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by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Hakalau Bay, Hamakua Coast, HawaiiL Grpahic from Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Hakalau Beach Park

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

Hahaklau Gulch Scenic Jungle Road, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Even amidst the tranquil and idyllic rural landscape of the Big Island, it is possible to feel as if the modern hustle and bustle of life on Hawaii has all but drowned out the tranquility and beauty of the ancient paradise which is the birthright of the Hawaiian people and about which American writers such as Samuel Clemens and Robert Louis Stevenson wrote with such passion.

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

Hakalau Canyon Mouth and Beach; Stong currents and lethal rip tides make swimming here perilous: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Most definitely the tropical paradise you dreamed about visiting, this thick, lush jungle canyon is a stunning remnant of Old Hawai’i, leading along a rushing stream to a narrow canyon festooned with tropical blossoms, vines and palms to a sandy beach where the surf is nothing short of amazing, as are the views up and down the coast from here..

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

Hakalau Beach in the morning sun: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

One of the few navigable bays along this portion of the coast, but guarded by the tick jungle and immensely steep gulch, Hakalau inlet and each was a hideout for smugglers and bandits in earlier times.  The Hakalau Sugar Company built an enormous sugar mill and wharf here, which was destroyed by the tsunami of 1946-the twisted and battered remains of these structures are mute, but awe-inspiring, testament to the raw power of tsunamis.

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

Driving through the Old Hawaii Jungle is just one great reason to visit Hakalau Gulch on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

To reach the beach, turn off the belt highway just north of mile marker 15 and drive through old sugar fields, past the remnant of the village of Hakalau stay on the road as it narrows and turns to dirt and drive down the gulch.

The Hakalau Gulch Road is rough and definitely not for passenger vehicles.  This road goes through puddles, deep potholes and at least one point, the roadbed and creek bed are the same. Remembering that even 6 inches of rapidly flowing water can carry a car away, drive through the creek only if it is slowly flowing and the water is fewer than 8 inches deep. If the road seems impassable, or the gate is locked, simply park by the gate and walk down—it’s a short and soul-soothing walk.

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

Twisted and Broken ruins of Hakalau Sugar Mill and Wharf remind visitors of the unimaginable power otsumanis, Hakalau Gulch, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The huge bridge over the next gulch north from Hakalau has a fabulous view of two waterfalls.  Pictures of these can be taken from the bridge by parking at a small turnout on the north side and walking back across the bridge…watch carefully for traffic, this is not as safe as it seems.

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

Beach Sculpture at Hakalau Beach, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Although locals surf and swim unconcernedly here, the visitor is advised to admire the water, but not go in.  Not only are the waves, currents and rip tides lethally treacherous here, but the stream mouth and murky water are prime hunting grounds of Hawai’i’s own tiger, Mano, the shark.

Once you leave the highway, there are no services along the road or at Hakalau Beach.

Woke up before the morning sun I found it tucked beneath the hills I sat and watched it rise It hit the sky and burst to flames The lotus flower's Got me thinking bout the way we live I've got this feeling It's gonna stop

Hakalau Beach In the Mist, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

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

Woke up before the morning sun I found it tucked beneath the hills I sat and watched it rise It hit the sky and burst to flames The lotus flower's Got me thinking bout the way we live I've got this feeling It's gonna stop

The indispensible iPhone App for Hawaii Visitor's at iTunes and http://www.tourguidehawaii.com

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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.

Aerial Photo of Pu'ukohola, Pu'u Maile and Pelekane Bay, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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.

Pelakane Beach near Hale O Kapuni, Pu'ukohola National Historic Park, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic 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.

Pu'ukohola in the sunset, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, the devotion of a powerful young King and the first steps toward a new kingdom; the temple at Pu’ukohola stands a mute testament to the facts of Hawaiian history that read like the most dramatic of legends. Forever brooding seaward, Pu’ukohola is an enormous temple inspired by a god-sent vision of greatness. Kamehameha built Pu’ukohola on top of its eponymous hill at Mailekini, in fulfillment of the prophecy by Kaua’i kahuna Kapoukahi. The prophecy foretold if Kamehameha built a great temple to his war god Ku, he would prevail in his wars of conquest and unite the Hawai’ian Islands. In or around the year 1791, perhaps as many as 20,000 people passing stones hand-to-hand 14 miles from Pololu Valley raised this massive Heiau.

When it was finished, Kamehameha invited his cousin and chief rival for the throne of Hawai’i, the Ali’i of Ka’u, Keoua, to the dedication. Some versions of the story tell that when Keoua arrived with a contingent of his Ka’u warriors, a scuffle broke out and he was killed by a spear thrown by the warrior Ke’eaumoku. Kamehameha had the rest of the Ali’i in Keoua’s party seized and they were made the first sacrifice at the new temple.

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 Kea from Pu'ukohola National Historic Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Another version of the story tells that Ke’eaumoku took hold of Keoua and ducked him into the sea; as a result, Keoua drowned. This account contends that Keoua was not killed by a spear because Kamehameha believed there should be no blemish on the body of Keoua for the consecration of the temple to Ku.

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.

Brooding Seaward, Pu'ukohola looms over Kawaihae Harbor, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Yet another version of the story holds that Keoua was in fact shot and killed by the Brits John Young and Isaac Davis, from somewhere below Mailekini Heiau. This story contends that this is how Pelekane Beach, which means “British Beach”, got its name. All accounts agree that because of the ease with which the Ali’i had been captured and sacrificed, all the rest of Keoua’s party were spared.

After long years of fierce battle and earnest negotiation, in 1810 after having united the islands by force or agreement, and having fulfilled the prophecy, Kamehameha became the first ruler of the united Hawai’ian Islands.

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

Looking Down Onto Pelakane Beach From Near Mailekini Heiau, Pu'ukohola National Historic Park, Kohala, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Pu’ukohola is the largest stone structure in Hawaii, not counting the modern rock wall in front of the Kailua Lowe’s Hardware store.

Below Pu’ukohola and Mailekini lies Pelekane Beach at the mouth of Pelekane Gulch. Submerged just offshore between here and the Kawaihae Harbor jetty, are the largely unexplored, ruined remains of Hale O Kapuni Heiau, a temple dedicated to the shark god Mano. Here worship rites included human flesh being fed to sharks. One reason this temple is not better known is that the bay is still home to several large tiger sharks.

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.

Overlooking the Site of the Submerged Hale O Kapuni Heiau from Near Mailekini Heiau to the Kawaihae Jetty, Pu'ukohola National Historic Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A full range of facilities exist at Pu’ukohola and the adjacent Samuel Spencer Beach Park. More about Spencer Beach Park can be found here.

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

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

Sunrise on Pu'ukohola Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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.

Pu'ukohola Faded Sunset: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Coming to my island for a vacation? There are three things I always recommend the first-time visitor do. First, get in the air. Secondly–go to a luau. Finally, I advise people of every age to get in the water and go snorkeling. You will find your mind going back to that experience over and over through the years much more so than many of your other travel experiences.   Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series will discuss Snorkeling Technique and Part III will cover Snorkeling Safety; Part V of the series will cover snorkel spots on the Big Island.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Gary Burton and his duaghter snorkel at Hounaunau Bay: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Now, let’s talk a moment about snorkeling etiquette and protecting the reef and the animals who live there.

Please do not feed the fish, it disrupts their natural feeding habits and you may be injured. Reef fish are territorial and do occasionally “nip” but you should not chase, harass or touch them (this includes octopi). The oils on your fingers will injure their skin and they may carry diseases which they can pass to you on your hands. For photographing reef fish, whether snorkeling or scuba diving, simply find a feeding spot (usually a boulder or dead coral head teeming with algae, and wait calmly and silently nearby. They will slowly begin to check you out and if you can remain still long enough, eventually surround you leading to excellent photos and a very memorable experience.

Snorkeling etiquette calls for protecting not only the reef animals, but also the fragile corals growing on the reef. Corals, actually colonies of very small animals, take hundreds of years to form the structures visible today; they feed, shelter and provide habitats for other reef animals.  Coral reefs also protect the lagoons and shoreline from waves and sand erosion. Corals are at the very root of Hawai’ian history and culture; the Hawaiian creation chant places the origin of life in the sea, beginning with a coral polyp.

Simply touching corals to see what they feel like can cause the death of an entire colony. Oils from your skin can disturb the delicate mucous membranes which protect the animals from disease. Please don’t walk upon or stand on coral, as this can kill the living coral polyps which, as the builders of the entire reef structure, are the very foundation of the reef ecosystem. Sunscreen washing off your body can kill coral; wear a t-shirt and a swim cap for UV protection and put your sunscreen on AFTER you come out of the water.

Called Honu by Hawaii’s natives, the Hawaiian Green Sea turtle is beautiful, serene and seeming wise. Though they have swum the oceans for over 200 million years, peacefully feeding on algae and invertebrates, this highly successful product of amphibian evolution is in grave danger. Loss of habitat, hunting and molestation by humans has conspired to push the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle to the very verge of extinction.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle at Papakolea Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Protected now by state and federal law, the population of once millions of individuals has been decimated to just a few hundred thousand; although they are making a comeback, Hawaii’s honu are still very much endangered.

Do not approach basking turtles closely, never touch or pick them up. Harassing turtles carries a stiff fine and in any case, touching the turtle is a good way to get a raging salmonella infection. If honu are swimming near where you are, do not approach or chase them; always swim to the side of them, never above (as a predatory shark would) nor below them (so they won’t feel that their soft belly is at risk).

Anyone who observes their beauty and grace underwater easily understands why the Hawai’ians base their word for “peace”, “honua”, on their name for the green sea turtle, “honu”.

Although harder for the snorkeler to approach, but certainly no less in danger of molestation are the marine mammals: dolphin, seals and whales. In general, it is illegal, dangerous and generally a bad idea to approach marine mammals within 100 yards; 300 yards for females with calves. Dolphins and seals, in particular, may choose to approach you-just remember, this ain’t “Flipper”-these are wild animals and they bite. Hard. If approached, remain calm (absolutely entranced, of course, but calm); do not approach any young animals and do not reach out to them as they may interpret this as aggression on your part and possibly bite. Male seals may exhibit dominant behavior and have been know to *ahem* mount swimmers. Avoid these unpleasantries by observing and enjoying these animals from a distance.  About whales…uh, wait a minute…if there is anybody out there crazy enough to swim out into the open ocean and harass a 60,000 pound animal with a mouth twice the size of a king-size bed, nothing I say is going to stop them…just use some common sense, OK?  Leave them alone—besides…it’s the law.

And now a word about sharks–two words, actually: “Don’t Worry”.  There’s good news and bad news about sharks in Hawaii–first the bad news: if you are in water deeper than your knees, you are probably within 200 yards of a shark.  The good news?  You will never know it.  The truth is that you are not likely to see or encounter a shark…period.  Tens of millions of people swim Hawaii every year without seeing so much as a dorsal fin break the water. Don’t worry–you are not what they eat (so you won’t attract them) and generally, they are more afraid of you than you are of them.  To dispel visitor’s apprehensions about sharks, the Hawaiian Tourism Bureau used to advertise that tourists were more likely to get hit on the head by a falling coconut than bitten by a shark…but they decided THAT was not a real cheery statistic to crow about, either.  In reality, there are only about three shark bites a year in Hawaii—which is amazing considering there are hundreds of thousands of people in the water, all day, every day of the year.

Photograph by Donnie MacGowan

A cloud of raccoon butterfly fish at Kahalu'u Beach: Photograph by Donnie MacGowan

Having said that, bear in mind that all sharks demand respect and there are several things you can do to make yourself generally safer in any shark encounter.  Number one safety tip is: avoid them.  Sharks are stealth hunters and in any conditions where they are obscured in the water, they will hunt. Therefore–do not go into the water until at least an hour after dawn, be out of the water by about 4 pm; do not enter the water if it is murky; avoid stream mouths.  Obey beach closures; obey warnings from the Lifeguards.  Little sharks don’t get to be big sharks unless they pay strict attention to avoiding whoever is bigger than they are–small sharks generally will glide silently away from you without you ever having known they were there.  Big sharks are different.  They may approach you.

The most common conventional wisdom you hear is: if you are being stalked or approached, swim purposefully, not panicked, away from the shark at an angle.  Do not swim at high speed straight from him, it will trigger his predator-prey response and he’ll chase you.  Do not splash excessively; this sounds like a dying fish (i.e., dinner) to sharks. Remember that the larger sharks eat sea turtles…to a shark hunting below you, your outline paddling on a surfboard or boogie board, looks remarkably like a sea turtle.  When you approach the water, seeing three or four sea turtles sunning themselves on the beach is normal; seeing twenty or thirty indicates that something very large and hungry is hunting the water nearby.  The presence of dolphin nearby is no guarantee there are not also sharks nearby.

There are hundreds of bits of advice for surviving shark attacks from hundreds of shark experts and attack survivors from all over the world—I will not pass these on to you for two reasons.  First and foremost, I am a not a shark expert; secondly, I have never needed any of them because I have followed these sensible rules for years and have never, not once, seen a shark while snorkeling.  I’m out there 4 or five days a week, year round.  You won’t see one either.  Relax and enjoy your snorkeling…as I said…don’t worry.

Finally–many people ask “What’s the etiquette for, um–er–answering nature’s call?”  Easy–for wet stuff, just swim a bit away from people and let go, maybe maintaining forward momentum so as not to create a “cloud”.  No, this isn’t why the ocean is salty.  For solid stuff, get your partner and both of you swim in and get out, visit the rest room.  No exceptions for that.

Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series will discuss Snorkeling Technique and Part III will cover Snorkeling Etiquette; Part IV of the series covers Snorkeling Safety and Part V will cover Big Island Snorkel Spots.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, and beach activities on the Big Island in particular, visit http://.tourguidehawaii.com and http://tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.  For information about the author, go here.