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by Donald B. MacGowan

Majestic Pololu Valley on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Majestic Pololu Valley on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie 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.
At Pololu Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At Pololu Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

The Cliffs at Pololu: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Tour Guide Hawaii is excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, let’s look at one, hidden but gorgeous, beach hike you would otherwise not find if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.
Bad News for Antsy Travelers at Pololu Valley; Tour Guide's New, GPS/WiFi Enabled, Video Travel App for iPhone and iPod Finds Everything For You in Hawaii--Even the Public Restrooms!: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Bad News for Antsy Travelers at Pololu Valley; Tour Guide's New, GPS/WiFi Enabled, Video Travel App for iPhone and iPod Finds Everything For You in Hawaii--Even the Public Restrooms!: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hiking into Pololu Valley

Violent, lush, wild; the north end of Hawai’i Island is as varied and exciting as it is unexpected. At the end of the highway are the Pololu Valley Overlook and the trail leading down to Pololu Beach. This is one of the most untamed, beautiful spots in the tropical Pacific and should not be missed. The trail down to the beach drops 400 feet in 20 minutes of hiking—be warned, the hike up is difficult for those not in good physical shape and the hike down should not be attempted if you have doubts about being able to hike back up.

Approaching Storm at Pololu Valley; Due to Frequent Rain Squalls Off the Pacific Ocean, Rain Gear is Highly Recommended For This Hike: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Approaching Storm at Pololu Valley; Due to Frequent Rain Squalls Off the Pacific Ocean, Rain Gear is Highly Recommended For This Hike: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Trail to Pololu Beach is dusty when dry, muddy when wet and a running creek in the rain.  Try to minimize trail erosion by staying on the trail, walking on rocks where possible and not cutting switchbacks: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Trail to Pololu Beach is dusty when dry, muddy when wet and a running creek in the rain. Try to minimize trail erosion by staying on the trail, walking on rocks where possible and not cutting switchbacks: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pololu Valley Itself is Private Land so Stay Close To the Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Pololu Valley Itself is Private Land so Stay Close To the Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The valley itself is private land, so stay close to the beach. The best place to cross the stream is usually about 80-120 feet inland and during either slack or high tide; spend a few minutes to find the stone ford for an easier crossing.

The Beach at Pololu Valley.  The Channel Here Between Hawaii and Maui Has The Third Highest Discharge of Water in the World, Behind the Bay of Fundy and the Straights of Magellan.  Because of the Unbelievable Ocean Currents This Generates, and Strong Rip Tides, We Do Not Recommend Swimming or Surfing at Pololu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Beach at Pololu Valley. The Channel Here Between Hawaii and Maui Has The Third Highest Discharge of Water in the World, Behind the Bay of Fundy and the Straights of Magellan. Because of the Unbelievable Ocean Currents This Generates, and Strong Rip Tides, We Do Not Recommend Swimming or Surfing at Pololu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Slow Running Stream in Pololu Valley is Rarely High Enough To Cut Through the Storm Berm; Therefore These Dry, Back Dunes Are The Best Place to Cross the Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Slow Running Stream in Pololu Valley is Rarely High Enough To Cut Through the Storm Berm; Therefore These Dry, Back Dunes Are The Best Place to Cross the Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The beach is not usually swimmable due to the violent surf and ocean currents, but makes a wonderful place to picnic and contemplate the awesome power and violence of nature.

Although It's Tempting to Explore, the Lush Meadows of the Interior of Pololu Valley Are Annoyingly Boggy AND Privately Owned: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Although It's Tempting to Explore, the Lush Meadows of the Interior of Pololu Valley Are Annoyingly Boggy AND Privately Owned: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

For the adventurous, the hike down to Pololu Valley may not be enough—for them may we suggest further hiking in this lightly-traveled area. Pololu is the starting point for over 40 miles of interconnecting tails, as well as the Kohala Ditch. Trails in this area are steep, unmaintained, crumbling and frequently quite slick, so caution is advised, particularly on hillslopes and in the rain, when trails may turn into streambeds and hillsides into waterfalls.

The hike over intervening ridges east into Honokane Nui Valley and Honokane Iki Valley provides spectacular views of this untamed, but private land. Climbing 600 muddy feet over the ridge, the trail then drops breathtakingly down to the valley floor. Before the stream, the trail divides at a bamboo grove—if you are proceeding on to Honokane Iki, follow the fork to the right through the bamboo, otherwise go left on to the wonderful, lonely, private, boulder beach.

Looking Back West Across Pololu Beach From the Start of the Honokane Nui Valley Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Looking Back West Across Pololu Beach From the Start of the Honokane Nui Valley Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Along the Honokane Nui Trail, Climbing East Out Of Pololu Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Along the Honokane Nui Trail, Climbing East Out Of Pololu Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Going on farther east into Honokane Iki Valley from Honokane Nui is very rewarding and easier than the hop from Pololu to Honokane Nui, climbing just 400 muddy feet over the ridge. There are numerous ruins from previous eras of population, ancient to recent, to explore in both these valleys. It is possible to wander the intersecting, disappearing, maddening trails all the way into Waipi’o Valley, 14 canyons and about 15 bushwhacking, stream-fording, slope-slipping, rain-slogging, breathtaking, aggravating, wonderful miles away. This is definitely a trip for more than a single day and permission must be gained to cross the private land.

The Beach at Pololu Valley From the Ridge Between Pololu and Honokane Iki Valleys: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Beach at Pololu Valley From the Ridge Between Pololu and Honokane Iki Valleys: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Under no circumstances should the hiker be seduced by the thought of an easy return back into Pololu Valley by skirting the headlands along the ocean. This is longer and much more difficult than it appears and has proven fatal to the unwary.

During the Wet Season The Stream in Pololu Valley Turns Into a Seasonal Lake: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

During the Wet Season The Stream in Pololu Valley Turns Into a Seasonal Lake: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Bart Hunt at Pololu--Numerous Squall and Storms Coming Off the Ocean Make the Weather at Pololu Very Exciting: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Bart Hunt at Pololu--Numerous Squall and Storms Coming Off the Ocean Make the Weather at Pololu Very Exciting: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Bring good insect repellent and wear hiking boots, with tabis in your pack for stream fording and beach walking. Stream water in the valleys is infected with leptospirosis bacteria, so bring plenty of water (at least two liters per person) in your pack. A camera is a must and due to frequent squalls off the ocean, rain gear is highly recommended.

Bart Hunt at Pololu Valley--The Trail Back Up Out of The Valley Seems Much Longer and Steeper than On the Way Down; Be Sure To Leave Plenty Of Time and Energy To Climb Back Up: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Bart Hunt at Pololu Valley--The Trail Back Up Out of The Valley Seems Much Longer and Steeper than On the Way Down; Be Sure To Leave Plenty Of Time and Energy To Climb Back Up: 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.

A Sweeping View of Magnificent Pololu Valley: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Sweeping View of Magnificent Pololu Valley: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #4: Waikoloa to Pololu Valley
by Frank Burgess, brought to you by Tour Guide Hawaii

Tour Guide Hawaii is proud to announce the release of their new iPhone and iPod Touch App available at iTunes…this App will help you plan your trip to Hawaii, help you decide what you want to see, how you want to see it and help you get there with GPS, interactive maps and on-board driving instructions.  The Tour Guide App presents hours of interesting videos and information about places of historical, cultural and recreational interest, giving you a sense of the people, the natural history and the unique specialness of each destination.  The information is so comprehensive and complete they even tell you where all the public restrooms are!  What else will Tour Guide help you find?  Let’s look at a trip north from Waikoloa along the Hawaii Belt Road to incomparable Pololu Valley…Tour Guide will not only help you find many amazing sights along the way, it will tell you all about them, what to take and what to expect.

Today’s hints cover the area from  the Waikoloa Beach Resorts to Pololu Valley along the gorgeous Hamakua Coast.  Driving north on the highway there several fantastic places to stop and explore, but there is also a lot of lovely, open countryside for several miles, so enjoy the panoramic views. Your Tour Guide download from iTunes will give you more detailed information about this area.

Driving north past the Waikoloa Beach resorts, the next turn off will take you to the Mauna Lani Resorts. This area has 5 Star to 5 Diamond resorts. It also has some great petroglyph fields near the Orchid at Mauna Lani Resort and some relaxing beaches which are open to the public. Tour Guide gives you turn-be-turn directions to find these wonders easily. The Shops at Mauna Lani offers high end shopping and fine dining.

Another 10 minutes north, on Hwy 19, brings us to a three-way intersection where you’ll make a left turn (north) onto hwy 270 and drive along the Kohala Coast. This northern tip of the island is less populated and less traveled. The first left turn takes you to Pu’ukohola Heiau and Spencer Beach Park.

Pu’ukohola National Historic Park is a large reconstructed heiau (a Hawaiian temple site) with a visitor center and self-guided tour. Your Tour Guide will have all the history and stories about this legendary spot.

Spencer Beach Park is a favorite family beach with lots of facilities. Camping is available, by permit only, and the “no wave” sandy beach is great for young children. It is also a fabulous snorkel spot if you have your own equipment. Tour Guide will tell you about where to get camping permits, snorkel rentals and all the facilities that are available here.

As we continue driving north on Hwy 270, there are several smaller parks along the way. Tour Guide will tell you about all of them and their facilities. For history buffs, Lapahkahi State Park is a must stop. This re-creation of an ancient Hawaiian village is fascinating and free. Here you can see how a typical village was laid out and the huts that were used for housing. Whale watching from shore, during the winter months, is also very popular.


Super Tip: When driving in less populated areas, where there are less stores and restaurants, you will save money and frustration by bringing your own food and water. In these locations, even when you do find a store or diner, the items may cost much more. In addition, hours at gas stations vary by day of the week and time of year. It is wise to never let your gas tank get under half-full here. It is also wise to avail yourself of Public restrooms where you find them. Many of the restrooms in the smaller parks have been closed since the earthquake of 2006 and there are none available past the King Kamehameha Statue in the little town of Kapa’au.

Driving just a few minutes farther north, you’ll come to the town of Hawi (pronounced Haw VEE). A cute town with art galleries, souvenir stores, snacks shops and restaurants
(but not much more), Hawi is old Hawaii personified. Just a few minutes northbound brings you to the famous King Kamehameha statue in the small town of Kapa’au (kah pah OW). This is the birthplace of the storied first king to unite all the Hawaiian Islands under one rule. Tour Guide will present tons of info about the shops and restaurants in Hawi and Kapa’au, as well as about King Kamehameha himself.

Drive about 10 more minutes, to the end of the road, to view the Pololu Valley, one of Hawaii’s great scenic wonders. From the parking lot at the end of the road you can get some gorgeous photos. If you’re up for some hiking, the trail down to the valley floor is about a 20 minute hike. Bring plenty of water because the hike back up is a hot 45 minutes. Tour Guide will give you more info about what to bring, what to wear and what to expect in the valley itself.

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 Frank Burgess; photography copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

By Donnie MacGowan

The Men of Tour Guide--Everett Maynard and Frank Burgess: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Men of Tour Guide--Everett Maynard and Frank Burgess: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

On Friday, in observance of the first day of Spring (or perhaps in simple surrender to an early bout of Spring Fever), the Men of Tour Guide decided to ditch the office and go do some field work in Kohala (he means they loaded up the Rav 4 and went on a Road Trip). You can read a site-by-site description of this road trip here.

Before the morning sun had even cleared Hualalai Volcano, we headed north on Highway 19, the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. Waiting for the first blush of spring warmth of the day to arrive, we passed through Kailua Kona, drove by Kaloko Honokohau National Historic Park and past Kekahakai State Bach Park hoping to find some early morning light on Anaeho’omalu Bay, near the Hilton Waikoloa Resort.

Anaeho'omalu Bay from the south: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Anaeho'omalu Bay from the south: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Anaeho’omalu (or “A-Bay” as the locals call it) is a stunningly long, perfect crescent of coral sand and is an iconic Hawaii Sunset Photo site. Being there early in the morning, the beach was welcoming in its emptiness.

Anaeho'omalu Bay From The North: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Anaeho'omalu Bay From The North: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Heading back into the now bright morning sunlight, both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, topped with snow, were soaring up in to the spring air.  Although we wanted to capture some video and still photos of the snowy peaks, we pressed on to our next destination, Waialea Beach (or Beach 69, named after the number on the telephone pole at the parking lot).

Anaeho'omalu Bay From The North: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waialea Beach From The South: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Everett on Waialea Beach, looking south: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Everett on Waialea Beach, looking south: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waialea is a more interesting beach than Anaeho’omalu, with clearer water for snorkeling, fewer people and lots of rocks and cliffs to explore.

Leaving Waialea, we took some time to shoot the big, snow-covered volcanoes–our pictures do not do justice to the majesty and uniqueness of snow clad peaks on a tropical island.

Mauna Kea From Pu'u Kohola; note observatories on the summit,almost 14,000 feet above: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea From Pu'u Kohola; note observatories on the summit,almost 14,000 feet above: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Loa From Kohola: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Loa From Kohola: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Our next stop was at Hapuna Beach–widely regarded as the finest beach o the island of Hawaii.

Hapuna Beach from the south: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapuna Beach from the south: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The beach is over a mile long and the water here is turquoise and very clear. Except at either end where there are rocks, however, the snorkeling is disappointing, as there are few fish (they don’t live over sand–nothing to eat).

Hapuna, Hawai'i's busiest and most popular beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapuna, Hawai'i's busiest and most popular beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

But for a restful day sunbathing, swimming and just enjoying the water, you cannot beat Hapuna…

Our next stop was at Pu’u Kohola, but we didn’t take any pictures–we just used the restrooms at the National Park. You can see a short video about the temples and the park here. From Pu’u Kohola we went to Lapakahi State Historic Park, the site of a 600 year old Hawaiian Fishing village…again, we didn’t take pictures, but you can see a short video about it here (that’s also me playing ukulele, guitar, bass and tambourine in a early attempt of mine at recording and stacking several tracks of music…).

We pressed on up the Kohala Coast, seeing many Humpback Whales–because they were a ways out to sea, we only got very marginal pictures of them.

Kohala, a Humpback Whale from shore: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kohala, a Humpback Whale from shore: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Next we drove into the Hawi-Kapa’au Twin City Metro Area to visit Everett’s friend Richard and take some photos.

King Kamehameha Statue, Kapa'au: Photo by Donald MacGowan

King Kamehameha Statue, Kapa'au: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hawi Fisherman's Trophies: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hawi Fisherman's Trophies: Photo by Donald MacGowan

We next drove out to the end of the road to look at Pololu Valley, and although we didn’t need the photos, we couldn’t help taking some.

The Head of Pololu Canyon on Kohola Mountain: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Head of Pololu Canyon on Kohola Mountain: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pololu Canyon and Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Pololu Canyon and Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

From Pololu Valley we drove out to Keokea State Park–the nearest public restrooms–to eat lunch and there was this incredible surfer dude riding wild waves in very shallow water and not 30 feet from the rock sea wall–seeming very dangerous, his rides were both skillful and beautiful to watch.

Keokea Park and a Very Brave Surfer Dude: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Keokea Park and a Very Brave Surfer Dude: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The next leg of our drive took us up Kohala Mountain on the Kohala Mountain Road…this is actually the place we really needed some photo coverage (it’s usually raining) and we had just stunning weather and views.

Kohala Mountain Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kohala Mountain Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kohala Mountain Road boulder and field: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kohala Mountain Road boulder and field: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We drove down the mountain through the cow pastures, decided to skirt Waimea town and headed to the coast where we checked in at Kua Bay to see what was cookin’.

Kohala Mountain Road Sentinels: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kohala Mountain Road Sentinels: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kua Bay from the north: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kua Bay from the north: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kua Bay is a lovely, but tiny, dot of white sand caught in a crescent-shaped pocket along the rough, raw lava coastline of North Kona. It wasn’t quite time to light the barbecues when we got there, but we definitely found “what’s cookin'”

Kua Bay Sunbathers: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kua Bay Sunbathers: Photo by Donald MacGowan

As the locals say: “Lucky we live Hawaii”, eh?

A fully described scenic drive with road log for this trip is available; please go here.

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