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by Donald B. MacGowan

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Mahana Green Sand Beach on Papakolea Bay at South Point, Ka’u Hawaii: 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.

The Colored Sand Beaches of the Big Island of Hawaii

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

This tiny beach at Pawai Bay is more typical of Hawaii Island beaches than the enormous, mile-long white sand beach at Hapuna, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Our Big Island is geologically quite young and the landscape is immature, so our beaches tend to be smaller than those on the older islands, and are therefore all the more precious. What the Big Island has that some of the other islands lack, though, are beaches with spectacularly colored sand…white sand, black sand, green sand and even grey sand.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Secluded, beautiful Makalawena Beach lies in the heart of a tropical wilderness just north of the Kona Airport, Kona-Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The creamy white sand beaches of picture postcards and hapa haole songs result from the accumulation of small particles of coral reef and crushed shell fish shells. As the reefs grow, wave and storm action break it into small pieces and many fish, such as the parrot fish and the humuhumunukunukuapua’a munch the coral, spitting-out sand sized particles, and the coral they swallow comes out…er…the other end as sand-size pellets of sandy waste. In this way, one coral-eating reef fish can produce up to a ton of white sand a year. Because our white sand beaches result from physical degradation of soft, biological material, the sand grains tend to have rounded edges. Thus, unlike sands derived from rock and mineral sources, such as the California beaches, they do not stack well and tend to produce poor sand castles.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Waialea Beach, or Beach 69, is an out-of-the-way gem that is rarely crowded on the Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Beautiful white sand beaches occur all over the Big Island, but are biggest and best developed on the Kona and Kohala coastlines, as coral reefs prosper best on the lee-side of the island. Prime examples of white sand beaches include Anaeho’omalu, Hapuna, Waialea and Makalawena Beaches. Snorkeling at these white sand beaches is a joy—the water is a brilliant turquoise due to the amount of light reflected back into the water by the sandy shore bottom. However, this sandy bottom itself is relatively barren of life, so if seeing fish is your main snorkeling goal, be sure to choose a beach with a nearby reef, such as Waialea Beach, since the fish live in and around reefs and rocky cliffs.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Hawaii’s most famous black sand beach, Punalu’u Beach, Ka’u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Black sand beaches are strange and spectacular, and, because of their thermal properties, are warm even on a chilly day (Oh, yes, we do have chilly days here in Hawaii–in mid-winter temperatures can dip into the low 70s and even rarely the upper 60s!). In fact, it is the black sand beaches of the Big Island that are the choice among egg-laying female Hawaiian green sea turtles for laying their egg clutches on, precisely because of their warmth.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Littoral Explosions as Lava Enters the Sea at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Black sand beaches result from the fiery, explosive mix of hot liquid lava entering the ocean. The skin of the lava stream is instantly chilled as it flows into the water and then blasted off when the ocean water flashes to steam. Black sand also results from mechanical action during the natural physical erosion of the basalt (the name for the rock our lava becomes once it cools). You’d think that sand forged in the volcano would be tough and enduring, but in truth, it’s very, very fragile and black sand beaches do not last long over time. For this reason, although the sand is beautiful and rare, we ask you not to take any home with you.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Kaimu Beach, Hawaii’s Newest Black Sand Beach, Near Kalapana, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Black sand beaches occur all over the island… two of the largest are on the north end of the island, crossing the mouths of Waipi’o and Pololu Valleys, respectively. These are not visited as often as some of the others as both entail something of a hike down into the canyons. What once must have been a heart-achingly beautiful, large black sand beach fronts Hilo Town right on Hilo bay, but much of it has been eroded, polluted and degraded by industrial encroachment or simply paved over as a result of urbanization. By far the most popular black sand beach is at Punalu’u. Not only is the beach lovely, inviting and easily accessible, it’s almost guaranteed that the visitor will see Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles basking on this beach. The youngest and most vibrant black sand beach is Kaimu Beach at the end of the Kalapana-Kopoho Road. Kaimu beach, lovely if barren, is a crescent of sand that lies at the end of an unforgiving expanse of basalt from the 1990 flows. The old beach and the fishing village of Kalapana that once stood here are long gone, buried under 50-75 feet of lava—an unimaginable catastrophe

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
Black sand is made by the interaction of hot. liquid lava and cold ocean water, such as this littoral flow at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Snorkeling at the black sand beaches can be dark and mysterious, as little light is reflected back into the water from the sandy bottom, but the bouldery nature of the off-beach sea floor assures the prospect of abundant life and many reef fish. Be aware…because black sand beaches mostly occur on the youngest, and therefore most exposed, portions of our island, many are characterized by big waves, strong currents and nasty rip tides. Swim only where you see others swimming, and only when a life guard is present.

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

Mahana Green Sand Beach at Papakolea Bay, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Wild, surreal, enchanting, the Big Island’s green sand beaches are a rare geologic occurrence that appear in only a few choice spots on our island and almost nowhere else in the world. Although they take a little effort to get to, you should not travel all the way to Hawaii and not see these jewel-like beaches.

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

The olivine (also called peridot) crystals weathering our of the cinder cone make up the sand at Mahana Green Sand Beach on Papakolea Bay, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The green sand is composed almost entirely of the mineral olivine, or peridot as the gem quality crystals are known. These crystals precipitate out of the molten lava while it sits in the magma chamber reservoir before it erupts onto the surface. The liquid lava is melted from rocks at great depth within the earth; the chemical composition of the melt is at equilibrium at extremely high pressures and temperatures. As the magma migrates upward, many miles, through the Earth’s crust, it cools and pressure decreases; this causes crystals to precipitate from the melt. In magmas world wide, olivine is almost always observed to precipitate out first.

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

Small but marvelous Mahana Green Sand Beach on Papakolea Beach at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

In Hawaii, lavas migrate up to the surface so quickly, and then are expelled from the magma chamber onto the surface so quickly, that usually they have little time for many crystals to form. But when lava does sit in the magma chamber awhile, the olivine crystals do precipitate, and they slowly settle to the bottom of the melt. As liquid lava begins to erupt onto the surface, much of the olivine is left behind in the residual liquid. Thus, lavas erupted from the latest stages of these magma chambers sometimes are enriched with crystalline olivine. Since late stage magmas are also relatively cooler and less fluid, their eruptions are more explosive and they tend to form more spatter cones than flows. The green sand beaches of the Big Island result where the ocean has breached one or another of these spatter cones, and the winnowing action of the waves has washed away all the particles except for the relatively denser olivine grains.

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

The intense color of the sand at Mahana Green Sand Beach makes the waters at Papakolea Bay a very strange, and reflects an eerie light back along the amphitheater walls, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are tiny green sand beaches all along the southern coastline on either side of South Point, but the largest and most accessible is Mahana Beach on Papakolea Bay at South Point, reached by a moderate hike of about 2 ¼ miles along the wild coastline northeast of South Point, following an old 4WD two-track. Because of the unique sand color, snorkeling at the Green Sand Beach is a must…underwater pictures, if you are equipped with a suitable underwater camera, are quite stunning. Just be careful of the treacherous currents, rip tides and big waves. This is the wild and open ocean and this side of the island is completely unprotected. Once again, due to its rarity and the irreplaceable nature of this resource, we ask that you enjoy our Green Sand beaches, but don’t take any sand home with you.

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

Children hard at play on Hookena Beach, Kona Hawaii; a typical gray sand beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Warm, comfortable and inviting, grey sand beaches result from mixing of black sand particles with white sand along a stretch of beach and as such, are represented by a continuum of grey hues. In fact, many Big Island beaches probably fit more with a definition of grey sand beach than properly occupy either of the two distinct end member compositions, black sand or white sand beach. Ho’okena, Kahalu’u and Honomalino are three of the largest and most popular grey sand beaches on the Big Island. There is one entirely unique beach, Ke-awa-iki, which today is a dominantly black sand beach, but the black sand has incompletely mixed with the older white sand on the southern portion of the beach, leaving a stretch of strange, but oddly artistic, piebald black and white sand.

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

The exotic black-and-white sands of Keawaiki Beach, Kohala 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.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.
The wild surf at Wawaloli Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

South Point's Justly Famous Green Sand Beach is a Popular Hiking and Snorkeling Destination, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are many places on the Big Island of Hawaii that have undeserved infamous or unsavory reputations for one reason or another–the reputations of the road to South Point and Saddle Road come immediately to mind.  Once difficult, even dangerous, to drive, they have been more or less tame for decades–yet the reputation remains, passed on to unsuspecting visitor’s who trust what they are told.  Recognition of this must be balanced with the sure and certain knowledge that in the same breath they condemn the South Point road, someone may tell the same visitor of the hazards of, say, the road to the summit of Mauna Kea or The Road To The Sea in South Kona–both of which can be truly dangerous roads requiring skill, good weather and four-wheel drive to negotiate.

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

Looking Past the Kaomoa Wind Farm to South Point from Ocean View in South Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

We here at Tour Guide have endeavored to collect and present the most up-to-date information on visiting over 500 locations on the Big Island, coloring the material with our decades of personal experience living on the Big Island.  Today, you may access that information here on this blog or by renting our GPS unit which shows location aware video presentations about all these sites.  Recently, we have released a version of our tours downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers more than 50 areas of island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and and the relaxing.

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

Fishermen on the Cliffs at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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…

So, let’s talk about going to storied South Point on the Big Island which, despite what you may hear to the contrary, is a delightful drive and an amazing place to explore.

Hawaii’s South Point

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

Visitor's Contemplate the View South from the Actual Point at South Point. Many People Drive All the Way Out Here, Take Pictures at the Point, and Then Drive Back, Never Dreaming of the Rich Tapestry of Wonders That Await Even Casual Exploration: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Haunting, windswept, wild, empty, beautiful. Imagine the gratitude and wonder of the first Polynesians who, after voyaging at sea without sight of land for more than a month, finally made land here at Ka Lae. This sweeping landscape arches openly and inviting from the tumultuous shore break at Ka Lae to the icy heights of Mauna Kea’s summit almost 14,000 feet above.

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

South Point's Guardian Trucks at Kaulana Boat Launch, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

South Point is the farthest point south in the entire United States…not Key West Florida, as some guidebooks claim. The road to Ka Lae from the Hawai’i Belt Road is infamous, but has been greatly improved in recent years, although it’s still only 1-lane wide in many places. Even today some rental agencies admonish you not to take their cars down this road. Relax. The road is fine, although blind turns and hills command your attention and should curb your desire to speed. Also, all the roads, beaches, boat launching facilities and parking are free and public, despite what some signs and unsavory characters might try to tell you. Just don’t leave valuables in your car, and be sure to lock it up (there also is no “Visitor’s Center”, contrary to the sign).

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

A lone cow contemplates Kamoa Wind Farm at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Along the road to Ka Lae are the brooding and dilapidated wind turbines of the Kamaoa Wind Farm. This wind farm, when all of the turbines are operating, can generate enough electricity to power 100 homes; unfortunately, usually 1/3 to ½ of the turbines are out of service at any given time. The surreal setting on the green plain with the cows grazing unconcernedly, coupled with the eerie, “sci-fi” sound of the generators makes this a unique place to stop, look and listen.

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

The Actual South Point at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At South Point proper are a number of dilapidated structures and foundation ruins. The Army had a barracks here during World War II; the paved road was built in 1955; during the sixties, the Navy built a missile tracking station which the Air Force later took over and renamed South Point Air Force Station, which closed in 1978.

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

Although There is Some Disagreement on the Interpretation, These South Point Petroglyphs are Believed by Most to Represent the First Three Polynesian Voyaging Canoes to Reach Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

History: The Polynesian pioneers who first reached South Point routinely made incredible voyages that put European seafaring and exploration of a millennium later to shame. More than a thousand years before Columbus, in tiny, twin-hulled canoes that were entirely of carved wood lashed together, using no nails or wooden pegs and employing sails made of tree bark, Polynesians embarked on a voyages that were thousands of miles farther than those of Christopher Columbus, and without the aid of a compass or charts with which to navigate. Using the stars, currents, patterns of migration of the birds and fish, patterns in the waves, water temperature and the color of the undersides of clouds, these explorers navigated, explored, sailed and paddled all across the Pacific spreading their culture, language and peoples at the time when the Roman Empire was crumbling and centuries before the Age of Vikings.

iPhone and iPod Touch Video Tour Guide for Hawaii-fully GPS and WiFi enabled, fully interactive. Hours of interesting and compelling content. Available from iTunes or at www.tourguidehawaii.com.It is thought that voyagers from the Marquesas first landed on Hawai’i, at South Point, quite early in the fourth Century AD; certainly the earliest archeological artifacts found in the Hawai’ian Islands are found here. At Ka Lae the Polynesians established a thriving colony based upon the incredibly rich fishing grounds just offshore. The colony was connected to the rest of Polynesia by trade routes to the Southern Islands and regular trade and travel between the Marquesas, Marshals, and Tahiti continued for centuries. Evidence of their colony can be found at Kalalae Heiau, just below the light tower at the Point.

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

Kalalae Heiau, South Point, Ka'u Heiau: Donald B. MacGowan

The small, but extremely well-preserved, Kalalae Heiau is classified as a ko’a, or fishing shrine, to the god Ku’ula. Just below the shrine and in the rocks to the west, one can find grooves and holes cut into the rock. These are attachment and guide points for anchor lines for ancient fishing canoes. The currents at Ka Lae are so strong, and flow uninterrupted to Antarctica, that Hawai’ians could not fish and keep their canoes from being driven away simultaneously, so they fed ropes, secured to the rocks out to the canoes, to keep them from drifting away with the currents.

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

Kalalae Heiau has numerous sacred standing stones. On the main platform outside the heiau is a pohaku amakua referred to as “Kumaiea” which means “female”. On the smaller stone terrace just north is another standing stone associated with the god Kanaloa and referred to as “Kanemakua” (male). Inside the heiau wall is a stone called “Ku’ula” after the patron god of fishermen; north of the structure stand Makaunulau (named for a navigational star) and ’Ai’ai (a dependent or ward), south is Wahine hele (“place from where the women leave”): Photo Donald B. MacGowan

Like most animists, Hawai’ians invested worship and respect and intuited spiritual power in a range of natural objects and phenomena: rain, volcanic eruptions, the sea, sharks, fresh water springs, the surf and rocks, among many others. Pohaku O Kane, or sacred rocks, were among the most common spiritual objects of worship, whether they were naturally occurring in the landscape (pohakuia loa), or set on platforms (pohaku amakua) or carved (pohaku iki). Kalalae Heiau has numerous examples of the former two. On the main platform outside the heiau is a pohaku amakua referred to as “Kumaiea” which means “female”. On the smaller stone terrace just north is another standing stone associated with the god Kanaloa and referred to as “Kanemakua” (male). Inside the heiau wall is a stone called “Ku’ula” after the patron god of fishermen; north of the structure stand Makaunulau (named for a navigational star) and ’Ai’ai (a dependent or ward), south is Wahine hele (“place from where the women leave”). Examples of pohakuia loa include the Pohakuwa’a Kauhi (literally “canoe rock by the shrubs”) right at the shoreline, which was used to focus meditations before long canoes journeys, and Pohakuokeau (“stone of the currents” or “stone of the years”), which stands offshore. The name Pohakuokeau reflects the Hawaiian belief that the stones would turn over when there was a political change in government.

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

Body Surfing at the Justly Famous Green Sand Beach, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo Donald B. MacGowan

Hike to Green Sand Beach: Absolutely unique to the island of Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the handful of green sand beaches composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these.

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

Afternoon sun on bathers at The World Famous Green Sand Beach, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The sand grains on this beach are formed from olivine crystals weathering out of the lava and cinders from the cone over an eruptive vent that has been partially breached by the sea. The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the somewhat protected cove formed by the remnant of the cone makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot. Be very wary of currents and do not go out far nor in at all if the surf is high or there are strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.

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

Hikers on the trail to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

To get there, turn left onto a signed, patchy-paved and dirt road immediately when you arrive in the Ka Lae area following signs to the Kaulana boat launch. Proceed down the road and park just to the left (south) of the Kaulana boat launch, where there is a dirt road that leads to the green sand beach; there is gate ¼ mile down this road. The gate is almost always locked and the road primarily provides access for hiking, ATVs or mountain biking: private vehicles are prohibited. Hiking distance is 2 ¼ miles each way along rolling tropical prairie (and if you cannot envision that, you really need to do this hike). Despite the multiplicity of dirt roads, you really cannot get lost as you are never out of sight of the shore.

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

Hiking down the cinder cone to the Green Sand Beach is much easier than it appears, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

When you reach the end of the trail, you are a hundred or so feet above the beach on the rim of the remnant of the crater. Look closely for the faint track to scramble safely and easily to the beach (there is occasionally a blue trash barrel to mark this spot, but always there is a cairn of rocks). There is one sort of tricky spot where you have to inch your way over a 3-foot ledge, but almost anybody from senior to child can negotiate the hike to the beach. One can also easily scramble down from the middle (easternmost) of the cone where there is a short ladderway at the top, but this can be slippery. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up, either way back to the crater rim is easy to follow.

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

Cliff diving at the Green Sand Beach is popular with locals. We do not reccomend it--the rip tides and currents around the rocks are very strong, the water is shallow and divers must be experienced and have perfect timing to hit the waves just right, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Cliff diving at the Green Sand Beach is popular with locals. We do not reccomend it--the rip tides and currents around the rocks are very strong, the water is shallow and divers must be experienced and have perfect timing to hit the waves just right, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Snorkeling: The waters at South Point are wild, crystalline turquoise and wicked. It is obvious from the surf and the currents that swimming is right out along most of this coastline. However in a few protected areas by the boat hoists there is reportedly safe snorkeling, close to the cliffs and only when the sea is calm. Hardy spear fishermen with mask and fins tether themselves with ropes to the steel ladders in the cliff-side; this is obviously risky for the casual snorkeler. The only recommended snorkeling is at the Kaulana boat launch or at the Green Sand Beach and then only in calm seas. But it is beautiful; perhaps as beautiful and wild a spot to snorkel as anywhere in Hawai’i

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

The Justly Famous and World Renowned Green Sand Beach at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii, Famed in Song, Legend and Fable: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are no services. At all. None. And a goodly long way to drive to get to any…plan and act accordingly.

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

About halfway in to the hike, the edge of the cinder cone above the green sand beach becomes visible, South Point, 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. For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

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

Frank Burgess standing in one of the famous ruts in the old road to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii. This is why you want to hike instead of drive: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

The Justly Famous Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Justly Famous Green Sand Beach at South Point, 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.

On the Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

On the Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Even choosing which beach you want to spend time on, or where you want to hike can be an exercise in confusion and conflicting advice.  Clearly, visitors to Hawaii could use help making quality decisions about how best to spend their time.

Hawaii's Green Sand Beach at South point in the afternoon: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaii's Green Sand Beach at South point in the afternoon: 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 a hike you might have heard about, but might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks and would otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Everett Maynard, Co-Founder of Tour Guide Hawaii, Hikes to the Green Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Everett Maynard, Co-Founder of Tour Guide Hawaii, Hikes to the Green Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

South Point’s Justly Famous Green Sand Beach Hike; Papakolea Bay and Mahana Beach, Hawaii

Looking down on the green Sand Beach at South Point Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Looking down on the green Sand Beach at South Point Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Absolutely unique to the island of Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the handful of green sand beaches composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these.

The Amazing Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B.  MacGowan

The Amazing Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

To get there, turn left onto a signed, patchy-paved and dirt road immediately when you arrive in the Ka Lae area following signs to the Kaulana Boat Launch. Proceed down the road and park just to the left (south) of the boat launch, where there is a dirt road that leads to the green sand beach. The road has a gate which is sometimes locked as the road primarily provides access for hiking, ATVs or mountain biking: private vehicles are, ostensibly, prohibited but are becoming more and more common—this is the reason for the multiplicity of washed out tracks.

The two-track leading to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii is perfect for mountain biking: Photo by Donnie MacGowan!

The two-track leading to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii is perfect for mountain biking: Photo by Donnie MacGowan!

We suggest you walk—it’s more enjoyable and it saves wear and tear on a delicate ecosystem.

Severe erosion and deeply rutted roads result from ignorant tourists driving acros the plains...these ruts are larger than many cars! : Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Severe erosion and deeply rutted roads result from ignorant tourists driving acros the plains...these ruts are larger than many cars! : Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hiking distance is 2 ¼ miles each way along rolling tropical prairie (and if you cannot envision that, you really need to do this hike). Despite the multiplicity of dirt roads, you really cannot get lost as you are never out of sight of the shore. Road conditions along the road to the beach vary dramatically from week to week and the road becomes impassable with even a gentle rain; this is another reason we do not suggest drive but rather enjoy the short, pleasant hike.

Hikers returning from the Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hikers returning from the Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

About mid-way you begin to see the far side of the cone, out of which the bay has been eroded, poke up above the rolling grassland.

When you reach the end of the trail, you are a hundred or so feet above the beach on the rim of the remnant of the crater. There is a weather-beaten, old sign about 100 feet from the crater rim that directs you to the path down. Look closely for the faint track to scramble safely and easily to the beach (there is occasionally a blue trash barrel to mark this spot, but always there is a cairn of rocks). There is one sort of tricky spot where you have to inch your way over a 3-foot ledge, but almost anybody from senior to child can negotiate the hike to the beach.

Sound Advice to Visitor's...don't scratch messages in the canyon walls and don't take the sand! : Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Sound Advice to Visitor's...don't scratch messages in the canyon walls and don't take the sand! : Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

One can also easily scramble down from the middle (easternmost) of the cone using a set of stairs, but this can be slippery at the best of times—even dangerous if wet. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up the way back to the crater rim is easy to follow.

Hiking the cinder cone onto the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hiking the cinder cone onto the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Close up of the sand from the Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Close up of the sand from the Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The sand grains on this beach are formed from olivine crystals weathering out of the lava and cinders from the cone over an eruptive vent that has been partially breached by the sea. The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the somewhat protected cove formed by the remnant of the cone makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot.

Olivine Phenocrysts In Hawaiian Basalt...the source of the sand at Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Olivine Phenocrysts In Hawaiian Basalt...the source of the sand at Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Happy bathers getting wet at the Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Happy bathers getting wet at the Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Swimming, snorkeling and surfing are delightful within the confines of the bay. Be very wary of rip tides and ocean currents; do not go out far nor in at all if the surf is high or there are strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.

Boogie Boarders at the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Boogie Boarders at the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

No water is available anywhere along the hike or at the beach–be sure to take at least two liters of water per hiker for drinking.  If you plan on swimming, you may wish to take an extra liter or two of water to rinse hair and torso, as well as a dry change of clothes.  It’s miserable hiking in wet clothes with salty skin.

About half-way through the hike you begin to see the top of the cone out of which the bay holding the Green Sand Beach has been carved: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

About half-way through the hike you begin to see the top of the cone out of which the bay holding the Green Sand Beach has been carved: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are no services. At all. None. And a goodly long way to drive to get to any…plan and act accordingly.

Frank Burgess--just another day at work at Tour Guide Hawaii--hiking to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Frank Burgess--just another day at work at Tour Guide Hawaii--hiking to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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We do not reccomend you try this, it takes courage skill and timing--as well as strong swimming skills to return to the beach...Gren Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

We do not recommend you try this, it takes courage skill and timing--as well as strong swimming skills to return to the beach...Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Eric Carr heads home after another day at the office at Tour Guide Hawaii...South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Eric Carr heads home after another day at the office at Tour Guide Hawaii...South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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