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by Donald B. MacGowan

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Kilauea erupting at Halema'uma'u Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

Kilauea lava flow from Kupaianaha Vent, Hawaii: Photo Courtesy of Big Island Air

Kilauea Volcano

Although it is the most active volcano on earth, many visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park standing on the very summit of Kilauea Volcano often stare and wonder “Where’s the volcano?” Nestled snugly up against Mauna Loa, and not as vertically spectacular as either this near neighbor or Mauna Kea, Kilauea doesn’t even appear to be a bump on the landscape from the usual viewpoints. Even though it doesn’t standout visually, Kilauea is one of the most intriguing and fascinating volcanoes on earth…let’s just take a quick look at some of the reasons why.

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 Kilauea eruption at Halema'uma'u Crater from Jagger Museum at night: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Comprising the entire southeastern portion of Hawaii Island, Kilauea Volcano is not only currently the world’s most active volcano, it is also the home of the fire-goddess Pele. Early geologists believed Kilauea was merely a satellite vent of Mauna Loa, as it lies directly on that mountain’s southern slopes. However, Kilauea is now recognized as its own, distinct, volcano which has its own, separate, magma source and unique plumbing.

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Looking over the shield of Kilauea, at some of the 760 billion tons of lava Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Presenting the classic “Hawaiian Shield Volcano” shape, a basic oval with low, shallow slope angles, volume-wise Kilauea is one of the the world’s most massive mountains. Standing 1240 meters (4080) above sea level, the above-ocean part of the volcano is about 80 km (50 miles) long and 32 km, (20 miles) wide, along an axis trending roughly southwest to northeast. However, like all the other Hawaiian volcanoes, the great majority of its vast bulk lies below the sea, about 5.5 km (18,000 feet) deep here, making Kilauea’s true base-to-summit height about 7 km (23,000 ft).

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 lava flow from Kilauea blocks the highway at Kalapana Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Sometimes vying with Mts. Aetna and Stromboli for the title of “most active volcano on earth”, Kilauea has been erupting continuously since January 1983; between then and June 2009, nearly 700 acres of new land was created on Hawaii Island by Kilauea lava flows. As the time scale of human lives and human tragedy are so much shorter than geologic time scales, and thus human memories of past disasters grow dim rather rapidly, this volcanic growth has come at quite a cost because people insist on building villages, towns and roads on this highly active landscape. In recent decades, the towns of Kapoho (in 1960), Kalapana (in 1990), and Kaimu (in 1990) have all been burned, buried and destroyed by Kilauea, and now are seemingly all but abandoned except by a few hardy souls. Although popularly thought to be rather tame with fairly peaceable eruptions, Kilauea in the past has had its fair share of explosive, violent, phreatomagmatic eruptions, spewing great quantities of ash as well.

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The summit of Kilauea Volcano with the much more massive Mauna Loa looming in the background, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea owes its peculiar shape to two long rift systems, the currently active East Rift and the Southwest Rift. These rifts are comprised of huge, deep fractures through the bulk of the mountain. Magma rises from deep below the volcano to a pool just below the summit caldera, then flows through internal plumbing down either rift, causing flank eruptions at vents down-rift. These flank eruptions greatly enhance Kilauea’s exaggerated elongate shape. In recent times, many more eruptions have occurred along the East Rift, than the Southwest Rift.

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A patch of sunlight illuminates the nearly 1400 feet of throw on the Holei Pali fault scarp, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The orientation of these rifts is controlled by the geography of Mauna Loa and Kilauea, as well as by gravity. Because the north side of Kilauea is well buttressed by the huge mass of Mauna Loa and the unsupported south side slopes-off into the sea, the very mass of Kilauea is pulling it down slope, into the sea. Indeed, the sub-sea, southern slope of Kilauea is a vast, hummocky field of debris from enormous landslides. Above sea level, this slumping activity is evidenced by the several, sub-parallel ridges (or “Pali”, in Hawaiian) on the southern flank. With throws of much as 430 meters (1400 feet), these faults represent the massive fracturing of the volcano’s southern flank and the subsequent slumping of these giant blocks down slope. A drive down the Holei Pali along Chain of Craters Road will quickly demonstrate the magnitude of seaward movement as Kilauea erupts, slumps and grows.

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The Kilauea Iki Crater, within the much more massive Kilauea Caldera, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Seaward slumping is exacerbated by the volcanic activity itself; as Kilauea fills with magma, it swells and slumps southward, producing massive earthquakes and landslides. The slumping, however, also exacerbates the volcanic activity. By opening-up new voids in Kilauea’s internal plumbing, the slumping allows injection of even more magmatic material into Kilauea, which then causes more earthquakes and more slumping. Essentially spreading under its own enormous weight, the synergy between magma injection and slumping allows Kilauea to grow both by eruption of, and intrusion of, magma.

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A pahoehoe lava flow sizzles into the sea at La'epuki on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The supply of magma to the volcano is fairly consistent at 1.8 cubic km (1.0 cubic miles) per year, however forty to fifty per cent of the melt never makes its way to the surface. Called “endogenous growth”, nearly half the growth of Kilauea can be attributed to magma cooling and solidifying below ground, in the growing voids opened by the synergistic magma injection and seaward slumping of the mountain.

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Looking out over Kilauea Caldera from the back porch of Volcano House, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Conjoined on its northern flank by the vastly larger Mauna Loa, Kilauea doesn’t appear to the casual observer to have a true summit. However, the summit region, around which Crater Rim Drive circles, is comprised of a larger collapse crater (Kilauea Caldera), which contains three smaller collapse craters (Halema’uma’u, Keanakako’i and Kilauea Iki Craters). Collapse craters, such as here and those along Chain of Craters Road, are formed when magma is withdrawn from a reservoir during an eruption, and the suddenly unsupported land above simply collapses into the void. As you look out over the enormous cavity formed by Kilauea Caldera, imagine the immensity of the eruptive event that left enough of a void in the magma chamber to allow this huge crater to form.

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Offerings to the Goddess Pele at Halema'uma'u Crater in Kilauea Caldera, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kilauea’s large magma pool lies just below the summit region, somewhat south of Halema’uma’u Crater, at a depth of about 1.5-5 km (1-3 miles). Forming a magma reservoir several kilometers wide, it acts as central storage for the entire summit-rift magma plumbing system. Partial melting in the mantle at a depth of 40-60 km (52-30 miles) produces magma which rises through the earth and pools within a couple kilometers or so of the surface, and which then flows almost immediately to the site of eruption (summit or flank), having very little residence time within the volcano itself. This “open door to the mantle” feature is a fairly unique to Kilauea Volcano.

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Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Shannon Walker

Based on eruptive patterns in recorded history, Kilauea has been observed to follow three shifting modes of eruptive behavior. The first mode involves explosive volcanism at Kilauea’s summit. This activity contributed to the formation of past and present calderas in the summit area as well as having showered Ka’u with a cover of cinder and ash. The second mode is continuous effusive eruptive activity at the summit. This mode is typified by features such as the former lava lake at the summit which was present well into historic times, and events such as voluminous outpouring of lava from several summit vents. This mode tends to fill-in summit calderas and produce a landscape of broad, coalescing shields atop the various vents. The third mode of eruption is the continuous flank eruption, as seen today on the East Rift at vents such as Pu’u O’o and Kupaianaha.

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A view into the vent at Kupaianaha on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

These modes are derived from observation of the volcano’s activity only during modern times, and almost certainly Kilauea’s behavior over geologic time must be much more complex. Rather than a view of the evolution of Kilauea Volcano, these modes may serve more as template through which to view what the volcano is capable of doing. It has been observed that periods of volcanic quiescence, or of small eruptions which shift location from summit to flank, may herald a shift in these eruptive modes. Further, it has been suggested based on recent observations that large, south-flank earthquakes initiating magma intrusion can greatly alter eruptive modes.

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

Kilauea eruption at Halema'uma'u Crater from Steaming Bluff, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

So, now that we understand a little of the mystery and complexity of Kilauea Volcano, where is the best place to see it from? For starters, one cannot beat the view off the back porch of Volcano House in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which encompasses much of Kilauea Caldera and Halema’uma’u Crater. Although currently closed between Jagger Museum and the intersection with Chain of Craters Road because of the ongoing eruption in Halema’uma’u Crater, the portion of Crater Rim Drive which is open provides a unique view of the volcano in a scenic loop around the entire summit region. Of particular interest are the stops at Steaming Bluff, Jagger Museum, Halema’uma’u Crater (closed), Southwest Rift Zone (closed), Keanakako’i Crater (closed), and Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook.

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

Looking at the trail across Kilauea Iki Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Driving across the summit dome and down to the slump-block cliffs on Hilina Pali Road takes you on a fabulous backcountry exploration from a nether-world of volcanic destruction and to lush, tropical dryland forest and savanna. Hikes along Devastation Trail, through Kilauea Iki Crater and out to the caldera overlook at Waldron Ledge give fabulous insight to Kilauea Volcano and are particularly beautiful as well as fascinating, and fairly easy for those in reasonable physical condition.

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.

View down the slump blocks that comprise the Hilina Pali, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Aside from the summit region, the Chain of Craters Road travels through the most interesting geography of Kilauea, including lava flows from numerous recent eruptions. Although everywhere fascinating, stops at Pauahi Crater, Mauna Ulu and Muliwai O Pele are almost mandatory. As mentioned earlier, this drive gives stark perspective on the slump blocks and the slippage of Kilauea’s south flank toward the sea. Stops at Kealakomo Overlook, Halona Kahakai, Alanui Kahiko and Holei Pali illustrate the vast nature of the slow creep of Kilauea’s southern flank down-slope. A stop to see the amazing, ancient petroglyphs at Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Field provides a moving, human connection to the peoples of the past, the awe and respect they had for this Goddess and her mountain home. The end of Chain of Craters Road gives way to a playground of geological landscapes, booming sea cliffs and ancient villages, as well as providing the jumping-off point for hikes to see the flowing lava, when it is flowing within the Park boundaries.

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 eruption of Kilauea at Halema'uma'u from Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A complete guide to exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park can be found here; you should plan to spend the better part of a full day in the park—unless you’ve been here before, it will be the most interesting place you’ve ever been to yet. Viewing the flowing lava, the spectacle of the earth remaking herself, is one of the most moving, soul-filling, surprisingly emotional experiences you can have. The current eruption in Halema’uma’u Crater, although it hasn’t yet produced any lava flows, is best viewed from the Jagger Museum; at times of peak activity, it is most spectacular when viewed after dark. Guides to Lava Viewing in the Park and at the County of Hawaii Lava Viewing platform east in Puna at Waikupanaha can be found here and here respectively. A general outline of the volcanoes of Hawaii Island is presented here, a brief discussion on the differences between a’a and pahoehoe lavas can be found here, and an overview geologic history of the Hawaiian Islands 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.

A hiker watches lava from Kilauea Volcano flow into the ocean at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Perhaps no other volcano in the world, certainly no active volcano, is so easy to explore, to touch, to experience. If you come to see Kilauea, home of the Goddess Pele, be sure to give yourself a lot of time—you’ll be more captivated than you expect; certainly you’ve never experienced anything like this before. Come, explore, enjoy, stand at her door and breath the breath of the Fire Goddess.

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 plume from littoral explosions where lava from Kilauea Volcano enters the sea at Waikupanaha, 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.

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

Aerial view of the Mauna Ulu Crater, Kilauea Volcano, 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.

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

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

The steam cloud at Waikupanaha where lava fro,m Kilauea meets the sea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

The County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Platform at Waikupanaha, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

Looking down into Kilauea Caldera from Waldron Ledge, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 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.

Lava flowing into the ocean at La'epuki in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 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.

Hawaii Whirlwind Road Trip: I have to see the whole Big Island all in one day!

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.

Beautiful Waialea Beach, Kohala Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, Kona Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

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

To see the numerous fascinating and important archaeological sites in the Keauhou Historic District, it is necessary to park your car in the free parking at either Kahalu’u Beach Park or the Keauhou Beach Resort and explore on foot. More details about seeing the many fascinating sites at the Keauhou Historic District may 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 justly famous Kona coffee can be found here.

Kealakekua Bay Historical District and Captain Cook Monument

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.

Kealekekua Bay and Cook Monument, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

More information on the Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park, the Cook Monument and Captain James Cook’s encounters with the Hawaiians can be found here. Although far too long and demanding to be contained in this whirlwind tour, many visitors enjoy the hike to the Captain Cook Monument, perhaps the finest hike on the island. Details of this undertaking can be found here.

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

Pu’u Honua O Hounaunau National Historical Park; The Place of Refuge

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

Looking toward Pu'u Honua O Honasunau from Two Step Beach, Kona Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

A complex and strict order of law, known as the kapu system, controlled and governed everything in ancient Hawai’i. Under this system, judgment was death, immediate and final, unless the accused could escape to one of the designated places of refuge. There the accused would undergo a cleansing ceremony, be absolved of all crimes, and allowed to return to his family free of onus. The National Park has a Visitor’s Center and bookshop, full picnic and restroom facilities. Although no swimming or snorkeling is allowed within the Park, adjacent is Two-Step Beach on Hounaunau Bay, one of the premiere snorkeling spots on the Island. A full description of the Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park can be found here; details of snorkeling at 2-Step Beach can be found here.

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

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach 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.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

Available services include water, picnic tables, restrooms, electrical outlets, and pavilions, parking; camping is by permit only. During peak tourist time, there is a souvenir stand with some packaged food items and canned drinks for sale, otherwise the nearest food, gasoline and other services are in either Pahala or Na’alehu. More about Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, the turtles and the archeological sites in the park can be found here. More about the endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle can be found here.

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

Hawai’i Volcanoes National 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.

Lava flowing into ocean at La'epuki in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

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Nieces Entering Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Although a full exploration of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is not possible on this whirlwind tour, a thorough road trip description of the whole park can be found here. Many decide that the Park is just too interesting to leave and decide to curtail their full-day island adventure in favor of a more thorough investigation of this area. A wonderful way to complete your day with an exploration of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a delving quickly into Puna and finishing with lava viewing can be found here.

Kilauea Visitor Center

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

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

Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory

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Halema'uma'u eruption at nght from the Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

Puna District and Pahoa Town

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

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

At the center of Puna is Pahoa Town; wild, untamed and even a bit unruly, with its false-front, western-style buildings and raised wooden sidewalks, Pahoa looks more like it belongs in Wyoming. But Wild West isn’t the only subculture evident here…tie-dye banners and the general “flower-power” ambience some businesses and citizens lend Pahoa give it a decidedly “’60’s” feel. It has been said of Pahoa that if it weren’t for counter-cultural influences, it would have no cultural influences at all.

The charm and allure of this way of living is evident when you consider that the region around Pahoa is the fastest growing portion of the island. Pahoa has some of the best restaurants on the island, THE best natural foods store and a great public pool. You can learn more about Pahoa Town here.

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


Kalapana Disaster of 1990/Kaimu Black Sand Beach

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

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

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

From the lava hillocks along the trail you can get nice views of the eruption plume at Pu’u O’o, up on the flank of Kilauea, as well as the steam clouds down a few miles along the coast where the lava enters the sea. Restrooms and fast food are available at the end of the road.  Although for reasons of time it is not part of this tour, near here is the County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Area at Waikupanaha, from which it is sometimes possible to see flowing lava. You can read about it here. Between Kalapana and Lava Trees State Monument, you will pass through some other interesting parts of Puna that are not included on the current tour. You can read about Isaac Hale Beach Park at Pohoiki Bay here and Ahalanui Hot Pond here.

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

Lava Trees State Monument

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Looking at a single lava tree cast, Lava Trees State Monument, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

You may wish to avail yourself of the restrooms here; they are the last public facilities for some distance. More about Lava Trees State Monument can be found here. Surrounding the Lava Trees State Monument are the famous Puna Tree Tunnels, which you can read

about here.

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

Hilo Town

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The shoreline of East Hilo is punctuated with small, but gorgeous beach parks: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

Rainbow Falls and Wailuku River Park

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Swimming and diving are favorite activities at Boiling Pots on the Wailuku River in Hilo, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Restrooms are by the parking lot and a souvenir shop is located across the street. More about Rainbow Falls can be found here.

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

Akaka Falls

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Akaka Falls, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

Leg 11) Return Hwy 220 through Honomu to Hwy 19, then north on Hwy 19 to Honoka’a. More about Akaka Falls can be found here.

Honoka’a Town

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Hamakua Sugar cane outside Honoka'a, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

Waipi’o Valley

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Waipi'o Valley, just outside Honoka'a Town on the Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Tours down into the valley in vans, on horse drawn wagons and ATVs can be booked in Honoka’a.

Over-flights in fixed wing aircraft and helicopters also offer fine venues from which to see this amazing piece of Hawai’i. Hiking down and wandering the immense black sand beach, exploring the ironwood copses and sand dunes and discovering the hidden waterfalls is also a popular way to see the canyon. Although the hike down is only a little over 1 mile and a thousand feet elevation loss, the climb back up is sweltering in the ferocious sun and heat. Think twice before hiking down. Facilities at the Scenic Overlook include a pavilion and restrooms; there no facilities beyond port-a-potties within the valley itself. More about Waipi’o Valley, especially the hike down in, can be found here.

Leg 13: Return to Honoka’a on HWY 240; at Honoka’a take HWY 19 to Waimea.

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

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Bull rider at Hawaii Rodeo: Photo by Carol Gilliland

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. More about Waimea Town can be found, here.

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. More about the history of ranching and Hawaii music can be found here.

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

Hapuna Beach

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

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

Although not intended as part of this particular day trip, a walking tour of Kailua Kona can be found here.

This whirlwind tour was designed to give you a taste of the Big Island Experience in a single day—not an easy task. For more detailed day trips, designed to focus on specific areas of Hawaii Island, please see the following:

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #1: The Saddle Road…Kona to the Summit of Mauna Kea, Kaumana Cave and Hilo: http://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-1-the-saddle-road-kona-to-the-summit-of-mauna-kea-kaumana-cave-and-hilo-2/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #2: North Kona and Kohala, Ancient History, Sumptuous Beaches: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/scenic-drive-2-north-kona-and-kohala-ancient-history-sumptuous-beaches/

Best Scenic Drives on Hawaii #3: Kona to Hamakua and Hilo: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/best-scenic-drives-on-hawaii-3-kona-to-hamakua-and-hilo-2/

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.

Oneoneo Bay Sunset in Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Best Scenic Drives in Hawaii #4: Kona Coast to South Point and Ka’u https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/best-scenic-drives-in-hawaii-4-kona-coast-to-south-point-and-kau-2/

Best Scenic Drives in Hawaii #5: Kailua Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Puna and Lava Viewing: https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/best-scenic-drives-in-hawaii-5-kailua-kona-to-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park-puna-and-lava-viewing-2/

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

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

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

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

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

A complete, regularly updated, index to our blog posts about exploring and enjoying The Big Island of Hawaii, including how to plan your trip to Hawaii, what to expect when you get here, what to do and how to do it, 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.

Amanda at Kahalu'u Beach, Kailua Kona 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.

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

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

Faded sunset over Hapaiali'i Heiau from Mo'o Twins Homesite, Kona Hawaii: Graphic from 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, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava enters the sea at Waikupanaha: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan_edited-1

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.

Trip 5: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Lava Viewing Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 14 hours (return drive in the dark).

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.

Many natural hot springs surround Ahalanui Hot Pond at Pu'ala'a County Park in Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

From Kona, connect to Highway 11 south 2 1/2 hours to Ka’u Desert Trail. A 40 minute round trip hike leads to footprints of ancient warriors who where caught in a sudden, ferocious eruption. Continue on Highway 11 to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Park Rangers at the Visitor Center will have the latest lava information. Chain of Craters Road has numerous craters, tons of hiking trails and several breathtaking vistas for great photographs. Upon exiting the Park, continue through Puna to Kea’au and Highway 130 (food stop). Proceed to Pahoa and the junction to Highway 132 and Lava Trees State Park. Here trees were inundated with fast flowing lava. When the trees rotted, it left these Lava Trees. Then on to Highway 137, following the coast past Ahalanui Hot Spring to Kalapana and a 20 minute hike to the lava viewing area at Waikupanaha. (Arrive about dusk for optimal viewing.) From Kalapana back to Kona is a 3 1/2 hour drive (after dark).

Leg 1) Start at north end of Keauhou Historic District on Ali’i Drive, head south on Ali’i Drive to jct with Kamehameha II Hwy; east on Kamehameha III to Hwy 11. Take Hwy 11 south to Ka’u Desert/Warrior Footprints Trail.

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.

Vog-Tinged Sunset at the Reconstructed Hapaiali'i Heiau, Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

For almost 400 years, temples and palaces along the Kona coastline served as a kind of “Rome of the Pacific”, a great political, religious and cultural center in Polynesia, until the capital was moved to Honolulu in 1850 by Kamehameha III.

The most important, interesting and best preserved historical and cultural sites lie within the Keauhou Historic District, between Kahalu’u Beach Park in Kailua running south 6 miles to Kuamo’o Bay in Keauhou. The District contains perhaps a dozen fascinating sites that are easy to walk to, well maintained and quite interesting. To see the numerous fascinating and important archaeological sites in the Keauhou Historic District, it is necessary to park your car in the free parking at either Kahalu’u Beach Park or the Keauhou Beach Resort and explore on foot.

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

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Frank Burgess hiking on the Ka'u Desert Trail, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Ka’u Desert Trail and Warrior Footprints, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Just where Hawai’i Belt Road enters Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from the West, is a small parking strip that is the gateway to a host of wonders within the Ka’u Desert section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Although eruptions here are generally characterized by leisurely outpouring of lava, it is not unknown for Kilauea to violently erupt in a blast of steam and ash. It is this ash that preserves some human footprints, believed to have been formed in 1790 when enemies of Kamehameha the Great were caught by one such massive, explosive eruption. Perhaps as many as 400 men died in this eruption. An emergency phone is available here; there are no other services. Do not venture from your car here without carrying water. More about the Warrior Footprints and the hike can be found here.

Leg 2) Continue south on Hwy 11 to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Entrance and jct with Crater Rim Drive; Crater Rim Drive west to Kilauea Visitor’s Center to Jagger Museum, then back around Crater Rim Drive to Kilauea Iki Crater.

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Kilauea Crater and Eruption at Halema'uma'u, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

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

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

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

Kilauea Visitor Center

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Fran Burgess peruses Kilauea Visitor's Center Book Shop at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory

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The Eruption at Halema'uma'u Crater, as seen from the Jagger Museum, glows sickedly at night, as if someone had left the door to Hades propped ajar...Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Kilauea Iki Trail

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Looking from the rim down on hikers in the crater on Kilauea Iki Trail, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Leg 3) Crater Rim Drive to intersection with Chain of Craters Road; Chain of Craters Road to End of Road.

End of Chain of Craters Road

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Most years, it is possible to hike to see flowing lava from the end of Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Hiking all the way out to the active flows is one of the most spiritually rewarding, awe-inspiring, curiosity quenching and amazing things one can do anywhere in the world—but it is neither for the physically unfit nor the meek of spirit. It is a long, hot hike (currently seven miles) over broken ground and glass-sharp rocks; the heat from the volcano is savage; the weather, if clear, is sweltering…frequent squalls blow in off the ocean and the rain and wind can get pretty wild out on the lava plain where there is absolutely no cover or shelter to protect you. No water or shade is available anywhere along the hike.

Leg 4) Follow Chain of Craters Road back uphill to Crater Rim Drive, follow Crater Rim Drive back to Park Entrance and then to Hwy 11. Go east on Hwy 11 to jct with Hwy 130 at Kea’au; take Hwy 130 south to Pahoa.

Puna District and Pahoa Town

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Remember...Puna is wet! The Malama Market sign is reflected in a rain puddle in downtown Pahoa, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

Remember that the return leg of this trip to Kona will be made at night .  There is no food or gas available between Kea’au in Puna and Kailua Kona, so be sure to fill-up the tank and buy plenty of food while you can.

Leg 5) At Pahoa, get on Hwy 132 to Lava Trees State Park.

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A lava cast of an ohi'a tree at Lava Trees State Monument in Puna, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Trees State Monument

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

Leg 6) From lava Trees State Park take Hwy 132 to jct with Hwy 137 at Kapoho; take Hwy 137 southwest to Ahalanui Pond then to Kaimu Black Sand Beach and Kalapana Disaster of 1990.

Ahalanui Pond

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

https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/discovering-puna-explore-isaac-hale-beach-park-at-pohoiki-bay-puna-hawaii/

The Big ISland's newest Black Sand Beach, Kaimu Beach, at Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kalapana Disaster of 1990/Kaimu Black Sand Beach

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

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

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

Leg 7) From Kalapana, take Hwy130 (Ahia Road) just a tweak to the jct with old HWY 130; go west on old the highway to Waikupanaha Lava Viewing.

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Streaming lava at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Viewing Near Kalapana

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

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Littoral explosion plume at Waikupanaha lava ocean entry, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The easy trail, a 20 minute stroll to the viewing area, is well-marked. The viewing varies as lava flows nearer or farther from the trail. Viewing is best at dusk so bring flashlights for the hike out. Take close-toed walking shoes and a hat, long pants and long-sleeved shirt, at least 2 liters of water and sun block and a rain jacket and camera. Remember food and gas are not available anywhere nearby after dark, so fill up BEFORE you park, bring snacks and drinks. There are port-a-potties available at the parking lot.  Much more about lava viewing at Waikupanaha can be found here.

Leg 8) Return to Hwy 130; Hwy 130 north through Pahoa to Kea’au and jct with Hwy 11. Hwy 11 west to Kailua Kona. Take Hwy 11 west to Kailua Kona.

Remember that this leg of the journey takes about 3 1/2 hours, you will be driving it in the dark and there is nothing in the way of gas or food available between Kea’au and Kailua Kona at night.  If you find yourself low on gas and hungry at the end of the trip, the best bet is to drive into Hilo (about 1/3 hour away through Pahoa, get gas and eat there, then drive back to Kailua Kona on Highway 19 through Waimea.

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

Waikupanaha ocean entry, Puna 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.

Lae`apukii Ocean Entry Lava Flow Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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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, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Helicopter and Explosion Plume, Lava Ocean Entry at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Mahana Green Sand Beach on Papakolea Bay at South Point, Ka’u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan
There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track.  Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.

The Colored Sand Beaches of the Big Island of Hawaii

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

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Secluded, beautiful Makalawena Beach lies in the heart of a tropical wilderness just north of the Kona Airport, Kona-Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Waialea Beach, or Beach 69, is an out-of-the-way gem that is rarely crowded on the Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Hawaii’s most famous black sand beach, Punalu’u Beach, Ka’u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Littoral Explosions as Lava Enters the Sea at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Kaimu Beach, Hawaii’s Newest Black Sand Beach, Near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Black sand is made by the interaction of hot. liquid lava and cold ocean water, such as this littoral flow at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
The wild surf at Wawaloli Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #9: Made for Adventure: The Jungles, Volcanoes, Hot Springs and Tidepools of Puna!
by Frank Burgess, brought to you by Tour Guide Hawaii

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

Today’s hints cover the area from McKenzie State Park in Puna District back to Kona. Driving along the Puna Coast, through recent lava flows and ageless jungle, through Ka’u and into Puna there several fantastic places to stop and explore, but there is also a lot of lovely, open countryside for several miles, so enjoy the panoramic views. Your Tour Guide download from iTunes will give you more detailed information about this area.

Deeper into mysterious Puna!

As you continue along the coast road, you will next encounter McKenzie State Park. Here the Ironwood trees create an unusual ambience of a pine tree forest. The sheer cliffs and majesty of the ocean beg for photographing. Swimming would be near impossible here, but the hiking is spectacular. Tour Guide will give more information about this other- worldly park. A permit is required for camping and the facilities are a bit run down, but it is secluded, private andbeautiful.

Not far away is Kahena Beach. This beautiful black sand beach involves a bit of a scamper to get down the cliff, but is well worth the effort. Tour Guide will give you the easiest path to take. You may notice that this beach is “clothing optional”, thus it’s popularity. Swimming here is good, but currents can be strong if you get too far from shore.

Drive just a few miles further and you come to what used to be the town of Kalapana. Kalapana and Royal Gardens were destroyed in the lava flows during the late1980’s.

What remain are a few homes and businesses where the road now ends. From here one can see the plume of smoke coming from the vent upslope. Sometimes the lava reaches the ocean about 2 miles from this spot.

A short five minute hike will bring you to Kaimu Beach, the newest black sand beach on the island. Tour Guide will give you the rich history of the ancient fishing villages that were here and the touching stories about the palms at Kaimu Beach.

Heading back from Kalapana, you will want to take Highway 130 toward Pahoa. This is your best chance of watching Kilauea erupt. Just a few hundred yards north of Kalapana, is the old turn off to Royal Gardens. This is now the official County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Site. Drive as far as the attendants will allow you, park and walk into where you can safely view the lava flowing into the ocean. Daily updates on the volcano and conditions at site are available at the Hawaii County Lava Viewing Desk, phone number 808.961.8093; more information is here and here.

Farther along the highway to Pahoa, you will see a “scenic turnout” where you can view the Puna Geothermal Vents. Here a company has tapped the natural steam to create electricity from these fumaroles. Tour Guide will show you how, with a short hike off the road, and you can sit in one of these natural sauna vents for some real relaxation.

Now you’re ready to head back to Kona. Take Highway 130 to Highway 11 and go south. If time permits, you may want to stop in Volcano Village, just off the highway, for some food, gasoline, shopping or maybe even some wine tasting. This may be the last gasoline available until you get back to Kona. Find your hotel in your Tour Guide and get turn-by-turn directions right to the door.

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

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

Sometimes lost in the shuffle between visiting the mile-long sugar-sand beaches of Kohala and the spectacular snorkeling at the Kona-side beaches, the southern beaches of Hawaii Island are by no means second class, poor cousins. Beautiful and alluring in their own right, many are highly unique, offering unusual conditions and rare scenery, and all are well worth visiting. Here is a smattering of the best of the Southern Beaches of Hawaii Island. All these beaches are a bit off the beaten track and, with the exception of Punalu’u, aren’t on any standard tour of the island. Many of these are remote, none are crowded.

We always advise visitors to be careful with their possessions and leave no valuable in the cars. The locals are friendly and open, so smile, talk story with them and open yourself to an adventure that only begins with visiting the beaches.

Mahana Green Sand Beach

The Beautiful Green Sand Beach at South Point of the Island of Hawaii is Reached by an Easy 2 1/4 Mile Hike: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Beautiful Green Sand Beach at South Point of the Island of Hawaii is Reached by an Easy 2 1/4 Mile Hike: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Absolutely unique to the island of Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the handful of green sand beaches composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these. The sand grains on this beach are formed from olivine crystals weathering out of the lava and cinders from the cone over an eruptive vent that has been partially breached by the sea. The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the somewhat protected cove formed by the remnant of the cone makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot. Be very wary of currents and do not go out far nor in at all if the surf is high or there are strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.

To get here drive to South Point and, when the road splits, take the Mahana Boat Ramp branch of the road. Park just above the boat ramp for the 2 1/4 mile hike to the Green Sand Beach. Road conditions along the road to the beach vary dramatically from week to week and the road becomes impassable with even a gentle rain; therefore we do not suggest driving it at all but enjoy the short, pleasant hike. There are no services or facilities here. At all. None. And a goodly long way to drive to get to any…plan and act accordingly.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park

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

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

A truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing, Punalu’u’s black sand-lined coves and beaches are world-renowned. Dozens of endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles swim the waters of Kuhua Bay, Ninole Cove and Punalu’u Harbor and frequently bask on Kaimu Beach here. The wildness of the ocean and the serenity of the freshwater fishpond and coconut palm-shaded beaches make this an ideal place to spend some soul-recharge time. Snorkeling, picnicking and camping, or just relaxing on the beach, are major destination pass-times here.

Punalu’u means “springs you swim to”; it is the abundance of these fresh water springs just offshore that makes swimming at Punalu’u so cold and this settlement site so important to the ancient Hawai’ians. In pre-contact times, due to the scarcity of fresh water along the Ka’u coast, Hawaiians would swim out into Kuhua Bay with stoppered gourds, dive down on top the springs, unstopper the gourds and, by upending them underwater, fill them with the fresh spring water emanating from the floor of the bay. These springs are one of the very few sources of fresh water on this entire end of the island.

Available services include water, picnic tables, restrooms, electrical outlets, and pavilions, parking; camping is by permit only. During peak tourist time, there is a souvenir stand with some packaged food items and canned drinks for sale. Due to chilly waters, off-shore winds, strong currents and a fearsome rip, swimmers and snorkelers should use caution when swimming at Punalu’u, but it’s hard to resist getting in and swimming with all those turtles.

Kaimu Black Sand Beach

Kaimu Black Sand Beach near the Village of Kalapana: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kaimu Black Sand Beach near the Village of Kalapana: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The state’s newest black sand beach, Kaimu Beach, is a barren crescent of sand fronting an unforgiving expanse of lava from the 1990 flows. The old beach and the fishing village of Kalapana that stood along it are long gone, buried under 50-75 feet of lava. The palm trees growing along this trail are the result of one woman’s commitment not to allow her community, her beach, her culture to die under the lava. Planting thousands of palm sprouts, she encouraged her community, school children state wide and hundreds of others to plant the young trees. Today, the realization of her vision of rebirth is in the growing palm groves out on the barren lava plain. The trail to the new black sand beach is marked with these young palms.

Near the parking area along the path are exposed fossils, lava casts of palm trees and other plants…keep a sharp eye out, they are everywhere. Swimming is hazardous at the new beach, so is surfing, the ocean currents being strong and treacherous. But take some time to relax, wade, feel the sand beneath your feet and contemplate the drive of one dying woman to rebuild a world she loved from a devastation few of us can imagine. From the lava hillocks along the trail are nice views of the eruption plume at Pu’u O’o, on the flank of Kilauea as well as the steam clouds where the lave enters the sea at Waikupanaha. This is one of the few places where both can be seen easily and at the same time.

Kehena Beach

Kehena in Puna is a Gorgeous Gem of a Beach; Frequently Clothing Optional, There Is a Sense of Both Community and Welcome Here: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kehena in Puna is a Gorgeous Gem of a Beach; Frequently Clothing Optional, There Is a Sense of Both Community and Welcome Here: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When the eruption of 1955 created this beautiful black sand beach, the County was swift to capitalize on it and, creating a wonderful beach park, built stone steps down the cliff to the beach. When the beach dropped a full 3 feet during an earthquake in 1975 the stairs were shattered. Like so much else around this island, these stairs were never rebuilt and today terminate about ten feet above the current level of the beach—if you want to get down to the beach, therefore, you must take the dirt path that goes out of the left side of the parking lot.

Once on the beach the first thing that may strike you is that many of the locals who frequent this park have forgotten to put on proper beach attire…or any other attire whatsoever, for that matter. The second thing that will strike you is what a lovely, wonderful spot this is. In the shade of palms and ironwood this wonderful beach is generally sunny even when the rest of Puna is rainy. Swimming here is great, but ocean currents are strong and dangerous not far from shore. The locals are friendly but frisky, so don’t leave valuables in your car.

Pohoiki Beach at Isaac Hale Beach Park

Looking Across Pohoiki Beach to Isaac Hale County Beach Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Looking Across Pohoiki Beach to Isaac Hale County Beach Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A lovely black sand beach with an expert surf break, Pohoiki Beach is one of the very few real beaches and boat ramps in Puna District; as such this park sees a lot of traffic. It is also the site of the best surfing and some of the wildest snorkeling and scuba diving in Puna. If you do get in the ocean here, go in left of the boat ramp—be alert to bodacious boat traffic (they won’t be alert for you) and for fairly dangerous ocean currents. Understandably, given the crowded nature of this small place, some locals are less than welcoming of visitors. Graciously share this ocean treasure with the residents, but and leave no valuables in your car.

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

The facilities at Isaac Hale Park Beach Park have been recently rebuilt, refurbished, upgraded and expanded considerably—this once run-down park is now a quite well-appointed. The facilities include of expanded parking, soccer fields, picnic tables, showers and port-a-potties. Camping is allowed with a Hawaii County permit.

Kapoho Tide Pools

The Kapoho Tide Pools Offer a Unique, Fascinating Snorkeling Experience: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Kapoho Tide Pools Offer a Unique, Fascinating Snorkeling Experience: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Stuffed with abundant sea life, this sprawling basin of lava tidal pools is a remarkable treasure for snorkelers of all abilities from the starkly frightened to the seasoned veteran. Moorish idols, yellow tangs, various wrasses and eels, sea urchins and sea cucumbers abound and there are even some nice corals in the deeper pools. The largest pool is called “Wai Opae”, which means “fresh water shrimp”. Keeping to the left of the main channel keeps one away from most of the ocean currents, which can be surprisingly strong, even in small channels, where ponds empty into the ocean.

An amazing place to spend the day, Kapoho Tide Pools has wonderful snorkeling for people of all levels as well as other general beach activities, including just plain beach exploring, shell collecting, swimming and fishing. No real facilities exist here beyond the parking lot, so come prepared.

Hawaii's Beaches Offer Much More Than Just Sunbathing and Snorkeling--Many Are Associated With Cultural or Historical Sights and Have Intersting Tidepools and Wildlife.  Here, Endangered Green Sea Turtles Leave Enigmatic Tracks In The Sand At Punalu'u Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaii's Beaches Offer Much More Than Just Sunbathing and Snorkeling--Many Are Associated With Cultural or Historical Sights and Have Interesting Tidepools and Wildlife. Here, Endangered Green Sea Turtles Leave Enigmatic Tracks In The Sand At Punalu'u Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For more information about traveling to Hawaii in general and exploring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.  Information about the author can be found here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan