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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.

Hikers pause to look over the summit from Mauna Loa from the summit of Mauna Kea, 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.

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

A view from the summit of Hualalai to Mauna Loa Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Volcanoes of Hawaii Island

The Hawaiian Archipelago, part of the Hawaiian Island-Emperor Seamount chain, is the most isolated island group earth and is comprised entirely of volcanic islands and their fringing reefs.  The archipelago was formed as one of the Earth’s great tectonic plates, the Pacific Plate, moved steadily northwest over a stationary plume of molten material welling up from the Earth’s mantle, called a “hot spot”.

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.

Fumes bellow from skylights in an active lava tube on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Photo by Kelly Kuchman

Creating a chain of volcanic islands that, today, stretches from the Aleutian Islands to the Big Island of Hawaii, this hotspot gave rise to at least 129 separate volcanoes in the past 86 million years.  There are 19 islands and atolls, and dozens of separate islets, seamounts, reefs and shoals in the Hawaiian Island portion of this chain, stretching from Kure Atoll to Hawaii Island (please go here for a complete discussion of the geologic history of the Hawaiian Islands).

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Halema'uma'u Crater and Eruption on Kilauea, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’i is the youngest island in the Archipelago and first began forming about a million years ago as volcanic vents opened above the mantle “hot spot” on the ocean bottom and molten lava began pouring onto the sea floor. Over the centuries, the making of the Big Island as we know it today eventually entailed the growth and conjoining of six separate volcanoes, building all the way up from the seafloor, some 18,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.  These volcanoes, from northwest to southeast, are named Mahukona, Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, and become younger as one moves north to south.

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Lava Flowing Into the Sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Mahukona Volcano, just off the Big Island’s northwest coast, was the first volcano to start forming. Now submerged beneath the surface of the ocean because it is sinking into the Earth’s crust under its own vast weight, Mahukona is no longer visible.  As the Pacific Plate slowly continued moving northwestward over the hotspot, the location of the rising magma moved relatively southeastward, and through time the rest of the Big Island volcanoes formed along that path.

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Kohala Mountain from the slopes of Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B MacGowan

After Mahukona, Kohala Volcano, the precursor to today’s Kohala Mountain, erupted next.  As Kohala Volcano emerged from the sea and joined with Mahukona, a much larger Big Island began forming. With continued movement of the Pacific Plate, the center of volcanism migrated on to Mauna Kea and Hualalai, the middle-aged volcanoes, and finally on to Mauna Loa and Kilauea, which are the youngest volcanoes on the island.  Over the geologically short time of several hundred thousand years, these volcanoes erupted thousands of thin flows which spread over, and built upon, older flows; each volcano growing until it finally emerged from the sea. As time went on, lava flows from one volcano began to overlap flows from other, nearby volcanoes and eventually the peaks coalesced into a single island, the Big Island.

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Lava from Kilauea flows into the sea at La'epuki, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

In geologically recent times, a new volcano, Lo’ihi, began forming about 18 miles off the southeast coast of the Big Island.  In time, Loihi may join its mass with that of Kilauea, again changing the size and shape of the Big Island.  It is estimated that Lo’ihi, whose summit lies approximately 3,178 feet below the surface of the ocean today, will begin to protrude above the surface in about 10,000 years.

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Hualalai Volcano from Saddle Road, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Currently, the remnants of Mahukona and Kohala volcanoes are completely extinct; Hualalai and Mauna Kea are considered dormant and Mauna Loa, Kilauea and Loihi are still very active.   This means that eruptions of Mahukona and Kohala are not at all likely. Eruptions of Mauna Kea and Hualalai are probable at some time in the future, though the major phase of mountain building is over for these volcanoes.  Movement of the Pacific Plate has moved both Hualalai and Mauna Kea off the hot spot so only remnants of liquid magma reside beneath them. These late-stage, mature Hawaiian volcanoes experience violent, explosive eruptions which are spectacular but comparatively small, volume-wise.  Late-stage Hawaiian volcanic eruptions are characterized by crater-forming explosions, tephra-cone building and ash ejecting events.

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Mauna Loa from Bird Park in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Mauna Loa and Kilauea are both considered active volcanoes. Although inflation and dilation events are common on the summit of Mauna Loa, it has not erupted since 1984; Mauna Loa could, however, erupt at any time.  Since 1833 when accurate records began to be kept, there have been 33 eruptions of Mauna Loa, making it one of the most active volcanoes on earth.  Its name means “long mountain”, and Mauna Loa is capable of erupting huge amounts of lava in a very short time, dwarfing the current output of Kilauea.  The most massive mountain on earth, this prolific effusion of molten rock accounts for Mauna Loa’s vast bulk.

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Kilauea eruption in Halema'uma'u Crater at night, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kilauea, once believed to be a mere satellite vent on Mauna Loa, is known to be a separate and distinct volcano with its own, geologically separate magma chamber and subterranean plumbing. Nearly half a million years old, Kilauea’s most recent eruption has been continuous since 1983 making it currently the world’s most active volcano. Indeed, between 1983 and 2009 about 700 acres of new land were produced by lava flows from Kilauea.  Articles on how to see the active lava flows on Kilauea can be found here and here. A detailed guide to enjoying Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, featuring Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes can be found here.

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Kilauea buried the town of Kalapana in the early 1990s and formed Kaimu Black, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Because the time-scale of human experience is virtually instantaneous compared to the aeons-long march of geologic history, there is continuing human drama, a tension, between short-sighted humans attempting to establish roads, villages and towns, and the ongoing geologic processes of the landscapes they choose to inhabit.  In very recent decades, the towns of Kapoho, Kalapana and Kaimu have been inundated, destroyed and buried by Kilauea Volcano (please see a related article on the death and rebirth of Kalapana, here).  As more people move to Hawaii, more such drama is inevitable.

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Mauna Loa floats above the fields of Kohala, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The evolution of Hawaiian volcanoes continues even after the major phase of eruptive activity subsides. There are great differences, obvious to even the most casual observer, between the elongated, fluted ridge-like shape of Kohala Mountain and the lower angled slopes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea.  Likewise, steep-sided Mauna Kea has a greatly different physical aspect than does gently-sloped, shield-shaped Mauna Loa.  These differences are accounted for by the differences in their relative ages, and thus eruptive and erosive stages.

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The steeper, crater-poked slopes of Hualalai indicate it has moved on to the later stages of volcanism Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Remembering that the angle of repose of Hawaiian lava is about 6 degrees, the shield-shaped, gentle slopes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea reflect the fact that they are quite young and are still in the shield-building stage, being built-up by successive flows of highly fluid lava.  The much steeper flanks of Hualalai and Mauna Kea volcanoes are due to the late-stage, explosive eruptions, to erosion and to ashfall which piles up much more steeply than the flowing lava.  The fluted ridges of Kohala volcano result from the deep dissection of the once shield-shaped slopes of the original volcano by streams and surface flow of water.  The distinctive steep valleys and great cliffs seen on the north and east sides of Kohala Volcano result from later process of normal faulting and giant landslides (see further discussion in an article about Waipi’o Valley, here).

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Glacial cirques and moraines along the Mauna Kea summit ridge, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Another process, operative in the geologically recent past, has served to shape the slopes of the volcanoes of the Big Island, at least those which are or great height.  Glaciers covered the summit of Mauna Kea (and possibly Mauna Loa) three times between 200,000 and 13,000 years ago, leaving behind many glacial features such as cirques, u-shaped valleys and scoured bedrock; surviving into the present is a remnant rock glacier near the summit of Mauna Kea (a related article on the summit of Mauna Kea and the Hawaiian Snow Goddess, Poliahu, can be found here; details on exploring Mauna Kea can be found here).  Any evidence on Mauna Loa of ice-age glaciers has been covered by recent eruptions.

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.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.

Kohala Volcano is subsiding, cut by enormous valleys and giant cliff-forming landslides, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Simultaneously with the ongoing eruptions and island building, due to their enormous mass, the great volcanoes of the Hawaiian Chain begin to subside into the oceanic crust.  After the majority of eruptions cease, with cooling and with a great amount of time, they eventually disappear beneath the surface of the sea completely, as Mahukona Volcano already has.

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Originally carved above sea level, these 500-year old petroglyphs at Keauhou today are awash due to subsidence of Hualalai Volcano: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Today, the Big Island of Hawai’i comprises more than twice the area of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined.  It’s size is not anomalous, however, considering the geologic history of the archipelago. All the other Hawaiian Islands experienced the same pattern of volcanic eruption, growth and coalescence, as well as the gradual subsidence and submersion that Hawaii Island has, and thus at one time may have been as large as the Big Island.  Indeed, geologists have demonstrated that Maui at one time formed a single landmass, known as Maui Nui or “Big Maui”, with the islands of Lana’i, Moloka’i, and Kaho’olawe.  Continued subsidence submerged the larger landmass, leaving the four, smaller islands above the ocean surface. Ultimately, this will happen to the Big Island, as well.

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Looking from Mauna Kea summit to Mauna Loa, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The relentless movement of the Pacific Plate carries it, with the all the islands piggy-backed, inexorably northward to the Aleutian Trench, where it is subducted underneath the North American Plate, melted, and recycled as volcanic material in the Aleutian Island volcanoes.  The Emperor Seamounts are currently undergoing such destruction, and, the evolution of the Hawaiian-Emperor Chain is such that, eventually this fate also awaits the Big Island…but not for tens of millions of years.

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Magical Sunset at the lava ocean entry at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Given the ephemeral nature of this precious island, this geologic certainty should serve to make us love and treasure the Big Island more deeply, as well as to spur us to protect and preserve it more completely.

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.

Silent sunset descends upon Hawaii Island at Kahalu'u Beach: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

Near the summit of Kohala Mountain, Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

Full moon over Mauna Kea, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Visitors Watch the Halema'uma'u eruption of Kilauea at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

The Geologic History of the Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Islands, part of a much longer chain of oceanic islands and seamounts called the Hawaiian-Emperor Chain, is comprised of 8 principal islands and 124 islets, shoals, atolls, seamounts and banks, all volcanic in origin.  The Hawaiian Islands proper extend from Kure Atoll in the mid-Pacific, trending southeast to Hawaii Island (the Big Island) and Lo’ihi submarine volcano.  The eight major islands of the Hawaiian chain are named, from northwest to southeast, Ni’ihau, Kauai, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Lana`i, Kaho`olawe, Maui, and Hawai`i. Unraveling the geologic history of the Hawaiian Islands provides a fascinating glimpse into structures and process occurring deep within our Earth.  To understand how the Hawaiian Islands were formed, let’s review a bit about the nature of our planet.

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Kilauea Lava Stream, Hawaii Photo courtesy of Big Island Air

Layered like an onion, our seeming solid earth is actually a heaving mass composed of various solid, partially-molten, semi-plastic and liquid layers.  The solid crust (or lithosphere), which covers the entire surface of the earth, seems strong and robust but is, in fact, quite thin and malleable.  About the same thickness relative to the rest of the planet as an onion skin is to an onion, the Earth’s silica-rich crust more or less floats upon a much thicker, partially molten, more iron and magnesium-rich, semi-plastic layer of much hotter material called the “mantle”.  Below the mantle are the liquid outer core and the solid inner core of the Earth.

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Halema'uma'u Crater and eruption on Kilauea, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Earth’s crust comes in basically two varieties, oceanic crust which is quite thin (only 5-7 km thick) and continental crust, which is much thicker than oceanic crust (up to 200 km thick).  Oceanic crust is composed almost wholly of an effusive volcanic rock type called “basalt”, its intrusive volcanic, subsurface equivalent called “gabbro” and a thin covering of sediment. The continental crust, which underlies the seven continents and the more massive islands, and upon which most human activity takes place, on the other hand, is composed not only of basalt and gabbro, but all the other rock types as well.  Continental crust is much less dense than oceanic crust, being much more silica-rich, and therefore is more buoyant on the mantle.  This, in part, accounts for its relative thickness and higher elevation compared to the denser, thinner oceanic crust.

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Lava from Kilauea flows into the sea at La'epuki, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Earth’s crust is further divided-up into various distinct pieces, called “tectonic plates”, all moving relative to each other. Plates are composed almost wholly of either oceanic or continental crustal material. These plates “float” on the semi-plastic mantle, and are carried along by currents on the mantle’s surface. Mantle currents are caused by various physical process of heat transport within the mantle.   Think of a pot of boiling soup; the point of the boil in the soup is analogous to the heat transfer in the mantle and the skim of chilled soup riding around on the surface is analogous to the moving tectonic plates carried on top of the mantle.

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Hikers pause to look over at the summit of Mauna Loa From the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Interactions along the edges of these plates, whether slipping past each other (such as along the San Andreas Fault), one riding up over another (such as beneath the Himalayan Mountains), or one being subducted beneath the other (such as along the western edge of North America), accounts for much of the earthquake, mountain-building and volcanic activity seen on the surface of the earth, and plate margins are certainly the most geologically active places on earth.

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Kilauea eruption in Halema'uma'u Crater at night Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Occasionally, exceptions to this generality occur, and the Hawaiian Islands are one such spectacular exception. To understand the forces and process which shape the Hawaiian Islands, we must look a little closer at the origin and movement of the crust and the structure of the mantle.  Happily, we need only concern ourselves with oceanic crust in general and the Pacific Plate in particular, as well as one, singular feature of the mantle.

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Skylight at Kupaianaha Vent, Kilauea Volcano Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Oceanic crust is continually created by volcanic action along giant ridges which run generally north-south down the middle of the ocean basins.  The hot liquid magma at the ridges is much less dense than the surrounding, cold crustal rocks, and so “floats” these ridges and the still hot, newly-formed oceanic crust, up above the surrounding ocean basin, thus forming the ridge.  As volcanic eruptions along these ridges add hot, new material to the edge of the oceanic plates, the mass of new material drives the older oceanic crust away from the ridge, down both sides of it.  As the new material cools and becomes less dense, it sinks and further drives the crust away from the ridges.

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Lava Flowing Into the Sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Called “Mid-Ocean Ridge Spreading”, this process can be likened to a conveyor belt where new crust is created at the mid-ocean ridge, and is driven along by buoyancy and gravity, farther and farther away from the ridge until the plate’s leading edge interacts in some way with another tectonic plate.  Thus we see that the floors of the ocean basins, all around the world, are in constant, relative motion.  The Pacific Plate, upon which the Hawaiian Islands are built, has been moving at a rate of about 3.9 inches per year to the northwest, relative to other plate motions, for about the last 42 million years.

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Sunset on Haleakala from Kiholo, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

But what causes the enormous volcanoes that comprise the Hawaiian Archipelago to form in the middle of the ocean basin?  As mentioned above, the mantle is far from uniform either compositionally, thermally or in terms of the processes controlling its internal motions.  There are places on the earth where, for a variety of reasons, hot and buoyant mantle plumes rise above the general surface of the mantle, into the crust, carrying great amounts of heat and semi-liquid material quite near the earth’s surface.  Called “Hot Spots”, extreme volcanism can result from these thermal plumes.  The volcanic fields at Yellowstone in North America are one such example of this “hot spot magmatism”; the Hawaiian Islands are yet another.

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The heavily-dissected mountains of Kauai completely obscure the original shield shape of the volcano Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Hawaiian Hot Spot has caused the creation of at least 129 volcanoes on the ocean floor, the center of volcanism on the Pacific Plate continually migrating across the plate as it travels over the hot spot. Of these 129 volcanoes, 123 are extinct, three are dormant and three are active.  At first, the trend of volcanoes was almost due north-south.  Then, somewhere between 41 and 43 million years ago the relative motion between the Pacific Plate and the hot spot changed, becoming more northwesterly; this caused a sharp bend in the line of island-forming volcanoes.

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Aerial view of Pu'u O'o vent on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Although all were formed by the same, continuing tectono-volcanic processes, two island groups are named from this bent line of islands, atolls and seamounts.  North of the bend are the Emperor Seamounts, a long chain of islands, seamounts, atolls and reefs trending steeply southeast to northwest between Abbot Seamount in the mid-Pacific and Meiji Seamount near the Aleutian Trench.  South of the bend are the Hawaiian Islands, trending from the active volcanism at the Big Island and Loihi Volcano today, gently northwest to Kure Atoll in the mid-Pacific. Movement of the Pacific Plate over the hotspot is such that Midway and Kure Atolls were where the Big Island is now, directly over the hot spot, about 30 million years ago.

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The steep sides of Mt. Rainier in Washington result from its relatively high-silica, viscous lava Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The chemical composition of the Hawaiian magmas plays a central role in determining the physical form of the Hawaiian Islands.  All crustal rocks are formed of minerals composed of aluminum and silicon oxides with varying amounts of iron, magnesium, sodium, calcium, potassium and other elements stirred in.  In lava, silica tends to polymerize and greatly increase the viscosity of the melt—thus silica-rich lavas are fairly “sticky”, forming slow moving lava flows that pile-up into steep volcanoes which are typified by explosive eruptions. Silica-poor melts, on the other hand, because they are not so polymerized, form very fluid lavas that flow quickly and easily, forming gently-sloped volcanoes typified by relatively quiescent eruptions.  Remember the key words here are: “relatively quiescent”.

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Mauna Loa floats above the fields of Kohala, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

One glance at the profile of the Hawaiian volcanoes is enough to convince us that the lavas must be very silica poor, since they are very gently-sloped and the eruptions relatively peaceable; certainly civilized enough so that the casual viewer may approach them quite closely in relative safety.  Compare these with the very steep-sided, highly explosive eruptions of volcanoes like Mt. St. Helens, which is comprised of lava much more intermediate in silica composition, or the smoking hole in the ground that is the Yellowstone volcanic field, left by a massively explosive, very silica rich (and very, very viscous) lava erupting.

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Layered basalts in Waimea Canyon on Kauai show the structure of the Island, flow upon flow: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The rocks formed when the lava from Hawaiian volcanoes hardens are called “basalt”.  Although you hear the term “lava rock” used by laymen, it is a nonsensical word geologically and the registered trademark of a commercial product.  Commonly misapplied, it makes even less sense than the equivalent of using the term “water solid” instead of “ice”. The name “basalt” denotes both the silica-poor composition, as well as the fact that it was erupted onto, and it has cooled at, the Earth’s surface.  When lavas cool within a magma chamber before being erupted onto the surface, they are called an “intrusive volcanic” rock; intrusive volcanic rocks formed from lavas of basalt-like composition are called “gabbros”.  There are a few rocks in the Hawaiian islands of differing composition and texture than basalt and gabbro, but they are unimportant to this discussion.

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The classic, low-angle shield shape of Mauna Loa seen from Hilo, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The angle of repose, which is controlled by the viscosity of the melt, is about 6 degrees for Hawaiian basalts. Melt viscosity is a function of its temperature, silica content and fluid composition.   Hawaiian basalts are very fluid because of the low silica content and high eruptive temperature (in excess of 1100 degrees C); this low viscosity accounts for low angle, “shield shape” of Hawaiian volcanoes.

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Kohala Volcano is dissected by several major fault-bounded valleys, further obscuring its original shield shape Photo by Donald B MacGowan

As soon as the Hawaiian volcano forms, other forces begin to act upon it, affecting the general “shield shape” of the volcano: tides and waves attack the edges, rivers and streams begin to dissect the shield into ridges.  As time goes on, erosion from surface water flow produces fluting along those ridges.  Great landslides produce enormous cliffs; faulting produces huge valleys and collapse produces enormous craters and calderas.  Further, the later stage of Hawaiian volcanism is typified by increasing violence, which makes deep explosion craters, steep-sided cinder cones and steeply sloped, but easily eroded, ash deposits.

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Stream erosion dissects the shield volcanoes into valley and knife-like ridges Photo by Donnie MacGowan

To look at the volcanoes of Hawaii starting in the southeast at Kilauea and Mauna Loa and moving northwest, one can see this evolution quite clearly.  Kilauea and Mauna Loa, being quite young, are still broad and shallow-sloped, basically the classic shield-shape.  Mauna Kea and Hualalai are obviously more mature, showing steeper slopes, a reflection of greater ashfall and greater erosion, as well as pocked with explosion craters and cinder cones.  Moving father along, Kohala Mountain is so deeply eroded and festooned with long, fluted ridges as well as cut by enormous canyons, that it is almost unrecognizable as a shield volcano.  And so it continues as one proceeds north through the older islands and the more highly eroded mountains; the original shield shape of the volcanoes become more and more obscured by deeper and deeper erosion.  By the time one gets to the famous and spectacular Na Pali Cliffs of Kaua’i, all that is left of the original volcano are the deeply fluted, now almost knife-like, ridges.

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Ancient Petroglyph, Keauhou Historic District, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The great mass of these volcanoes causes them to begin to sink back into the mantle.  This is evident on even relatively young volcanoes.  For instance, on the slopes of Hualalai Volcano on the Big Island, along the shore at Keauhou, numerous petroglyphs commemorating the famous victory of King Lonoikamakahiki of Hawaii over King Kamalalawalu of Maui were carved in the rock around the end of the 16th century.  Although when they were originally carved they stood above sea level, in the intervening four centuries, the island has sunk sufficiently that they are now mostly awash in the sea and submerged at high tide.

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Glacial cirque and terminal moraine on Mauna Kea, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Another process, operative in the geologically recent past, has served to shape the slopes of the Hawaiian volcanoes, at least those which are or great height.  Glaciers covered the summit of Mauna Kea (and possibly Mauna Loa and Haleakala) three times between 200,000 and 13,000 years ago, leaving behind many glacial features such as cirques, u-shaped valleys and scoured bedrock; surviving into the present is a remnant rock glacier near the summit of Mauna Kea.

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Valleys and Ridges of the Famous Na Pali Coast, Kauai Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The complex interaction of volcano growth, coalescing of various volcanoes forming a single island and the eventual subsidence of the volcanoes into the crust determines the shape and size of the individual Hawaiian Islands through time.  Today, the youngest islands are largest and the oldest islands, generally, are the smallest…this trend continues throughout the Hawaii Island/Emperor Seamount chain.

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Lava flows from Kilauea to the sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

In the case of the Big Island, even though the first volcano to form, Mahukona, has completely subsided below sea level, the Big Island still comprises more than twice the area of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined, due to the large number of volcanic peaks forming it. However, through their history, all the Hawaiian Islands will experience the same pattern of growth, coalescence, subsidence and submersion, and so may have been much larger at one time.

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Haleakala from Kohala, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Maui, today comprised only of the remnant peaks of Haleakala and the West Maui Mountains, at one time formed a single giant landmass with the islands of Lana’i, Moloka’i, and Kaho’olawe.  As the continual northwest movement of the Pacific Plate carried Maui away from the Hawaiian hot spot, continued subsidence submerged the larger landmass, known as Maui Nui, or “Big Maui”, into the oceanic crust, leaving only these four, very much smaller, islands above the surface today.

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Superstition to Science, Pu'u Weiku Summit, Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

In fact, Kaua’i, Ni’ihau and O’ahu all represent the tiny remnants of once much larger landmasses that are actively subsiding into the oceanic crust.  Tracing the Hawaiian Archipelago to the northwest, and thus to very much older islands, we see this evolution continue as the great volcanoes are completely submerged below the surface leaving only the fringing coral reefs and a tiny remnant island above sea level, such as we see at Laysan Atoll and Midway Island. Continuing along through the chain to the Emperor Seamounts, not even that much is left as all traces of these islands, once proud and beautiful like the Hawaiian Islands today, become totally submerged beneath the surface of the ocean.

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Alpen Glow on Hualalai Volcano and Sunset on Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Add to this mental picture the fact that the Pacific Plate relentlessly drives northwestward, carrying all the Hawaiian-Emperor Chain with it, northward to the Aleutian Trench, where it is subducted and destroyed beneath the North American Plate.  Eventually, in the far-distant future, this fate awaits all these beautiful, precious islands.  Such is the ephemeral nature of the Hawaiian Islands, and this vision of their very delicate and temporary nature should make us respect and wonder at their splendor and beauty, all the more.  And increase our desire to protect and preserve them.

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.

The steeper, crater-poked slopes of Hualalai indicate it has moved on to the later stages of volcanism Photo by Donald B 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.

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.

Watching Lava Pour Into the Sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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, Waikupanaha, 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.

Volcano Village Lava Rock Cafe Sign, Ka'u 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.

Volcano Village

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.

Volcano General Store, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Nestled picturesquely, though precariously, in the narrow saddle between the summits of two highly active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, Volcano Village dozes gently. The town is a green oasis of vineyards, homes, shops, restaurants, even a golf course to play and a winery to tour. Of course, there are a host of inns and bed and breakfast establishments here as well.

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.

Eric Carr gases up The Rav at Volcano Village, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Although its position seems perilous, Volcano Village’s setting is actually fairly serene and protected from all but the most explosive of eruptions from Kilauea and Mauna Loa, and the prevailing trade winds keeps the town swept fairly free of vog, volcano smog. Lying amid at least four mini-climatic zones in Hawai’i’s peculiar compressed geography, half the Village is shaded by primeval fern trees unfurling in mountain mist in the 2-tiered, cloud jungle. The other half is guarded by scraggly ohi’a trees rising from the dry savannah grassland of the Ka’u Desert. The enchantment of discovery is what makes Volcano Village a magical and surreal place to visit.

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 jungle on the wet side of Volcano Village, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Although purchases in Volcano Village tend to be spendy, the Village represents the only opportunity to buy gas, food and water on the 42-mile stretch between Pahala and Mountain View during the day. Be sure to top off your tank of gas and load up on food and water before venturing into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Many people become quite entranced with the Park, spending a great deal more time and gasoline there than they had planned, and forgetting that there is little of anything available after dark on the south side of the island between Hilo and Kona.

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

Volcano Village's Thriving Downtown Shopping District, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

Volcano Village Coffee Bar, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

Wildflowers at Volcano Village, Ka'u 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. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Military Camp Sign, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

Kilauea Military Camp

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 rising sun lights up Mauna Kea, Kilauea Military Camp, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Now run by a private foundation, Kilauea Military Camp was built as a military R and R camp shortly after World War 1 and operated through the Vietnam conflict. Now it offers small but clean cabins for rent to active and retired military members.

No services for the general public.

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 cabins at Kilauea Military Camp, 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. 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.

Crater Rim Drive at Kilauea Military Camp, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

An offering to Madame Pele, Kilauea Crater Overlook, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

Kilauea Crater Overlook

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

Kilauea Crater and Eruption of Halema'uma'u, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Kilauea Overlook gives a breathtaking view of Kilauea Caldera and Halema’uma’u Crater. Rarely crowded as it’s not on the scheduled stops of the tour buses, this is a nice, quiet place to sit and contemplate the awesome power of Madame Pele.

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.

Dawn lights up the Mauna Kea Summit Observatories from Kilauea Crater Overlook, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Look around the area between the parking lot and the crater. Those enormous boulders were cast up out of Kilauea and Halema’uma’u craters during explosive eruptions. Nothing speaks so eloquently to the power and violence of the occasional phreatic (driven by steam from groundwater contact with the hot magma) eruptions of Kilauea as these boulders scattered about the landscape. If you turn your back to the crater and look due north, on a clear day, you can see Mauna Kea peeking over the shoulder of Mauna Loa. Many days you can even make out the astronomical observatories on the summit; after dark you can see headlights of cars winding their tortuous way down the mountainside.

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.

Giant boulder ejected from Kilauea Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A covered picnic shelter and restrooms are also available. No water is available.

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

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

Crater Rim Trail wanders from Kilauea Crater Overlook into a fog bank, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan


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.

Kilauea Crater and Eruption of Halema'uma'u, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 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. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

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

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

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

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

Beautiful Waialea Beach, Kohala Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

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

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

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

Kealakekua Bay Historical District and Captain Cook Monument

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park

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

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

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

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

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

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kilauea Visitor Center

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

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

Jagger Museum and Hawai’i Volcano Observatory

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

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

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

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

Puna District and Pahoa Town

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

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

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

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

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


Kalapana Disaster of 1990/Kaimu Black Sand Beach

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

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

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

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

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

Lava Trees State Monument

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

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

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

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

about here.

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

Hilo Town

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

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

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

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

Rainbow Falls and Wailuku River Park

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

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

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

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

Akaka Falls

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

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

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

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

Honoka’a Town

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

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

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

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

Waipi’o Valley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

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Bull rider at Hawaii Rodeo: Photo by Carol Gilliland

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

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

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

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

Hapuna Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

For independent reviews of our product, written by some of our legions of satisfied customers, please check this out.
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. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hikers on the summit of Mauna Kea look over to Mauna Loa, Hawaii Island: 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.

Across the Roof of Hawaii

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Astronomical Observatories on Mauna Kea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Recent improvements to the Saddle Road make it no longer the grinding, intimidating drive it once was and open hundreds of square miles of unimaginably beautiful, strange and wondrous landscape to the Hawaii Island Visitor.

Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 12 hours

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Looking from the Saddle Road to Mauna Kea, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

DIGEST: From Kona take Highway 190 to Highway 200 in 45 minutes of driving. Saddle Road, which cuts between the “saddle” of Mauna Loa on the south and Mauna Kea to the north, passes through ranch lands and the Pohakuloa Military Training Facility, for another 45 minutes, to the turn for Mauna Kea Access Road (John Burns Way). Nearby, Kipuka Huluhulu, or “shaggy hill”, is a 20 minute hike to the top and back. From here it is a 30 minute drive to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center. The small village is home to scientists and astronomers that work in the observatories and an amazing place to learn what their research tells us about our universe. Returning to Hwy 200, drive 45 minutes to the amazing Kaumana Cave lava tube, a short hike and a wonderful exploration. A further 30 minutes down Hwy 200 brings one to the outskirts of Hilo and fabulous Rainbow Falls. Continuing into downtown Hilo there there are shops, restaurants, fine museums, gorgeous waterfront beach parks and a fabulous Farmers Market. From Hilo, it is approximately three hours to return to Kailua Kona over Hwy 200; alternately one can take the faster though less scenic Hwy 19 to Waimea and then Hwy 190 into Kailua Kona, about a 2 1/2 hour drive.

Leg 1) In Kailua Kona, start at Ahu’ena Heiau; take Palani Road east to Hwy 190; take Hwy 190 to jct with Hwy 200, The Saddle Road

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach

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

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

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Sacred carved images at Ahu'ena Heiau, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Built originally in the 15th century and rededicated by Kamehameha the Great in the early 1800s as the main temple of his capital, the current structures seen at Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built in 1975 under the auspices of the Bishop Museum with financial help from the Hotel King Kamehameha and are constructed to 1/3 the original scale. There are restrooms and showers located on the pier near the beach. Adjacent Old Kailua Town is a treasure of shops, restaurants and aloha.  More detailed information is available about Ahu’ena Heiau, Kamakahonu Beach and Old Kailua Town, historic Mokuaikaua Church and Hulihe’e Palace; a walking tour of Kailua Kona is available here.

Leg 2) Take Hwy 200, The Saddle Road, east to jct with John Burns Way (also called Mauna Kea Access Road).

Saddle Road

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Saddle Road at Kipuka Pu'u Huluhulu, Hawaii Island: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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Saddle Road takes off into the sky at Wai'iki Ranch, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Crossing the spectacular saddle between the towering bulk of the volcanoes Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa at about 6600 feet, The Saddle Road runs through brush, grass and forest lands, over lava fields and through some of the wildest and most breath-taking scenery on the Island. From this roadway, four of the 5 principal volcanoes that form The Big Island may be seen: Hualalai, Kohala, Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea. Because the western half of the road is in notoriously poor condition and consists, in reality, of only one operable lane for much of its descent from the saddle to the Mamalahoa Highway.

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Looking from Saddle Road to Hualalai Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

However, this road provides the only road access to the Mauna Kea Summit Area and Visitor Information Center, Mauna Kea State Park, Pohakuloa Training Area, Mauna Kea Astronomical Observatory Complex, Waiki’i Ranch and the Kilohana Girl Scout Camp. The Saddle Road also provides the only access to thousands of acres of public forest and open grass lands. Connecting Hilo from about milepost 7.8 on the Hawai’i Belt Road to the Mamalahoa Highway approximately 6 miles south of Waimea, the Saddle Road is widely used by island residents for cross-island travel, despite its somewhat poor condition and undeserved, evil reputation.

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Mauna Loa from Kipuka Pu'u Huluhulu, Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Saddle Road frequently has perfect weather, but also fairly routine are patches of intense rain, fog and high winds. It’s takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours straight driving time, depending upon weather, to make the full traverse from Kailua Kona to Hilo; however, one should be sure to leave time in the schedule to drive up to Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station or hike the Pu’u Huluhulu nature trails.

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Looking from the Saddle Road to Kohala Mountain, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Along its entire 53 mile length between the turn-off from the highway just 6 miles west of Waimea and where it meets Hawaii Belt Road just north of Hilo, there is no gas and there are no services available; plan accordingly. Some food, water and restrooms may be available at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station which is a 30 minute drive up a side road off the Saddle Road about half way.  More information about the Saddle Road is available here.

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Hualalai Volcano from Saddle Road, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Leg 3) Off a Spur road at the jct of John Burns Way and Hwy 200, on the south side, is Kipuka Huluhulu (“Shaggy Hill”) Nene Sanctuary.

Pu’u Huluhulu Nature Trails/Kipuka Aina Hou

Frequently described as simultaneously the most noticeable and the most overlooked landmark along the Saddle Road, Kipuka Pu’u Huluhulu rises more than 200 feet out of the surrounding lava flows. It’s name meaning “furry hill”, this forested cinder cone has multiple trails winding up through rare native koa trees to breathtaking 360° views of Hualalai, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa at the top, where you can also wander a meadow of native Hawaiian plants recently reintroduced in this protected natural habitat. By whatever trail, the summit of Kipuka Huluhulu is only about 20 minutes walk from the car.

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Morning light on Kipuka Pu'u Huluhulu, Saddle Road, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Owing to the encapsulated nature of the kipuka, bird watching here is particularly fabulous; the Ā’akepa, Nene and the Ā’akiapola Ā’au, as well as the Kalij pheasants, pueo, i’o and turkeys are among the rare, endangered or just plain beautiful birds you will see here. The numerous roads and trails through the hundreds of square miles of adjacent lava flows makes for interesting, if hot and dry, mountain biking and hiking.  More information about Kipuka Huluhulu is available here.

Parking and a unisex pit toilet are the only amenities available at Kipuka Pu’u Huluhulu.

Leg 4) Go north on John Burns Way to Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station.

Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station

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The rare, endangered and exotically beautiful Silver Sword plant grows along a nature trail behind the Mauna Kea Visitor's Center: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Visitor Information Station is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the day there are interactive computer exhibits about Mauna Kea, the observatories and astronomical research, plus there are video presentations and nature trails to hike. Many evenings after dark National Park personnel and astronomers put on public programs and discuss what the latest astronomical findings tell us about the nature of our universe. The souvenir shop has some food items, including hot chocolate, coffee and hot soup, for sale.  More about exploring the Visitor’s Center and the summit of Mauna Kea is available here.

Leg 5) John Burns Way to Mauna Kea Summit

Mauna Kea Summit

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Pu'u Weiku Summit Heaiau and Astronomical Observatories, Mauna Kea Summit, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Before you decide to go to the summit of Mauna Kea, stop, think, plan. Are you prepared for cold and high altitude? Do you understand the nature and dangers of altitude sickness and UV radiation? Are you experienced at traveling icy dirt roads? Is you car safe for the trip (many car rental agencies on the island forbid you to drive this road)? The Rangers at the Visitor’s center can brief you on altitude sickness, UV radiation preparedness, the condition of the road and all other information you need to decide whether to visit the summit (see a video here).

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From Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The summit of Mauna Kea is truly an amazing place. Beautiful, awe-inspiring, 360 degree views of the entire Big Island, the summit is also culturally and religiously important to the native Hawai’ians and is home to several, world-class astronomical observatories and their support buildings. Because of the extremity of the altitude and the poor quality of the road above the Visitor’s Center, it is advised that extreme caution be exercised in deciding to visit Mauna Kea’s Summit. From the road’s end very near the summit, a short, 10 minute trail leads up Pu’u Weiku cinder cone to the actual mountain top and a Hawaiian religious shrine. Also near the summit is the 1-mile hike to Lake Waiau, the 7th highest lake in the US, as well as numerous archeological sites. Moving at altitude is strenuous, so conserve energy. Do not over-tax yourself, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and protect yourself from the sun, wind and cold. Leave the summit area and return to the paved road long before you are tired.  More very important details about visiting the summit of Mauna Kea are available here.  Some ruminations on the Hawaiian Snow Goddess, Poliahu, and personal reflections about the summit of Mauna Kea can be found here.

Leg 6) Return John Burns Way to Hwy 200; take Hwy 200 east to Kaumana Caves

Kaumana Caves

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Looking Kaumana Cave, on the outskirts of Hilo Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A skylight opening to 25-mile long Kaumana Cave is located at the county park near the 4-mile marker on the Hilo side of the Saddle Road. Concrete stairs take you down through the rain forest jungle to the bottom of a collapse pit forming two entrances to the cave. Most people are drawn to the entrance on the right, a large, opening leading to cavernous rooms. In this entrance, graffiti from hundreds of years ago to the present is preserved, scratched into the rocks. The entrance on the left, however, is more interesting, leading through squeezes and low spots to numerous rooms with fascinating speleo-architecture and cave formations. Both caves go to true dark in fewer than 300 feet in either direction. There are more than 2 miles of easily accessible, wild cave to explore here, but if you intend more than just a cursory inspection near the entrances, bring a hard hat, water and at least 3 sources of light. A quick tour of the caves takes fewer than 20 minutes.

Parking for the caves is located across the highway from the park; extreme care should be taken when crossing he road. Public restrooms, water and picnic tables are available at the park. As you approach Hilo from Kaumana Caves, Hwy 200 becomes variously called Kaumana Drive, then Waianuenue Avenue.  More about Kaumana Cave is available here.

Leg 7) Take Hwy 200 into Hilo Town. At the intersection of Kaumana Drive (Hwy 200) and Lele Street, turn left and go 1 block to Waianuenue Ave; go left on Waianuenue a short distance to the entrance to Rainbow Falls and Wailuku River Park

Rainbow Falls

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Rainbow Falls, 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. For more information on Rainbow Falls and the Wailuku River Park, please go here.

Leg 8) Take on right on waianuenue Ave exiting Rainbow Falls and follow it into downtown Hilo Town.

Hilo Town

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Hilo's east side is famous for it's numerous, lovely, if tiny, beach parks, Leiiwi Beach, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie 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.

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Liliuokalani Gardens, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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 Panaewa 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. A more complete tour of Hilo Town is available here; a darker vision of Hilo is available here.

Leg 9) Take Highway 19 north out of Hilo along the Hamakua Coast to Waimea.  At Waimea, get on Highway 190 and follow it west to Kailua Kona.

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Looking toward Waimea from the Waikoloa Road, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

This return route is safer and easier to drive in the afternoon and at night, and routes you through fabulous, scenic Waimea Town, where there are interesting shops, fabulous restaurants and gasoline available late into the night.  More about Waimea can be found here.

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Mauna Kea Full Moon, 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.

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.

Hualalai Sunset on Highway 190, Mauna Loa-Mauna Kea Saddle area, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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Kamehameha Statue, Wailoa Park, Hilo 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.

Mauna Loa from Kipuka Pu'u Huluhulu, 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.

Kipuka Pu’u Huluhulu Nature Trails and Kipuka Aina Hou Nene Sanctuary

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Morning light on Kipuka Pu'u Huluhulu, Saddle Road, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Frequently described as simultaneously the most noticeable and the most overlooked landmark along the Saddle Road, Kipuka Pu’u Huluhulu rises more than 200 feet out of the surrounding lava flows at the summit of the Saddle Road. Kipuka Pu’u Huluhulu is famous for the number and variety of rare and endangered Hawaiian plants and birds that inhabit it.

Kipuka Huluhulu is located at the intersection of Highway 200, the Saddle Road, and the Mauna Kea Access Road, John Burns Way, at mile marker 28. Early morning, when the birds are active and the sun shines on a slant (making views more dramatic and the birds easier to spot) is the best tome to visit the Kipuka.

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Mauna Kea from Kipuka Pu'u Huluhulu, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kipuka are small stands of grassland and forest that have become isolated by lava flows through time. As tiny island in the greater landscape, they can become become biologically cut-off from the rest of the ecosystem. Species can rapidly mutate, adapting to the special conditions in the kipuka, very, very rapidly and biologists have found new subspecies of insects and plant in kipuka that have only been isolated half a millennium, or so. The 38 acre Kipuka Huluhulu, which was deforested by cattle over-grazing and isolated by the 1843 and 1935 lava flows, represents a window view of what the Koa forest here may have looked like.

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The trail to the top of Kipuka Pu'u Huluhulu, off the Saddle Road, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

It’s name meaning “furry hill”, this forested cinder cone has three main trails winding up through rare native koa trees, and other rare and endangered flora, to breathtaking 360° views of Hualalai, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa at the top. Here you can also wander a meadow of native Hawaiian plants recently reintroduced in this protected habitat. By whatever trail, the summit of Kipuka Pu’u Huluhulu is only about 25 minutes walk from the car.

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Mauna Kea from Kipuka Pu'u Huluhulu, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Owing to the encapsulated nature of the kipuka, bird watching here is particularly fabulous; the Ā’akepa, Nene and the Ā’akiapola Ā’au, as well as the Kalij pheasants, pueo, i’o and turkeys are among the rare, endangered or just plain beautiful birds you will see here. The numerous roads and trails through the hundreds of square miles of the adjacent Humu’ula area. lava flows makes for interesting, if hot and dry, mountain biking and hiking.

Remember that is is a protected wildlife area and that the fences are there to keep destructive wild goats and feral pigs from coming in and damaging the delicate ecosystem. Please do not fail to close all gates behind you as you enter and exit. Parking and a unisex pit toilet are the only amenities available at Kipuka Pu’u Huluhulu.

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.

Hualalai and the Saddle Road from Kipuka Pu'u Huluhulu in the Early Morning Light, 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. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kipuka Pu'u Huluhulu from Mauna Kea Access Road, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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.

Saddle Road at Kipuka Pu'u Huluhulu, Hawaii Island: 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.

Rainbow Falls, Hilo 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.

Hilo 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.

Hilo's east side is famous for it's numerous, lovely if tiny, beach parks, Leiiwi Beach, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie 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 on Kaumana Drive, or the rain-forest and waterfall choked gulches leading to lovely small beaches along the highway north of town, make Hilo one of the most truly achingly lovely spots on earth.

Once the prosperous center of the Hawaii sugar industry, Hilo no longer attracts the amount of visitors, residents or industry required to thrive economically. She is now the seat of political power and dictates policy to the rest of the island.

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An eclectic mix of stores and restaurants energizes Hilo's downtown Bayfront Shops, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

In recent years, Hilo has experienced a renaissance in Hawaiian language and hula. The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival held in April each year, named for King David Kalakaua who revived the hula after the missionaries banned it in the 1800’s, is now world famous and attracts hula halau (or hula schools) from as far away as Texas, California, Japan and Chile, for a week long competition and celebration of hula. Hawaiian Studies are taught along side American history in the school system here and the University of Hawaii has a campus in Hilo that specializes in marine biology and rainforest ecologies.

A cornucopia of fascinating things to see and do, Hilo has something for everybody. Hilo has the largest, most diverse farmer’s market on the island. The new ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center and Planetarium is a world-class attraction and definitely worth a visit. Hilo hosts the only rainforest zoo in the U.S at Pana’ewa as well as the award-winning Pacific Tsunami Museum in downtown. You can discover how the missionaries lived and explore the natural history of the island at the Lyman House Museum. The numerous beach parks along the eastern shoreline of the bay are true gems of tropical delight and great places to snorkel and sunbathe. The formal Queen Liliuokalani Gardens are restful, peaceful and beautiful. If shopping is your goal, Hilo has not one but two malls and the unique, old-town shopping district at the Bayfront is fabulously interesting and historic.

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Due to short-sighted greed and insane urban planning over the decades, Hilo's once magnificent mile-long black sand beach is a mere hollow echo of its former beauty: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

If nothing else, take a moment to walk the mile-long black sand beach fronting Hilo Bay…it was here that Kamehameha the Great assembled his party of 10,000 war canoes to begin his conquest of the islands; here that the missionaries established the first major port and here that the sugar industry flourished for several generations. It was here that the tsunamis of recent years visited death and destruction on the unsuspecting residents of Hilo, not once but twice in the last century. To stop here and absorb the history, to open yourself to the sunlit tropical beauty and stand in the pulsing ocean surf, is to truly soak in Hawaii.

Beautiful Hilo by the bay, from the funky old-Hawaii Bayfront shops to the steamy bustle of downtown, Hilo is truly old style with a modern twist and is a cool stop when on the east side of the Big Island. For those less enamored of Hilo, a darker vision of it is presented here.

Hilo and the Tsunamis of 1946 and 1960

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The lush jungle explodes right up to the edge of Hilo Bay, Hilo Hawaii. All this area was wiped clean by the tsunamis of 1948 and 1960: Photo by Prescott Ellwood

It is not possible to understand Hilo’s current geography without understanding her past tragedies with tsunamis. Of all the natural disasters to which Hawai’i is prone; earthquake, hurricane, volcanic eruption, flooding, more Hawai’ians have died in tsunamis, and more property has been destroyed in their wake, than any other violent act perpetrated by nature.

April Fool’s Day 1946, at a quarter to seven in the morning, Hilo and the rest of East Hawai’i were struck by a tsunami that had been spawned by violent earth movements far to the north in the Aleutian Trench. With no warning, line after line of fifty foot waves overwhelmed the town sea wall, sweeping buildings landward, smashing them into the buildings behind them. Photographs taken of Hilo that morning, after the floods had receded, show a landscape littered with pieces of smashed buildings, cars stacked crazily atop each other, wreckage and muck everywhere. Out of 159 fatalities statewide from this tsunami, a staggering 96 were residents of Hilo, mostly from “Little Tokyo” on the Waiakea Peninsula.

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From this aerial view of Hilo, Hawaii, it is easy to see how the "bowl shape" of Hilo Bay focused the tsunami waves right on to downtown: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

With that kind of “Can Do” spunk and spirit which characterizes the best of human endeavors, but which just as often sadly presage acts of great hubris which result in absolute calamity, Little Tokyo was rebuilt on the same spot. Christening the rebuilt village “Shinmachi”, or “New Town”, residents of this low-lying area became forgetful and complacent about tsunamis as several “tidal waves” during the late forties and fifties had amounted to little more than big surf.

An earthquake off the coast of Chile on 26 May, 1960 created a giant tsunami that sped westward towards Hawai’i at speeds estimated in excess of 440 miles an hour. Slamming into Hawai’i at a few minutes past one in the morning, three immense waves penetrated the city, once again laying waste and destroying everything. Although the tsunami sirens were wailing, many people ignored them because the most recent tsunamis had been so tame. 61 people died that morning and property damage exceeded $20 million.

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A peaceful afternoon fishing at Waiakea Fishpond. Wailoa Park, in Hilo Hawaii, was established from the devastation and ruins of downtown Hilo after the tsunami of 1960, to act as a buffer in future tsunamis: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The devastated area of Shinmachi was not rebuilt this time; rather, it was dedicated permanently as park land, a kind of buffer for the rest of Hilo against some future tsunamis’ depredations. The Waiakea Tsunami Clock Memorial, with the clock hands still stuck at 1:04, the moment the waves struck, stands as testament to the hubris of rebuilding in an area that was twice destroyed in just 14 years.

Waiakea Peninsula, Resort Area on Hilo Bay

Waiakea Town Tsunami Clock Memorial

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The Waiakea Tsunami Clock, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Waiakea Tsunami Clock Memorial, with the clock hands still stuck at 1:04, the moment the waves of the tsunami of May 26, 1960 struck Hilo, stands on the grounds of the Naniloa Country Club as testament to the ill fortune of rebuilding in this area, twice destroyed by tsunami in just 14 years. A fitting memorial to the 61 residents of Hilo who were killed in that disaster, the clock reminds us that most of those fatalities were residents of Shinmachi, or “New Town”, a Japanese enclave erected directly on the ruins of Little Tokyo which was destroyed by tsunami just fourteen years earlier. The Memorial is along Kalanianaole Street between the two arms of Banyan Drive.

Banyan Drive

Circling through the Naniloa Country Club Golf Course, out along the Waiakea Peninsula and in front of the main Hilo resorts, Banyan Drive is a trip to Hawai’i’s Golden Age. Lined by giant Banyan trees, planted between the nineteen thirties and nineteen fifties by such celebrities and dignitaries as King George V, Cecil B. DeMille, Babe Ruth, Amelia Earhart and Richard Nixon, Banyan Drive also gives access to Reed’s Bay Beach Park, Coconut Island and Queen Liliuokalani Gardens. The Waiakea Town Tsunami Clock Memorial is along Kalanianaole Street between the two arms of Banyan Drive.

Coconut Island

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The bridge to Coconut Island, Hilo Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A small island at the tip of the Waiakea Peninsula, Coconut Island, or Moku Ola–the “island of life” to Hawai’ians, is today the site of a charming park. Accessed by a footbridge from near the entrance to the Queen Liliuokalani Gardens, Coconut Island is a popular fishing and swimming spot with locals. Moku Ola was, in times past, a Pu’u Honua, or Place of Refuge, an important place for commoners accused of breaching the law. Later, a large wharf made it the central shipping point in Hilo Bay, before the breakwater was built.

Queen Liliuokalani Gardens

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Queen Liliuokalani Gardens, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Named for Hawai’i’s last Queen, these 30-acre formal gardens along Hilo Bay have two miles of paths that wind through the streams, over the bridges and along the pagodas and stone lanterns which make a spectacular place to walk and watch the rising sun light up Hilo Bay and Mauna Kea, or the sunset behind the mountains. These gardens are a very special place and deserve to be thoroughly explored.

Hilo Bayfront Area

Bayfront Park

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Even when the weather is threatening, Hilo Bayfront Park is a lovely place to play, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

At one time, a furious surf raked a long black sand beach that once fronted Hilo. From here, Kamehameha launched his war fleet of 1200 canoes on his conquests of the other Hawai’ian Islands. Here, generations of Hawai’ians strolled the coconut tree-lined beach, watching sunrises, spotting dolphin and whale, waiting for the fishing fleet to return from the day’s toil, doing all those things which all people, everywhere, do strolling along a beautiful beach. No doubt they said to each other the same thing today’s residents of Hawai’i say to themselves every day: “Lucky we live Hawai’i!”

Today, tamed by the breakwater that protects Hilo from the ravages of the turbulent ocean, there is still a three thousand foot remnant of now grey-sand beach along the Hilo Bayfront Park. Squozen between the bay and the road, this long, narrow park is phenomenally popular with local surfers and fisherman and is the launching spot of outrigger canoe enthusiasts. It is not much for swimming because the water is cloudy and cold and it makes for dismal snorkeling; still, it is a lovely place to watch the sunrise and to stroll with someone special.

Wailoa River Park

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Wailoa River Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Wailoa Park is a peaceful, bucolic and broad expanse of rolling lawns, coconut palms, gardens, ponds and soccer fields following the lazy path of the Wailoa River into Hilo Harbor, on the land where the Japanese enclave of Shinmachi stood before the Tsunami of 1946. Reached by Pauahi Street off either Kamehameha Avenue or Kilauea St, this enormous park is home to the Tsunami Memorial, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, Waiakea Fish Pond and the Wailoa Center, an arts and community activities center.

The park is also home to the world famous Kamehameha Statue. During the reign of Kamehameha the Great, Hilo was an agricultural backwater in Hawai’ian society. In fact, it was so isolated and cut-off from regular travel routes, that Kamehameha commissioned his craftsmen to build him an armada of 1200 war canoes here, knowing that it would never occur to spies to search there for evidence of war preparations.

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King Kamehameha Statue in Wailoa Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The statue of Kamehameha in Wailoa River Park serves as a focal point for celebrations and ceremonies among native Hawai’ian groups and for holiday parades.

Downtown Hilo

Pacific Tsunami Museum

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Pacific Tsunami Museum, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

One of the most spectacularly destructive of natural disasters, more Hawai’ians have died in tsunamis than all other natural disasters combined. This brilliantly-done museum discusses, educates, elucidates and scares the bejesus out of you on the topic of Pacific basin tsunamis generally, and about those which have affected Hawai’i in particular. The films, multi-media presentations, photos, artifacts and interactive computer displays are as interesting as they are informative. The docents are extremely well-informed; in fact, many are survivors of Hilo’s tsunamis which gives this museum experience an angle of reality you cannot get elsewhere.

Bay Front Shops and Old Downtown

Fun, busy, interesting; the shops and restaurants in the area along Hilo’s Bayfront Park are housed in beautiful, historic buildings which have survived the ravages of two tsunamis, one in 1946 and again in 1960. Everything between these buildings and Hilo Bay was destroyed in these disasters; fearing further destruction, Hilo’s leaders have turned the vulnerable landscape into large, municipal parks.

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Hilo Bayfront Shops, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Along the Bayfront shopping area boutiques, restaurants, antique stores, a museum, theaters, street performers, the farmer’s market and all manner of fun and interesting diversions are to be found here. There is ample parking at the park across the street; public restrooms, a police substation and information booth is also located there.

Mokupapapa Discovery Center

An exciting, interesting, recent addition to Hilo’s cultural life, the Mokupapapa Discovery Center is designed as an interpretive center for the natural science, culture, and history of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The Center boasts interactive computer displays, three-dimensional models, an immersion theater, murals and well-informed staff. There is even a 2,500-gallon salt-water aquarium with representative fish from the Hawai’i reefs. Using working robot arms in a submersible vehicle mock-up, visitors can even experience descending in the Undersea Research Laboratory’s Pisces V submersible down into the ocean depths off Hawai`i.

The Mokupapapa Discovery Center is free to the public and open Tuesday through Saturday 9AM to 4 PM, except Federal Holidays.

Hilo Farmer’s Market

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Hilo Farmer's Market, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Free-wheeling, fun, big and full of surprises, the Farmer’s Market in Hilo is more like a fair than a farmer’s market…food, produce, clothing, jewelry, tourist items, art, Hawai’iana, souvenirs and even street performers make this place one of the more interesting things to see when in Hilo. Open dawn to dusk, Wednesday through Sunday and even most holidays, the Hilo Farmer’s Market is even a good time in the infamous Hilo rain.

Maui Canoe

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Maui Canoe, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’ian legends tell us the Hina, the mother of the demi-god Maui, lived in the cave under Rainbow Falls. A mo’o, or sea monster, beset her, and attempted to drown her by damming the river and flooding her cave. Coming to her rescue, Maui paddled his canoe with such strength that, upon crashing into the island, his canoe turned to stone.

Maui’s canoe can be seen in the Wailuku River at the north end of Keawe Street from the Pu’ueo Street Bridge.

Lyman House Museum

Too rainy to venture out on the day you planned to visit the volcano? We are not surprised…but there is a brilliant alternative…the Lyman Museum and Missionary House. Their excellent and stimulating new installation, “Hawai’i Before Humans” takes you through the mouth of a lava tube into the beating heart of the volcano itself, through brilliantly developed multimedia presentations.

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Lyman House Museum, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The rest of the Lyman Museum is an outstanding, artfully imagined and skillfully executed look at the impact that various waves of human immigration have had on Hawai’i, as well as the island’s natural history, geology and plant and wildlife biology. There is an outstanding rock and mineral collection from around the world which may seem out of place to the visitor, but remember this is the only place Hawai’ian school children can see something other than the ubiquitous basalt and coral, the basic building blocks of the island.

The Lyman Museum is a “must see” and the $10 entry fee is well worth paying.

Naha and Pinao Stones

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Pinao and Naha Stones, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

It was prophesied that the man who could overturn the Naha Stone would lead the armies which would unite the Hawai’ian Islands into a single nation and then become their first King. The penalty for attempting this feat and failing was instant death. It is said that the young Kamehameha, at age 14, approached the 7000 pound stone which was, at that time, stuck into the surrounding soil.

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Wailuku River Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Of the many legends surrounding Kamehameha the Great, those of his great, brutish strength are the most taxing of credulity. Straining and trying to move the stone, he struggled for hours in vain. Just as the priests were moving in to take him to his sacrificial death, he made one last, enormous effort, overturning the rock. From that moment on, Kamehameha was considered a royal contender, a youth to be reckoned with. Although he had many more battles, trials and political fights in his future, his supporters could now claim Kamehameha was the Chosen of the gods.

The origins upright Pinao stone are much less certain, but it has long been associated with the Pinao Heiau that once stood on the Wailuku River, near the site of the Library.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

Billed as “Where Astronomy meets Hawaiian Culture.”, ‘Imiloa seeks “To celebrate Hawaiian culture and Mauna Kea astronomy, sharing with the world an inspiring example of science and culture united to advance knowledge, understanding and opportunity“.

‘Imiloa’s digital full-dome planetarium creates a spectacular experience of immersion.

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Dramatic Wailuku River above Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Museum exhibits are organized into two main categories: the Origins exhibits explore the origins of the universe, solar system and life on earth; the Explorations exhibits concentrate on explorations by Polynesian navigators, space explorations and explorations of the universe from the Mauna Kea observatories. ‘Imiloa’s award-winning grounds spotlight Hawaii’s ecosystem, including living examples of endemic, indigenous, and Polynesian-introduced plants (or “canoe plants”). Other facilities onsite include the Sky Garden Restaurant and the Imiloa Bank of Hawaii Museum Store.

West Hilo Parks and Waterfalls

Wailuku River Park/Rainbow Falls

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Rainbow Falls During Monsoon, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The subject of recent and ancient legend, Rainbow Falls is the lovely emblem of Hilo town. The cave beneath Rainbow Falls is said to have been the home of Hina, mother of the demi god Maui, who brought fire to mankind. It is also said to be the place where Kamehameha buried his father’s bones.

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. A remarkable and lovely waterfall, the rainbows within it, which are the emblem of the state of Hawai’i, 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. You can learn more about Rainbow Falls, here.

Wailuku River Park/Boiling Pots

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

Wild swimming, a jungle of ferns and blossoms, forest solitude and a raging river, all within a few miles of downtown Hilo! Boiling pots is a short section of rapids in the Wailuku River between Pe’epe’e Falls and Rainbow Falls that is popular with locals for swimming, cliff diving and body surfing the rapids. Set in an emerald jungle canyon, the river is an open invitation to cool off for visitors who may be unaccustomed to Hilo’s climate of fierce heat and unrelenting humidity.

If swimming is in your plans, however, be very, very careful; conditions at Boiling Pots are not as benign as they seem and can change instantly with a minor cloudburst anywhere upstream.

East Hilo Parks and Beaches

Loko Waka Fishponds

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Rainbow at Lokowaka Fishpond, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Madame Pele is famed for her fits of jealousy and pique over her many, many human lovers. Here at Loko Waka, Pele battled the mo’o named Waka, a lizard woman-sea monster. Waka apparently had been romancing one of Pele’s favored courtiers. Seeking to escape Pele’s wrath, Waka dove into the Loko, or pond; she has remained as the guardian of the fish there ever since.

Loko Waka, a productive aquacultural fish pond for many generations, has a fascinating hydrologic configuration, cycling over 100,000,000 gallons of water a day through its porous sides and bottom. Today the pond serves as a site of scientific research and as a source of fish for the Seaside Restaurant, which has been operated by two generations of the same family, serving world-renowned, five-star meals on this site.

Onekahakaha County Beach Park

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Morning at Onekahakaha Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Of the long strip of shoreline encompassed by this park, the most popular swimming is on the east side, across Kalanianaole Street from Loko Waka Fishponds. Here, two protected pools beckon swimmers; the one on the right is sandy and perfect for small or uncertain swimmers, the one of the left is rockier and filled with “vana”, or sea urchins.

Snorkeling is fair at Onekahakaha Beach, and locals seem to be able to coax good rides out of the diminutive surf on both boogie and long boards.

Leiiwi Beach Park

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

A real jewel of a beach park, Leiiwi is a collection of tidepools, tidal ponds, lawns and rocks shaded by great palm trees, African tulips and hala trees. This park is one of the better places to pass a day at the beach in the Hilo area. Picnic tables, pavilions, barbecue pits, water and clean restrooms comprise the infrastructure at this lovely park.

Richardson Beach Park

The almost universal experience of visitors to Hawai’i is that, although it is certainly beautiful, delightful and a unique, special place, no matter what pre-conceptions a traveler may bring about Hawai’i, their experience is a bit different to what they expected. Richardson Beach Park, with its towering palms, fresh water pools, delightful surf, secluded and calm tidepools, lawns and general ambiance of tropical paradise, is almost certainly very close to what most visitors expect from Hawai’i—hence its popularity. If you are here on one of the two or three sunny days Hilo will have this year, Richardson Beach Park is perhaps the most lovely, calming and inviting place on the East side of the island. Views of Mauna Kea at sunrise and sunset from this beach are unparalleled.

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Morning at Richardson Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The snorkeling here along the small black sand beach is the best of the Hilo area and the surf is a busy mix of beginner to intermediate level waves. Hawai’i County Division of Aquatics is located at this park; lots of interesting information is available from these friendly, helpful folks.

Frequented by dolphins and sea turtles, the near-shore water is a little cold when getting in, due to fresh water springs, but soon warms-up a few dozen yards from shore. The currents and surf can occasionally be tricky here, so heads-up, pay attention to what the lifeguard is advising.

South Hilo

Hilo’s Busy Commercial Center: Puainako Center, Prince Kuhio Mall, Waiakea Center

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Inside Prince Kuhio Mall, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The beating heart of the Hilo commercial center, Prince Kuhio Mall and Waiakea Center sit adjacent to each other across Maka’ala Street and Puainako Center sits across Kanoelehua Street from both.

Within this commercial area are several major chain grocery stores and pharmacies, many outstanding restaurants, “big-box” discount stores, office supply stores, travel agencies, banks, music, book and clothing stores, cosmetician shops, real estate agents, insurance agencies, law offices and all the chain stores one normally associates with a major metropolitan shopping mall.

In addition to several first-rate restaurants sprinkled around this commercial center, Prince Kuhio Mall and Waiakea Center also have food courts which feature not only national-chain fast food establishments, but also fine local food restaurants, as well.

Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo

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Namaste, the cross-eyed, white Bengal Tiger at Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

On the south edge of Hilo, located 1 mile off the highway headed to Puna, Kea’au and Volcano on Mamaki St, is the small, but interesting, Pana’ewa Zoo. The admission price is the best deal in Hawai’i: it’s free, as are the loaner umbrellas—a tacit recognition of Hilo’s sometimes overtly tropical weather.

The most interesting part of the zoo are the endangered bird exhibits, but children will enjoy the petting zoo and Namaste, the cross-eyed, white Bengal Tiger.

All the amenities generally associated with zoos, including ever-present, strutting peacocks, are present here.

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Early morning light on Mauna Loa from downtown Hilo, 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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Mauna Kea from Downtown Hilo, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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Kamehameha Statue, Wailoa Park, Hilo Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

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Waimea is the gateway to exploring the mountain country of Hawaii Island, especially Mauna Kea: 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.

Waimea Town

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Waimea from the Waikoloa Road, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Snuggled deeply between Mauna Kea Volcano and Kohala Mountain, sometimes startlingly sunny, sometimes shrouded in mist, Waimea is the heart of “Paniolo”, or Hawai’ian Cowboy Country. It was here that John Parker established the first commercial cattle venture in Hawaii, Parker Ranch, around 1816. Few mainlanders realize that three generations of Paniolo, Hawaiian cowboys, lived, worked and died in Hawaii before white men ever drove cattle into Wyoming or Montana. The sport of rodeo is older here than almost anywhere else in the US.

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Downtown Waimea, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sometimes confusing to visitors is the fact that Waimea/Kamuela has two names; “Kamuela” is the Hawai’ian word for the name “Samuel”, named after Samuel Spencer. “Waimea” is the name of the ancient Hawai’ian village that was located here in pre-contact times. Picturesquely, “Waimea” in Hawai’ian means “slop” or “muddy”, which reflects the native Hawai’ian’s poor opinion of this rainy, cold region. The post office steadfastly refers to it as “Kamuela” so as not to be confused with the two other “Waimeas” in the state.

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Sunrise on Mauna Loa and the Saddle Road, just out of Waimea Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Waimea is in the middle of some of the most incredible scenery in the world, and the intersection of many of the best scenic drives on the island. Midway on Highway 19 between Kailua Kona and Hilo, or Kailua Kona and Waipi’o Canyon, simply touring between Kona and Hilo through Waimea is a wonderful trip. Climbing up through dryland forest to the upland lava flows and rolling grasslands of the Kohala-Mauna Kea Saddle , the road swoops down again through eucalyptus forests to tropical jungle canyons and the feral sugar cane fields of the Hamakua Coast.

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Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Waimea also serves as the gateway to adventures o Hawaii’s highest peak, the tallest mountain on earth, Mauna Kea, as well as the incomparably grand Mauna Kea-Mauna Loa saddle area, via the Saddle Road (Highway 200). You can learn more about the Saddle Road here, and exploring Mauna Kea, here.

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

The fabulous north Kohala Coast can be reached from Waimea via the Kohala Mountain Road (Highway 250), an incredibly beautiful drive through upland meadow and forest to the old-time Hawaii town and artist community at Hawi. Can learn more about the Kohala Mountain Road here.

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Along Church Row in Waimea, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waimea offers some of the finest shopping, restaurants and the most modern hospital on the island. Although it seems a little rough and tumble, and jeans and flannel shirts appear to be the uniform, Waimea is actually a very sophisticated town. Peruse the list below for a taste of what Paniolo Country, Waimea, has to offer the visitor.

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Cows along the Kohala Mountain Road near Waimea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Paniolo Country: The cattle industry on Hawaii began on February 22, 1793, at Kealakekua, when British Navigator George Vancouver presented a gift of cows to King Kamehameha. With no training or knowledge of how to handle them, the cows were allowed to roam free and soon turned wild.

Shortly after horses were brought to Hawaii in 1804, Kamehameha recruited California Vaquero Joachin Armas to help contain the wild cattle and train local cowboys. Over the years, more Spanish mission vaqueros came to work for the burgeoning Hawaiian cattle industry. The Hawai’ians called the vaqueros “paniolos” a corruption of the Spanish word “Espańola”; which today remains the island word for “cowboy”.

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Old Waimea Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

In the late 1800s, piers and docks began to be built at various shipping spots around the island and the cows were unceremoniously chased into the ocean, lashed by their horns to longboats, then rowed out only to be unceremoniously hoisted by crane onto the deck of the waiting ships.

Ranch culture by its nature is fairly isolated. As such, this allowed the Paniolos to preserve many Hawaiian traditions through the turbulent nineteenth century, such as the art of Hula and the Hawaiian Language, which the missionaries actively tried to eradicate. You can learn more about the Paniolos and the Hawaii cattle industry here.

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Waimea Town from Kohala Mountain Road, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Parker Ranch, Historic Homes and Gardens: The Parker Ranch is the largest cattle ranch in America under single family ownership and with almost 200 years of history, it is one of the oldest. In 1809, the 19-year old John Parker jumped ship on the Island of Hawai’i. Coming to the attention of King Kamehameha the Great, Parker was trusted with helping the King bring the Kingdom of Hawai’i into modern times.

John Parker was also given the task of shooting many of the wild cattle which rampaged and pillaged the countryside. Parker taught the natives how to render the meat into salt beef which was then sold to the passing whaling and merchant ships and soon became Hawai’i’s number one export. John Parker was given an initial grant of 2 acres land by the King. When he married Princess Kipikane in 1816, Kamehameha the Great’s granddaughter, she was granted some 640 acres…this is how the Parker Ranch began.

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West Waimea from Mauna Kea Summit, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There is some irony here, as the Hawaiians considered the land around Waimea nearly worthless—cold and rainy, it was no good for producing traditional Hawai’ian food crops and uncomfortable for living in traditional Hawai’ian homes. However, Parker saw it was perfect for raising cattle. He kept buying and adding land to his holdings until today; the ranch he started covers nearly 10% of the Island’s landmass, a whopping 150,000 acres.

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This cinder cone was used by Marines in training for the battle for Iwo Jima, outside Waimea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

In addition to its importance in beginning and fostering the ranching industry on the Island of Hawai’i, Parker Ranch was also important to Hawaii’s contribution to the war effort during the Second World War. During the years 1943-1945 more than 50,000 marines of the 2nd and 5th Marine Divisions, Navy sailors and Army soldiers used Camp Tarawa, located entirely on the Parker Ranch, for rest and recuperation from the historic assault on Tarawa, as well as training for the assaults on Iwo Jima, Leyte and Guam and the occupation of Kyushu. Tours of Parker Ranch, and the historic Parker Ranch House and gardens, are an interesting addition to your Hawaiian vacation.

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.

Waimea Nature Park Green House sells plants, cuttings and seedx of native Hawiian plants: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waimea Nature Park: Tucked away on the outskirts of Waimea, out of the way of noise and traffic, is an interesting, if small, gem of a park. The Waimea Nature Park, maintained by the Waimea Outdoor Circle, is a lovely expanse of lawns and gardens, walking trails and a plant nursery. A wonderful place to have a picnic lunch, walk the dog or stretch the legs, Waimea Nature Park also hosts sales to the public of plant saplings and cuttings.

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.

Waimea Park in Downtown Waimea, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waimea Park: With picnic tables and shelters, pit barbecues, water, restrooms, a large children’s playground and ball fields, the Waimea Park in the center of town is a great place to stop, have a bite to eat and stretch the legs in the middle of the long drive across the middle of the Big Island.

Waimea Restaurant Row: This is one of the primary commercial centers of Waimea which is not located in the Parker Ranch Center or Waimea Center. Most of the town’s fine dining establishments as well as the more colorful, but less upscale, cafes are located along this stretch of roadway.

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.

Inside the Isaacs Art Center, Waimea Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Isaacs Art Center: The Isaacs Art Center is a fine art museum and gallery with a smallish permanent collection, but which also regularly features many fine temporary exhibits and traveling art shows. A really fine establishment, the gallery, run by Kamehameha Schools, is something of a surprise to find in the roughish “cowboy country” of upcountry Waimea.

Waimea Center: One of the two principle centers of commercial activity in the center of town, Waimea Center has a large-chain food store, a pharmacy, numerous restaurants, gift and boutique shops, fast food restaurants and public restrooms.

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.

Statue of famed Paniolo Ikua Purdy at Parker Ranch Center, Waimea Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Parker Ranch Center: The other principle shopping-center in Waimea, Parker Ranch Center has a large-chain food store, pharmacy, banks, the Kamuela Post Office, a food court, numerous restaurants, gift and boutique shops and public restrooms. In addition, a small museum about Parker Ranch is located here; this is where tours of the Ranch may be booked and boarded.

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.

Boot Sculpture at Waimea Center, Hawaii: Graphic from 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. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Looking toward Waimea from Kohala Mountain Road, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie 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. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Welcome to Waimea, Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan