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Melancholy, lonely, desolate; this bench cut into the fresh scar of an a’a flow marks the place where the Hawai’ian gods died at the battle of Kuamo’o. Contact with Europeans, especially the whaling and trade fleets, had introduced the Christian religion to Hawai’ians.

Burial Mounds at Kuamo'o Battlefield: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Burial Mounds at Kuamo'o Battlefield: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Since the Europeans possessed many things; iron, tools, firearms, and much practical and scientific knowledge which the Hawai’ians had never even dreamed of, the ruling class of Hawai’ians considered the European god to be much stronger than their own gods, and began converting to Christianity in the early 19th Century. In 1819, the year before the Christian missionaries arrived in Hawai’i, forces loyal to Kamehameha II (Liholiho), his mother Kepiolani and the dowager Queen Ka’ahumanu began a social movement to overturn the kapu system and the pagan Hawai’ian religion in favor of Christianity.

Many Hawai’ians were unhappy with the abandonment of the old customs, laws and the old gods. Among the priestly class of Kahuna, Kuaiwa and Holoialena were particularly outraged and traveled the countryside haranguing and inciting the Hawaiians to rebellion against the young King Kamehameha II. The son of Kamehameha I’s younger brother, the Ali’i Kekuaokalani (Liholiho’s cousin), led the rebellious warriors and fought a desperate battle here at Kuamo’o to preserve their ancient way of life and to honor their ancient gods. Although both sides used Western weaponry, Kekuaokalani and his forces lost decisively. Both Kekuaokalani and his wife Manono, who fought beside him, died here. Their graves, along with the graves of warriors numbering in the several hundreds, lie under the numerous, large stone altars erected by the victors over the very spots the warriors fell, here at Lekeleke Graveyard.

Kuamo'o Battlefield and Lekeleke Graveyard: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kuamo'o Battlefield and Lekeleke Graveyard: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Those rebels willing to accept the new god and pledge allegiance to the young King Liholiho were pardoned, but resistance among many lingered. Kamehameha II despatched Hoapili to Waimea to battle the last rebels and his victory over them effectively ended all opposition to the overthrow of the gods. Little did the Hawai’ian people realize that this was not just another of the interminable internecine wars between rival Ali’i, but in fact marked the beginning of the end of Hawai’ian culture as they had known it.

Kayakers Explore Caves and Arches Offshore from Kuamo'o Battlefield: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kayakers Explore Caves and Arches Offshore from Kuamo'o Battlefield: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A walk along the dirt road that bisects Kuamo’o Battlefield is ineffably sad and a little creepy. However, the road soon climbs into dryland forest along the lava ocean cliffs and provides some memorable hiking and mountain biking.  The shoreline at Kuamo’o is a great place for whale watching, a picnic in the rough, watching waves batter the headland and sunset views. The little bay here is a great fishing spot and kayak destination…numerous small caves and arches, inconspicuous from shore, call out for the kayaker to explore. Kuamo’o Battlefield is located at the very end of Ali’i Drive at an area know by locals, somewhat appropriately, as “The End of the World”. There are no facilities.

Kayakers Explore Caves and Arches Offshore from Kuamo'o Battlefield: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Feral Goats are a Common Sight at Kuamo'o Battlefield: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A video about Kuamo’o Battlefield is available here.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit and

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

by Frank Burgess

As you continue around the Crater Rim Drive, at Volcanoes National Park, there are dozens of great sights. A more recent crater, erupting with fire curtains in 1974, is Keanakako’i Crater. The pebbles around the rim were formed by froth from the lava as it was blasted into the air and cooled as they fell to the ground. This crater is a bit off-the-beaten-path, but Tour Guide shows the way.

Right along the Crater Rim Drive is the Devastation Trail (video here) formed by Kilauea Iki. When the Pu’u Pai vent erupted in 1959 it spewed pumice cinder and scalding ash burying the rainforest some ten feet deep. This caused the forested area to die leaving a barren wasteland where little has grown since. Tour Guide will take you on the three quarter mile paved hike, along the edge of this moonscaped region, and give more historical information as well.

At the end of the Devastation Trail is the Pu’u Pai overlook. This spot affords a view of Pu’u Pai (gushing hill) and Kilauea Iki (little Kilauea) (video here and here) and skirts the edge of the desert and rainforest as if some drew a line separating the two. Tour Guide gives the fascinating stories of 1900 foot lava fountains during this episode.

Super Tip: Bring plenty of water. I can’t stress this enough. There are few facilities available on the drives and hikes around the park, so make sure you stock up before leaving the Visitor’s Center. Besides, good hydration will keep you energized for all your fun activities. To your health.

On the east side of Crater Rim Drive is a delightful stop not to be missed, Thurston Lava Tube (video here). Tour Guide will tell you how lava tubes are formed when magma flows underground. It eventually empties leaving cave-like formations. Most lava tubes are very small; however Thurston Lava Tube is quite large. The National Park Service has paved a pathway through the tube, and installed lighting, to make this a 300 yard spelunking adventure for everyone to enjoy. The cave circles so that the entrance and exit end at the parking area. The giant ferns here invited the songs of exotic birds, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. This is one of the few locations where restrooms are available.

One of the best hiking and biking routes is the Escape Road (video here). Built for just what its name implies an alternate road for when the lava will inevitably cut the Chain of Crater Road, it makes a lovely down hill walk or bike ride. Tour Guide will show where to start at the Thurston Lava Tube parking area and end at the Mauna Ulu parking lot. This road meanders through some of the most cool and pristine rainforest to be found.

At the other end of the Escape Road is Mauna Ulu (video here), also accessible from Chain of Craters Road. This spot was formed by numerous eruptions between 1969 and 1974. A few yards down the road, you see the different types of lava formations left from these flows. Tour Guide will explain these types of lava in great detail. Across the expanse lies Pu’u Huluhulu, or shaggy hill. For those that are ready hike, there is a tree mile round trip hike to the top of Pu’u Huluhulu marked by cairns. From the summit, the views of the lava flows and coastline are indescribable.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and touring the big island in particular, please also visit and

Copyright 2008 by Frank Burgess.  Photos and video opyright 2009 Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

The end of the Chain of Craters Road is currently around Mile Marker 19, just at the Holei Sea Arch. Good, if distant, viewing of the explosion cloud where lava enters the sea, displays about the volcano and natural history of the area, as well as a wealth of information on hiking to, and viewing, the lava, are available here. In addition, numerous sea arches, sea caves, fabulous bird watching, indescribable ocean views and some pretty good biking are to be found here. Even if the lava flows are too far away to be easily hiked to, the hike along the new land, twisted lava forms and endless basalt landscape is well worth the drive to the end of the road.

Over the months and years, the lava river issuing from Pu’u O’o winds its way back and forth across the lava plain of about 8 miles breadth, usually flowing into the sea within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but sometimes outside the eastern margin of the Park on County of Hawaii land, sometimes ponding behind the low lava hills for weeks at a time without entering the ocean at all. Check with the rangers about flow conditions; they can tell you the best way to approach these flows. Current eruption updates are available from the National Park Service by calling 808.985.600.

Written and produced by Donald B. MacGowan; videography by Donnie MacGowan and Frank Burgess; original musical score by Donald B. MacGowan.

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general, or the volcanoes of the Big Island in particular, please go to, and