contact in the 18th century.

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Paokamenehune Seawall from Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To reach Paokamenehune Seawall, from Kahalu’u Beach or the Keauhou Beach Resort walk across the tide flat to the water’s edge and follow it out to the obvious line of large stones that comprise the seawall. Beware of the rock with is very, very slippery when wet and bear in mind that walking along the remains of the seawall is extremely dangerous.

To reach the next set of archeological sites, it is necessary to park in the free parking lot at the Keauhou Beach Resort. From the Resort parking lot, walk up the drive and cross through the lobby and across the pool deck. Follow the paths through the garden between the pool and the outdoor restaurant. Remember these sites are sacred to native Hawaiians.

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Po'o Hawaii Pond with the Kalakaua House behind, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Po’o Hawai’i Pond (King’s Pond) and the King Kalakaua Homesite: The original Hale Kahakai O Kalakaua, or seashore home of King Kalakaua, was built here in the 1880s; King Kalakaua built his own house and an exact replica for his friend, the Court Jester. Both were destroyed in 1950; this replica was erected in 1980, about a century after the original had been built. Be sure to see the informational sign for an amusing typographical error. The restored home is open for tours; inquire with the Concierge at the Resort.

Reserved for Ali’i and Kahuna, the sacred fishpond here was said to be bad luck for any commoner to take fish from. Near the pond are k’i’i pohaku (petroglyphs).

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Kapua Noni Heiau and Paokamenehune Seawall at Sunset, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kapuanoni Heiau and Canoe Landing and the Ku’ula Stones: Located on a small point of land between just makai of the Keauhou Beach Hotel’s pool, is the Kapuanoni Heiau, built by the Ali’i Kalanio’pu’u. This walled enclosure was dedicated to ensuring the abundance of fish. Just north of the Heiau is a canoe landing and the sacred bathing pool, Poho’okapo.

Between the canoe landing and the Po’o Hawai’i Pond (King’s Pond) are two ku’ula stones. Any stone god, carved or natural, large or small, used to attract fish is referred to as pohaku ku’ula. These two ku’ula are named Kanaio and Ulupalakua and were brought by voyaging canoe from Maui in 1751. Look at the larger stone, the one nearer the plaque, to sea the images of a turtle, a fishhook and shark represented on it, using a combination of the natural lines of the stone and engraving. The round hole near the top indicates that this was also a “luakini” stone, or stone for human sacrifice. A loop of rope was passed through the hole, around the victim’s neck, and tightened until strangulation was complete. It is not known if human sacrifice at this stone was used as punishment, to propitiate the gods for good fishing, to dispatch enemy combatants for ritual cannibalism, or some combination of these.

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Ku'ula Stone near Kapua Noni Heiau; note flowers in luakini hole, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To reach the next set of sites, park at the Keauhou Ohana Beach Resort and walk up the drive to the paved path that runs along the south end of the driveway. Following along this path, one passes Punawai Spring first, then, after the path runs around the end of the tennis courts, the Mo’o Twins homesite. Directly toward the sea from the tennis court is the reconstructed Hapaial’i Heiau. As of this writing, Ke’eku Heiau –to the south–is still under reconstruction; the best way to get there right now is to cross the bottom of the small tidal pool at the Mo’o Twins Homesite and then follow the path to the heiau and beautiful Makaole’a Black Sand Beach. Remember that these are holy, religious sites to modern native Hawai’ians; to not trespass, walk or climb on the temples proper; take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.

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Mo'o Twins Homesite, before reconstruction of Ke'eku Heiau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Mo’o Twins Homesite, Fertility Pit and Punawai Springs: On opposite sides of the Keauhou Beach Hotel Tennis Courts lie the homesite of the legendary Mo’o Twins and Punawai Spring. The fertility pit at Punawai Spring is an example of the rare, freshwater springs in this area which were the only source of drinking water and were the only reasons villages could survive in Kona. In modern times, the Hotel has promoted wedding ceremonies in the glade around Punawai springs, a Western reflection of the ancient practice of Hawai’ian girls bathing in them to insure fertile child-bearing years.

Legend tells us that the Mo’o Twins were prophetesses of the lizard goddess who, through time, became goddesses in their own right. Famed for their singing, their healing art s and their teaching, the Mo’o twins lived along the tidepool between what, in later years, would become Hapaiali’i and Ke’eku Heiau. Today, this is a stunning place to take sunset photos and see Honu, the endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle who inhabit the Mo’o Twins tidepool.

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

Hapaiali’i Heiau: The recently restored Hapaiali’i Heiau (Temple for Elevating Chiefs), a heiau associated with ceremonies involving changes in rank of Ali’i, lies on the grounds of the Keauhou Ohana Beach Resort, across the narrow tidal inlet from Ke’eku Heiau. Until recently, the temple appeared to be noting more than a disorganized pile of rocks in a tangle of mangrove and keawe. Not much is known about this Heiau and oral traditions in the area are contradictory. Some local stories hold that it predates Ke’eku Heiau; other family traditions maintain it was built around 1812 by Kamehameha the Great. During restoration, carbon dating of material recovered indicated that the Heiau may have been erected, or substantially rebuilt, between 1411 and 1465. According to cultural kahuna overseeing the reconstruction it took thousands of commoners about 10 years to build the original temple.

The temple was reconstructed by using survey maps made of the area in 1906 and 1952 and currently measures 100 feet by 150 feet. Completely surrounded by the sea at high tide and constructed entirely by dry-stack masonry, this reconstruction reminds us of the staggering engineering sophistication of the Hawai’ians and the grandeur and beauty of the temples they erected.

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

During the restoration project, funded by Kamehameha Schools, it was discovered that Hapaiali’i Heiau also served as a solar calendar. On the winter solstice, from a vantage point directly behind the temple’s center stone, the sun sets directly off the southwest corner of the heiau; at the vernal equinox, the sun sets directly along the centerline of the temple and at summer solstice, it sets off the northwest corner. If you are visiting Hawaii during any of these seasons it is worth the trip to Hapaiali’i Heiau to see how well this ancient astronomical observatory still serves its function

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The reconstruction of Ke'eku Heiau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Ke’eku Heiau and Keauhou Petroglyph Field: Just south of the Keauhou Beach Hotel grounds are the reconstructed remains of a heiau that served as both a luakini heiau (place of human sacrifice) and pu’uhonua (place of refuge). Built by the Hawai’ian Ali’i Lonoikamakakahiki in the 16th century, Ke’eku Heiau is one of the most famous religious sites in the State of Hawai’i because of its veneration in folk tales involving the 16th century wars between the Hawai’i and the Maui. The Heiau has walls an impressive 6 to 11 feet thick, and measures 150 by 100 feet in area.

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Ke'eku Heiau Before Reconstruction, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

When Lonoikamakakahiki vanquished the Maui, he took their king, Kamalalawalu to Ke’eku Heiau and sacrificed him alive to celebrate his great victory. The method of sacrifice was slow and graphic. Kamalalawalu was staked to the ground for several days, then taken to a nearby flat rock and butchered. The body was then towed to sea behind a canoe and fed to the sharks (some versions of the folktale have Kamalalawalu impaled on a pole for several days before being butchered on the flat rock).

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Keauhou Petroglyph Field lies in the intertidal region immediately south of Ke'eku Heiau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Hawai’ian folktales hold that Kamalalawalu brought with him into battle two large, fierce war dogs, a white one (Kapapako) and a black one (Kauakahiok’oka). The dogs are said to have lain down and died on the spot of Kamalalawalu’s execution. Although buried beneath the heiau luakini platform, it is said that these dogs can still be seen roaming, and heard howling, in the night searching the underworld for their fallen master. Two stone features found on the makai side of Ke’eku Heiau stone platform represent the two dogs.

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Extremely rare petroglyph depiction of a European-style sailing ship, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Carved into the rock in the inter-tidal region in front of this heiau is an impressive set of k’i’i pohaku (petroglyphs). Due to geological subsidence of the island over the past several hundred years, these petroglyphs are visible only at low tide, or by mask and snorkel. There is one large anthropomorphic petroglyph in particular that is said to represent the sacrificed Maui Ali’i, Kamalalawalu as well as others which commemorate victory over the Maui by Lonoikamakakahiki. Here at the Keauhou Petroglyph Field one finds an exceedingly rare petroglyph depiction of a European-style sailing vessel.  More information about Hawaii’s beautiful and enigmatic petroglyphs is available here.

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Lonoikamakakahiki Residence pavement surface, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Lonoikamakakahiki Residence, Paniau Heiau and Kapuakini Heiau: This is a good example of the embarrassment of riches in West Hawai’i in terms of our archaeological heritage, and the disrespectful and wasteful way which we deal with these important resources.

Here at Lonoikamakakahiki Residence is a king’s palace, 500 years old, and built by one of Hawai’i’s greatest kings, King Umi. This site was later inhabited by at least two other important kings (Lonoikamakakahiki and Kalanio’pu’u) as well as Kamehameha the Great. In any other state this would be an archaeological treasure, a park or preserve, but certainly showcased and cared for. In this case, in Hawai’i, a very few remnant walls were grudgingly reprieved from the bulldozer’s blade when the Kona Surf and Racquet Club was built by the Bishop Estate (Kamehameha Schools). The rest of this rare historical treasure was bulldozed into oblivion for all time. It is not even generally available for causal viewing, locked away behind the Kona Surf and Racquet Club’s iron gates where only paying Club guests and pedestrian visitors can see it. Of course, there is no available (legal) parking nearby.

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Everett Maynard reads about the history of the great King Lonoikamakakahiki at Paniau Heiau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Umi, who built this palace and temple complex, was the grandson of Pili, a reforming Ali’i and Kahuna who came from Tahiti in the 13th century and who is associated with another reformer Ali’i, Pa’ao. Together, by bringing young Tahitian princes to refresh the divine mana in the royal Hawai’ian bloodline, these two re-invigorated the stagnant Hawai’ian religion by introducing the kapu system of laws as well as human sacrifice; it is within this religious context that these temples were built.

The history of the temple and palace precincts of Lonoikamakakahiki Residence are deeply intertwined with some of the greatest events in the history of the Island and of the Kingdom of Hawai’i, as well as the focal point for the political forces through which the Hawai’ian Kingdom was ultimately forged.

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Foundations at Lonoikamakakahiki Residence area, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

During the 16th Century, when Hawai’i was threatened by the attack of the Maui under Kamalalawalu, Chief Lonoikamakakahiki was in residence here. It was near this spot, at Ke’eku Heiau, Lonoikamakakahiki sacrificed the vanquished Maui, Kamalalawalu, to the war god Kuka’ilimoku. The victory over the Maui cemented Lonoikamakakahiki’s rule over the entirety of Hawai’i Island. The bold attack of the Maui forever changed the way island dwellers looked at warfare. From that point on, major warfare became more directed towards conquest of other islands and the internecine battles within island populations which had served as the major form of warfare to that time were reduced in importance and frequency, serving only to solidify ascendancy to kingship.

Historic events again overtook this location late in the 18th Century during the skirmishes in which Captain Cook was killed at Kealakekua. Native Hawai’ians, covetous of iron from nails, stole a row boat from the British explorers. Captain Cook, attempting to secure the boat’s return, for a time took hostage the venerated Ali’i and Kahuna, Kalanio’pu’u, who was then Chief of all the Island of Hawai’i. After Cook was killed in the resultant melee, Kalanio’pu’u fled here to hide from British sailors bent on vengeance. Kalanio’pu’u survived the days of battle and revenge and became a figurehead elder statesman, helping to shape his fellow Hawai’ians’ attitudes towards the newcomers, their incredible wealth and their new religion. Kalanio’pu’u, it is said, was overly fond of hula and he imported hula halau from all over Polynesia to entertain himself and his royal court. The hula grounds where thousands of hula performances were held lie under the tennis courts today. Here, in his dotage and advancing kava-fueled dementia, Kalanio’pu’u passed his latter years and divided his lands between his son, Kiwalao and his nephew, Kamehameha. Ultimately, at his death in 1782, Kalanio’pu’u passed his political power on to Kiwalao and his control of the warriors, along with the war god, Kuka’ilimoku, he passed to Kamehameha, setting the stage for four years of battle for supremacy between the two. In the end, Kamehameha emerged the victorious Ali’i, ruling all of Hawai’i Island and eventually, the entire Hawai’ian chain of islands as the Hawaiian Kingdom.

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House foundations at Lonoikamakakahiki Residence, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

After years of warfare consolidating his island empire and years of statesmanship shepherding his people into the new era of congress with the European world, a weary and elderly Kamehameha the Great moved his Royal court from O’ahu to Kailua in the second decade of the 19th Century. He passed a year here at Lonoikamakakahiki Residence while his palace and temples at Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built and re-dedicated. The royal residence has been uninhabited since Kamehameha moved to Ahu’ena Heiau.

For paying guests of the Surf and Racquet Club, there are restrooms, drinking water, parking, tennis courts and a pool in addition to the condominia. Anybody else wishing to view these important and impressive archeological ruins must park at the Keauhou Beach Ohana Resort or Kahalu’u County Beach Park and walk more than half a mile south along Ali’i drive to the “Public Shoreline Access” at the Surf and Racquet Club.

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'Ohi'a Cave Historic Preserve Overlook, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Ohi’a Lava Tube Caves and Kona Coast Scenic Overlook: This scenic pullout, overlooking the Kona Coastline from Keauhou Bay north past Kailua Bay to Keahole Point, is one of the best places to watch sunset in all of Kona. It’s also a grand spot for spotting whale spouts, watching canoe races and just generally taking in the Kona ambiance.

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'Ohi'a Caves Scenic Overlook, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Directly below the scenic overlook are the numerous entrances, skylights and pits associated with the Ohi’a Lava Tube cave complex. Before European contact, these caves were a hub of activity and socialization for the native Hawai’ians. Used at various times as general living quarters, shade during the blazing summers and cover from infrequent storms, springs deep with in the caves also augmented scarce supplies of fresh water for Kona residents. The caves also served as places for sacred ritual and burial of important Ali’i.

Today, exploration of the caves is unsafe and unsavory due to an element of homeless people and criminal activity here. Additionally, most of the accessible entrances are gated or sealed; visitors are asked to refrain from entering the caves to preserve the sanctity of native burials.

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Birthplace of King Kamehameha III, Keauhou Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

King Kamehameha III Birthplace: A lovely natural harbor backed by volley ball courts, canoe halau and lawn, Keauhou Bay Park at the pier on Keauhou harbor is a lovely place to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, eat a picnic lunch, or dive into the invitingly cool waters at the end of a hot day.

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Sunset at Keauhou Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Along the cliffs fronting the bay is a nature trail planted with native Hawai’ian healing plants with explanatory signs which runs to the birthplace of Kalani Kauikeaouli, who later became King Kamehameha III when his older brother Liholiho (Kamehameha II) died of measles in England. Legend has it that Kalani was still born, but the kahuna attending the royal birth immediately immersed him in the cold waters of a nearby spring, where he was at once revived. There are not many places in America where one can easily walk to the exact birthplace of a King, and this pleasant spot is onesuch, not to be missed.

To reach Keauhou Bay, follow Kaleiopapa St. from either of its intersections with Ali’i Drive between the 5 and 6 mile markers. Full facilities include showers, restrooms, drinking water, picnic tables, volleyball courts and a boat ramp.

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Keauhou Holua National Historic Landmark, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Keauhou Holua National Historic Landmark (Ka Holua O Kaneaka: In ancient times, the Ali’i competed with each other in the sport of Holua, or sledding. A long, steep, trackway paved with stones would be constructed down-slope and then covered with tamped dirt and topped with dried grass. The Ali’i would race down these tracks on wooden sleds, or “holua” as competition. These races were very dangerous and only the Ali’i were allowed to compete. This particular holua is unique because, not only is it the largest and longest and best preserved in Hawai’i, but also because when constructed it went all the way into the sea at Keauhou Bay.

Despite this important archeological site being a National Historic Landmark, much of it was bulldozed by developers building resorts and a golf course.

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Looking down the Keauhou Holua Trackway, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The nearby village of Holualoa is named after this sledway; “holua” meaning “sled” and “loa” meaning “long”.

The Historic Landmark is best viewed from Ali’i Drive, just past the 6-mile marker and directly across from the Kona Country Club parking lot. Time allowing, one can park here and walk the golf-cart tracks up alongside the sled run and observe it from the top.

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Lekeleke Graveyard at Kuamo'o Battle Field, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kuamo’o Battle Field and Lekeleke Graveyard: Melancholy, lonely, desolate; this bench cut into the fresh scar of an a’a flow marks the place where the Hawai’ian gods died at the battle of Kuamo’o. In 1819, the year before the Christian missionaries arrived in Hawai’i, forces loyal to Kamehameha II and Queen Ka’ahumanu fought to overturn the kapu system and the pagan Hawai’ian religion in favor of Christianity. Kahuna Kekuaokalani led the last supporters of the old ways and the old gods and fought a desperate battle here to preserve their ancient way of life, and lost. Their graves, numbering in the several hundreds despite the official-looking marker at the site, are under the numerous, large stone altars erected by the victors over the very spots the warriors fell.

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Kuamo'o Battle Field and Lekeleke Graveyard, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A walk along the dirt road that bisects the battlefield is ineffably sad and a little creepy. However, the road soon climbs into dryland forest along the lava ocean cliffs and provides some memorable hiking and sunset views.

Kuamo’o Battlefield is located at the very end of Ali’i Drive, somewhat appropriately. No facilities.

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At the End of Day, Ku'emanu Heiau Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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Kapua Noni Heiau Last Iki Standing, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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Vog-tinged sunset at Hapaiali'i Heiau, Kona 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.

Bart Hunt Snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach: 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.

Kahalu’u Beach County Park

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

A young snorkeler spots a Hawaii Green Sea Turtle, Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Loll in sand and sun under swaying palms, watch humpback whales dance in an exotic Kona sunset, snorkel among rainbow-colored fish on a protected reef or ride surf where the Kings of Hawai’i defined the sport a thousand years ago! Kahalu’u is the crown jewel of Kona Coast County Beach Parks.

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

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

Abundant parking, disabled access, picnic tables, two shaded pavilions, two sets of public restrooms, showers and lifeguards round-out the facilities of this beautiful beach park. Most days there is a food wagon selling sandwiches, burgers, shave ice and cold drinks at reasonable prices and a vendor renting snorkeling gear and boogie boards. This beach can be crowded on weekends, but there is always room for another snorkeler in the water.

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.

Snorkelers enjoy the water, Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

This is the premiere snorkeling beach of the Island of Hawai’i; protected from the open sea by a sea wall, the reef is also protected against commercial aquarium fishing. Thus, the snorkeling is in calm, shallow water; frequently during low tide, one can actually walk to the sea wall, a couple hundred feet offshore. Also, there is an abundance of fish of an enormous variety, over 100 species…perhaps the best display on the 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.

Bart Hunt Filming at Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For these two reasons, Kahalu’u is where many visitors head for their introduction to snorkeling. If you are unsure about snorkeling, there is a great video about snorkeling, actually filmed at Kahalu’u Beach, available here; remember if you can float you can snorkel. A series of very short articles dealing with various topics on snorkeling in Hawaii are available here, here, here, here, here and 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.

Kahalu'u Sunset, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and a few Hawksbill Sea Turtles call this bay home, eating the limu (or seaweed) and thrilling the snorkelers. These turtles are generally observed along the shallow rocks and lava reef on the south (left as you face the ocean) side of the bay. Remember that these turtles are endangered and protected, it is a federal offense to approach, touch, handle or harass the turtles, in the water or out. More about the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle can be found here, and more about environmental awareness and protecting the reef animals 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.

Laurie Maus uses a boogie board as a flotation device to aid snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Numerous freshwater springs and shallow water bathers make the near-shore snorkeling unpleasantly cloudy, but about 50 feet offshore the water turns crystal clear and the display of coral is nothing short of amazing. Outside the breakwater one may occasionally see deep water species such as marlin, tuna, dolphin and small sharks. Towards the south, where the bay shallows to a series of tide pools, many species of shrimp and seaweed not commonly seen in West Hawai’i are abundant.

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 littlest snorkeler, Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Northward, and outside the bay, is an excellent surf break that is for intermediate or better surfers and boogie boarders. There is a fair current north out of the bay and along the coast…swimmers caught in this current should relax and swim with the current, angling towards land…they will come to shore a few hundred yards north of Kahalu’u and be able to walk back along the road. To avoid the current, simply stay well within the area of the bay enclosed by the seawall. If you feel the current begin to tug at you, simply turn toward shore, spot the pavilion and begin slowly swimming toward it; go slowly and steadily so as not to tire yourself.

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 littlest surfer dude, Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Hawai’ian word Kahalu’u can be translated as “the place where people go into the water”; in ancient, as well as modern times, Kahalu’u was a place of recreation, relaxation and restoration. The Kahalu’u are is part of the greater Keauhou Historic District; to find out more about the many fascinating temples, palaces and sacred spots in and around Kahalu’u Bay, please go 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.

Niu Malu, Shade of the Coconut Palm, Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

One of the numerous sites of historic importance around the park, such as the seawall, Paokamenehune, which predates the 15th century temple complexes in the area and is widely said to have been built by the menehune (sort of the Hawai’ian equivalent to leprechauns). In reality the seawall is only half man-made and half an augmented natural feature; building was initiated to enclose the bay as a fishpond. Whether the work became beyond the powers of the Ali’i at the time to administrate or the surfing faction won-out in the battle over use of Kahalu’u Bay is not known, but the breakwater was already in disarray at the time of European contact in the 18th century.

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

Sunset from Ku'emanu Heiau adjacent to Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Ku’emanu Heiau, perhaps the only ancient temple to honor the Gods of Surfing still standing, was a place of ritual human sacrifice. The springs on the northern edge of the park, Waikui Punawai, where luakini (human) sacrifices were ritually cleansed and today surfers rinse ocean water off themselves after surfing. Between St. Peters Church and the northern restroom is the Awa pae Wai O Keawaiki canoe landing which figured prominently in the Maui-Hawaii wars of the 16th Century.

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.

Busy bathers at Kahalu'u Beach don't realize that they are wading in an ancient canoe landing, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The large pond between the northern restrooms and the small pavilion, Wai Kua’a’la loko, was the private bathing pond of Hawai’ian Ali’i in residence at Kahalu’u. Between the two pavilions is another ancient canoe landing and even into historic times, a halau wa’a, or canoe storage house, was situated here. An important heiau and royal residence, Mokuahi’ole, stood where the large pavilion is today. It was at this site that the great queen, Ka’ahumanu, and her cousin Kuakini (later Territorial Governor) were raised.

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 local Hawaiian observes sunset by performing an impromptu hula at Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When you visit Kahalu’u go humbly and carefully, full with respect and the memory of the great kings and queens who lived here, and go carefully into the water, being sure not to harass the endangered turtles, feed or harm the fish, nor touch or stand upon the corals. Kahalu’u is unsurpassed as a spot to watch sunset, spot whales and dolphin, snorkel, surf, or just relax under the swaying palm trees in those warm aloha breezes.

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.

Snack vendors at Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald 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. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

In addition to snorkel rentals, view boards, boogie boards and many other water toys can be bought or rented at Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B 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. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

John Funk, a Hawaiian native once featured on the cover of National Geographic, sells handmade craft items at Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

All media copyright 2009 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.

Moon over Kahalu'u, Kona Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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Tour Guide Hawaii iPod and iPhone App puts the magic, mystery and romance of Hawaii in the palm of your hand. It’s like having a friend from Paradise sitting in your car, telling you where to go, what to do and all the island secret spots…
>Tour Guide Hawaii iPod and iPhone App puts the magic, mystery and romance of Hawaii in the palm of your hand. It’s like having a friend from Paradise sitting in your car, telling you where to go, what to do and all the island secret spots…

>Over 3 1/2 hours of in-depth video presentations about the most popular, most spectacular and most secluded spots!

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Tour Guide Hawaii iPod and iPhone App puts the magic, mystery and romance of Hawaii in the palm of your hand. It's like having a friend from Paradise sitting in your car, telling you where to go, what to do and all the island secret spots...

Tour Guide Hawaii iPod and iPhone App puts the magic, mystery and romance of Hawaii in the palm of your hand. It's like having a friend from Paradise sitting in your car, telling you where to go, what to do and all the island secret spots...

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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 exploring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

By Donnie MacGowan

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mask, Fins and Snorkel: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

First some advice about snorkeling gear:

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

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

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

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

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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