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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.

Lava enters the sea, Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Lava Viewing at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

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

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

Can you believe this? It’s absolutely outstanding and amazing! You can actually walk right up to flowing lava here; see a volcano erupt before your eyes and the molten rock pour into the sea. This has to be one of the four or five most exciting, amazing, wonderful, mystical experiences on earth…you must not miss this!

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.

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

Mauna Loa is active but not currently erupting. The summit area is slowly inflating, filling with magma and the flanks are subject to frequent minor earthquakes, but no obvious activity is apparent to the visitor. Kilauea, the most active volcano on Earth, started its current eruptive phase in 1983, the longest eruption in history. Since then it has ejected almost 3 billion cubic meters of lava. Flowing from various vents in the rift, most notably Pu’u O’o and Kupaianaha, in streams and tubes at over 1000 degrees Celsius, much of the lava makes its way into the sea in fiery, steamy explosions or the incredible incongruity of glowing hot lava pouring directly into the sea with little more apparent than a mere bubbling of the water.

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

Helicopter and Volcanic Explosion Plume, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Since the flow of lava over the moonscape plains and into the roiling sea can be seen nowhere else on earth, it is certainly the most exciting, unique and moving highlight of any trip to Hawai’i. People stand at the edge of the flow and weep at the majesty and mystery of the earth remaking itself; it is wondrous, remarkable and unforgettable. Although surface flows and breakouts are frequent and common, there is no guarantee that over any given trip to the Big Island they will be visible or easily accessible to the casual visitor. Before planning a hike to see the lava, check with the Rangers at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for information on the hike length and location of surface flows and a review of safety information. Eruption information is available from the Park Service at 808.985.6000.

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

Hikers going to see the flowing lava past the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Over the months and years, the lava river issuing from Pu’u O’o winds its way back and forth across the lava plain of about 9 miles breadth, sometimes flowing into the sea within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, sometime outside the eastern margin of the Park on County of Hawaii land, sometimes ponding behind the low lava hills for weeks at a time without entering the ocean at all. When you check with the rangers about flow conditions, they can tell you the best way to approach these flows.

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.

Volcanic explosions as seen from the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

If the flows are toward the more western margin and within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the best approach is to drive to the end of Chain of Craters Road in the Park and then hike in. This hike can be of a few minutes, or a few hours, duration, depending upon how far away the lava ocean entry is. Talk to the rangers beforehand so you can come prepared. The hike is over an uneven, rough surface, hot during the day, even when it rains, cold at night and navigation can sometimes be counterintuitive. When lava is flowing in the park, parking can be monstrous at the end of Chain of Craters Road; please go here for more details about visiting the end of the road.

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.

Hiking to the lava ocean entry, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The trail at first is marked with cairns and reflectors, but after a few hundred meters you are on your own to navigate the basalt wilderness. The good news is, even if the hike is a couple hours duration, when the lava flow is in the National Park, you are allowed to walk right up to it; this is not true if the lava is flowing in the more eastern margin, onto County of Hawaii land. In this case, viewing is from a County of Hawaii-maintained viewing platform at Waikupanaha. Information on viewing the lava flows from County of Hawaii land is available here and from the County of Hawaii at 808.961.8093.

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.

Rain squalls are common at lava ocean entries in Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Whether you approach the lava flows from the west or the east, bring at least 2 quarts of water, a flashlight for hiking out in the dark, camera, food, first aid kit and a light rain jacket; wear a sun hat, sturdy hiking shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt–those rocks are sharp! Sun glasses and sunscreen are a must here; in fact, they are so important in tropical Hawaii, we ask you please go here and here for information on skin and eye protection. Over the years, we have found a stout hiking stick and an umbrella to be of good use as well. Since photos and video are most spectacular at night, it is wise to bring a camera tripod.

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

Littoral explosion plume, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The lava seems to glow with only a dull petulance during the day and may be less than inspiring until nightfall brings it alive and the madly glowing, fiery goddess within is revealed. Thus knowledgeable hikers plan their hike to commence in the afternoon, reaching their destination at dusk, and then hike back in the dark. Check your flashlights before you leave the car and replace weak batteries. Remember that you are hiking on a highly active volcano, if flowing streams of lava strand you, no rescue is practical or possible; plan, take care and pay strict attention accordingly.

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.

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

Obviously, the lava is lethally hot and sometimes flowing mere inches below seeming solid ground; a stick or ski pole used as a probe helps you determine what is dangerous ground and what is merely “hot and squishy” but otherwise safe to walk on. This is also why you should wear boots, not running shoes or sandals—it only takes having your sneakers catch fire once to drive this point home. When in hot terrain, never stop moving your feet. Even when you are standing still to photograph, walk in place or you may find your shoes afire.

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.

Warning signs at the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are other dangers to hiking on the lava plain that might not be obvious to the casual visitor. The steam clouds generated by the lava entering the sea contain fine, glassy particulate material as well as sulfuric and hydrochloric acids in concentration high enough to aggravate the very young and old, expectant mothers and people with respiratory and cardiac conditions. Over the past 20 years, a few adventurous people venturing too close to vents or the sea entries have asphyxiated from toxic gasses.

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.

Volcanic fumes, end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The ocean near the lava entries is superheated and waves lapping on inviting black sand beaches can be scalding hot. One brave (foolhardy?) surfer wanted to be filmed surfing in front of the lava flows and was badly scalded for his efforts. Where explosive, the meeting of molten rock and sea can explode large, searing hot rocks hundreds of feet in the air and throw boiling water, splashing everywhere.

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

Lava flowing just below the surface burns vegetation at the surface, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Methane explosions occur with no notice, dozens if not a hundred feet ahead of flows, flinging huge blocks hundreds of feet. Unstable benches that build up into the sea, and upon which the unwary hike and pause to photograph the scenery, are prone to collapse, carrying all into the sea. Such collapses can cause local tidal waves which scour the landscape clean of everything as they pass. Thin lava crusts can hide lava tubes, caves, hollows and holes into which hikers occasionally fall and are caught.

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.

Skylights along a lava tube on Kilauea Hawaii: Photo by Kelly Kuchman

A volcano is a naturally highly seismically active area and earthquakes are common (there are over 1200 measurable earthquakes a week on the Big Island). Less common, but certainly a constant threat, are local tsunamis generated by these earthquakes. The Park Service has roughly marked the trail to the lava; follow it closely, turning around frequently to acquaint yourself with landmarks for the hike back.

Be sure to take extra film or memory cards for your camera and remember to wipe down all cameras, eyeglasses, binoculars, optics and electronics after your visit; the salt and volcano effluent-laden atmosphere is highly corrosive. Batteries may be drained faster than expected due to the high heat near the lava; bring extra for cameras and flashlights.

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.

Kupaianaha Vent on Kilauea, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Despite the inherent dangers of hiking over liquid rock, steaming and unstable ground along the ever-restless sea, very few hikers are injured here, even fewer are killed. This is only because people enter the goddess’s home with a sense of awe and great caution, and the Rangers are very good about instilling fear and trepidation into the hearts of those who think themselves otherwise immune to the mortal dangers presented here. If you go, remain cautious and vigilant, plan for adversity, think ahead and pay attention. The rewards for this are a moving and amazing experience few ever have, a memory of mystery, awe and wonder to treasure always.

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

Lava Stream, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

If you are planning on viewing the lava at night, be sure to remember that there may be no open gas stations or restaurants when you depart the Park until you reach either Kona or Hilo…plan accordingly, think ahead. Stay safe…stay awesome.

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

Littoral explosion plume from the end of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html.

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

Lava ocean entry, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.
All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

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

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful Waialea Beach, Kohala Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

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

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

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

Kealakekua Bay Historical District and Captain Cook Monument

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park

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

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

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

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

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

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

Kilauea Visitor Center

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

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

Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory

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

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

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

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

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

Puna District and Pahoa Town

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.

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

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

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

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

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


Kalapana Disaster of 1990/Kaimu Black Sand Beach

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Lava Trees State Monument

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

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

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

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

about here.

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

Hilo Town

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

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

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

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

Rainbow Falls and Wailuku River Park

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

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

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

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

Akaka Falls

y.  I would think David Brooks was resorting to humor did I not already know he

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

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

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

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

Honoka’a Town

y.  I would think David Brooks was resorting to humor did I not already know he

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

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

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

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

Waipi’o Valley

y.  I would think David Brooks was resorting to humor did I not already know he

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

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Bull rider at Hawaii Rodeo: Photo by Carol Gilliland

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

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

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

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

Hapuna Beach

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Hapuna is Hawaii's Most Popular Beach, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

Waikupanaha Lava Ocean Entry

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Waikupanaha ocean entry, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Can you believe this? It’s absolutely outstanding and amazing! You can actually walk almost up to flowing lava here; see a volcano erupt before your eyes and the molten rock pour into the sea. This has to be one of the four or five most exciting, amazing, wonderful, mystical, spiritual experiences on earth…you must not miss this!

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Kupaianaha Vent on Kilauea Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Over the months and years, the lava river issuing from Pu’u O’o and Kupaianaha vents winds its way back and forth across the lava plain of about 8 miles breadth, sometimes flowing into the sea within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, sometime outside the eastern margin of the Park on County of Hawaii land, sometimes ponding behind the low lava hills for weeks at a time without entering the ocean at all. You can check with the rangers about flow conditions by calling the eruption hotline at 808.985.6000; they have lots of useful, up to the minute information and can tell you the best way to approach these flows (for more information on touring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, please go here; for information about hiking to the lava flows from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, please go here).

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

If the lava is flowing in the more eastern margin, onto County of Hawaii land, viewing is from a County of Hawaii-maintained viewing platform. To reach this parking lot and observation point, drive south from Hilo 20 minutes, or southeast from Kona 2 hours, on the Hawaii Belt Road to the town of Kea’au. At Kea’au, turn south on Hawaii 130. There is a clearly marked intersection near the 20 mile marker on Highway 130 which leads to the county road and viewing area.

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As lava streams into the sea, the explosion cloud is visible for mile, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

After approximately 2 miles of driving over a flat, but alternating asphalt, gravel, basalt and dirt, road one reaches the parking lot at the end of the road and the beginning of a 15 minute hike to the viewing platform. The road opens at 2 in the afternoon, the last car is allowed in at 8 p.m. and the area is cleared of people and cars at 10 p.m. The trail is well marked with reflectors and paint and there are safety officers stationed all along the trail until closing at 10 p.m. Information on the lava viewing area is available from the County of Hawaii at 808.961.8093.

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

Regardless of where the lava is entering the ocean, this is as far as hikers are allowed to go from this side. You should bring at least 2 quarts of water, a flashlight for hiking out in the dark, camera, food, first aid kit, and a rain jacket; wear a sun hat, sturdy hiking shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt–those rocks are sharp!

Of course, you will need sunscreen and sunglasses (see these two articles for complete discussions of sunscreen and sunglasses appropriate for Hawaii). Over the years, we have found a stout hiking stick and an umbrella to be of good use as well. Photos and video are most spectacular just before and during dusk and into night; it is wise to bring a camera tripod. You will need flashlights or headlamps to negotiate the trail, hiking back in the dark.

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Waikupanaha explosion plume, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The lava seems to glow with only a dull petulance during the day and may be less than inspiring until nightfall brings it alive and the madly glowing, fiery goddess within is revealed. Thus knowledgeable hikers plan their hike to commence in the afternoon, reaching their destination at dusk, and to hike back in the dark. Check your flashlights before you leave the car. Remember that you are hiking on a highly active volcano, if flowing streams of lava strand you, no rescue is practical or possible; don’t wander away from the trail or the lava viewing area.

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Plume at Waikupanaha Ocean Entry, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are unusual, peculiar dangers to hiking on the lava plain that might not be obvious to the casual visitor. The steam clouds generated by the lava entering the sea contain fine, glassy particulate material as well as sulfuric and hydrochloric acids in concentration high enough to aggravate the very young and old, expectant mothers and people with respiratory and cardiac conditions. Over the past 20 years, a few adventurous people venturing too close to vents or the sea entries have asphyxiated from toxic gasses. Additionally, severe, but ephemeral, weather phenomenon occur in the explosion plume immediately offshore, such as lightening and water spouts (note water spout in photo at right).

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Lava enters the sea at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Unstable benches that build up into the sea, and upon which the unwary hike and pause to photograph the scenery, are prone to collapse carrying all into the sea. Such collapses can cause local tidal waves which scour the landscape clean of everything as they pass. The ocean near the lava entries is superheated and waves lapping on inviting black sand beaches can be scalding hot

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

Where explosive, the meeting of molten rock and sea can explode large, searing hot rocks hundreds of feet in the air and throw boiling water, splashing everywhere. Methane explosions occur with no notice, dozens if not a hundred feet ahead of flows, flinging huge blocks hundreds of feet. Thin lava crusts can hide lava tubes, caves, hollows and holes into which hikers occasionally fall and are caught.  You only have to have running shoes catch fire on your feet once to learn the wisdom of wearing boots here—learn from my bad judgment and experience.  Don’t walk on thins crusts over glowing rock, on hot rocks or rock that feels “spongy”, is crackling or hissing.

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Hiking to see the lava in Puna Hawaii is serious business, take water, flashlights and appropriate footwear: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A volcano is a naturally highly seismically active area and earthquakes are common (there are over 1200 measurable earthquakes a week on the Big Island). Less common, but certainly a constant threat, are local tsunamis generated by these earthquakes. The County has marked a very safe trail to the lava; follow it closely, turning around frequently to acquaint yourself with landmarks for the hike back in the dark.

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Flowing lava, open, steaming cracks and razor sharp rocks are why one should always follow the marked trail to Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Be sure to take extra memory cards or film for your camera and remember to wipe down all cameras, eyeglasses, binoculars, optics and electronics after your visit; the salt and volcano effluent-laden atmosphere is highly corrosive. Batteries may be drained faster than expected due to the high heat near the lava; take extra.

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Hiking to the Waikupanaha lava ocean entry, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Despite the inherent dangers of hiking over liquid rock, steaming and unstable ground along the ever-restless sea, very few hikers are injured here. This is only because people enter the goddess’s home with a sense of awe and great caution, and the County safety officers are very good about instilling fear and trepidation into the hearts of those who think themselves otherwise immune to the mortal dangers presented here.

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Road signs to Waikupanaha Lava Viewing, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

If you go, remain cautious and vigilant, plan for adversity, think ahead and pay attention. The rewards for this are a moving and amazing experience few ever have, a memory of mystery, awe and wonder to treasure always.

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Magical Sunset at Waikupanaha lava ocean entry, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

If you are planning on viewing the lava at night, be sure to remember that there will be no open gas stations or restaurants when you depart the Lava Viewing Area until you reach either Kona or Hilo…plan accordingly, think ahead.

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

Rain squalls are common at Waikupanaha; take raingear, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Littoral Explosions at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

At Tour Guide our goal is to insure you have the most fun, most interesting and enjoyable vacation here in Hawaii–that you are provided with all the information you need to decide where to go and what to see, and that you are not burdened with out-dated or incorrect information.

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

Lava flowing just below the surface at Waikupanaha burns vegetation above the surface, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

Lava explosions, Puna Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Mysterious Puna 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.

Unspoiled Puna

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Morning reflection in a hot spring near Ahalanui Hot Spring, Puna Hawaii. In Hawai'ian, "Puna" means "spring" and there are a fabulous array of hot, warm and cold springs in the Puna District: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

It is often said that “Every new day in Hawaii begins in Puna”.  In fact, it may very well be that Hawai’ian history itself begins in Puna, as well.  Many local legends and family oral traditions hold that the Tahitians first landed on Hawaii Island’s eastern most spot, Cape Kumukahi in Puna, arriving there from Molokai.

Puna is important in the history of European exploration of Hawaii, too. The first European vessel known to visit the Hawaiian Islands, Captain Cook’s vessel Resolution, raised Hawaii Island on December 19, 1778 and was nearly grounded on Cape Kumukahi. Countless other vessels encountered difficulties along this rocky stretch, as well, necessitating the placement of the Kumukahi Lighthouse on the Cape in 1934.

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

Modern explorers of Puna will find it beautiful, mysterious, untraveled and undiscovered by the herds of tourists (see scenic drive guide for Puna District, here). Not on the usual tour bus routes, Puna District has so far managed to avoid the noxious overcrowding seen in Hilo and Kona. Puna District harks back to a simpler, less harried time—what residents call “Old Hawaii”–a true time capsule of aloha.

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The Malama Market sign is reflected ina rain puddle in downtown Pahoa, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Charming Pahoa Town is the gateway to the Puna District. Pahoa started off as a rough and tumble sawmill town, then became the center of the sugar industry.  A crossroad on the old island railroads, trade and commerce flourished in Pahoa at the turn of the 20th century. An agricultural center today, the papaya, commercial flower and visitor industries drive Pahoa’s economy.  Downtown Pahoa still shows off her history, with lovely turn-of-the century western and neo-Victorian architecture, false-front stores and wooden sidewalks, but with its own distinctive, Hawaii-style, panache.

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

Puna is a magnificent wonderland; from incredible tree-tunneled roads, steaming landscapes of vents in geothermal fields, lovely black sand beach parks, snorkeling in volcanically-heated tide pools, raw lava flows and of course, Lava Trees State ParkA fascinating scenic tour of Puna following Highway 132 south from Pahoa past Lava Trees to the intersection with Hwy 137, then west past Isaac Hale Beach Park to the junction with HWY 130 at Kalapana give the visitors a fabulous glimpse of the raw, pulsing coastline, the fantastic volcanic landscapes—some so young they are still flowing—and the living jungle.  Be forewarned, however, the more time you spend in Puna, the more leaving becomes a very difficult task, indeed.

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Modern Stone Carving at Kalapana Village in Puna, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan_edited-1

Of course, the visitor is reminded to leave no valuables in the car, even when locked, and to be watchful and careful. As with anywhere you travel, in Puna some residents can be frisky.

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Pohoiki Bay at Isaac Hale Beach Park in Puna, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Physically, Puna District comprises the rainiest part of the island and its climate is best described as “mild tropical and rainy”—in fact, rain can often be quite intense.  A single storm in 2003 dumped 3 feet (90 cm) of water on Puna in just 4 hours. As an interesting observation about Puna District, which is itself the same size as the island of Molokai, is that is has but one lake and no rivers.  The volcanic landscape is so young, so gently sloping and so porous that the rain, once it hits the ground, percolates immediately through the surface layers of rock and soil into the subterranean aquifer.  This comprises a huge resource of fresh groundwater for agricultural and municipal use and also explains why flooding is rare in Puna District.

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

Vegetation zones range from coastal strand to desert scrub to deep tropical jungle. In Puna, large, intact areas of native forest can still be found, preserved from the eruptions of Mauna Loa and Kilauea, at Kahauala and Wao Kele o Puna. An extensive network of subterranean lava tubes runs throughout Puna and there are many opportunities to explore them with commercial guides, or for the experienced and prepared, on your own.

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Ahahanui Hot Pond at Pu'ala'a County Park, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The residents of Puna tend to be individualists, socially liberal, embracing of alternative culture and lifestyle; there are most certainly a lot more musicians, artists and poets in Puna than accountants, insurance agents and attorneys.

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Eruption plume at Waikupanaha in Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Also true is the fact that many native Hawai’ians living in Puna regard it as the last bastion of THEIR land and initially may not be as welcoming as you might hope.  However, the rewards of discovering Puna District’s secrets are very much worth the extra effort, and the people you meet in this piece of hidden Hawaii are certainly fascinating and overflowing with aloha.

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

Looking up at the tree canopy in Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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Lava Watching at Waikupanaha in Puna, Hawaii: Photo By Donald B MacGowan_edited-1

At Tour Guide our goal is to insure you have the most fun, most interesting and enjoyable vacation here in Hawaii–that you are provided with all the information you need to decide where to go and what to see, and that you are not burdened with out-dated or incorrect information.

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

Puna is full of funny surprises, the unexplainable and the unexpected: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

Lava flowing into the ocean at Waikupanaha in Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

The Kalapana-Kapoho Road is the only road in the world named after two extinct towns buried by a volcano, Puna 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.

Kilauea Lava Stream at Night: Photo courtesy of Big Island Air

There area 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.

 

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.

Amanda Maus at Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Uncle Donnie 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.

The Pacific Ocean and Waikupanaha Ocean Entry Explosion Plume at the End of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This day trip may be made a part of a longer scenic drive, including the wonders of Puna and lava viewing at Waikupanaha; after reading this article, please go here.

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.

Dusk at the Waikupanaha Lava Ocean Entry, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Scenic Drive Through Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Introduction

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La'epuki Lava Ocean Entry, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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Kilauea Crater and Eruption of Halema'uma'u, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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

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Hikers warily approach a stagnant lava flow whose surface is still glowing gently, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. During daylight hours, an access fee is charged. The Visitor Center has a 24-hour information line at 808.985.6000 and there is a 24-hour eruption hotline at 808.987.8862. Within the Park tune to A.M. radio 530 for continuous information broadcast. There are tourist items available for sale, and one restaurant and in the park; however, generally, shopping, restaurants and gasoline are mainly only available in the nearby village of Volcano.

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Mauna Loa Looms over the Ka'u Desert, in Spring Bloom, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are four main roads which access most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: the Mauna Loa Scenic road, which lies above the visitor’s center and winds up the slopes of Mauna Loa; Crater Rim Drive which circumnavigates the summit crater of Kilauea Volcano; Chain of Craters Road which runs down the southeast rift zone along a series of volcanoes and pit craters to the ocean and Hilina Pali Road, which cuts across Kilauea Volcano to the cliffs along the sea.

Mauna Loa Scenic Road

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View of Mauna Loa from the Mauna Loa Scenic Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

This gateway to the southern flank of the world’s largest mountain, Mauna Loa, lies about 2 ½ miles west of the main entrance to the park. The road traverses lava desert, ohi’a scrub savanna, fern forest and ends at the start of the hiking trail to the icy heights of Mauna Loa’s summit.

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Lava Tree Molds, Mauna Loa Scenic Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A small fork road heading east just after the start of Mauna Loa Road leads to a series of tree molds that formed when lava poured through the deep tropical forest. The trees were too wet to burn and the lava simply cooled around the trunks. Later, as the trees rotted, these unusual, deep pit molds were left behind. Definitely worth a visit, there are even pit toilets available at the Tree Molds.

About 1 ½ miles further along Mauna Loa Road is Bird Park, or Kipuka Puaulu. A forested island in a giant lava flow, this micro-ecosystem preserves forest plants and animals and is a haven to many bird members of Hawai’i’s endangered species. Cool, quiet, restful and inviting, there is a one-mile nature trail around this tropical forest oasis.

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Looking into a Lava Tree Mold, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Loa Road is closed at various elevations at various times due to fire hazard. If one has the time and an adventurous heart, it is well worth the trip to drive to the end of the road and perhaps even hike a ways up it. The start of the Mauna Loa summit trail is here, but for even hardy hikers, that goal is at least two days hard hiking distant. The world’s largest active volcano is a LOT bigger than it looks! More about the Mauna Loa Scenic Road can be found here.

Crater Rim Drive

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

A fine introduction to the wonders of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Crater Rim Drive circles the summit crater of Kilauea Volcano, including Halema’uma’u Crater, the home of Madame Pele. The drive runs 11 fabulous and amazing miles through arid, barren volcanic desert, ohi’a forest and grassland and lush fern jungle. The most interesting sites along the drive are the Visitor’s Center, Jagger Museum, Halema’uma’u Crater, Kilauea Iki Crater, Devastation Trail and Thurston Lava Tube. Although the circuit can be made in under 40 minutes, one should allow at least three hours even to begin to explore this fantastic place; if you have never been here before, you certainly have never seen anything like it. Many people who plan to rush through the Park find themselves utterly engrossed, wind up spending much more time than they planned here and extemporaneously changing their plans, cutting time from some other attraction. Best plan to spend sufficient time here in the first place.

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Halema'uma'u Crater, The Home of Madame Pele: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Experience has shown that the impact of the landscape is much greater if the drive is done anti-clockwise

Below are some suggested highlights along Crater Rim Drive. The road currently is closed between Jagger Museum and the intersection with Chain of Craters Road due to the eruption in Halema’uma’u Crater. Also, bear in mind that there are no services available along Crater Rim Drive, except for restrooms, drinking water and the book shop at Jagger Museum.

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Frank Burgess Browses the Kilauea Visitor's Center Book Shop at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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.

Visitors Inspect the 3-D Physiographic Map of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at the Kilauea Visitor's Center: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Visitor Center is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; there are public restrooms, water and pay phones available. Starting at 9 a.m. and showing every hour on the hour is a 20 minute informative movie about the Park; the film changes from time to time, but always contains spectacular footage of eruptions, information on volcanology and the natural and human history of the Park. For information, please call their Info Hot line at 808.985.6000.

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 Halema'uma'u Eruption from the Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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.

Jagger Museum Parking lot is near a Nesting Ground for the Endangered Nene Goose, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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.

Everett Maynard Explores the Entrance to Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Thurston Lava Tube: Nahuku, the Thurston Lava Tube, gives the visitor an opportunity for a close-at-hand inspection of the inner plumbing of a volcano. It also makes for an interesting and unique way to escape the noonday heat or afternoon shower, briefly. Lava tubes form when the outer crust of a flowing river of lava begins to cool and crust over, but the lava continues to flow beneath it; as the margins of the flow begin to cool and form walls growing towards the middle, the nascent tube is formed. When the flow has completely drained away, the lava tube is left behind.

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

Thurston lava tube is a remarkably large, well-preserved and accessible example of a lava tube-type cave. An easy, 0.3 mile trail (about a 15 minute hike) winds through lush fern forest alive with singing birds and buzzing insects, down into a collapse crater entering the lava tube and slipping about 300 feet through the well-lighted, floored cave, popping up through a skylight in the tube and returning to the parking lot. A very easy walk and certainly a “must see” for any visitor to the park.

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Eric Carr Enters Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When Lorrin Thurston, founder of the Honolulu Advertiser, found the cave in 1913, the roof reportedly was covered with stalactites, now there are none—it is said that rapacious tourists removed every one in the intervening years.

More about Crater Rim Drive can be found here.

Chain of Craters Road

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Rainbow at Kealakomo Overlook, Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Following along Kilauea’s East Rift Zone, Chain of Craters Road passes through an amazing array of rift volcanoes, pit craters, lava trenches and flow fields. This road traverses and opens-up some of the most wild and beautiful landscapes seen anywhere, terminating near the active lava flows from Kilauea Volcano. Perhaps nowhere else on earth are the elements high mountains, wild seascapes and active volcanoes and their lava flows more dramatically displayed. Altogether, Chain of Craters Road is a singular and essential addition to any visit to the Island of Hawai’i. Crazily switching-back repeatedly down the Holei Pali, Chain of Craters Road finally reaches the untamed and scenically wild coastline, where giant waves spray and spume over sea cliffs dozens of feet high. Towering steam plumes in the distance at the end of the road mark where unimaginably hot liquid rock pours into the wild, wild sea. A place of mystery, a place of power, a place of wonder

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.

Pitiful Remnant of a Once Enormous Rain Forest on the Holei Pali, Now Surrounded By Fresh Lava: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Once connecting Volcano Village through the Park to Puna and State Routes 130 and 137 at Kalapana, Chain of Craters Road has repeatedly been badly damaged by earthquake, buried in lava, re-routed and re-built and broken up and buried again. The current eruption, which began in 1983, has buried a significant portion of the currently-closed nine miles of road between its temporary end inside the Park and the eastern closure at the town of Kalapana, outside the eastern edge of the Park. The road is now closed at the 19-mile marker, right at Holei Sea Arch.

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Visitors Walk Through the Pu'u Loa Petroglyph Field, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Collapse features, such as the numerous “pit craters” found along the Chain of Craters Road, form when lava drains out of subterranean chambers, causing the surface to collapse. Notice how all the debris seems to point downward into the bottom of the crater; there is no material around the rim of the crater that is suggestive of eruptive or explosive events. On the walls of the crater, one can see numerous, inter-layered, pre-collapse lava flows and airfall beds that were truncated by the collapse and exposed.

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Petroglyphs at Pu'u Loa, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

If a car ride back up the pali can be arranged, riding bicycles round Crater Rim Drive and down Chain of Craters road can be a momentous and fun excursion. Starting slightly above 4200 feet in elevation and ending at virtually sea level, this 22 mile drop from misty mountain cloud forest, running through tropical rain forest and into tropical desert is invigorating physically, stunning visually and makes a wonderfully memorable addition to any visit to the Island of Hawai’i. However, if you decide to pedal the 4200 feet elevation and 22 miles back up Chain of Craters Road to Kilauea Summit in the heat of day, this will also ensure a quite memorable, though far less pleasant, addition to your visit.

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.

Sea Cliffs, Sea Arches, Wild Surf and Magnificent Bird Watching Near the End of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are no services, water, food or gasoline available along the length of Chain of Craters Road. Do not underestimate the draw of this area on your imagination and your spirit; you WILL spend more time here than you think. Plan ahead, get food, water and gas before venturing down the road. Remember, after dark on the South side of Hawai’i Island, it is virtually impossible to find gasoline or food for sale along the highway between Volcano Village west to Kona or north to Kea’au.

For more about Chain of Craters Road, please go here.

Hilina Pali Road

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Vast Ocean Vistas and Incredible Sunsets are Some of the Rewards for Exploring Hilina Pali Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At 2.2 miles down Chain of Craters Road is the turn off to the Hilina Pali Road. This road is 9 miles of some of the most spectacular, lonely and striking scenery in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Spectacular coastal views, strangely-colored rock and twisted trees under weird skies make this an fantastic side trip for exploration and photography. Be especially careful when driving this road, it is mostly only one lane and there are more people enjoying this trip through the backcountry than you might think.

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Kulanaokuaiki Campground on Hilina Pali Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

About halfway to Hilina Pali Overlook is the Kulanaokuaiki Campground. Set amongst rifts, collapse features and flows, this desert campground is secluded and spectacular. Driving further across the broad lava flows, past panoramic vistas of Mauna Loa, along the spectacular drop-off of the Hilina Pali (literally “cliff of faith”), one comes to the Hilina Pali Overlook, a great place for a picnic or short hike.

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Mauna Loa from Hilina Pali Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Connecting with several longer trails across the Ka’u Desert, Kilauea Crater, or down the Pali to such abandoned coastal villages as Halape and Keauhou, the Hilina Pali Overlook is the central cross-roads of back-packing trails which crisscross the park.

 

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.

Spectacular coastal views, strangely-colored rock and twisted trees under weird skies make Hilina Pali Road a fantastic side trip, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilina Pali Road, due to its remoteness and lack of bus traffic, is a great place for a mountain bike ride, birding, or just getting away from crowds and tours. There are magnificent views, heart-stopping sunsets and pit toilets at the Campground and Overlook,. There is no water or other services available. Hilina Pali is a nesting place for the endangered Nene, the Hawai’i State bird, which is related to the Canada Goose. Hilina Pali Road may be closed during Nene nesting season.

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.

Devil's Throat, Just Across Chain of Crater's Road from the Hilina Pali Road Intersection: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Less than 1/10 of a mile from Hilina Pali road is the unmarked Devil’s Throat collapse crater…an excitingly vertically-sided pit that is worth the visit just for the “okole squeezing” peering down the throat will give you. More about Hilina Pali Road can be found here.

End of Chain of Craters Road

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Holei Sea Arch, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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.

Hiking to the La'epuki Lava Ocean Entry from the End of Chain of Craters Road, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hiking all the way out to the active flows is one of the most spiritually rewarding, awe-inspiring, curiosity quenching and amazing things one can do anywhere in the world—but it is neither for the physically unfit nor the meek of spirit. It is a long, hot hike (currently seven miles) over broken ground and glass-sharp rocks; the heat from the volcano is savage; the weather, if clear, is sweltering…frequent squalls blow in off the ocean and the rain and wind can get pretty wild out on the lava plain where there is absolutely no cover or shelter to protect you. No water or shade is available anywhere along the hike. Plan assiduously before you go, make sure you have TWO working flashlights per person for the long hike back in the dark.  For specific information about hiking to the lava flows from the end of Chain of Craters Road, please go here.   More about activities and sights at the end of Chain of Craters Road can be found here.

Lava Viewing Near Kalapana

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.

Yet another lava viewing photo from Waikupanaha, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At this time, there is nowhere else can you see lava flowing from a volcano into the sea; no Big Island visit is complete without seeing this awe-inspiring show. Currently lava is only flowing into the sea outside the Park. From the belt Highway, turn south at Kea’au on Highway 130, continuing through Pahoa to the 20 mile marker; take the exit clearly marked “Lava Viewing”, a right branch about, for two miles to the parking area. Port-a-potties are available here. The road is open from 2 p.m. until 10; no cars allowed in after 8. Lava viewing information is available from Hawaii County at 808.961.8093; check conditions before you go. The easy trail, a 20 minute stroll to the viewing area, is well-marked.

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

Littoral Explosion Plume at Waikupanaha Lava Ocean Entry, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The quality of viewing varies as lava flows nearer or farther from the trail. Viewing is best at dusk so bring flashlights for the hike out. Take close-toed walking shoes and a hat, long pants and long-sleeved shirt, at least 2 liters of water, sun block and a rain jacket and camera. It’s a good idea to bring a tripod for your camera, or your shots will be blurred. Remember food and gas are not available anywhere nearby after dark, so fill up BEFORE you park, bring snacks and drinks. There are port-a-potties available at the parking lot.  More about lava viewing at Kalapana can be found here.

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.

Kilauea Lava River, Hawaii: Photo Courtesy of Big Island Air

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

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

The Best Lava Viewing at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is from the Air: Photo by Shannon Walker

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

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #8: Mysterious Puna!
by Frank Burgess, brought to you by Tour Guide Hawaii

Frank Burgess lava surfing at Muliwai O Pele, Hawai Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Frank Burgess lava surfing at Muliwai O Pele, Hawai Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Exploring Mysterious Puna…

For your next day of driving, let’s go south on Highway 11 headed for the Puna District. Leave early and expect to get back just after dark because this area is furthest from Kona and contains some of the most beautiful, yet hidden, wonders on the Big Island. It is from Puna that, currently, the only up-close viewing of flowing lava is possible. You may want to pack a cooler for this day trip.

As you’re passing through Kainaliu, just south of Kona, a quick stop at Kona Joe’s Coffee Plantation, for some great Kona Coffee, will jump start your day. See their ad in the sponsors section in your Tour Guide. If you are driving straight to Puna, plan on about 3½ hrs drive time to get to the first sights in this discussion. If you have missed any sights that you wanted to see on the southern route, refer to Frank’s Travel Hints #1 and #2 and catch them on the way…just don’t forget to allow for extra time.

Along the way you will pass Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This is a fascinating place and not to be missed, but we will reserve discsussing it for as a full day trip in a later post.

The first turn is about 20 minutes past the park entrance at the town of Kea’au. Look for the stop light on the highway and the Highway 130 sign. The Kea’au Shopping Center has some great places to eat, like Paradise Bar and Grill, and is a good restroom break.

The first stop, in the Puna district, is the town of Pahoa. You will think you have just stepped back into the Wild West as Pahoa has a unique atmosphere like nowhere else on the island. Cute shops, and a great farmer’s market on Sundays, lends to picture taking and shopping. Tour Guide will suggest that parking is easiest at the Community Pool just a block from downtown, and there are public restrooms here.

Continue driving further into Puna on Highway 132 through the lovely tree tunnels to a magical stop at Lava Trees State Park. This gorgeous rainforest park is filled with birds and tropical plants and flowers. What makes this park so intriguing is the lava trees. Tour Guide will tell you how old lava flows surrounded the trees, leaving spires of hardened lava, giving it an eerie look. There are trails for hiking and bird watching is spectacular. This is also a good place for a restroom break as it will be a good while before the next restrooms are available. Highway 132 leads you to Highway 137, the Kapoho-Kalapana Road–the only road in America that is named for two towns buried by a volcano.

Turning toward Kapoho on Highway 137, the next stop is the Kapoho Tide Pools where you can experience great shoreline shell collecting and fantastic snorkeling amongst vibrant corals and tropical fish in protected tidepools. Though hard to find on your own, Tour Guide again knows the way to this secluded sanctuary and ancient village. Port-a-potties and showers are the only facilities here.

Just a few miles down Highway 137 is Ahalanui Hot Pond. This tropical park is centered around a hot spring that mixes with ocean water to create one of the most relaxing and soul recharging oases anywhere. Tour Guide gives you the history of what this area meant to the ancient Hawaiians. Picnicking, hiking, swimming and “expert only” surfing are some of the things to do here. There are restrooms, showers and water available also.

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

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

Highway 137 used to become the Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but it has been cut by several miles of intervening lava flows. Today, it ultimately ends at Highway 130, the road back to Kea’au and the Hawaii Belt Highway. At the intersections of Highways 137 and 130 are the remnants of the town of Kalapana, buried in the 1960 eruption of Kilauea. Tour Guide will tell you all about the eruption, the heroic recovery efforts, and lead you on a brief hike to Kaimu Black Sand Beach, the newest beach on the Island of Hawaii. From the end of the road you can frequently see the both the eruption cloud over Pu’u O’o Vent and the steam plume where lava is entering the ocean, both several miles distant. At night, the glow from streams of lava pouring down the pali can sometimes be seen from here. Although hiking to the lava can be an experience to cherish, it is dangerous and hard work. The best, and most consistent, viewing is by taking an air tour, such as Big Island Air or Paradise Helicopter Tours.

Heading back from Kalapana, you will want to take Highway 130 toward Pahoa and Kea’au, you pass the famous “Painted Church”. Tour Guide can tell you the history of this fascinating place. Just a little farther north is the intersection of Highway 130 with the road to Royal Gardens Estates, which currently leads to the Hawaii County-maintained lava viewing area. Call the Lava Hotline at 808.961.8093 for current eruption updates, lava viewing information and times of road openings and closures. As you continue towards Kea’au you will pass the Steam Rooms–a field of steam vents in small craters where locals go to take steam baths. Tour Guide has information on finding these craters and how to safely enjoy the wonders of natural, volcanic steam baths.

Upon returning to the Hawaii Belt Highway at Kea’au, one can proceed in either direction back to Kona, north through Hilo, a bit shorter and faster, or west through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park which, though longer, is much more scenic. If time permits, you may want to stop in Volcano Village, just off the highway, for some food, gasoline, shopping or maybe even some wine tasting. This may be the last gasoline available until you get back to Kona as it is many times hard to find an open gas station in the rural part of Hawaii Island after dark. Find your hotel in your Tour Guide and get turn-by-turn directions right to the door.

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

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

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

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

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

Evening Light on Hualalai and Kailua Kona: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Evening Light on Hualalai and Kailua Kona: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

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

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

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

Mauna Loa Rises Above the Ka'u Desert at Warriror Footprints: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Loa Rises Above the Ka'u Desert at Warriror Footprints: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

Kilauea Crater and the Current Halema'uma'u Eruption As Seen from Waldron Ledge, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea Crater and the Current Halema'uma'u Eruption As Seen from Waldron Ledge, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

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

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

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

Kilauea Visitors Center at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Kilgore Trout

Kilauea Visitors Center at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Kilgore Trout

Kilauea Visitor Center

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

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

View of Halema'uma'u from Jagger Museum, HVNP: Photo by Donald MacGowan

View of Halema'uma'u from Jagger Museum, HVNP: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory

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

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

Frank Burgess On Kilauea Iki Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Frank Burgess On Kilauea Iki Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea Iki Trail

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

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

Hiking from the End of Chain of Craters Road to the Lava Ocean Entry at La'epuki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hiking from the End of Chain of Craters Road to the Lava Ocean Entry at La'epuki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

End of Chain of Craters Road

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

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

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

In Hawaiian, "Puna" means "Spring" and Puna District in General, and the Area Around Pahoa in Particular, Is Dotted With Hot, Warm and Cold Springs: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

In Hawaiian, "Puna" means "Spring" and Puna District in General, and the Area Around Pahoa in Particular, Is Dotted With Hot, Warm and Cold Springs: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Puna District and Pahoa Town

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

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

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

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

Lava Trees State Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Trees State Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Trees State Monument

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

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

Ahalanui Hot Pond: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahalanui Hot Pond: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahalanui Pond

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

Kaimu Beach near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaimu Beach near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kalapana Disaster of 1990/Kaimu Black Sand Beach

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

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

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

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

Lava Viewing At Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Viewing At Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Viewing Near Kalapana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post has recently been greatly expanded and updated…please go here to see the more recent, and more abundant, information.

Trip 4: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Lava Viewing Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 14 hours (return drive in the dark).

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

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

Evening Light on Hualalai and Kailua Kona: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Evening Light on Hualalai and Kailua Kona: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

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

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

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

Mauna Loa Rises Above the Ka'u Desert at Warriror Footprints: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Loa Rises Above the Ka'u Desert at Warriror Footprints: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

Kilauea Crater and the Current Halema'uma'u Eruption As Seen from Waldron Ledge, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea Crater and the Current Halema'uma'u Eruption As Seen from Waldron Ledge, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

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

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

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

Kilauea Visitors Center at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Kilgore Trout

Kilauea Visitors Center at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Kilgore Trout

Kilauea Visitor Center

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

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

View of Halema'uma'u from Jagger Museum, HVNP: Photo by Donald MacGowan

View of Halema'uma'u from Jagger Museum, HVNP: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory

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

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

Frank Burgess On Kilauea Iki Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Frank Burgess On Kilauea Iki Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea Iki Trail

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

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

Hiking from the End of Chain of Craters Road to the Lava Ocean Entry at La'epuki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hiking from the End of Chain of Craters Road to the Lava Ocean Entry at La'epuki: Photo by Donald MacGowan

End of Chain of Craters Road

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

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

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

In Hawaiian, "Puna" means "Spring" and Puna District in General, and the Area Around Pahoa in Particular, Is Dotted With Hot, Warm and Cold Springs: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

In Hawaiian, "Puna" means "Spring" and Puna District in General, and the Area Around Pahoa in Particular, Is Dotted With Hot, Warm and Cold Springs: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Puna District and Pahoa Town

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

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

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

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

Lava Trees State Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Trees State Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Trees State Monument

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

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

Ahalanui Hot Pond: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahalanui Hot Pond: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahalanui Pond

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

Kaimu Beach near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaimu Beach near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kalapana Disaster of 1990/Kaimu Black Sand Beach

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

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

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

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

Lava Viewing At Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Viewing At Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lava Viewing Near Kalapana

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

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

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

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

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

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


Visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park right now are being treated to a rare event. Kilauea Volcano is erupting in two places simultaneously! Up in the summit caldera, in Halema’uma’u Crater, a vent exploded open last March that has continued to thrill visitors with its billowing steam cloud and night-time glow. If this were the only volcano you were ever going to see, this would plenty spectacular. Current eruption activity updates are available from the National Park at 808.985.6000.

But hold on! The real action is down at the coast where lava from the East Rift Zone has broken out of lava tubes, flows across the open ground and into the sea. From the air, one can see the spectacular glow of a small lava lake in Pu’u O’o crater and from several breakouts along the 2007 Thanksgiving Eve Breakout tube system above the pali and near the top of Royal Gardens subdivision. Lava is currently flowing down the pali and entering the ocean at the Waikupanaha ocean entry where there are spectacular littoral explosions. Although this activity is usually quite vigorous, including a 10-15-m-high lava fountains, it can be sporadic on a day-to day basis.

Over the years, lava has mostly entered the ocean within the National Park boundaries. Park policy has been to allow tourists to approach flowing lava as closely as the visitor himself deemed safe. Surprisingly, a relatively small percentage of visitors were killed or maimed in this process and unparallel access to one of the great wonders of the world, the spectacle of the Earth remaking herself through volcanic eruption, was available on a very intimate basis to anyone who came to Hawaii.

Every six or so years, for a period of several months, eruption flows go outside the park boundaries, as it is doing now. The County of Hawaii, whose Civil Defense Department is responsible for visitor safety in these cases, is not so liberal in granting access to the lava flow. The county maintains a viewing area several hundred meters back from the actual flow and ocean entry areas and visitors are not allowed any closer.

As of this writing, to see the lava flow one must find the County of Hawaii volcano viewing area. From the Hawaii Belt Road at Kea’au, proceed south on Highway 130 through Pahoa and toward the now-buried town of Kalapana. At the 20 mile marker the road splits; the right branch (helpfully marked “end of road”) leads to a dirt-and-lava road a couple miles long at the end of which is the parking area for the County of Hawaii volcano viewing area. One really cannot miss the way during daylight hours, as the enormous explosion plume is clearly visible from miles away. The viewing area is open from 2 in the afternoon until 10 at night; no cars are allowed in after 8 p.m. Lava viewing and road information is available from the County of Hawaii at 808.961.8093. A carnival atmosphere hovers over the parking lot, where several vendors hawk jewelry, t-shirts, drinks and snacks…port-a-potties are also available. The trail leading to the viewing area is largely flat but traverses a broken lava field. It is well marked with reflectors and reflective paint strips along the surface and is just a 15 to 20 minute stroll.

Produced by Donnie MacGowan. Written, filmed and narrated by Donnie MacGowan. Original soundtrack written, performed and recorded by, uh, you guessed it, Donnie MacGowan.

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

Reprinted from here.

Explosion cloud of littoral explosion, BIg ISland, Hawaii.  Photo by Donad B. MacGowan

For video on hiking to see the flowing lava, please go here.

Halema`uma`u appears laid back but . . .

Photo by Dr. Donald B. MacGowan

Photo by Dr. Donald B. MacGowan

In contrast to the spectacular incandescent explosions and springtime spatter showers at the Halema`uma`u Overlook in March and April, the eruptive vent at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano seems to have adopted a laid-back summer attitude, with a steady plume rising from a dull glowing hole at the base of the southeast wall of the crater.

The 40-meter-wide (120-feet-wide) opening of this still-fuming chimney provides a partial view into the bright abyss beneath the crater wall that broadcasts the clatter of frequent wall-rock collapses and extends to depths within earshot of splashing and sloshing magma.

During the spring 2008 eruptive period, this hot, gargling vent coughed up an interesting mélange of “pyroclasts” – rocks, dust, and gravel from the collapsed crater floor and conduit walls, mixed with a small portion of bombs, spatter, Pele’s hair, and tears that were molten or near-molten when erupted. (The latter fragments are referred to as “juveniles” in volcano parlance because they are first-timers at the earth’s surface.)

Pyroclasts can tell us the conditions of their formation. For example, we know that the Pele’s hair, tears, pumice, and glassy spatter are identical in composition to the hottest Kīlauea lavas recently erupted along the east rift zone. The composition of the gases from Pu`u `Ō `ō and Halema`uma`u are also similar to each other, showing that, after nearly 25 years of near-continuous volcanic eruption, magma pathways throughout Kīlauea’s shallow volcanic edifice are full of new magma from depth.

Subtle clues as to whether the summit eruption will either cease or perhaps become ominously hazardous could be found through further study of the pyroclasts. We have found that a sordid lot of pumice-like glass fragments were, prior to their springtime expulsion from the vent, baked in a fumarole on the sides of the conduit, in a fashion akin to creosote build-up in a stove pipe. Collectively these and similarly recycled material are evidence for subterranean build-up of debris-talus and spatter deposits within the eruption conduit.

Close examination of spatter and large lava droplets (lapilli) reveals dense, relatively cool crystal-mush clots contained within hotter bubbly lava. This is a clear sign that cooler magma was disrupted by hot, effervescing magma prior to eruption.

For the past two months, there has been a scarcity of unquestionably fresh glassy material from Halema`uma`u. The plume is only lightly ash-laden, and newly formed glassy particles that are presently being erupted cannot be readily distinguished from previously erupted material plucked off the ground by strong winds.

Steady summit gas emissions and the small quantity of Pele’s hair and tears being erupted indicates that summit magma may have temporarily receded or may no longer be as well-connected to the atmosphere. The Halema`uma`u chimney may be partially sealed by a mix of collapsed wall rocks and choked by recent deposits of lava spatter, pumice, bombs and ash. If magma stops moving within the conduit, it will cool and thicken into a partially molten plug resembling the springtime chunks of relatively cool crystal-mush.

The longer that plug cools, the more likely this recent period of summit activity will slowly come to a close. It is most likely that a balance will persist. A lava plug beneath a subterranean pile of talus and spatter would provide little resistance but plenty of explosion fodder for the next time fresh, hot magma rises beneath the Halema’uma’u Overlook and gas pressure builds up!

Activity update

Kīlauea Volcano continues to be active. A vent in Halema`uma`u Crater is erupting elevated amounts of sulfur dioxide gas and very small amounts of ash. Resulting high concentrations of sulfur dioxide in downwind air have closed the south part of Kīlauea caldera and produced occasional air quality alerts in more distant areas, such as Pahala and communities adjacent to Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, during kona wind periods.

Pu`u `Ō`ō continues to produce sulfur dioxide at even higher rates than the vent in Halema`uma`u Crater. Trade winds tend to pool these emissions along the West Hawai`i coast. Kona winds blow these emissions into communities to the north, such as Mountain View, Volcano, and Hilo. Incandescence continues to be observed at night inside Pu`u `Ō`ō and suggests minor activity from vents within the crater. There was a small explosion within the crater that deposited small rocks around the east rim of the cone; seismic and tilt data suggest that this occurred on the evening of July 26.

Lava continues to erupt from fissure D of the July 21, 2007, eruption but no breakouts have been observed in the past week on or above the pali. Lava, however, continues to flow through what remains of Royal Gardens and across the coastal plain to the ocean in a well-established lava tube, active now for several months. Minor-to-moderate explosive activity continues at the Waikupanaha ocean entry, and there have been a few new breakouts immediately inland from the delta. A small (2.5 acre) delta collapse that probably occurred between 5 and 6 a.m. on Wednesday, July 30, scattered large rocks up to 100 meters (yards) inland from the collapse scar.

Be aware that lava deltas could collapse at any time, potentially generating large explosions, as happened this past week. This may be especially true during times of rapidly changing lava supply conditions, as have been seen lately. Do not venture onto the lava deltas. Even the intervening beaches are susceptible to large waves generated during delta collapse; avoid these beaches. In addition, steam plumes rising from ocean entries are highly acidic and laced with glass particles. Check Civil Defense Web site (http://www.lavainfo.us) or call 961-8093 for viewing hours.

Mauna Loa is not erupting. Three earthquakes were located beneath the summit this past week. Continuing extension between locations spanning the summit indicates slow inflation of the volcano.

Two earthquakes beneath Hawai`i Island were reported felt within the past week. A magnitude-2.4 earthquake occurred at 00:55 a.m. on Saturday, July 26, 2008, H.s.t., and was located 2 km (1 mile) southwest of Kilauea summit at a depth of 2 km (1 mile). A magnitude-2.7 earthquake occurred at 12:20 p.m. on Monday, July 28, and was located 7 km (4 miles) southeast of Ho`okena at a depth of 14 km (9 miles).

Visit our Web site (http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov) for daily Kīlauea eruption updates, a summary of volcanic events over the past year, and nearly real-time Hawai`i earthquake information. Kīlauea daily update summaries are also available by phone at (808) 967-8862. Questions can be emailed to askHVO@usgs.gov.

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