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Littoral Explosions at Waikupanaha as molten lava enters the sea; Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Littoral Explosions at Waikupanaha as molten lava enters the sea; Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Madame Pele’s whims have forced changes in how Big Island residents and visitors may view lava flowing from Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii.

Lava flows have completely covered the County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Area under 2 meters of lava and inundated the access road (see here). The conditions right now are very fluid (no pun intended) and as of this morning access was being granted to Royal Gardens and Kalapana residents only.  A 2-mile access hike has been available over the past few days and should be available again soon.  Hawaii County Police are warning visitors that cars parked illegally on the access road will be ticketed (see here).

Lava Flowing on Hawaii Highway 130, Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Flowing on Hawaii Highway 130, Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For up-to-the-minute information on access for viewing the flowing lava, call the Hawaii County Lava Viewing Hotline at 808.961.8093.

These pandanus fruit lava fossils at the County of Hawaii lava viewing area near Waikupanaha, on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, were buried under 2 meters of fresh lava on Saturday, 17 July 2010: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

These pandanus fruit lava fossils at the County of Hawaii lava viewing area near Waikupanaha, on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, were buried under 2 meters of fresh lava on Saturday, 17 July 2010: 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.

Waipi'o Valley, Waipi'o River Mouth: 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.

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

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

Kona to Hamakua Coast: Spectacular Waterfalls, Incredible Canyons and Lush Rainforest

Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 9 hours.

This day offers spectacular waterfalls, lush rainforest and beautiful canyons, shopping, dining and 2-one hour hikes.

Highway 190 leaves Kona north to Waimea then on to Honoka’a and Waipi’o Valley in about 1 1/2 hours driving. The photos from the valley overlook are postcard gorgeous and Honoka’a has cute shops and restaurants. After a 1 hour drive, seeing several sites along the Hamakua Coast, Highway 220 branches to Akaka Falls. Follow the paved loop through the tropical jungle and smell exotic flowers along this not-to-be-missed, easy 1 hour waterfall hike. Be sure to stop in Honomu for the unique shops. Proceeding south on Highway 19, ten minutes, is the Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive (4 Mile).

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

Along this road is Onomea Bay Trail, a 1 hour round trip hike, down to the ruggedly picturesque coastline. From there it’s 20 minutes to Rainbow Falls, Hilo’s signature waterfall. Hilo is the largest city on the island and has numerous shops, malls, museums, restaurants and beaches, such as Richardson Beach, near downtown. From Hilo, it is a 2 1/2 hour drive back to Kona.


Leg 1) In Kailua Kona, start at Ahu’ena Heiau, take Palani Road east to Hwy 190; take Hwy 190 through Waimea to Honoka’a.

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 sacred temple carvings at Ahu'ena are considered among the finest and most refined in all of Polynesia, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach
Centuries ago the inhabitants of this region built a series of sacred temples, or heiaus, 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 Hawaiian means “Hill of Fire”.

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. To learn more about Ahu’ena Heiau, please go 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.

Hualalai Volcano from near Waimea Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

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.

From Waimea, Highway 250, the Kohala Mountain Road, spills beautifully through mountain, upland meadow and forest to the “Old Hawaii” town and artist community at Hawi.

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: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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. To learn more about Waimea, please go 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.

There are lots of interesting stores in Downtown Honoka'a, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Honoka’a Town

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.

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. To learn more about Honoka’a Town, please go here.


Leg 2) At Honoka’a, turn north on Hwy 240 to Waipi’o Valley.

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 at the bottom of Waipi'o Valley, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waipi’o Valley

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 are none within the valley itself. To learn more about Waipi’o Valley, please go here.

Leg 3) From Waipi’o Valley, return to Honoka’a on Hwy 240, get on Hwy 19 and head south.

Leg 4) Take Hwy 19 south to Laupahoehoe then Kolekole, continue south to Hwy 220; west on Hwy 220 to Honomu, then to Akaka Falls.

https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/hiking-hawaiis-magnificent-waipio-valley/

Wild ocean sprays from the heavy surf along the Laupahoehoe wild shoreline, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Laupahoehoe Park

A place of great beauty, of awesome displays of oceanic power and of tragic memories, Laupahoehoe Park stands where 20 children and teachers at the Laupahoehoe School were killed in the tsunami of 1946. Inside the park on a small hill overlooking the jetty is a memorial stone inscribed with the names of those who died in the tsunami. There are restrooms, campgrounds, picnic facilities, pit barbecues and ball fields. The pounding of the raw ocean on the jetty reminds one that not every beach in Hawaii is made for swimming, however the fishing here is excellent. For more information about Laupahoehoe Park, please go here.


https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/hiking-hawaiis-magnificent-waipio-valley/

Kolekole River from the road, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kolekole Beach County Park

The river you saw magnificently jumping with such abandon off the cliff at Akaka Falls ends its journey to the sea by sluicing through this Koa tree-filled canyon and smashing into the surf at Kolekole Beach Park. A wild beach, a jungle canyon and a waterfall swimming hole are fun things to do at Kolekole Park.

https://lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com/2010/01/29/the-magic-of-hilo-district-unforgetable-surprising-peaceful-kolekole-beach-park/

Wild Kolekole Beach Surf, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The visitor is advised to admire the ocean, but not go in. The currents and tides are lethally treacherous here.

Facilities at Kolekole Beach Park include picnic pavilions and tables, pit barbecues, showers, restrooms and drinking water.  To learn more about Kolekole Beach Park, please go 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.

Akaka Falls, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Akaka Falls

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. To learn more about Akaka Falls, please go here.

Leg 5) Return Hwy 220 through Honomu to Hwy 19, then south on Hwy 19 to Old Mamalahoa Highway (or Kulaimano Road to Old Mamalahoa Hwy); this is the Pe’epekeo Scenic Drive. South and east on Old Mamalahoa Hwy to Onomea Bay; continue on Old Mamalahoa Hwy south to southern jct with Hwy 19.

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.

Jungle and stream, along the Pe'epekeo Scenic Drive Near Hilo, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive

Located just a few minutes north of Hilo on Highway 19, this “Old Road through Old Hawai’i”, a four-mile-half hour scenic wander, parallels Highway 19 but is removed worlds away from the traffic and hustle along the main road. Rolling along old cane fields, jungle-canopied in places, passing waterfalls and crossing creeks, the Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive is a special treat for the visitor who may be thinking they waited a century too long to visit Hawai’i. On a sunny day, on a rainy day, it doesn’t matter; this scenic drive is a joy. There are no services available along the scenic drive. To learn more about Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive and Onomea Bay, please go 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.

Sunrise at Onomea Bay, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Onomea Beach Trail

Only a few miles north of tame and sedate Hilo Bay, Onomea Bay is subject to the full fury and magic of the open Pacific Ocean. Rugged, jagged, majestic, the wickedly sculpted cliffs along the bay belie the easy 15 minute walk down to the beach. Accessible to most walkers of even marginal condition, the trail leads alongside a botanical garden (be sure not to wander through any of their gates unless you are a paying customer) and meanders down to the canyon mouth, past a tiny waterfall at the end of the stream and to the beach. There are awesome opportunities for photo

Leg 6) South on HWY 19 to Hilo; get on Hwy 200 (Waianuenue Avenue), head south-southeast to Rainbow Drive and Rainbow Falls.

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.

Queen Liliuokalani Gardens, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo Town

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.

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.

Wailuku River Park, 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. For more information on Hilo, please go 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.

Rainbow Falls on the Wailuku River, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Rainbow Falls and Wailuku River Park

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 7) Return Hwy 200 (Waianuenue Road) to HWY 19, then east on 19 to Jct with Kamehameha Ave; Kamehameha Ave east to jct with Kalanianaole Ave to Richardson 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.

A quiet morning at Richardson Ocean Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Richardson Beach Park

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 it popularity.

Views of Mauna Kea at sunrise and sunset from this beach are unparalleled. 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. Restrooms, showers, water, picnic tables and a lifeguard round-out the amenities of this wonderful place. There is also a Hawai’i County Police Department substation here.  To learn more about Richadrson Ocean Park, please go here.

Leg 8) Return on Kalanianaole Ave to Kamehameha Ave to Hwy 19; take Hwy 19 north to Honoka’a and jct with Hwy 190; drive Hwy 190 west to Kailua 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.

The Alpen Glow on Hualalai Volcano, Kailua Kona 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.

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

Sunset from the Kailua Pier, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Mauna Loa looms over the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 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.

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.

Warrior Footprints of the Ka'u Desert as photographed in 2006, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 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.

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 hikes the Ka'u Desert Trail: 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.

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

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

The Ka'u Desert Trail as it winds away from the Parking Strip, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Just inside the National Park boundary, where the Hawai’i Belt Road enters Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from the West, is a small parking strip that many visitors, in a hurry to visit more well known attractions, might overlook. You should slow down and pay closer attention, because this small parking lot is the gateway to a host of wonders within the Mars-like landscape of the Ka’u Desert section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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

The Ka'u Desert Trail is part of a vast system of intersecting trails within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

From about 4200 feet elevation down to sea level, the Ka’u Desert Trail wanders across this high, barren expanse of basalt and sand dunes formed of volcanic ash. Other trails intersect the Ka’u Desert Trail and travel from the Hawaii Belt Road east to Kilauea Crater as well as west to the intersection with the Ka’aha Trail then down the Hilina Pali to the coast. Seldom in a National Park is such unrelentingly inhospitable, but intensely spectacular, land made so accessible by trail.

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.

Unconsolodated ash sifts across the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There is no water, there is no shade, there is no protection from the elements; the land and climate are as unforgiving as they are alluring. For details about hiking or backpacking in this spectacular, empty portion of the Park, contact the Backcountry Office at the Kilauea Visitors Center (808.985.6000). Do not venture from your car here without carrying water.

Unconsolodated ash sifts across the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Ka'u Desert Footprints are preserved under a small ramada: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

But there is something more about this seeming unearthly spot that inspires people’s imagination and draws them to visit this lonely place. Less than a mile, scarcely a twenty minute walk, from the parking lot are the remains of footprints made by a party of doomed warriors more than 200 years ago.

Ka'u Desert Footprints are preserved under a small ramada: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The lunar-like surface of basalt and ash of the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kilauea’s eruptions are generally characterized by the leisurely, almost peaceful outpouring of lava and occasional more than mild earthquakes. However, it is not unknown for Madam Pele to erupt in a blast of fury, spreading ash and tephra for hundreds of miles. As recently as 1790 and again in 1924, such violent, steam-driven eruptions have occurred. These eruptions result from groundwater percolating downward through the earth to near the volcano’s magma chamber. The water becomes super-heated and, surging along existing structural weaknesses, makes new conduits to the surface, finally erupting in a roiling mass of superheated steam, ash, tephra and rocks. This type of eruption, and the ash they produce, are key to the mystery and eeriness of this site.

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 same footprint as shown above, but photographed in 2010; note that erosion and vandalism have greatly degraded the integrity of the cast: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The warrior footprints preserved here under a modern ramada are believed to have been formed in 1790. At this time, Kamehameha the Great was solidifying his military and political hold on the Island of Hawai’i, though not all his foes were vanquished. His cousin Keoua organized an army and, while Kamehameha was occupied elsewhere, he seized parts of Ka’u and Puna districts. Keoua sent an army overland to directly challenge Kamehameha…however, camping overnight at the volcano they were caught by the massive, explosive eruption. Fearing he had angered Pele, he organized his army into three columns for a hasty retreat from the falling ash. The first column seems to have emerged unscathed, but the second column went missing. When these warriors and their families were encountered by the third column, come searching for them, they were found dead on the ground, in close groups still clutching each other, overcome by the toxic volcanic fumes. The footprints seen here along Ka’u Desert Trail are from these doomed warriors and their families, made and preserved preserved in the the shifting ash dunes of the Ka’u Desert landscape. It is said that as many as 400 warriors, women and children died here.

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

Ka'u Desert Ohia Lehua Blossom: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The people of Hawai’i Island accepted Pele’s judgment against the interloping Keoua and, although he continued to fight, he never came close to turning the tide of battle against his cousin, Kamehameha. As an ostensible peace offering to his cousin, Kamehameha invited Keoua to the ceremony sanctifying the newly erected Pu’u Kohola Heiau. However, when Keoua’s canoe approached the temple grounds, he was seized and immediately sacrificed to the War God, Kuka’ilimoku, thus becoming the first human sacrifice at the new luakini heiau and ending a vexing political problem for Kamehameha, all at one time.

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 Ka'u Desert Trail as it reaches the Warrior Footprints: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

An emergency phone is available here; there are no other services.

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 Warrior Footprints are preserved under this Ramada in the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Frank Burgess

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

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

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.

Ka'u Desert Ohia and Bee, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan