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Trip 2: 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).  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.

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

Morning at Ahu'ena Heiau, 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.

Waimea Town Nestled Against Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea Town Nestled Against Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donald 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.

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.

The Main Street of Honoka'a is Lined With Fun and Interesting Shops: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The Main Street of Honoka'a is Lined With Fun and Interesting Shops: Photo by Donald 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.

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

Deep and Mysterious Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Deep and Mysterious Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald 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.

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.

Laupahoehoe on the Hamakua Coast: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Laupahoehoe on the Hamakua Coast: Photo by Donald 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.

Kolekole Beach Park, Hamakua Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kolekole Beach Park, Hamakua Coast 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.

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.

Akaka Falls from the Air: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Akaka Falls from the Air: Photo by Donald 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.

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.

Pe'epekeo Scenic Drive, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Pe'epekeo Scenic Drive, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donald 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.

Onomea Bay, Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Onomea Bay, Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald 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.

King Kamehameha Statue, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Kilgore Trout

King Kamehameha Statue, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Kilgore Trout

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 Lilioukalani Gardens, or of Hilo Bay as you drive down from the mountains, or the rain-forest and waterfall choked gulches with lovely beaches along the highway north of town, make Hilo one of the most truly, achingly-lovely spots on earth.

More laid back and sleepier than bustling Kailua Kona, Hilo is the largest town on the island, and the county seat. The Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, Tsunami Museum, Lyman House Missionary Museum and the 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.

Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Prescott Ellwood

Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Prescott Ellwood

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.

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.

Richardson Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Richardson Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: 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 ambience 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.

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.

Off the Pier in Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Off the Pier in Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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Reprinted from here.


The Parks of 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 Lilioukalani Gardens, or of Hilo Bay as you drive down from the mountains on Kaumana Drive, or the rain-forest and waterfall choked gulches leading to lovely small beaches along the highway north of town, make Hilo one of the most truly achingly lovely spots on earth. The seat of political power in Hawai’i County, Hilo is experiencing a long, painful slide into economic and physical decline. Having long since lost the war of social vigor, the battle for tourists and the struggle for attracting new residents and industry to Hawai’i’s newer, cleaner, harder-working and much sunnier West Side, Hilo seems content to sit back on her laurels as the once-prosperous center of the sugar industry in an era long gone by, haughtily dictating policy and politics to the rest of the island. But even in her dissipation and decay, Hilo is lovely, interesting and intriguing. Like a courtesan in her declining years, who, having squandered her riches and forced to live off the charity of her wealthier relations, Hilo is still presentable, but far more notable for her raucous, and slightly ribald, tales of past glory. From the peacefulness of Hilo’s Arboretum to the lawn-and-tree respite from bustling downtown provided by Kalakaua City Park, Hilo is blessed with an abundance of lovely, restful parks; most of these parks are served by public transportation. Let’s quickly visit a few of my favorites.

Bayfront Park
At one time, a furious surf raked the long black sand beach that once fronted Hilo. From here, Kamehameha launched his war fleet of 1000 canoes on his conquests of the other Hawai’ian Islands. Here, generations of Hawai’ians strolled the coconut tree-lined beach, watching sunrises, spotting dolphin and whale, waiting for the fishing fleet to return from the day’s toil, doing all those things which all people, everywhere, do strolling along a beautiful beach. No doubt they said to each other the same thing today’s residents of Hawai’i say to themselves every day: “Lucky we live Hawai’i!” Today, tamed by the breakwater that protects Hilo from the ravages of the turbulent ocean, there is still a three thousand foot remnant of now grey-sand beach along the Hilo Bayfront Park. Squozen between the bay and the road, this long, narrow park is phenomenally popular with local surfers and fisherman and is the launching spot of outrigger canoe enthusiasts. It is not much for swimming because the water is cloudy and cold and it makes for dismal snorkeling; still, it is a lovely place to watch the sunrise and to stroll with someone special.

Mooheau Park
The large, gazebo-style bandstand and1930’s era bus station mark the center of activity in Mooheau Park in downtown Hilo. Standing on the remains of that portion of bayside Hilo demolished by tsunamis in 1946 and 1960, are the county bus station, a police substation, an information booth and public restrooms. Wide, shady grassy parklands spread between Hilo and the bay here, inviting you to picnic, nap, or just loll in the tropical sun. On this island, public transportation is nowhere near twenty-first-century, developed-world minimum standards, but the island-wide bus service, inconvenient and confusing as its frequently out-of-date posted schedules may be, enjoys one stupendous advantage that should endear it to every traveler weary of Hawai’i’s steep costs: it is absolutely and everywhere free of charge. Just be sure you understand the schedule completely before you board; buses don’t always come back to the city at night, many are parked at the end of their route, so it’s quite possible to get stranded way out in the sticks. If this happens, it will quickly become clear to you why we call such an apparently small place “The Big Island”.

Coconut Island
A small island at the tip of the Waiakea Peninsula, Coconut Island, or Moku Ola–the “island of life” to Hawai’ians, is today the site of a charming park. Accessed by a footbridge from near the entrance to the Queen Lilioukalani Gardens, Coconut Island is a popular fishing and swimming spot with locals. It has a protected swimming hole and children play daring games diving off the remnants of the old wharf, here. When swimming here one should strive to be unconcerned about the fact that Hilo Bay has one of the highest densities of hammerhead sharks in the world. If the sharks aren’t bothering all those scrumptious, bite-sized children splashing about, chances are they’ll give you a break, too. Coconut Island is also home to the Hilo Fourth of July fireworks show as well as various festivities during the Prince Kuhio Day and Merrie Monarch Festival celebrations. Moku Ola was, in times past, a Pu’u Honua, or Place of Refuge, an important place for commoners accused of breaching the law. In pre-contact times, a complex and strict order of law, known as the kapu system, controlled and governed everything in ancient Hawai’i from the order of crop rotation to proper sexual relations, what fish may be caught and in what season, what foods could be eaten by women and proper respect for the royalty. For instance, it was to break kapu for men and women to eat or together or sleep in the same hale, or house. It was kapu for women to eat pork or bananas, or for commoners to look upon the king or to step upon ground he had trod or his shadow. Under the kapu law system, punishment for any transgression was swift and severe: immediate death by stabbing, clubbing, strangulation, drowning or burning. There was no appeal and no recourse; judgment was immediate and final. Unless, that is, the accused could escape to one of the designated Pu’u Honua heiaus, or “places of refuge”. Once there, the accused would undergo a cleansing ceremony by the kahuna and would be absolved of all crimes and allowed to return to his family and previous life, free of onus. Women, children and the infirm also took refuge at the Pu’u Honua in times of war, as did vanquished warriors wishing to submit to the winning chief.

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

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

Wailuku River Park/Rainbow Falls
The subject of recent and ancient legend, Rainbow Falls is the lovely emblem of Hilo town. The cave beneath Rainbow Falls is said to have been the home of Hina, mother of the demigod Maui, who brought fire to mankind. It is also said to be the place where Kamehameha buried his father’s bones. The characteristic wishbone shape of Rainbow falls is best seen at moderate river flows…too little water and only a single drizzle remains, too much runoff and the falls merge into a single, roaring flume. At any time, however, it’s a beautiful place and worthwhile to visit. Waianuenue in Hawai’ian means “rainbow in waterfall”, and just about every village in Hawai’i large enough to have paved roads, has a “Waianuenue Street”. This particular waterfall was called “Waianuenue” by the ancient Hawai’ians, and remains the reigning queen of its namesake. A remarkable and lovely waterfall, the rainbows within it, which are the emblem of the state of Hawai’i, are best seen in the mid to late morning. Follow the trail to the left along the river bank to delightful swimming and wandering; please note, however, that swimming in rivers and near falling water is dangerous. Don’t go in if the current is swift or if recent rains have swollen the river.

Reed’s Bay Park/Kuhio Kalaniana’ole Park
Hugging either side of Reed’s Bay, a small, boat-filled estuary of Hilo Bay alongside the Naniloa Country Club, these two parks really form one beach area. The parks are a popular swimming, picnicking, boat launching and general play spot for Hilo residents. A pavilion, port-a-potties, lots of lawn, picnic tables and landscaped shoreline make this a pleasant place to pass the afternoon. Reed’s Bay Park is approached from Banyan Drive and Kuhio Kalaniana’ole Park is approached from Kalaniana’ole Drive.

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

Richardson Beach Park
The almost universal experience of visitors to Hawai’i is that, although it is certainly beautiful, delightful and a unique, special place, no matter what pre-conceptions a traveler may bring about Hawai’i, their experience is a bit different to what they expected. Richardson Beach Park, with its towering palms, fresh water pools, delightful surf, secluded and calm tidepools, lawns and general ambiance of tropical paradise, is almost certainly very close to what most visitors expect from Hawai’i-hence it popularity. If you are here on one of the two or three sunny days Hilo will have this year, Richardson Beach Park is perhaps the most lovely, calming and inviting place on the East side of the island. Views of Mauna Kea at sunrise and sunset from this beach are unparalleled. The snorkeling here along the small black sand beach is the best of the Hilo area and the surf is a busy mix of beginner to intermediate level waves. Hawai’i County Division of Aquatics is located at this park; lots of interesting information is available from these friendly, helpful folks. Frequented by dolphins and sea turtles, the near-shore water is a little cold when getting in, due to fresh water springs, but soon warms-up a few dozen yards from shore. The currents and surf can occasionally be tricky here, so heads-up, pay attention to what the lifeguard is advising. 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.

Onekahakaha County Beach Park
Of the long strip of shoreline encompassed by this park, the most popular swimming is on the east side, across Kalanianaole Street from Loko Waka Fishponds. Here, two protected pools beckon swimmers; the one on the right is sandy and perfect for small or uncertain swimmers, the one of the left is rockier and filled with “vana”, or sea urchins. Sea urchins are the spine-covered echinoderms that inhabit the shallower tidepools, bays and lagoons. Snorkeling is fair at Onekahakaha Beach, and locals seem to be able to coax good rides out of the diminutive surf on both boogie and long boards. A word about sea urchins, though: when swimming in any area inhabited by these spiny but beautiful creatures there is no real danger, however, some care must be taken. Stepping on, grabbing, or even handling them can cause painful wounds filled with mild but irritating toxin and the spines may be come embedded, or worse, broken off, in your skin. If you should get stuck by a sea urchin, relief from the burning sensation caused by the toxin can be had by loosely wrapping the wound in a cloth bandage that is soaked occasionally in white vinegar. The vinegar, in addition to neutralizing the toxins, will dissolve the spine. Care should also be taken to disinfect the wound and to keep it clean.

James Kealoha Beach Park
James Kealoha Beach Park is sometimes thought of as the “black sheep of the family jewels” in the Hilo park system. This reputation is somewhat deserved, given the mildly rustic nature of the amenities and its history as a rough and tumble hangout for homeless, drug merchants, prostitutes and other assorted ne’er-do-wells. However, the County recently has put a lot of effort into cleaning out the less desirable elements from this park, and it’s a really, really secluded, empty, wonderful place to come commune with the ocean and the tropical forest. There is no real beach here, just wild coastline and waves, great shore fishing and some decent surfing in the right conditions.

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

About the Author: Popular television personality and award-winning independent filmmaker Dr. Donald B. MacGowan originally pursued a career in academics, earning two B.Sc. degrees, a dual M.Sc., and a PhD.; co-authoring over 5.2 million dollars in grants, and publishing more than 200 refereed journal articles, abstracts, etc. Gaining sanity somewhere in that process, he quit the academic rat race and began to live. Donnie is an accomplished, prolific alpinist, having climbed on 5 of the seven continents, putting up more than 150 first ascents on rock, ice and snow, and a dozen first ski descents. He has written, directed and produced short and feature length films on health, travel, mountaineering and life in a touring rock band. Donnie records and tours relentlessly with his Celtic Punk fusion band “Fatal Loins”–although nobody much seems to care for their music. A Hawaii resident since 2000, he quietly and humbly inhabits Kailua Kona, doing environmental good works, surfing the be-jeezis out of the local waves and frenetically producing somewhat bizarre and mildly disturbing programs for local television which have recently been lauded as: “Ignorant”, “Arrogant” and “Totally Insane”. You may say what you wish about him, Donnie does not care. For somewhere underneath those swaying palm trees, in those warm aloha breezes, he is far too busy praying for good surf to hear you…

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Akaka Falls on the Hamakua Coast, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The windward side of Hawaii Island is famous for its numerous, beautiful waterfalls. Flying into Hilo on rainy day, one is presented with the incredible vision of an island seeming brimming with waterfalls, spuming off from every declivity and and canyon in the beach cliffs. Many of these waterfalls are inaccessible, or available for view only by paying admission, but three of the loveliest are located in public parks, either within the city limits of Hilo, or with an easy drive from town.


Rainbow Falls

The subject of recent and ancient legend, Rainbow Falls is the lovely emblem of Hilo town. Located in the Wailuku River Park along Rainbow Drive off of Waianuenue Avenue in Hilo Town, Rainbow falls is easily visited by car, public transportation or foot from town.

The cave beneath Rainbow Falls is said to have been the home of Hina, mother of the demigod Maui, who brought fire to mankind. It is also said to be the place where Kamehameha buried his father’s bones.

The characteristic wishbone shape of Rainbow falls is best seen at moderate river flows…too little water and only a single drizzle remains, too much runoff and the falls merge into a single, roaring flume. At any time, however, it’s a beautiful place and worthwhile to visit.

Waianuenue in Hawai’ian means “rainbow in waterfall”, and just about every village in Hawai’i large enough to have paved roads, has a “Waianuenue Street”. This particular waterfall was called “Waianuenue” by the ancient Hawai’ians, and remains the reigning queen of its namesake. A remarkable and lovely waterfall, the rainbows within it, which are the emblem of the state of Hawai’i, are best seen in the mid to late morning. Follow the trail to the left along the river bank to delightful swimming and wandering; please note, however, that swimming in rivers and near falling water is dangerous. Don’t go in if the current is swift or if recent rains have swollen the river.

Boiling Pots and Pe’epe’e Falls
Wild swimming, a jungle of ferns and blossoms, forest solitude and a raging river, all within a few miles of downtown Hilo, Boiling Pots and Pe’epe’e Falls are located in the Wailuku River Park just mauka (uphill, but east in any case) of Rainbow Falls.

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

If swimming is in your plans, however, be very, very careful; conditions at Boiling Pots are not as benign as they seem and can change instantly with a minor cloudburst miles upstream, that you won’t ever know about until the river fills to flood stage. Follow the dirt path past the “No Swimming” signs down into the canyon for access to the swimming holes. There are also many flat rocks you can lie out on and absorb that wonderful Hawai’i sunshine if the swimming is not inviting.

If sight seeing, and not swimming, is your agenda, content yourself with a walk to the scenic overlook, from which the boiling pots and Pe’epe’e Falls can be seen. In low water conditions, it is possible to hike up-river and over to Pe’epe’e Falls for some guaranteed solitude and fairly untraveled vistas. Otherwise, Pe’epe’e Falls can be found by following roads along the Wailuku River to the last bridge above Boiling Pots; the falls are easily visible from the bridge and the hike is mercifully short and easy-although a haven for mosquitoes.

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 loop trail immediately splits. Going left through fern, ginger, impatiens and bamboo, one reaches Akaka Falls in 5-8 minutes of ambling. If you turn right, the trail loops up and down some hills, through a wonderful jungle of flowers, ferns, heliconia, palms and bamboo to 100 foot tall Kahuna Falls in about 15 minutes of walking; Akaka Falls is then reached by following the same path another 5 minutes and 5-8 minutes after that you are back at the parking lot.

If you are lucky, and approach Akaka Falls on a sunny morning when the sun shines into to grotto, you may be blessed with seeing rainbows in the falls, or waianuenue, the lovely icon of Hawaii.

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; old Hawaii with a modern flair.

Video of Rainbow Falls is available here; video of Akaka Falls is available here.

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com, www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com and www.lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com.

About the Author : Popular television personality and award-winning independent filmmaker Dr. Donald B. MacGowan originally pursued a career in academics, earning two B.Sc. degrees, a dual M.Sc., and a PhD.; co-authoring over 5.2 million dollars in grants, and publishing more than 200 refereed journal articles, abstracts, etc. Gaining sanity somewhere in that process, he quit the academic rat race and began to live. Donnie is an accomplished, prolific alpinist, having climbed on 5 of the seven continents, putting up more than 150 first ascents on rock, ice and snow, and a dozen first ski descents. He has written, directed and produced short and feature length films on health, travel, mountaineering and life in a touring rock band. Donnie records and tours relentlessly with his Celtic Punk fusion band “Fatal Loins”–although nobody much seems to care for their music. A Hawaii resident since 2000, he quietly and humbly inhabits Kailua Kona, doing environmental good works, surfing the be-jeezis out of the local waves and frenetically producing somewhat bizarre and mildly disturbing programs for local television which have recently been lauded as: “Ignorant”, “Arrogant” and “Totally Insane”. You may say what you wish about him, Donnie does not care. For somewhere underneath those swaying palm trees, in those warm aloha breezes, he is far too busy praying for good surf to hear you…


Is travel to the Big Island of Hawaii on your horizon? Rent Tour Guide Hawaii‘s GPS-Guided tours and Hawaii comes alive in the palm of your hand.

Tour Guide, where adventure, solitude and independence are our buisness. For more information, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com or www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Produced by Donald B. MacGowan.

For an interesting day of driving, head north out of Kona on Highway 19. About 4 miles out of town we come across the Kaloko-Honokohau Historic Park. There is a new visitor center giving info on the significance of this area to ancient Hawaiians. Tour Guide has an extensive narration about this area. The adjacent Honokohau small boat harbor is an excellent spot to find hiking trails, beaches, snorkeling, whale watching and deep sea fishing.

Continue driving north past the Kona International Airport, you will be viewing lava fields dating back to 1802. Another 10 minutes brings you to the turn off for the Hualalai resorts. The Kona Village and Four Seasons resorts are surrounded by the beautiful Hualalai Golf Course, home of the PGA MasterCard Championship. Tour Guide lists every golf course on the Big Island. This whole resort area was built to be nearly invisible from the hwy.

After the Hualali Resorts, there is about 20 minutes of driving to reach the Waikoloa resorts. Tour Guide will you give info on some secluded beaches along the way. For most of these you will have to park on the highwy and hike to the shore. Since these beaches are so secluded, there will be no facilities. My favorite of these is Kua Bay. Here there is parking near the beach, restrooms and water available, but no shade. Since there is no sign on the hwy, Tour Guide will tell you where to turn to find this family friendly beach park.

Super tip: Hawaii is much closer to the equator than you may be used to. Even when it’s cloudy, the sun will burn the skin quickly. Your friendly staff at Tour Guide recommends you use sunscreen liberally and re-apply often, especially after swimming, snorkeling or hiking.

Next, as we head north, is the Waikoloa Beach Resorts. This beautiful resort area is cut right out of the jagged lava rock. It boasts the Marriott and Hilton Waikoloa which have shops and fabulous dining. Many coupons and much 9information of the restaurants and shops in this are can be found in two Big Island magazines, here and here. Hilton Grand Vacations operates a huge timeshare resort here and there are numerous condos all centered around two championship golf courses. Tour Guide will give turn-by-turn directions to the resorts and golf courses in this area.

The King’s Shops and Queen’s Marketplace, on Waikoloa Beach Drive, offers mid to high end shopping with some famous brand name stores. If an ultimate dining experience is what you’re after, world famous chef’s whip up their culinary delights to tempt your palate. There is also a food court for more casual dining. Tour Guide will take you to all of this, plus family activities like sun bathing, swimming, snorkeling, wind surfing and dinner cruises, focused around the most photographed sunset spot on the island, Anaeho’omalu Bay.

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The good folks at Tour Guide Hawaii, the industry leader in GPS-directed, hand-held video tours, are offering free tours of Hawaii! Yes, it’s true.

These hand-held devices are stuffed full with over 500 video presentations about all the historical, cultural, recreational and interesting spots on the island of Hawaii–they even put in all the public restrooms!

So not only can you pre-view the video presentations to see where you want to go, and find new, secret spots you never heard of, you get all the locals’ information on what to take with you, what time of day is best to visit, where to park and what to do next. And the GPS takes you there with clear, accurate, turn-by turn directions.

See amazing waterfalls, go snorkeling, hike to a green sand beach or visit sea turtles on a black sand beach. Explore amazing ancient temples, fishing villages and isolated, forgotten beaches; Go snorkeling, take an air tour, a raft trip or tour a coffee farm.

How can you get this incredible free our of the Big Island? Go to www.tourguidehawaii.com and make a two-day reservation for your GPS tour of the Big Island. You not only get the already internet price of $21.95/day–already discounted but you’ll get the third day absolutely FREE.

This offer only good through 30 April, 2008.

Loll in sand and sun under swaying palms, watch humpback whales dance in an exotic Kona sunset, snorkel among rainbow-colored fish on a protected reef or ride surf where the Kings of Hawai’i defined the sport a thousand years ago! Kahalu’u is the crown jewel of Kona Coast County Beach Parks. Abundant parking, disabled access, picnic tables, two shaded pavilions, two sets of public restrooms, showers and lifeguards round-out the facilities of this beautiful beach park.

Most days there is a food wagon selling sandwiches, burgers, shave ice and cold drinks at reasonable prices and a vendor renting snorkeling gear and boogy boards. This beach can be crowded on weekends, but there is always room for another snorkeler in the water.

This is the premiere snorkeling beach of the Island of Hawai’i; protected from the open sea by a jetty, the reef is also protected against commercial aquarium fishing. Thus, the snorkeling is in calm, shallow water; frequently during low tide, one can actually walk to the jetty, a couple hundred feet offshore. Also, there is an abundance of fish of an enormous variety…perhaps the best display on the island. For these two reasons, Kahalu’u is where many visitors head for their introduction to snorkeling. Dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and a few Hawksbill Sea Turtles call this bay home, eating the limu and thrilling the snorkelers. Numerous freshwater springs and shallow water bathers make the near-shore snorkeling unpleasantly cloudy, but about 50 feet offshore the water turns crystal clear and the display of coral is nothing short of amazing. Outside the breakwater one may occasionally see deepwater species such as marlin, tuna, dolphin and small sharks. Towards the south, where the bay shallows to a series of tide pools, many species of shrimp and seaweed not commonly seen in West Hawai’i are abundant.

Northward, and outside the bay, is an excellent surf break that is for intermediate or better surfers and boogy boarders. There is a fair current north out of the bay and along the coast…swimmers caught in this current should relax and swim with the current, angling towards land…they will come to shore a few hundred yards north of Kahalu’u and be able to walk back along the road.

The breakwater predates the 15th century temple complexes in the area and is widely said to have been built by the menehune (sort of the Hawai’ian equivalent to leprechauns), but building was actually initiated to enclose the bay as a fishpond. Whether the work became beyond the powers of the Ali’i at the time to administrate or the surfing faction won-out in the battle over use of Kahalu’u Bay is not known, but the breakwater was already in disarray at the time of European contact in the 18th century.

For more information, visit: www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com and www.tourguidehawaii.com