Skip navigation

Tag Archives: old hawaii

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Charming Pahoa Town Maintains Its Eclectic Mix of Western and neo-Victorian Architecture Graphic, Puna Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

Pahoa Town

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

Pahoa Shopping District, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

The muddy footprint may well be the defining image many tourists have of Pahoa, one of the Rainiest Towns in America: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Pahoa started off as a rough and tumble sawmill town, then became the center of the sugar industry.  A crossroad on the old island railroads, trade and commerce flourished in Pahoa at the turn of the 20th century. An agricultural center today, the papaya, commercial flower and visitor industries drive Pahoa’s economy.

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

Downtown Pahoa Main Street, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Downtown Pahoa still shows off her history, with lovely turn-of-the century western and neo-Victorian architecture, false-front stores and wooden sidewalks, but with its own distinctive, Hawaii-style, panache.

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

Puna Tree Tunnels Just Outside Pahoa Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowgan

Pahoa is the also gateway to the Puna District. Beautiful, mysterious, untraveled and undiscovered by the herds of tourists, Puna District has so far managed to avoid overcrowding. Not on the usual tour bus routes, it’s like a step back to a simpler, less harried time.

It has been said of Pahoa that if it weren’t for counter-cultural influences, it would have no cultural influences at all. This is a bit unfair, but the people of Pahoa are proud of their independent ways and lifestyle. 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.

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

Pahoa is an interesting and charming, eclectic mix of Neo-Victorian and Western Architecture, Puna 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, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Pahoa Town Community Bulletin Board, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

The Sidewalks of Pahoa, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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


Advertisements

by Donald B. MacGowan

The area around Miloli'i and Honomalino Beach are infused with the je nais se quois of Old Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The area around Miloli'i and Honomalino Beach are infused with the je nais se quois of Old Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

View of Honomalino Bay, Looking North: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

View of Honomalino Bay, Looking North: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Even choosing the beach you want to spend time on…which beach? How do you find the right beach for your particular needs? Are you going just to relax and sunbathe? Or is the trip to snorkel, boogie board or to explore? Do you want a beach that’s alive with fun people or one hidden, secluded and empty? Do you want a beach near your resort or one that’s at the end of a day of delicious wandering?

The Kona Coast Near Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Kona Coast Near Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Tour Guide Hawaii is excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, let’s look at one, hidden but gorgeous, beach hike you would otherwise not find if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Hiking to Honomalino

Along the Honomalino Trail: Phto by Donald B. MacGowan

Along the Honomalino Trail: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A true gem of West Hawai’i, and rarely crowded, Honomalino Bay lies on the southeast flanks of Mauna Loa along the southernmost Kona Coast. The beach is reached by a 20 minute hike starting in the Old Hawaiian Fishing Village of Miloli’i, which is perhaps the last, truly Hawai’ian fishing village in West Hawai’i. Miloli’i is a tightly knit local community who are perhaps best left to themselves by the casual visitor. Though the surfing and the snorkeling here are excellent, the beach lovely and the facilities in good repair, the visitor may not find the aloha for outsiders terribly abundant. Especially on weekends.

Parking for the Hike is at the Miloli'i County Park Pavilion: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Parking for the Hike is at the Miloli'i County Park Pavilion: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The Hike to Honomalino Beach Starts between the County Park Restrooms and this Yellow Church: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The Hike to Honomalino Beach Starts between the County Park Restrooms and this Yellow Church: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The Trailhead for the Honomalino Bay Hike: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Trailhead for the Honomalino Bay Hike: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

However, by hiking south to Honomalino Bay, the causal visitor finds everything they are looking for in a quiet, secluded beach. Park at the Miloli’i County Beach Park; the hike begins at an obvious trailhead near the end of the road, between the restrooms and the yellow church. The trail wanders along the coast, in and out of the surf line, to the wild and untamed Honomalino Bay—a wonderful place to picnic, snorkel or kayak.

When Hiking to Honomalino Beach, Stay on the Trail, Avoid Private Property and When in Doubt, Take the Right Fork: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

When Hiking to Honomalino Beach, Stay on the Trail, Avoid Private Property and When in Doubt, Take the Right Fork: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Keawe Thickets along the Honomalino Beach Trail Mean You Should Wear Sturdy Shoes to Avoid the Ginormous Thorns: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Keawe Thickets along the Honomalino Beach Trail Mean You Should Wear Sturdy Shoes to Avoid the Ginormous Thorns: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

As the trail to Honomalino Beach Winds Toward the Shore, It Passes Several Private Residences and Private Property; Be Sure To Respect These People's Property and Privacy: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

As the trail to Honomalino Beach Winds Toward the Shore, It Passes Several Private Residences and Private Property; Be Sure To Respect These People's Property and Privacy: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

On the hike in, be sure to keep always to the right at any fork in the trail to avoid trespassing on private property. Honomalino Beach itself is fronted by private property and dwellings, so be respectful of these peoples’ homes and privacy.

The Honomalino Beach Trail Squeezes Between Private Residences and a Private Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Honomalino Beach Trail Squeezes Between Private Residences and a Private Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Snorkeling is most interesting on the north side in the rocks, or the extreme southern reach of the bay. Go in only when the surf is low; be cautious of the open ocean currents and rip tides. The water, though very clear, is sometimes quite cold due to spring discharge in the sand on the beach.

Behind the Berm, in the Back Dunes of Honomalino Beach, Is a Shady Paradise on Hot Days: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Behind the Berm, in the Back Dunes of Honomalino Beach, Is a Shady Paradise on Hot Days: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Exploring on foot in the area of the bay and further south provides many wonders and archeological treasures, from abandoned temples and villages to the largest holua, or sledding track, in Hawaii. Remember to respect the Hawaiian natives, their culture and their sacred sites…take noting but pictures, don’t even leave footprints, stay on established roads and trails.

Superb Snorkeling Exists on the North Side of the Bay by the Rocks: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Superb Snorkeling Exists on the North Side of the Bay by the Rocks: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There is no fresh water anywhere along this hike, so be sure to bring plenty of drinking water. It’s also nice to bring a couple of extra quarts of water to rinse off after swimming, and dry clothes to hike out in.

There are no provisions for restrooms or trash disposal, either, so wait until you are back at the county park for restrooms and remember to hike out with everything you brought in, including trash.

Honomalino Beach Looking South and East Into the Morning Sun: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Honomalino Beach Looking South and East Into the Morning Sun: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

As the trail crosses significant swathes of both sharp aa lava fields and thick keawe tree copses (with there numerous, impressive and painful thorns), it is imperative that you wear at least running shoes, if not hiking boots, to protect your feet.

Hiking Back to Miloli'i You'll Be Glad of Sturdy Shoes to Fend Off the Huge Keawe Thorns: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hiking Back to Miloli'i You'll Be Glad of Sturdy Shoes to Fend Off the Huge Keawe Thorns: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

No services at all are available at the beach, and there are no commercial services in Miloli’i. Please leave no valuables in your car.

Sharp a'a Lava Along the Honomalino Trail Makes You Glad You Wore Real Shoes!: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sharp a'a Lava Along the Honomalino Trail Makes You Glad You Wore Real Shoes!: 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.

Could You Have Found This Without Tour Guide? The House in Miloli'i Where Elvis Presley Lived in the Movie "Girls Girls Girls": Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Could You Have Found This Without Tour Guide? The House in Miloli'i Where Elvis Presley Lived in the Movie "Girls Girls Girls": Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

By Donald B. MacGowan

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Pahala Theater, Pahala, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Like many people, my life on the Island of Hawaii involves, figuratively, my wearing many hats…today I am wearing my “Independent Filmmaker” hat and driving from my home in Kona south to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to film the fire-fountaining eruption at Kilauea Volcano.

The drive is calming and scenic, much of the highway is posted thirty-five miles an hour, as the Hawaii Belt Highway runs from my sleepy little fishing village through the mountainous coffee-growing region of Kona, south through cattle and horse ranches and into the heart of the macadamia nut producing region. This is my favorite part of the Island; in my heart and mind it is the loveliest place on earth–rocky, rough open ocean shoreline with huge mountains and rolling, green volcanic slopes giving way to wide open spaces, uncrowded, even largely unknown to the outside world. I have a strong emotional bond to this part of the island. It was here, in the village of Pahala, that I first lived when I fled the frigid Rocky Mountain winters for a new life in tropical Hawaii a decade ago.

So when I reached the turn-off to Pahala I decided I had time for a break from driving to see what had become of my first home in Hawaii in the near-decade since I had lived there. For reasons and madness best left to the dust of the ages, I arose at 3:30 one morning at my home in Laramie, Wyoming. After living 20 years in the high plains, I was packed, ticketed, excited and ready for my move to Hawaii. The thermometer on my house read twenty degrees below zero and there was at least two feet of snow in my front yard–from the windows of Brees Field Airport I watched the rising sun light-up the east face of the Snowy Range, as frigid and alpine a view as I had ever had of it. Changing planes in Denver, San Francisco and Honolulu, I arrived on Hawaii in the brilliant sun and tropical warmth–I will never forget smell of paradise as I got off the plane; flowery, ripe, heavy with promise, romance and adventure.

No matter where I am flying in from, where I have been or for how long I have been gone from Hawaii, when the door of that airplane first opens and Hawaii’s gentle breath envelopes me, I know I am home. I have lived all over the US but I have never, ever felt that I was where I belonged, that I was at home, until I moved to Hawaii. When I come to Hawaii, I am coming home. I love Hawaii with a tender intensity that sometimes surprises me with its fierceness.

In Pahala today, I parked my car at Ka’u High School and walked across campus to the Teacher’s Cottage I had inhabited my first months on Hawaii, just to see how things had changed. My mind went back to the first morning I had walked across campus, full of excitement at living in this strange land, eager and curious to learn about this island and her people. There are not words to explain my joy-filled love for Hawaii, nor for the utter heartbreak of unnecessary sorrows that lurk just below the surface here.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Abandoned Sugar Warehouse, Pahala, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Some of the very first people I came across that first morning was circle of 5 girls, barely adolescent–ten, maybe twelve years old but certainly no older–playing with their Barbie dolls. All of them were smoking cigarettes, passing around a couple of 40-ounce beer bottles wrapped in brown paper bags; two of them were pregnant, another two were caring for their very real babies while they played dolls with their friends. One of the girls was my next-door neighbor’s daughter, Lehua; the others were her cousins. The babies all had the same father.

Moving from Wyoming to Hawaii I had expected to experience eagerness to explore my new home, perhaps some home sicknesses, and certainly a bit of culture shock but I was absolutely unprepared for this, what would become one of my most enduring visions of Hawaii.

How I came to understand this aspect of Hawaii is an allegory for how I came to love my tropical home here…for it is in the warp and weft of the contradictions, of the beauty and sorrow, of the ancient traditions and modern hustle, of snow clad peaks and steaming jungle, spuming volcanoes and calm, clear lagoons and yes, the interplay between the embracing promises of paradise and the greed-fueled waste and grinding poverty here that Hawaii weaves her magic spell on me.

Friendly, clean, quiet, scenic; Pahala seems a perfect community. Thirty years ago Pahala was a prosperous, bustling center of activity for the Pahala Sugar Company, but with the demise of the sugar industry, Pahala residents have either moved on to other towns seeking employment, or hunkered down to await what future may come.

When the 102nd US Congress convened in 1994 with the first Republican-dominated legislature in a generation, they set out to politically reward states that went conservative and to punish states that elected liberals in very, very quiet, but ultimately devastating, ways.

In a bid ostensibly to reign in “federal pork-barrel spending”, the Congress cut the Farm Subsidies Bill a few paltry million dollars by slashing the federal price support for sugar that protected American sugar companies from cheaper Central American and African sugar. The support was cut to a level where it still made sugar a profitable crop in sugar states that went Republican, such as Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Florida and California, but bankrupted the sugar industry in Hawai’i, the only liberal-voting sugar state. The amount saved was less than the cost of a single Tomahawk Cruise Missile, but the one-industry towns all over Hawai’i were completely devastated and no new industries moved in to take up the employment slack. There has been 70-80 percent unemployment ever since. The usual miseries of substance abuse and poly-generational sexual abuse, crime, hopelessness and degradation of the educational system moved in with the unemployment and small towns like Pahala have writhed in agony ever since. Everyone with ambition leaves town to live near work elsewhere, while those too old or unskilled languish, the human flotsam of a political system that rewards vindictiveness and cynicism. Such political finagling is as old as politics and rife in both political parties, but rarely does one get to see the painful cost of such partisan political gamesmanship writ so hugely, or tragically, upon the human landscape.

To be fair, shortsightedness among residents played a role in the misery of sugar-plantation towns in general and Pahala in particular. In mobilizing to fight against resorts moving in and to block a proposed private satellite launching facility, residents gambled on the sugar plantation economy lasting indefinitely. In seeking to preserve their generations-old way of life and their communities, they virtually guaranteed that life there would ultimately never be the same for anyone.

A re-birth, of a sort, is underway in Pahala and other small towns in Hawai’i; because of the extremely undervalued real estate, compared with the extremely over-valued real estate elsewhere in Hawai’i, mainlanders and retirees are buying up land as residents finally sell. This has caused a small renaissance in service-sector employment, but it will take a generation or two for these tiny towns regain their former energy and optimism.

Today, with nothing more pressing than nostalgia, I walked the small downtown of Pahala, stopping at the local market for a snack. The clerk was a young Hawaiian of exceptional beauty who eyed me somewhat oddly–I thought because strangers are still a bit uncommon in this town–then, coming around from behind the till she embraced me, kissing my cheek.

“Welcome home, Donnie” she smiled to me, “Aloha”.

Clean, sober and happily married for these past 6 years, a now 21-year old Lehua told me she had also had four more children. She and her husband had bought a house and a boat for tuna fishing; and he was general manager at a local macadamia nut farm. How had all this happened?

Laughing, she explained “Lucky we live Hawaii”, in her musical local pidgin that I had once found so impenetrable.

Lucky, indeed.

And magical.

No matter how long I stay away, Hawaii is always welcoming, and Hawaii is always home.

And this is why I love Hawaii so.