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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.

Charming Pahoa Town Maintains Its Eclectic Mix of Western and neo-Victorian Architecture Graphic, Puna Hawaii: Graphic 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.

Pahoa Town

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.

Pahoa Shopping District, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

YEEEEEHAW! Wild, untamed and even a bit unruly, Pahoa Town, with it’s false-front, western-style buildings and raised wooden sidewalks, looks more like it belongs in Wyoming than Hawai’i. But Wild West isn’t the only subculture evident here…tie-dye banners and the general “flower-power” ambiance some businesses and citizens lend Pahoa give it a decidedly “’60’s” feel.

The residents of Pahoa tend to be individualists, socially liberal, embracing of alternative culture; there are most certainly a lot more musicians, artists and poets in Puna than accountants, insurance agents and attorneys.

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.

The muddy footprint may well be the defining image many tourists have of Pahoa, one of the Rainiest Towns in America: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Pahoa started off as a rough and tumble sawmill town, then became the center of the sugar industry.  A crossroad on the old island railroads, trade and commerce flourished in Pahoa at the turn of the 20th century. An agricultural center today, the papaya, commercial flower and visitor industries drive Pahoa’s economy.

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.

Downtown Pahoa Main Street, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Downtown Pahoa still shows off her history, with lovely turn-of-the century western and neo-Victorian architecture, false-front stores and wooden sidewalks, but with its own distinctive, Hawaii-style, panache.

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.

Puna Tree Tunnels Just Outside Pahoa Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowgan

Pahoa is the also gateway to the Puna District. Beautiful, mysterious, untraveled and undiscovered by the herds of tourists, Puna District has so far managed to avoid overcrowding. Not on the usual tour bus routes, it’s like a step back to a simpler, less harried time.

It has been said of Pahoa that if it weren’t for counter-cultural influences, it would have no cultural influences at all. This is a bit unfair, but the people of Pahoa are proud of their independent ways and lifestyle. The charm and allure of this way of living is evident when you consider that the region around Pahoa is the fastest growing portion of the island.

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.

Pahoa is an interesting and charming, eclectic mix of Neo-Victorian and Western Architecture, Puna 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.

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.

Pahoa Town Community Bulletin Board, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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.

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.

The Sidewalks of Pahoa, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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


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by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Sunset from the Kailua Seawall, Kailua Kona, 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.

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

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

Choosing which beach you want to spend time on, or where you want to hike or drive can be an exercise in confusion and conflicting advice.  Even more so, finding quality information on the history, culture, geology and natural history of the area can be almost impossible–and much of what you do find is inaccurate, or third-hand retellings that are, well, better stories than histories.  Clearly, visitors to Hawaii could use help making quality decisions about how best to spend their time and understanding what they are seeing, the culture they are visiting.

Hualalai Looms over the sleepy fishing village of Kailua Kona, protected by it's seawall, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hualalai Looms over the sleepy fishing village of Kailua Kona, protected by it's seawall, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This is why Tour Guide Hawaii is so excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod video tour 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, as an example of the fabulous coverage our App for iPhone and iPod provides, let’s look at a fascinating, but perhaps mundane-appearing couple of places in the heart of Old Kailua Town itself, 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.

Kamakahonu Rock, Kailua Pier and Sea Wall

The Old Seawall Behind the Kona Inn, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Old Seawall Behind the Kona Inn, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

In the heart of Old Kailua Town’s downtown section, amidst the many shops and restaurants, lies the old Kailua Pier and Seawall. As they excitedly trek from the pre-contact Hawaiian temple at Ahu’ena Heiau, to Hulihe’e the Hawaii Royal Palace and Moku’aikaua, the first Christian Church in the state of Hawaii, tourists busy shopping, dining and snapping photos often do not even notice these historic constructions. But the pier and the seawall have an ancient, complex and fascinating history, the stones recycled from gun-turreted forts and ancient Hawaiian royal palace walls over the centuries.

Mokuaikawa Church and Hulihee Palace stand above the seawall, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mokuaikawa Church and Hulihee Palace stand above the seawall, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Congregationalist missionaries from Boston crossed the Atlantic Ocean, fought the frigid, turbulent waters off Cape Horn, endured 5 months of intense stormy weather and unimaginably cramped and filthy quarters below decks on the Brig Thaddeus, and headed for a new life in Hawai’i. In March of 1820, the missionaries sailed into the balmy waters of Kailua Bay and landed at Kamakahonu Rock, the “Plymouth Rock” of Hawai’i, in 1820.

Along the Seawall, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Along the Seawall, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

First constructed in 1900 and then rebuilt in 1950, stones for the pier and the seawall that runs from the pier to the Old Kona Inn were scavenged from the immense stonewall that once surrounded the Ahu’ena Heiau Temple complex and from the massive stone fort erected after the destruction of the heiau during the reign of Kamehameha II. The large stone fort once boasted 18, thirty-two inch naval cannon and was nick-named “The Rock” by passing whalers; today, that appellation is universally applied by locals to the entirety of the Big Island.

A Hand-Built Boat Tied-up at Kailua Pier, Kailua Kona, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Hand-Built Boat Tied-up at Kailua Pier, Kailua Kona, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The pier originally was built to facilitate loading cattle onto steam freighters bound for Honolulu. Before the advent of the pier, horseback cowboys used to rope and drag individual steers from Kaiakeakua Beach (the minuscule beach just south of the pier), plunge them into the surf and swim them out to waiting whaleboats. There, the cows were lashed to the gunwales of the whaleboat and, with their backs awash, ferried farther out to the steamer offshore. The cows were then, unceremoniously, by means of sling and crane hoisted aboard the steamer

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

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

The pier sat on Kamakahonu rock and pilings until 1950 when concrete pylons were poured. From around the turn of the last century until the 1970’s the pier was covered by various sheds and warehouses that served to protect 100 pound coffee bags, sugar and other goods ready for shipment. Renovators in the early 1950s even planted trees along the pier in an effort to beautify the downtown area. The modern shape and configuration of the pier resulted from a year and a half’s renovations during 2003-2004.

Canoes Parked at Kamakahonu Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Canoes Parked at Kamakahonu Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Back in the day, at the entrance to the pier sat H. Hackfield And Company, the largest business concern in Kona at the turn of the last century; in 1917, H. Hackfield was bought by American Factors which became AmFac in 1960. Hackfield’s buildings contained a general store, post office, coffee mill and an ice factory as well as serving as the company’s headquarters. Standard Oil stock tanks sat on the shore of Kamakahonu Beach in the 1950s and 1960s until the construction of the original Hotel King Kamehameha in the 1960s. This original hotel was rebuilt as the current King Kamehameha Beach Resort in the 1970s.

Ahu'ena Heiau Surrounded by its Ancient Stone Walls. Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacgGawn

Ahu'ena Heiau Surrounded by its Ancient Stone Walls. Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

In several places along the seawall, if you look 20-60 feet offshore, you will observe the distinct “boil” associated with undersea fresh water springs discharging into the ocean. These springs result from the discharge of aquifers that collect fresh water far up the mountain slopes and transport it down to where they intersect the seafloor. The Hawai’ians used to dive under the surface of the ocean with a sealed gourd, down to the springs, turn the gourd mouth-end down, uncork it and fill the gourd with fresh water. This was a necessary task to obtain fresh water, as fresh water springs are scarce in the Kona district. Today, one can often spot honu (sea turtles) languorously swimming through the springs, trying to kill parasites and algae that grow on their shells and skin.

Kamakahonu Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kamakahonu Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Today, Kamakahonu Rock (eye of the turtle) lies underneath the modern-day Kailua Pier, where it serves as a footing for it. It is not uncommon to observe dolphin, sea turtles and whale off the pier.

Kaiakeakua Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaiakeakua Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Even many locals will be surprised to learn that the tiny beach adjacent to, and south of, the pier and the little beach associated with Hulihe’e Palace both have names; respectively they are Kaiakeakua (the god of the sea) and Niumalu (“in the shade of the coconut trees”) Beaches. Snorkeling from Kamakahonu, Kaiakeakua or Niumalu beaches is spectacular and strangely uncommon. A beautiful coral garden and abundant fish are to be seen snorkeling along the shoreline of Ahu’ena Heiau and fish, turtles, moray eels and the occasional sunken boat are abundant in Kailua Bay. Be wary of boat traffic to and from the pier, don’t go in on boat days, when careless lighter pilots ignore the marked swim channels.

Niumalu Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Niumalu Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Many commercial ocean-going enterprises use the Kailua Pier as their departure point, lighters from large cruise ships land here and fishing captains on charter boats still bring their catches of marlin and tuna to be weighed at the scale at the pier. During the 2nd or 3rd weekend of October, the Kailua Pier serves as the staging grounds for the first leg and finish line of the Ironman World Championship Triathlon.

Kamehameha's view of his taro fields, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kamehameha's view of his taro fields, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Good fishing is to be had all along the pier and the seawall, but the best is behind the Hulihe’e Palace and the Old Kona Inn. During heavy seas and big storms, waves up to 20 feet high explode over the seawall and surge across Ali’i drive.

Ahu'ena Heiau Sacred Iki, Kialua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Ahu'ena Heiau Sacred Iki, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Views from the pier are spectacular, particularly at sunset; it is worth the time to stop, explore the pier and the adjacent Ahu’ena Heiau.

The Seawall at Hale Halawai Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Seawall at Hale Halawai Beach, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Facilities include showers, restrooms, changing rooms, drinking water, public telephones and a boat ramp; Kailua Pier and seawall lie in the heart of Old Kailua Town’s many shops and restaurants so anything the visitor could wish for is in easy walking distance.

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 Vog-Tinted Sunset from the Kailua Pier, Kailua Kona, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Vog-Tinted Sunset from the Kailua Pier, Kailua Kona, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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


by Donald B. MacGowan

Hilo From the Air: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo From the Air: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Beautiful but wet, metropolitan but decrepit, bustling but laid back, Hilo is a lovely, maddening, heartbreaking, addictive study in contrasts.

It 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 on Kaumana Drive, or the waterfall and flower choked jungle gulches leading to lovely small beaches along the highway north of town, make Hilo one of the most truly, achingly lovely spots on earth.

Rainbow at Lokawaka Fishpond, Hilo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Rainbow at Lokawaka Fishpond, Hilo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The wettest city in America, Hilo is about rain; Hilo is humid and moldy. Hilo is poor; Hilo is dirty, littered and unkempt.

In Hilo, the Skies Just Open...For Days at a Time: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

In Hilo, the Skies Just Open...For Days at a Time: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Even where tourists are expected to congregate, street trash blows, drug merchants abound and mildew, flapping tin roofs and peeling paint are omnipresent. Hilo’s public restrooms, on the whole, are a disgrace.

Although it Boasts a Modern Mall and Small Downtown Shopping District, Much of Hilo's Commercial District Are Fairly Disreputable Looking: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Although it Boasts a Modern Mall and Small Downtown Shopping District, Much of Hilo's Commercial District Are Fairly Disreputable Looking: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Hilo area’s reputation was so bad among early native Hawaiians that when Kamehameha the Great wanted to build a fleet of 1200 war canoes in secret to invade Maui, he looked around Hawaii to see where such massive construction could be undertaken without danger of spies or locals seeing. The Hilo area was so universally shunned and abjectly empty that her bay was the perfect place to build and hide the largest fleet of warships the central Pacific Ocean would see until the Second World War.

The Deadly Tsunami of 1960 Stopped This Clock in Hilo; The Clock Now Stands As A Memorial To those Who Lost Their Lives: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Deadly Tsunami of 1960 Stopped This Clock in Hilo; The Clock Now Stands As A Memorial To those Who Lost Their Lives: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo bears the scars of killer tsunamis and racial intolerance.

Hilo's Numerous Waterfall, Beach and Open Space Parks Are Inviting and Attractive: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo's Numerous Waterfall, Beach and Open Space Parks Are Inviting and Attractive: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo was built by the sweat of immigrants, threatened by volcanoes, destroyed by tsunami and built again. Hilo deeply reflects the passion, mystery and flavors of her imported cultures; like her fiercely loyal citizens, Hilo’s culture represents a broad mix rather than pointed differences. Hilo is about family and love and fun. Under festive lights, Hilo’s streets echo with the sound of neighborhood parties, backyard jam sessions, laughter. The mind-blowing fusion of multi-ethnic musical styles boils over in Hilo’s unique and varied local music scene. A bit like Nashville, in Hilo everybody seems to play an instrument, everybody seems to be recording an album—and they are all magnificent joys. How is this possible?

Hilo is About Fun; Boiling Pots at Wailuku River Rark:Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo is About Fun; Boiling Pots at Wailuku River Rark:Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo has one of the best small-town farmer’s market in the United States of America.

Hilo Has One of the Most Amazing Farmer's Market's of Any Small Town in the US: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo Has One of the Most Amazing Farmer's Market's of Any Small Town in the US: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

You will not eat a better meal in the Pacific than those had in many of the tiny family restaurants in Hilo’s Old town…nor will you find a more varied palette of cuisines in any major US city than in Hilo.

Hilo's Bay Front Shopping and Dining District is a Bright Spot of Prosperity Surrounded by Urban Blight: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hilo's Bay Front Shopping and Dining District is a Bright Spot of Prosperity Surrounded by Urban Blight: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hilo has among the most stunning waterfalls and loveliest beach parks in the world within her city limits.

Hilo is Justly Famous for its Many Gorgeous Bay Front and Ocean Beach Parks: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hilo is Justly Famous for its Many Gorgeous Bay Front and Ocean Beach Parks: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

On some days, people say the shadows appear a bit deeper and it feels like Hilo is made of steam and myth and half-remembered visions. One gets the feeling, even after living in Hilo for years, that there is vague intrigue boiling, a dimly heard dance or beating heart, just below the surface. You should trust these feelings.

Even the Longtime Resident Sometimes Catches the Vague Whiff of Mysterious, Secret and Hidden Things Afoot in Hilo--Not All of Which Go On at Apuni Center: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Even the Longtime Resident Sometimes Catches the Vague Whiff of Mysterious, Secret and Hidden Things Afoot in Hilo--Not All of Which Go On at Apuni Center: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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 and much sunnier West Side, Hilo seems content to sit back on her mildewing laurels as the once-prosperous center of the sugar industry in an era long gone by, dictating policy and politics to the rest of the island while consuming the vast majority of Hawaii’s resources and swallowing the lion’s share of the taxes.

Hilo From the Northwest, Over the Bay: Photo by Prescott Ellwood

Hilo From the Northwest, Over the Bay: Photo by Prescott Ellwood

Yet, even in her dissipation and decay, Hilo is lovely, interesting and intriguing. Like a courtesan in her declining years, who, having squandered her riches, is 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.

Hilo's Lovely Black Sand Beach Was Once Over A Mile Long Until They Covered It With A Highway: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Hilo's Lovely Black Sand Beach Was Once Over A Mile Long Until They Covered It With A Highway: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, and exploring the  Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.  To see a demonstration of Tour Guide’s new, interactive, GPS-enabled video tour of the Big Island for the iPhone and iPod Touch, please visit here. For more information about the author, please go here.

Mauna Kea from Hilo Airport: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea from Hilo Airport: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #3: Kona North to Waikoloa and the Kohala Coast

by Frank Burgess, brought to you by Tour Guide Hawaii

Frank Burgess uses the Tour Guide App to explore shopping possibilities around Kailua Kona.jpg

Frank Burgess uses the Tour Guide App to explore shopping possibilities around Kailua Kona.jpg

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 Kona along the Hawaii Belt Road to the Waikoloa area…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 Kailua Kona north through Kaloko-Honokohau National Park to the Waikoloa Beach Resorts.  Driving north on Hwy 11 there isn’t too much to stop and see for several miles, so enjoy the panoramic views. Your Tour Guide download from iTunes will give you more detailed information about this area.

For an interesting day of driving, head north out of Kona on Hwy. 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.

Kaloko-Honokahau National Historic Park is an amazing place, containing an immense wilderness beach on the fringe of the Kailua Kona Metropolitan area, which features bathing springs, hiking trails, ancient villages, good snorkeling and better surfing. For a video about the park, go here.

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 hwy 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.  Drink more water than you think is necessary–avoid diuretics such as sodas, coffee and alcohol.

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 information 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.

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

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.


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.

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, go here and here. Tour Guide…for Hawaii fun and Big Island Adventure!

This post has been updated and expanded, please go here.

The town of Kailua Kona is the crown jewel on the island of Hawaii and the beating heart of the Kona Coast. A sleepy fishing village not so long ago, Kailua Kona is now the metropolitan center of West Hawaii’s burgeoning economy and exploding population. Founded by King Umi in the 1500’s, Kailua Kona served as the social, religious and political capital of Hawaii for several hundred years. Deeming it the loveliest spot in all the Hawaiian Islands, King Kamehameha the Great ruled his island empire during the final years of his reign from here.

Exploring the downtown area from the King Kamehameha Beach Resort to the Honl’s Beach on the south provides a couple hours pure enjoyment: easy walking along the incomparable turquoise Kona Coast under the warm, sapphire Hawaii sky, past ancient temples, missionary churches, intriguing and unique shops and wonderful restaurants. It is easy, walking here, to understand how one can be completely seduced by the magic of the Big Island.

Kailua Kona is a town made for walking, so start by parking your car. On the north side of town, abundant for-pay parking is available at the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel. Free parking on this end of town is available at Triangle Parking, between Kuakini Highway and Ali’i Drive. About half-way through town, by the Farmer’s Market and Hale Halawai Park, is a large area of free parking. On the south side of town there is abundant free parking at the Coconut Grove shopping area, and at Honl’s Beach.

Let’s start exploring Kailua Kona on the north and work our way south. The thatched structure surrounded by carved wooden idols across from the pier is ‘Ahu’ena Heiau, an ancient and sacred temple site. A temple (or Heiau) has existed on this spot since at least the first millennium, and as recently as the 15th century was occupied by a temple of human sacrifice (or luakini Heiau) dedicated to the war god Kuka’ilimoku. In 1812, King Kamehameha I ordered the heiau enlarged, rebuilt, rededicated as ‘Ahu’ena Heiau (“hill of fire”), a temple of peace and prosperity dedicated to the fertility god Lono.

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. Here, there is a veritable forest of of carved, wooden sacred images in the “Kona Style”, considered the most refined in all Polynesia.

Three delightful, but tiny, beaches grace the immediate downtown area. The snorkeling from these small beaches is spectacular and strangely uncommon. A beautiful coral garden and vibrant reef fish can be seen snorkeling along the shoreline off ‘Ahu’ena Heiau where fish, turtles and eels are abundant in Kailua Bay.

During the winter of 1819 to 1820, Congregationalist missionaries from Boston crossed the Atlantic Ocean enduring 5 months of intense stormy weather while headed for a new life in Hawai’i. In March of 1820, the missionaries sailed into the balmy waters of Kailua Bay and landed at Kamakahonu Rock (eye of the turtle), the “Plymouth Rock” of Hawai’i, which now supports the Kailua Pier.

Mokuaikaua Church, built under the leadership of missionary Asa Thurston between 1835 and 1837, was specifically aligned so that the prevailing breezes would pass through it, but also so that it presented a strong, stone façade to the south and west, the direction from which strong Kona Winds, large storms and hurricanes come. The 112-foot steeple was for many decades the highest structure in Kailua and served as a navigation landmark both for ships at sea and people on land.

The church is constructed of rough-hewn basalt blocks mortared with lime made from burnt coral and bound with kukui nut oil. The corner stones were taken from a heiau built on the same spot by King Umi in the fifteenth century. The interior beams and woodwork are of koa wood. The joints were painstakingly joined with ohi’a wood pins; this is a magnificent example of the architectural style brought to Hawai’i by the missionaries in the 19th century.

The inside of the church is beautiful, cool and inviting, and visitors are welcome between services and on weekdays between sunrise and sunset; admission is free. There is a fascinating mini-museum, small but informative, which is open daily from sunrise to sunset and free tours are conducted from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:30 p.m. The Museum features exhibits about Hawai’i, the life of the missionaries and contains a scale model of the Brig Thaddeus.

Hulihe’e Palace was built by High Chief (later Governor) James Kuakini in 1838 as a home. For many years, the Palace was used by Hawai’ian royalty as an official residence and summer get-away palace, a place of great galas and parties, but was abandoned to ruin in 1914. Since 1928 the Palace has been operated as a museum by the Daughters of Hawai’i. The Palace Gift Store has many fine art items and hard-to-find books on Hawai’iana.

The museum is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are friendly and knowledgeable docents who give free tours, which last about 45 minutes. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $1 for students; photographing inside the museum is forbidden. The palace sustained considerable damage during the earthquake of 2007 and is currently undergoing renovation.

The Kona Inn is of particular historic significance, as it was the first destination resort to open in West Hawai’i and it ushered in the era of tourism along the Kona Coast. Built on the site of Papa ‘Ula (red flats) where a temple of human sacrifice was built by High Chief Umi, today the Kona Inn features many unique and interesting shops and fine restaurants.

The Inn fronts on a large, palm-shaded lawn that leads to a seawall and the ocean. This area is open to the public and is a really grand place for picnicking, watching whales and dolphin and the fabulous Kona sunsets.

The Kailua Farmer’s Market, open Wednesday through Sunday, lies in the parking lot at the corner of Ali’i Drive and Hualalai Road between the Public Library and Hale Halawai Park. The market offers a wide and intriguing variety of fresh produce, hand-made local arts and crafts, Hawai’iana and other types of souvenirs.

The grounds and oceanfront of Hale Halawai Park offer a peaceful, shady place for taking a rest from a busy tour of bustling downtown Kailua, or watching whales and dolphin and the unmatched Kona sunsets. Frequently honu (sea turtles) and boogey boarders can be watched from the seawall. Featuring coconut palms, a neatly manicured lawn, picnic tables and a seawall, the large, Polynesian-style pavilion is used for everything from community gatherings to orchid shows to wedding receptions.

Historic St. Michael’s Church was the first Catholic Church in West Hawai’i. The church offers services in English and Spanish throughout the week, but is primarily of historic interest; the burial plots in the cemetery date from 1855. In 1940, during less “ecologically aware” times, resident priest Father Benno Evers had his parishioners gather 2500 coral heads to build the grotto in front of the church, which covers the church’s original well. The seafloor in Kailua Bay has yet to recover from this pillaging of coral heads. This historic church sustained considerable damage during the earthquake of 2007.

Coconut Grove and Waterfront Row cap the southern end of the Kailua Village shopping district along Ali’i Drive, starting next to the Hale Halawai County Park and ending at the Royal Kona Resort. Newer and more metropolitan that its sister shopping district to the north, Coconut Grove and Waterfront Row have almost everything, from tattoos to souvenirs to Hawai’iana, fine art, musical instruments, sundries, groceries and clothing. The range of cuisines available from restaurants here sweeps from local flavor to Thai, the Hard Rock Cafe to poi crepes to pizza and burgers.

Between the Royal Kona Resort and Hale Kona Kai Resort is a fabulous tide pool that is completely protected from all but the most vicious winter surf. It boasts a moderate population of reef fish and even the occasional turtle! The water sometimes can be a bit murky, but it makes a nice place to take small children or beginning snorkelers. Drive into the entrance for the Royal Kona Resort and continue south past it until you see the blue and white Shoreline Access sign; find a place to park, go down the stairs to the tiny beach and enjoy!

Lovely but compact, Honl’s County Beach Park is a small beach on the southern outskirts of Old Kailua Town. A favorite spot for surfers and boogie boarders it also has very nice snorkeling and is an excellent place to view the sunset and picnic. Remember when going into the water here, there is a fairly strong current to the north, so stay in the shallow reef area close to the beach. Parking is located on both sides of Ali’i Dr., but can be tight here in times of good surf, and crossing Ali’i Dr. drive can be a bit dangerous at certain times of the day. A new bathroom with showers and running water has recently been constructed on the mauka—uphill–side of the road.

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particular, go here and here.


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, Lapakahi 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.

For more information on visiting Hawaii and touring the Big Island, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.