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by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

North Kona and Kohala: Ancient History, Sumptuous Beaches

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

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

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

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

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

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

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

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

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

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

Kahalu’u Beach County Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach

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

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

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

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

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

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park

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

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

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

Kekaha Kai State Park

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

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

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

Kua Bay

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

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

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

Anaeho’omalu Bay

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

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

Waialea Beach (Beach 69)

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

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

Hapuna Beach

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

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

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

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

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park

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

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

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

Lapakahi State Historical Park

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

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

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

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

Mo’okini Heiau

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

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

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

King Kamehameha Statue and North Kohala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pololu Valley

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

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

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

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

Keauhou Historic District

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vog-tinged sunset at Hapaiali'i Heiau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

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.

Historic Mokuaikawa Church in Downtown Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGown

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

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

The Sunrise Poises to Light-Up the Steeple of Mokuaikawa Church, Kaila Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Choosing which beach you want to spend time on, or where you want to hike or drive can be an exercise in confusion and conflicting advice.  Even more so, finding quality information on the history, culture, geology and natural history of the area can be almost impossible–and much of what you do find is inaccurate, or third-hand retellings that are, well, better stories than histories.  Clearly, visitors to Hawaii could use help making quality decisions about how best to spend their time and understanding what they are seeing, the culture they are visiting.

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

Inside Mokuaikaua Church in Old Kailua Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This is why Tour Guide Hawaii is so excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod video tour that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, as an example of the fabulous coverage our App for iPhone and iPod provides, let’s look at a fascinating historical site in the heart of Old Kailua Town itself, one which you might pass by, uninterested and uninformed, if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App to pique your interest and feed your curiosity.

Mokuaikawa Church

Inside Mokuaikaua Church in Old Kailua Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mokuaikawa Church Steeple Stands Tall over Kailua Kona, a Landmark and Navigation Aid For Almost 2 Centuries: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Imagine leaving a comfortable home in Boston in the chilly October of 1819, setting out to a new, unknown and mysterious land. Imagine crossing the Atlantic Ocean sailing south along the coast of Africa and then fighting the frigid, turbulent waters off Cape Horn. After enduring 5 months of intense stormy weather and unimaginably cramped and filthy quarters below decks on the Brig Thaddeus, imagine sailing into Kailua Bay; this how the first Christian missionaries to Hawai’i came to Kailua, in 1820. Moku’aikaua Church is their legacy; it is the first Christian church in the state of Hawai’i.

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

Scale Model of the Brig Thaddeus Which Brought the Missionaries from Boston to Hawaii, in the Mokuaikawa Church Museum: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The inside of the church is beautiful, cool and inviting, and visitors are welcome between services and on weekdays between sunrise and sunset; admission is free. There is a fascinating mini-museum, small but informative, which is open daily from sunrise to sunset and free tours are conducted from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:30 p.m. The Museum features exhibits about Hawai’i, the life of the missionaries and contains a scale model of the Brig Thaddeus.

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.

Rubbing of the grave marker of Henry Obookiah, a native Hawai'ian, who traveled from Hawaii to Boston to implore the missionaries to come and save his people in Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Unknown to the Congregationalist missionaries when they left Boston in 1819, in that same year, Liholiho (Kamehameha II) and the great queens Ka’ahumanu and Keopuolani had publicly defied the kapu law, thus destroying the basis of the stratified Hawai’ian society and they had fought and won the Battle of Kuamo’o, establishing Christianity as the state religion of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. This made the job of the missionaries much easier when they arrived in 1820.

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.

Graves of early and prominet parishioners in the Mokuaikawa Churyard, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Immediately upon arriving in Kailua (also called “Kairua” at that time) the missionaries set to work building a congregation and erected a grass-hut church on a plot of land given by Kamehameha II. This was the first place of Christian worship in the state of Hawai’i.

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

Gate at Mokuaikawa Church, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Under the leadership of missionary Asa Thurston, construction of Moku’aikaua was begun in 1835 and completed in January of 1837. The church was specifically aligned so that the prevailing breezes would pass through it, but also so that it presented a strong, stone façade to the south and west, the direction from which strong Kona Winds, large storms and hurricanes come. The 112-foot steeple was for many decades the highest structure in Kailua and served as a navigation landmark both for ships at sea and people on land.

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 Hewn Basalt and Lime Mortar Construction Used for Construction of Mokuaikawa Church; the Lime Came from the Thousands of Coral Heads Scavenged from Kailua Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The church is constructed of rough-hewn basalt blocks mortared with lime made from burnt coral and bound with kukui nut oil. The corner stones were taken from a heiau built on the same spot by King Umi in the fifteenth century. The interior beams and woodwork are of koa wood. The joints were painstakingly joined with ohi’a wood pins; this is a magnificent example of the architectural style brought to Hawai’i by the missionaries in the 19th century. Moku’aikaua Church takes its name from a now-razed patch of koa forest above Kailua where the beams were cut.

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.

Mokuaikaua Church Steeple, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

In 1824, Asa Thurston boasted a large congregation based on a population of no fewer than 20,000 residents in Kailua; by 1835, the census reported 11,000 people living in Kailua. This is a sad reflection of the incredibly high death rate amongst natives from imported diseases such as venereal disease, flu, tuberculosis and measles.

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.

Interio of Mokuaikawa Church from the CHoir Loft: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The museum contains a small but rich collection of displays, paintings and materials highlighting the history of Christian Hawai’i. A scale model of the Brig Thaddeus is the centerpiece of the museum exhibits; this replica was painstaking built by the men of the Pacific Fleet Command in 1934, and was given to the church in 1975.

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.

Mokuaikawa Church, Kona Hawawii: 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.

Mokuaikawa Church, Kona Hawawii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mokuaikawa Church dominates the downtown area of Old Kailua Town in Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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


by Donald B. MacGowan

Sunset from the Kailua Seawall, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sunset from the Kailua Seawall, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Along the Seawall from the Kailua Pier, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Along the Seawall from the Kailua Pier, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Choosing which beach you want to spend time on, or where you want to hike or drive can be an exercise in confusion and conflicting advice.  Even more so, finding quality information on the history, culture, geology and natural history of the area can be almost impossible–and much of what you do find is inaccurate, or third-hand retellings that are, well, better stories than histories.  Clearly, visitors to Hawaii could use help making quality decisions about how best to spend their time and understanding what they are seeing, the culture they are visiting.

Hualalai Looms over the sleepy fishing village of Kailua Kona, protected by it's seawall, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hualalai Looms over the sleepy fishing village of Kailua Kona, protected by it's seawall, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This is why Tour Guide Hawaii is so excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod video tour that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, as an example of the fabulous coverage our App for iPhone and iPod provides, let’s look at a fascinating, but perhaps mundane-appearing couple of places in the heart of Old Kailua Town itself, but might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks and would otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Kamakahonu Rock, Kailua Pier and Sea Wall

The Old Seawall Behind the Kona Inn, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Old Seawall Behind the Kona Inn, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

In the heart of Old Kailua Town’s downtown section, amidst the many shops and restaurants, lies the old Kailua Pier and Seawall. As they excitedly trek from the pre-contact Hawaiian temple at Ahu’ena Heiau, to Hulihe’e the Hawaii Royal Palace and Moku’aikaua, the first Christian Church in the state of Hawaii, tourists busy shopping, dining and snapping photos often do not even notice these historic constructions. But the pier and the seawall have an ancient, complex and fascinating history, the stones recycled from gun-turreted forts and ancient Hawaiian royal palace walls over the centuries.

Mokuaikawa Church and Hulihee Palace stand above the seawall, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mokuaikawa Church and Hulihee Palace stand above the seawall, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Congregationalist missionaries from Boston crossed the Atlantic Ocean, fought the frigid, turbulent waters off Cape Horn, endured 5 months of intense stormy weather and unimaginably cramped and filthy quarters below decks on the Brig Thaddeus, and headed for a new life in Hawai’i. In March of 1820, the missionaries sailed into the balmy waters of Kailua Bay and landed at Kamakahonu Rock, the “Plymouth Rock” of Hawai’i, in 1820.

Along the Seawall, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Along the Seawall, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

First constructed in 1900 and then rebuilt in 1950, stones for the pier and the seawall that runs from the pier to the Old Kona Inn were scavenged from the immense stonewall that once surrounded the Ahu’ena Heiau Temple complex and from the massive stone fort erected after the destruction of the heiau during the reign of Kamehameha II. The large stone fort once boasted 18, thirty-two inch naval cannon and was nick-named “The Rock” by passing whalers; today, that appellation is universally applied by locals to the entirety of the Big Island.

A Hand-Built Boat Tied-up at Kailua Pier, Kailua Kona, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Hand-Built Boat Tied-up at Kailua Pier, Kailua Kona, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The pier originally was built to facilitate loading cattle onto steam freighters bound for Honolulu. Before the advent of the pier, horseback cowboys used to rope and drag individual steers from Kaiakeakua Beach (the minuscule beach just south of the pier), plunge them into the surf and swim them out to waiting whaleboats. There, the cows were lashed to the gunwales of the whaleboat and, with their backs awash, ferried farther out to the steamer offshore. The cows were then, unceremoniously, by means of sling and crane hoisted aboard the steamer

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

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

The pier sat on Kamakahonu rock and pilings until 1950 when concrete pylons were poured. From around the turn of the last century until the 1970’s the pier was covered by various sheds and warehouses that served to protect 100 pound coffee bags, sugar and other goods ready for shipment. Renovators in the early 1950s even planted trees along the pier in an effort to beautify the downtown area. The modern shape and configuration of the pier resulted from a year and a half’s renovations during 2003-2004.

Canoes Parked at Kamakahonu Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Canoes Parked at Kamakahonu Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Back in the day, at the entrance to the pier sat H. Hackfield And Company, the largest business concern in Kona at the turn of the last century; in 1917, H. Hackfield was bought by American Factors which became AmFac in 1960. Hackfield’s buildings contained a general store, post office, coffee mill and an ice factory as well as serving as the company’s headquarters. Standard Oil stock tanks sat on the shore of Kamakahonu Beach in the 1950s and 1960s until the construction of the original Hotel King Kamehameha in the 1960s. This original hotel was rebuilt as the current King Kamehameha Beach Resort in the 1970s.

Ahu'ena Heiau Surrounded by its Ancient Stone Walls. Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacgGawn

Ahu'ena Heiau Surrounded by its Ancient Stone Walls. Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

In several places along the seawall, if you look 20-60 feet offshore, you will observe the distinct “boil” associated with undersea fresh water springs discharging into the ocean. These springs result from the discharge of aquifers that collect fresh water far up the mountain slopes and transport it down to where they intersect the seafloor. The Hawai’ians used to dive under the surface of the ocean with a sealed gourd, down to the springs, turn the gourd mouth-end down, uncork it and fill the gourd with fresh water. This was a necessary task to obtain fresh water, as fresh water springs are scarce in the Kona district. Today, one can often spot honu (sea turtles) languorously swimming through the springs, trying to kill parasites and algae that grow on their shells and skin.

Kamakahonu Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kamakahonu Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Today, Kamakahonu Rock (eye of the turtle) lies underneath the modern-day Kailua Pier, where it serves as a footing for it. It is not uncommon to observe dolphin, sea turtles and whale off the pier.

Kaiakeakua Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaiakeakua Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Even many locals will be surprised to learn that the tiny beach adjacent to, and south of, the pier and the little beach associated with Hulihe’e Palace both have names; respectively they are Kaiakeakua (the god of the sea) and Niumalu (“in the shade of the coconut trees”) Beaches. Snorkeling from Kamakahonu, Kaiakeakua or Niumalu beaches is spectacular and strangely uncommon. A beautiful coral garden and abundant fish are to be seen snorkeling along the shoreline of Ahu’ena Heiau and fish, turtles, moray eels and the occasional sunken boat are abundant in Kailua Bay. Be wary of boat traffic to and from the pier, don’t go in on boat days, when careless lighter pilots ignore the marked swim channels.

Niumalu Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Niumalu Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Many commercial ocean-going enterprises use the Kailua Pier as their departure point, lighters from large cruise ships land here and fishing captains on charter boats still bring their catches of marlin and tuna to be weighed at the scale at the pier. During the 2nd or 3rd weekend of October, the Kailua Pier serves as the staging grounds for the first leg and finish line of the Ironman World Championship Triathlon.

Kamehameha's view of his taro fields, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kamehameha's view of his taro fields, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Good fishing is to be had all along the pier and the seawall, but the best is behind the Hulihe’e Palace and the Old Kona Inn. During heavy seas and big storms, waves up to 20 feet high explode over the seawall and surge across Ali’i drive.

Ahu'ena Heiau Sacred Iki, Kialua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Ahu'ena Heiau Sacred Iki, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Views from the pier are spectacular, particularly at sunset; it is worth the time to stop, explore the pier and the adjacent Ahu’ena Heiau.

The Seawall at Hale Halawai Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Seawall at Hale Halawai Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Facilities include showers, restrooms, changing rooms, drinking water, public telephones and a boat ramp; Kailua Pier and seawall lie in the heart of Old Kailua Town’s many shops and restaurants so anything the visitor could wish for is in easy walking distance.

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.

A Vog-Tinted Sunset from the Kailua Pier, Kailua Kona, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Vog-Tinted Sunset from the Kailua Pier, Kailua Kona, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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


by Donnie MacGowan

Imagine yourself in your home; it rains, sleets and snows through the long winter.  Now imagine you are lying under cerulean blue skies bathed in healing sunlight on a warm golden sand beach, playing in bath-temperature water, and snorkeling among the brightly colored tropical fish and placid, but amazing sea turtles. Sound too good to be true? In West Hawaii, this soothing daydream is our day-to-day reality

Beaches of South Kohala and the Kona Coast

Kua Bay

Kua Bay on the Southern Kohala Coast is a Gem of a Little Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kua Bay on the Southern Kohala Coast is a Gem of a Little Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The site of West Hawaii’s newest beach park, this is a lovely white sand beach. Although there is little shade, the swimming and boogie boarding in the crystalline waters is primo. Strong currents and large waves call for respect, here; if the surf is up, don’t go in. Also, sometimes winter storm surf removes the sand to offshore, leaving a rocky shelf that is less fun than the sandy beach. Strong onshore breezes cause riptides and an influx of jellies.

Behind the beach on the north end is a small, inviting fresh-water pool. Don’t be seduced—it is bottomed by foul-smelling quicksand and is extremely nasty. There are sacred, native Hawaiian sites and ruins to the north of the beach. Please do not disturb them.

Park facilities include parking, picnic tables, restrooms, and water. Wild goats are frequently seen in this area.

Makalawena Beach

Long, Lonely and Wholly Wonderful Makawena Beach in Kehakai State Park: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Long, Lonely and Wholly Wonderful Makalawena Beach in Kekaha Kai State Park: Photo by Donald MacGowan

One of the last, large, wilderness beaches in Polynesia, frankly, Makalawena is the finest beach on the island and the most beautiful beach setting to boot. This is the amazing beach you flew over just before you landed at Kona International Airport. This beach sports a series of coves, refreshing shade, big sand dunes, and a nice freshwater pond to rinse off in.

This beach is reached either by traveling the (extremely) 4WD road from the highway between mile markers 88 and 89, or by hiking about 15 to 20 minutes along an easy trail from Kekaha Kai State Park. The trail goes over rough pahoehoe and a’a flows and through keawe breaks, so shoes are required.

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

Kekaha Kai State Park

Kekaha Kai State Park Contains a Series of Brilliant, Huge Sandy Beaches, Yet Because of the Bumpy 2 Mile Drive In, Remains Almost Unknown To Visitors: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kekaha Kai State Park Contains a Series of Brilliant, Huge Sandy Beaches, Yet Because of the Bumpy 2 Mile Drive In, Remains Almost Unknown To Visitors: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A superbly wonderful set of beaches and one of Hawaii Island’s gem parks. The northernmost and loveliest beach is Mahai’ula and the smaller, less fine one is Ka’elehuluhulu Beach. The water is fine for swimming and boogie boarding but may be a little murky for ideal snorkeling. There are numerous small springs making the near-shore water a little cold.

The mansion of the original owners, the Magoons, can still be seen on the northern edge of the beach. Tours of the mansion have become scarce to sporadic in recent years; if you are interested, contact the Kona Historical Society.

Turn makai at the State Park sign, between mile markers 90 and 91; the road seems nasty to impassable but can be traveled by most passenger vehicles. Facilities include public restrooms and picnic tables, but no drinking water.

Honl’s Beach

Honl's Beach on the Edge of Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Honl's Beach on the Edge of Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

This small beach on the outskirts of Old Kailua Town is where boogie boarding was invented in the 1970s and is a favorite spot for surfers. Honl’s also has very nice snorkeling and is an excellent place to view the sunset and picnic. Remember when going into the water here, there is a fairly strong current to the north, so stay in the shallow reef area close to the beach. Parking is on both sides of Ali’i, but can be tight here during good surf; crossing Ali’i drive can be harrowing at certain times of the day. A new bathroom with running water has recently been constructed on the mauka (mountain) side of the road.

Kahalu’u Beach

Kahalu'u Beach is Kona's Premiere Snorkeling Spot But Is Also A Fabulous Place To Watch Dolphins, Whales and Sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kahalu'u Beach is Kona's Premiere Snorkeling Spot But Is Also A Fabulous Place To Watch Dolphins, Whales and Sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Kahalu’u is the most popular snorkeling beach on the Island of Hawaii with good reason; protected from the open ocean by a seawall, the reef is also protected against commercial aquarium fishing. The snorkeling is in calm, shallow water and there is an abundance of fish—perhaps the best display on the island. Dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles call this bay home, thrilling the snorkelers. Numerous freshwater springs and shallow water bathers make the near-shore snorkeling unpleasantly cloudy, but about 100 feet offshore the water turns crystal clear and the display of coral is nothing short of amazing.

Outside the seawall is an excellent surf break that is for intermediate or better surfers and boogie boarders. There is a fair current north out of the bay and along the coast—swimmers caught in this current should relax and swim with the current, angling towards land.

Most days there is a food wagon selling sandwiches, burgers, shaved ice, and cold drinks at reasonable prices and a vendor renting snorkeling gear and boogie boards.

Two-Step Beach/Honaunau Bay

Two-Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay Has Some of the Finest Snorkeling in the World: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Two-Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay Has Some of the Finest Snorkeling in the World: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Some superb protected snorkeling and shore-diving is located at Two-Step Beach, adjacent to the Place of Refuge National Historic Park. A wonderland of turtles, coral, and fish, with frequent morning visits by dolphins, this snorkeling experience shouldn’t be missed. No swimming is allowed within the Park, as a measure of respect of the sacredness of the Refuge site; however, Two-Step Beach offers a convenient place to enter Honaunau Bay.

One can enter the bay either by walking down the boat ramp, or by stepping off the short cliff into the water. Two-Step beach gets its name from this short hop. Near the center edge of the lava beach there are two ledges serving as steps to the ocean. At low tide, it’s a simple matter of stepping down: “1, 2, OCEAN!” At high tide, one just steps off the edge and in. Getting out, one simply approaches the steps, puts hands palms down and waits for an incoming wave to float you up and onto the bottom step—the process is easier than it sounds. Resist the temptation to put fingers into small holes and pockets in the rocks to haul yourself out—they are filled with spiny sea urchins. Always lay hands on rocks palms down; don’t use fingers.

The best snorkeling is along the cliff edges and the shallows. Remember that you cannot get out of the water within the confines of the Park. Remember dolphin and sea turtles are federally protected species.

Ho’okena Beach County Park

Hookena Beach in South Kona IS a Fabulous Beach Plunked Down in the Middle of Real Old Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Ho'okena Beach in South Kona Is a Fabulous Beach Plunked Down in the Middle of Real Old Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Frequented by dolphin, stuffed full of pelagic and reef fish and turtles, and boasting crystal clear, warm and calm waters, Ho’okena is a must-see beach for avid snorkelers and divers as well as sea kayakers. Hiking south over the hills and through cow fields brings one to numerous small, sandy beaches where ocean current conditions make shell collecting possible. Hiking north from the park, one finds the remnants of once-thriving Ho’okena Village, in past times the main rival to Kailua for steamer traffic, but now all but lost to the ravages of tsunami, earthquake, and the passing of time. During the winter months, female Humpback whales and their babies frequent the waters off this bay.

Wonderful beach camping, new showers and restrooms, picnic tables, and abundant fresh water make this county park a gem. There is a vendor renting snorkel gear and kayaks as well as selling some snack and sundry items. Camping is by permit only on a first come-first served basis.

Honomalino Bay

Honomalino Beach is a Short Hike From the Old Hawaiian Fishing Village of Miloli'i: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Honomalino Beach is a Short Hike From the Old Hawaiian Fishing Village of Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A true gem of West Hawaii and rarely crowded, Honomalino Bay is reached by a 20-minute hike from the south end of Miloli’i Beach County Park. The hiking trail starts between the bathrooms and a yellow church and the path to Honomalino is always along the right fork of the trail, in and out of the surf line, to avoid private property.

Snorkeling is very interesting on the north side in the rocks, when the surf is low. The water, though very clear, is sometimes quite cold due to spring discharge in the sand on the beach.

So now that you are armed with all this information and you’ve had the best-ever, mid-winter, beach daydream you’ve had in years, I just have to ask … what are you doing sitting there in your cold, wet, winter misery for? C’mon over to West Hawaii and soak up your fair share of the rays!

Monk seal at Honl's Beach near Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Monk seal at Honl's Beach near Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and touring the beaches of 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.

by Donald B. MacGowan

Evening Sunshine Glows on Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Evening Sunshine Glows on Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The town of Kailua Kona is the crown jewel on the island of Hawaii and the beating heart of the Kona Coast. A sleepy fishing village not so long ago, Kailua Kona is now the metropolitan center of West Hawaii’s burgeoning economy and exploding population. Founded by King Umi in the 1500’s, Kailua Kona served as the social, religious and political capital of Hawaii for several hundred years. Deeming it the loveliest spot in all the Hawaiian Islands, King Kamehameha the Great ruled his island empire during the final years of his reign from here.

Exploring the downtown area from the King Kamehameha Beach Resort to the Honl’s Beach on the south provides a couple hours pure enjoyment: easy walking along the incomparable turquoise Kona Coast under the warm, sapphire Hawaii sky, past ancient temples, missionary churches, intriguing and unique shops and wonderful restaurants. It is easy, walking here, to understand how one can be completely seduced by the magic of the Big Island.

Kailua Kona is a town made for walking, so start by parking your car. On the north side of town, abundant for-pay parking is available at the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel. Free parking on this end of town is available at Triangle Parking, between Kuakini Highway and Ali’i Drive. About half-way through town, by the Farmer’s Market and Hale Halawai Park, is a large area of free parking. On the south side of town there is abundant free parking at the Coconut Grove shopping area, and at Honl’s Beach.

Let’s start exploring Kailua Kona on the north and work our way south. The thatched structure surrounded by carved wooden idols across from the pier is ‘Ahu’ena Heiau, an ancient and sacred temple site. A temple (or Heiau) has existed on this spot since at least the first millennium, and as recently as the 15th century was occupied by a temple of human sacrifice (or luakini Heiau) dedicated to the war god Kuka’ilimoku. In 1812, King Kamehameha I ordered the heiau enlarged, rebuilt, rededicated as ‘Ahu’ena Heiau (“hill of fire”), a temple of peace and prosperity dedicated to the fertility god Lono.

Ahu'ena Heiau, Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahu'ena Heiau, Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The current structures seen at ‘Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built in 1975 under the auspices of the Bishop Museum with financial help from the Hotel King Kamehameha and are constructed to 1/3 the original scale. Here, there is a veritable forest of of carved, wooden sacred images in the “Kona Style”, considered the most refined in all Polynesia.  More about Ahu’ena Heiau can be found, here.

Three delightful, but tiny, beaches grace the immediate downtown area; from north to south they are named Kamakahonu, Keakaiakua and Niumalu–many locals do not even know thy have names. The snorkeling from these small beaches is spectacular and strangely uncommon. A beautiful coral garden and vibrant reef fish can be seen snorkeling along the shoreline off ‘Ahu’ena Heiau where fish, turtles and eels are abundant in Kailua Bay.  More about the history of these beaches, the pier and seawall and Old Kailua Village can be found here.

Pao Umi Rock and the Moreton Fig Tree in Kailua's Evening Light: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pao Umi Rock and the Moreton Fig Tree in Kailua's Evening Light: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pa’o Umi, a point of rock between the pier and Hulihe’e Palace and mostly buried under Ali’i Drive, is where High Chief Umi is thought to have landed when he moved his court from Waipi’o Valley to Kailua in the 1500’s. Umi consolidated and centralized religious and secular power of Hawai’i Island in Kona and built a number of temples, most notably on the current sites of Ahu’ena Heiau, Moku’aikaua Church and Kona Inn. Umi founded the political landscape which ultimately fostered King Kamehameha’s regime and led to the unification of the Hawai’ian Islands into a single nation.

Across Ali’i Drive from Pa’o Umi is a large Moreton Fig tree that appears in photographs of downtown Kailua since before the turn of the last century; as such, this tree is at least 140 years old.

Mokuaikawa; the First Christian Church in Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mokuaikawa in Kailua Kona; the First Christian Church in Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

During the winter of 1819 to 1820, Congregationalist missionaries from Boston crossed the Atlantic Ocean enduring 5 months of intense stormy weather while headed for a new life in Hawai’i. In March of 1820, the missionaries sailed into the balmy waters of Kailua Bay and landed at Kamakahonu Rock (eye of the turtle”), the “Plymouth Rock” of Hawai’i, which now supports the Kailua Pier..

Mokuaikaua Church, built under the leadership of missionary Asa Thurston between 1835 and 1837, was specifically aligned so that the prevailing breezes would pass through it, but also so that it presented a strong, stone façade to the south and west, the direction from which strong Kona Winds, large storms and hurricanes come. The 112-foot steeple was for many decades the highest structure in Kailua and served as a navigation landmark both for ships at sea and people on land.

The church is constructed of rough-hewn basalt blocks mortared with lime made from burnt coral and bound with kukui nut oil. The corner stones were taken from a heiau built on the same spot by King Umi in the fifteenth century. The interior beams and woodwork are of koa wood. The joints were painstakingly joined with ohi’a wood pins; this is a magnificent example of the architectural style brought to Hawai’i by the missionaries in the 19th century.

The inside of the church is beautiful, cool and inviting, and visitors are welcome between services and on weekdays between sunrise and sunset; admission is free. There is a fascinating mini-museum, small but informative, which is open daily from sunrise to sunset and free tours are conducted from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:30 p.m. The Museum features exhibits about Hawai’i, the life of the missionaries and contains a scale model of the Brig Thaddeus. More about Mokuaikawa Church and it’s fascinating history, can be found here .

Hulihe'e Palace, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hulihe'e Palace, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hulihe’e Palace was built by High Chief (later Governor) James Kuakini in 1838 as a home. For many years, the Palace was used by Hawai’ian royalty as an official residence and summer get-away palace, a place of great galas and parties, but was abandoned to ruin in 1914. Since 1928 the Palace has been operated as a museum by the Daughters of Hawai’i. The Palace Gift Store has many fine art items and hard-to-find books on Hawai’iana.

The museum is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are friendly and knowledgeable docents who give free tours, which last about 45 minutes. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $1 for students; photographing inside the museum is forbidden. The palace sustained considerable damage during the earthquake of 2007 and is currently undergoing renovation.  More about Hulihe’e Palace can be found here.

Kona Inn Shops: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kona Inn Shops: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Kona Inn is of particular historic significance, as it was the first destination resort to open in West Hawai’i and it ushered in the era of tourism along the Kona Coast. Built on the site of Papa ‘Ula (red flats) where a temple of human sacrifice was built by High Chief Umi, today the Kona Inn features many unique and interesting shops and fine restaurants.

The Inn fronts on a large, palm-shaded lawn that leads to a seawall and the ocean. This area is open to the public and is a really grand place for picnicking, watching whales and dolphin and the fabulous Kona sunsets.

The Kailua Farmer’s Market, open Wednesday through Sunday, lies in the parking lot at the corner of Ali’i Drive and Hualalai Road between the Public Library and Hale Halawai Park. The market offers a wide and intriguing variety of fresh produce, hand-made local arts and crafts, Hawai’iana and other types of souvenirs.

Kailua Famer's Market: Photo by Harvey Bird Watching

Kailua Farmer's Market: Photo by Harvey Bird Watching

The grounds and oceanfront of Hale Halawai Park offer a peaceful, shady place for taking a rest from a busy tour of bustling downtown Kailua, or watching whales and dolphin and the unmatched Kona sunsets. Frequently honu (sea turtles) and boogey boarders can be watched from the seawall. Featuring coconut palms, a neatly manicured lawn, picnic tables and a seawall, the large, Polynesian-style pavilion is used for everything from community gatherings to orchid shows to wedding receptions.

Saint Michael the Arch Angel Catholic Church, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Saint Michael the Arch Angel Catholic Church, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Historic St. Michael’s Church was the first Catholic Church in West Hawai’i. The church offers services in English and Spanish throughout the week, but is primarily of historic interest; the burial plots in the cemetery date from 1855. In 1940, during less “ecologically aware” times, resident priest Father Benno Evers had his parishioners gather 2500 coral heads to build the grotto in front of the church, which covers the church’s original well. The seafloor in Kailua Bay has yet to recover from this pillaging of coral heads.

Coconut Grove and Waterfront Row cap the southern end of the Kailua Village shopping district along Ali’i Drive, starting next to the Hale Halawai County Park and ending at the Royal Kona Resort. Newer and more metropolitan that its sister shopping district to the north, Coconut Grove and Waterfront Row have almost everything, from tattoos to souvenirs to Hawai’iana, fine art, musical instruments, sundries, groceries and clothing. The range of cuisines available from restaurants here sweeps from local flavor to Thai, the Hard Rock Cafe to poi crepes to pizza and burgers

Public Queensbath Tidepool: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Public Queensbath Tidepool: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Between the Royal Kona Resort and Hale Kona Kai Resort is a fabulous tide pool that is completely protected from all but the most vicious winter surf. It boasts a moderate population of reef fish and even the occasional turtle! The water sometimes can be a bit murky, but it makes a nice place to take small children or beginning snorkelers. Drive into the entrance for the Royal Kona Resort and continue south past it until you see the blue and white Shoreline Access sign; find a place to park, go down the stairs to the tiny beach and enjoy!

Honl's Beach in Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Honl's Beach in Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Lovely but compact, Honl’s County Beach Park is a small beach on the southern outskirts of Old Kailua Town. A favorite spot for surfers and boogie boarders it also has very nice snorkeling and is an excellent place to view the sunset and picnic. Remember when going into the water here, there is a fairly strong current to the north, so stay in the shallow reef area close to the beach. Parking is located on both sides of Ali’i Dr., but can be tight here in times of good surf, and crossing Ali’i Dr. drive can be a bit dangerous at certain times of the day. A new bathroom with showers and running water has recently been constructed on the mauka—uphill–side of the road.

Monk Seal on Honl's Beach at Sunset: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Monk Seal on Honl's Beach at Sunset: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

For details on a scenic drive through the Keauhou Historic District south of Kailua Kona on Ali’i drive, please go here.  To get details on visiting and snorkeling Kailua Kona’s famous Kahalu’u beach, where all the turtles are, please go here. For detailed information on a scenic drive through Up County Kona, please go here.  Information about the ancient villages, temple ruins, amazing beaches and fabulous hiking trails of Koloko Honokohau National Historic Park just north of Kailua Kona, please go here.

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

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

For independent reviews of our product, written by some of our legions of satisfied customers, please check this out.
All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan.  All rights reserved.

This post has been updated and expanded, please go here.

The town of Kailua Kona is the crown jewel on the island of Hawaii and the beating heart of the Kona Coast. A sleepy fishing village not so long ago, Kailua Kona is now the metropolitan center of West Hawaii’s burgeoning economy and exploding population. Founded by King Umi in the 1500’s, Kailua Kona served as the social, religious and political capital of Hawaii for several hundred years. Deeming it the loveliest spot in all the Hawaiian Islands, King Kamehameha the Great ruled his island empire during the final years of his reign from here.

Exploring the downtown area from the King Kamehameha Beach Resort to the Honl’s Beach on the south provides a couple hours pure enjoyment: easy walking along the incomparable turquoise Kona Coast under the warm, sapphire Hawaii sky, past ancient temples, missionary churches, intriguing and unique shops and wonderful restaurants. It is easy, walking here, to understand how one can be completely seduced by the magic of the Big Island.

Kailua Kona is a town made for walking, so start by parking your car. On the north side of town, abundant for-pay parking is available at the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel. Free parking on this end of town is available at Triangle Parking, between Kuakini Highway and Ali’i Drive. About half-way through town, by the Farmer’s Market and Hale Halawai Park, is a large area of free parking. On the south side of town there is abundant free parking at the Coconut Grove shopping area, and at Honl’s Beach.

Let’s start exploring Kailua Kona on the north and work our way south. The thatched structure surrounded by carved wooden idols across from the pier is ‘Ahu’ena Heiau, an ancient and sacred temple site. A temple (or Heiau) has existed on this spot since at least the first millennium, and as recently as the 15th century was occupied by a temple of human sacrifice (or luakini Heiau) dedicated to the war god Kuka’ilimoku. In 1812, King Kamehameha I ordered the heiau enlarged, rebuilt, rededicated as ‘Ahu’ena Heiau (“hill of fire”), a temple of peace and prosperity dedicated to the fertility god Lono.

The current structures seen at ‘Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built in 1975 under the auspices of the Bishop Museum with financial help from the Hotel King Kamehameha and are constructed to 1/3 the original scale. Here, there is a veritable forest of of carved, wooden sacred images in the “Kona Style”, considered the most refined in all Polynesia.

Three delightful, but tiny, beaches grace the immediate downtown area. The snorkeling from these small beaches is spectacular and strangely uncommon. A beautiful coral garden and vibrant reef fish can be seen snorkeling along the shoreline off ‘Ahu’ena Heiau where fish, turtles and eels are abundant in Kailua Bay.

During the winter of 1819 to 1820, Congregationalist missionaries from Boston crossed the Atlantic Ocean enduring 5 months of intense stormy weather while headed for a new life in Hawai’i. In March of 1820, the missionaries sailed into the balmy waters of Kailua Bay and landed at Kamakahonu Rock (eye of the turtle), the “Plymouth Rock” of Hawai’i, which now supports the Kailua Pier.

Mokuaikaua Church, built under the leadership of missionary Asa Thurston between 1835 and 1837, was specifically aligned so that the prevailing breezes would pass through it, but also so that it presented a strong, stone façade to the south and west, the direction from which strong Kona Winds, large storms and hurricanes come. The 112-foot steeple was for many decades the highest structure in Kailua and served as a navigation landmark both for ships at sea and people on land.

The church is constructed of rough-hewn basalt blocks mortared with lime made from burnt coral and bound with kukui nut oil. The corner stones were taken from a heiau built on the same spot by King Umi in the fifteenth century. The interior beams and woodwork are of koa wood. The joints were painstakingly joined with ohi’a wood pins; this is a magnificent example of the architectural style brought to Hawai’i by the missionaries in the 19th century.

The inside of the church is beautiful, cool and inviting, and visitors are welcome between services and on weekdays between sunrise and sunset; admission is free. There is a fascinating mini-museum, small but informative, which is open daily from sunrise to sunset and free tours are conducted from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:30 p.m. The Museum features exhibits about Hawai’i, the life of the missionaries and contains a scale model of the Brig Thaddeus.

Hulihe’e Palace was built by High Chief (later Governor) James Kuakini in 1838 as a home. For many years, the Palace was used by Hawai’ian royalty as an official residence and summer get-away palace, a place of great galas and parties, but was abandoned to ruin in 1914. Since 1928 the Palace has been operated as a museum by the Daughters of Hawai’i. The Palace Gift Store has many fine art items and hard-to-find books on Hawai’iana.

The museum is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are friendly and knowledgeable docents who give free tours, which last about 45 minutes. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $1 for students; photographing inside the museum is forbidden. The palace sustained considerable damage during the earthquake of 2007 and is currently undergoing renovation.

The Kona Inn is of particular historic significance, as it was the first destination resort to open in West Hawai’i and it ushered in the era of tourism along the Kona Coast. Built on the site of Papa ‘Ula (red flats) where a temple of human sacrifice was built by High Chief Umi, today the Kona Inn features many unique and interesting shops and fine restaurants.

The Inn fronts on a large, palm-shaded lawn that leads to a seawall and the ocean. This area is open to the public and is a really grand place for picnicking, watching whales and dolphin and the fabulous Kona sunsets.

The Kailua Farmer’s Market, open Wednesday through Sunday, lies in the parking lot at the corner of Ali’i Drive and Hualalai Road between the Public Library and Hale Halawai Park. The market offers a wide and intriguing variety of fresh produce, hand-made local arts and crafts, Hawai’iana and other types of souvenirs.

The grounds and oceanfront of Hale Halawai Park offer a peaceful, shady place for taking a rest from a busy tour of bustling downtown Kailua, or watching whales and dolphin and the unmatched Kona sunsets. Frequently honu (sea turtles) and boogey boarders can be watched from the seawall. Featuring coconut palms, a neatly manicured lawn, picnic tables and a seawall, the large, Polynesian-style pavilion is used for everything from community gatherings to orchid shows to wedding receptions.

Historic St. Michael’s Church was the first Catholic Church in West Hawai’i. The church offers services in English and Spanish throughout the week, but is primarily of historic interest; the burial plots in the cemetery date from 1855. In 1940, during less “ecologically aware” times, resident priest Father Benno Evers had his parishioners gather 2500 coral heads to build the grotto in front of the church, which covers the church’s original well. The seafloor in Kailua Bay has yet to recover from this pillaging of coral heads. This historic church sustained considerable damage during the earthquake of 2007.

Coconut Grove and Waterfront Row cap the southern end of the Kailua Village shopping district along Ali’i Drive, starting next to the Hale Halawai County Park and ending at the Royal Kona Resort. Newer and more metropolitan that its sister shopping district to the north, Coconut Grove and Waterfront Row have almost everything, from tattoos to souvenirs to Hawai’iana, fine art, musical instruments, sundries, groceries and clothing. The range of cuisines available from restaurants here sweeps from local flavor to Thai, the Hard Rock Cafe to poi crepes to pizza and burgers.

Between the Royal Kona Resort and Hale Kona Kai Resort is a fabulous tide pool that is completely protected from all but the most vicious winter surf. It boasts a moderate population of reef fish and even the occasional turtle! The water sometimes can be a bit murky, but it makes a nice place to take small children or beginning snorkelers. Drive into the entrance for the Royal Kona Resort and continue south past it until you see the blue and white Shoreline Access sign; find a place to park, go down the stairs to the tiny beach and enjoy!

Lovely but compact, Honl’s County Beach Park is a small beach on the southern outskirts of Old Kailua Town. A favorite spot for surfers and boogie boarders it also has very nice snorkeling and is an excellent place to view the sunset and picnic. Remember when going into the water here, there is a fairly strong current to the north, so stay in the shallow reef area close to the beach. Parking is located on both sides of Ali’i Dr., but can be tight here in times of good surf, and crossing Ali’i Dr. drive can be a bit dangerous at certain times of the day. A new bathroom with showers and running water has recently been constructed on the mauka—uphill–side of the road.

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, go here and here.