Skip navigation

Tag Archives: sunbathing

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.

Mahai'ula Bay, Kona Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Kekaha Kai State Park: Makole’a, Ka’elehuluhulu, Mahai’ula, Makalawena and Manini’owali Beaches

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.

Arriving at Makalawena Beach, Kekaha Kai State Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This uncrowded park is comprised of a string of fabulous white sand, turquoise water and palm tree oases hidden away like cool gems in the blazing, barren lava desert. For all intents and purposes, the series of tranquil beaches appears to have been plunked down in one of Hawai’i Island’s most rugged wilderness areas.

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.

Ka'elehuluhulu Beach at Mahai'ula Bay in Kekaha Kai State Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To reach the main entrance to the park, turn makai at the State Park sign, between mile markers 90 and 91; the unimproved lava road can be nasty but is usually passable in most vehicles. Near the main parking lot, a lava 4WD road goes south to Makole’a Black Sand Beach and north toward Makalawena Beach.

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

The North end of Mahai'ula Bay, Kekaha Kai State Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The main attraction, though are the beaches just seaward of the parking area. The northernmost and loveliest beach here is Mahai’ula and the smaller, more southerly, one is Ka’elehuluhulu Beach. At both beaches the sand is deep, wide and long…some of the finest sand beaches in all of Hawaii. The water is great for swimming and boogie boarding but may be a little murky for ideal snorkeling. There are numerous small springs along the entire beach making the near-shore water a little cold. Facilities include public restrooms and picnic tables shaded by coconut palm trees. There is no drinking water; there is no lifeguard.

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

The Magoon Mansion is just visible at the north end of the immense, and generally empty, northern beach at Mahai'ula Bay, Kekaha Kai State Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The wilderness portion of the park contains Makalawena Beach, which is perhaps the finest swimming and snorkeling beach on the island and the most beautiful beach setting. This is the amazing beach you flew over just before you landed at Kona International Airport. Makalawena Beach sports a series of coves, refreshing shade, big sand dunes and a nice freshwater pond to rinse-off in.

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

The creamy coral sands of Makalawena Beach, Kekaha Kai State Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Makalawena Beach is reached either by traveling the extremely 4WD road that takes-off the highway from between mile markers 88 and 89, or by hiking about 15-20 minutes along a portion of the Ala Kahakai Trail from the main parking lot at Kekaha Kai State Park. The trail goes over rough pahoehoe and a’a lava and through keawe trees, so shoes are required. You can learn more details about hiking to, and camping at, Makalawena Beach here. There are no facilities and no lifeguard here.

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

Lovely Manini'owali Beach at Kua Bay, Kekaha Kai State Park, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The northern end of Kekaha Kai State park is comprised of the new Kua Bay Park at stunning, if tiny, Manini’owali Beach. More details about Kua Bay are located here. Facilities include restrooms, showers, drinking water and picnic tables; there is no lifeguard. The turn off to Kua Bay Park is between the 88 and 89 mile markers on Highway 19, however, you can hike four and a half rugged beach miles along the ancient shoreline trail from the main parking area of Kekaha Kai State 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.

The black sands of Makole'a Beach, Kekaha Kai State Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The southern end of Kekaha Kai State Park contains lovely, but small, Makole’a Black Sand Beach. Even many longtime Kona residents are amazed to learn of this black sand beach, within easy biking distance of Kailua Kona. Snorkeling and diving here are superb, although visibility is limited near the shoreline. There is a lovely coral garden running from north, near shore, to south, farther out. Remember, this is the extreme western tip of the island, sticking out in to the open Pacific Ocean; there is little protection for this beach, so be wary of waves and strong currents; if the surf or the wind is up, don’t go in.

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

A Small cove along the trail to Makole'a Beach has great snorkeling and scuba diving, Kekaha Kai State Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Access is via the road south from the main parking lot at Kekaha Kai State Park: with 4WD it’s just barely possible to drive in. Otherwise one can walk along the road or the shoreline, 15-20 minutes either way. No facilities, no lifeguard.

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.

Makalawena Beach is comprised of a series of coves connected by a wide sandy beach, Kekaha Kai State Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, or Honu, at Mahai'ula Beach, Kekaha Kai State Park, Kona Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

The only drawback to Kekaha Kai State Park's perfection is that it lies directly under the approach pattern for Kona International Airport, Kona Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

La'aloa Sunset, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

La’aloa Beach County Park

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

A Deserted Afternoon at La'aloa Beach, Kailua Kona: Hawaii Photo by Donald B MacGowan

La’aloa (meaning “very sacred”) Beach Park is a small, but fascinating, beach. The beach is also called “Magic Sands”, name for the fact that during most of the summer and fall, it is a beautiful sandy beach. However, winter and spring storms wash the sand offshore, exposing a rocky terrace. With the onset of summer currents, the sands return. However, even when the shoreline is rocky, the water is still floored by smooth sand, making this a really pleasant place to swim, or just wade, once you scramble over the rocks and into the water.

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

Sunset at Magic Sands, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The surf break is short, but spectacular, here, and many locals boogie board and body surf. Because of the violent, near shore nature of the break, it is not recommended for beginners. However, it is easy and fun to wade in up to your waist and feel the awesome power of Mama Kai’s nalu (goddess of the sea’s surf). At times of low surf, snorkeling here is wonderful, especially around the southern point and the rocks below; don’t go in if there’s any surf at all. Obey the signs, heed the Lifeguard’s advice.

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.

Boogie Boarders at La'aloa Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Frequently dived but rarely visited by snorkelers, highly accessible, beautiful coral gardens, wild underwater topography (caves! canyons!) and many reef fish are to be found in the small bay immediately south of the parking lot at La’aloa. Although the entry is over a stony beach (wear reef walkers!) and somewhat awkward, snorkeling in this little bay is safe for even beginners.

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.

La'aloa Heiau in Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The remains of Haukalua Heiau, makai of the parking lot, is very sacred to the native Hawai’ians and a hotly contested archeological site. Most of the temple grounds were dismantled to build the parking lot and the current stone platform built and filled in with the remnants. This has made the local population highly protective of what is left of their temple. Although not fenced off, visitors are asked not to wander the grounds of the heiau, disturb stones or walls

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

Sunset on La'aloa Heiau, Magic Sands, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Seemingly, not much is known about this site for certain; family stories and oral traditions, though somewhat contradictory, place it as a temple of some importance. However, the whole area represents the sad and embarrassing fact of how many of these sacred sites and archeological treasures have been treated in Hawai’i. A 800 year-old temple in any other state in the Union would be protected as a park and studied as an archeological resource. In Hawaii it is made into a parking lot.

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

The beach at La'aloa Park, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

An additional historical note, the spot where the restrooms now stand is the original site of St. Peter’s Church, the blue church which currently sits at the north end of Kahalu’u Beach by Ku’emanu Heiau. St Peter’s was placed on poles and carried by hand and dragged by donkey down Ali’i Dr. to its current position, before the road was paved, in 1912.

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.

La Aloa Beach Park, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A county facility, La’aloa Beach Park boasts showers, toilets and running water in addition to a volleyball court and lifeguards stationed throughout the day (except State Holidays).

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.

Tidelpool at La'aloa Beach Park, Kailua Kona 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. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

La'aloa Heiau in the afternoon light, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

La'aloa Beach, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Grapic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Kua Bay Family-Style Beach, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Kua Bay Beach

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.

Lovely Kua Bay, North of Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The site of Kona’s newest beach park, this is a lovely white sand beach, Kua Bay, is also called Manini’owali. Although there is no shade to speak of, but the the swimming and boogie boarding in the crystalline waters is primo, as is cliff-jumping from the rocks offshore. Snorkeling the clear, turquoise ocean along the rocks to the north is excellent until the surf or wind picks up. Strong currents and large waves call for respect, here; so if the surf is up, don’t go in. Also, sometimes in winter the surf removes the sand to offshore, leaving a rocky shelf that is less fun to frolic on than the sandy beach.

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.

Even with explanded parking, it can be crowded at Kua Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kua Bay access road can be found north of Kailua Kona between mile markers 88 and 89 on the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. The turn is directly across the highway from the better-signed turn to the Veterans Cemetery. Remember that although the park is closed and the gate is locked on Wednesdays, you can still hike in, although it’s about a mile.

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

Kua Bay from the North, Kohala Coast, Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are no lifeguards at Kua Bay, so you swim at your own risk. Also, there is little or no shade here, and the sun can be intense, even on a cloudy day. Be sure to bring lots of sunblock, a long-sleeved shirt for after sunning, sunglasses and perhaps even a beach umbrella; remember to drink more water than you think you need while on the beach. So many visitors do not understand the ferocity of the Hawaii sun and wind-up getting a vacation-ruining sunburn; don’t let that happen to you. Read more about sunburn and sunblocks for Hawaii here, and about appropriate sunglasses for Hawaii, here.

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

Kua Bay Sun Worshipers, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Behind the beach on the north end is a small, inviting fresh-water pool. Don’t be seduced into rinsing off here—it is bottomed by foul-smelling quicksand and is extremely nasty if you jump in. There are sacred, native Hawai’ian sites and ruins to the north of the beach; please do not disturb them.

Behind the beach on the north end is a small, inviting fresh-water pool. Don’t be seduced into rinsing off here—it is bottomed by foul-smelling quicksand and is extremely nasty if you jump in. There are sacred, native Hawai’ian sites and ruins to the north of the beach; please do not disturb them.

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.

Hidden jewell Kua Bay is tucked secretly away in the basalt and bunch grass scablands of the Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A short hike from the access road brings one to the summit of Pu’u Ku’ili, a 342-foot high cinder cone. A romantic spot to watch sunsets and whales, it boasts a majestic view of the Kohala coastline. As of this writing, mountain biking along the trail up Pu’u Ku’ili is tolerated by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. The ride up is short but sweaty, but the blast down is well worth the effort. However, one must be careful to stay on the trail and be wary of tearing up the fragile plants; the erosion which inevitably follows such abuse will quickly ruin this wonderful little pu’u. Because of the actions of some inconsiderate, ignorant and careless mountain bikers and off-road motor-bikers, access to riding this cinder cone may shortly be curtailed—so please be mindful of this when riding the trails.

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.

Fun in the surf at Kua Bay, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

It is possible to hike along the shoreline Ala Ali’i (Way of the Kings) to Makalawena Beach, just to the south. The hike is enjoyable and takes about an hour and half, but there is no potable fresh water for drinking or rinsing off with along the way. About half-way along this hike is a marvelous cove which makes for a remarkably isolated camp. However, be sure you are prepared for any eventuality, to hike to the road either at Kua Bay or the main Kekaha Kai State Park facilities is rough and tortuous in the dark. Read more about camping in this area, here.

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

Watching the whales at Kua Bay, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Access to Kua Bay is via a road so newly paved road it’s on few maps or GPS databases. Park facilities include parking, picnic tables, restrooms and water. Wild goats are frequently seen in this area as are dolphin, turtles and whales in season. Remember there is no lifeguard.

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.

Kua Bay on a Lazy Afternoon, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Delightful Kua Bay can get a bit breezy in the afternoon, Kohala Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

Cooling Off at Kua Bay, Kohala Coast Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Graphic: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park/Kaneele’ele Heiau/Kaimu Beach

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.

Bradford MacGowan Filming at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing, Punalu’u’s black sand-lined coves and beaches are world-renowned.  Dozens of endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles swim the waters frequently basking on the beach here.  The wildness of the ocean and the serenity of the freshwater fishpond and coconut palm-shaded beaches make this an ideal place to spend some soul-recharge time.  Snorkeling, picnicking and camping, or just relaxing on the beach, are major destination pass-times here.  Near South Point and between the villages of Na’alehu and Pahala, Punalu’u is on Highway 11 between mile markers 55 and 56.

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.

Looking back at Punalu'u Beach From the ruins of the Pahala Sugar Company wharf, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Punalu’u means “springs you swim to”; it is the abundance of these fresh water springs just offshore that makes swimming at Punalu’u so cold and this settlement site so important to the ancient Hawai’ians.  In pre-contact times, due to the scarcity of fresh water along the Ka’u coast, Hawaiians would swim out into Kuhua Bay with stoppered gourds, dive down on top the springs, unstopper the gourds and, by upending them underwater, fill them with the fresh spring water emanating from the floor of the bay.  These springs are one of the very few sources of fresh water on this entire end 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.

Edangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle emerges from the ocean at Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo By Donald B. MacGowan

Dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles make the waters and beaches around Punalu’u their home; it is one of the few places outside the French Frigate Shoals in the NW Hawaiian Islands where they breed and lay eggs. Called Honu by Hawaii’s natives, they are 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.

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.

Honu, the Haaiian Green Sea Turtle at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Loss of habitat, hunting and molestation by humans has conspired to push them to the very verge of extinction. Protected now by state and federal law, the population of once millions of honu has been decimated to just a few hundred thousand.  Although they are making a comeback, Hawaii’s honu are still very much endangered.

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.

Visitors are charmed by a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, Honu, at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Do not approach basking turtles closely, never touch or pick them up; stay at least 30 feet from them if they are basking on shore. 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).

aniNew 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.

Turtle tracks in the black sand beach at Punalu'u, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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”.

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.

Reflection in the brackish ponds behind Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The large brackish pond behind the beach, once a very productive fish-growing pond, is also fed by a large spring called Kawaihu O Kauila (literally, “the overflowing waters of the Turtle Goddess, Kauila).  This spring is also where the mythical figure Laka slew the fierce, man-eating mo’o (sea serpent) Kaikapu (“forbidden water”).  There are some very, very mixed breed ducks that make this pond their home.

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.

Kane'ele'ele Heiau and Ninole Cinder Cone above Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

On the hill just south of the beach behind the pier is Kaneele’ele Heiau, which also is called Mailekini Heiau.  This temple very worth visiting but is often overlooked and not noticed by causal visitors simply because of its extreme size.  The heiau, standing on the hill overlooking the ruins of the pier and warehouse, is comprised of a stone platform no less than seven hundred feet long and five hundred feet wide.

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.

Kane'ele'ele Heiau looking west toward Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The name, meaning “darkness of the father god”, coupled with the heiau’s massive size, lends credence to the local legend that this was once the luakini heiau, or place of human sacrifice, of some importance for this district. A large sacrificial stone (now removed) outside the entrance, and bone pits discovered on the temple grounds during construction of the pier and warehouse, point to this as well.  Kaneele’ele is thought to represent two heiaus constructed end-to-end; Punalu’u Nui in the north and Halelau in the south.

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.

Section of Hawaiian paved trail between heiaus at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

West of the parking lot, above Ninole Cove, stand tumbled walls, all that remains of Ka’ie’ie Heiau.  Bordering the a’a lava flow, this temple once presided over a large fishpond that was destroyed by the a’a flow.

Other ruins in the park include the historic ruins of the Pahala Sugar Company Wharf and Warehouse, alongside Kuhua Bay.   After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor at the outset of World War Two, the Army destroyed the wall and pier facilities so the Japanese couldn’t use them to land on Hawai’i’s unprotected southern side.

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.

Punaluu Sun Bathers in dulge themselves on the gorgeous black sand at Punalu'u Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The beaches and land immediately adjacent to Punalu’u Harbor, Ninole Cove and Kuhua Bay are all part of the County Beach Park.  Snorkeling at Punalu’u is cold due to the number of off-shore springs and a bit weird (the black sand bottom makes the water dark even on the brightest days), but very rewarding, considering the density of sea turtles in the bay.   Strong off-shore winds, ocean currents and a fearsome rip mean swimmers and snorkelers should use caution and stay near shore when swimming at Punalu’u, but it’s hard to resist getting in with all those turtles.

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.

Punalu'u Camping--although exposed to the elements, you cannot beat the view, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Camping is permitted around the pavilions and is by permit only. Pitching camp here can be a windy, but wild and elemental, exercise in campcraft. Due to the exposed nature of the terrain, however, there is little privacy.

Available services include water, picnic tables, restrooms, electrical outlets, and pavilions, parking; camping by permit only.  During peak tourist time, there is a souvenir stand with some packaged food items and canned drinks for sale.

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 black sand is not only geologically delicate, it's in finite supply--please don't take it home with you; Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Ka'u 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.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Ka'u 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.

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

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

Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

by Donnie MacGowan

69 West Side Beaches 1_edited-1

Waialea Beach (Beach 69) Is a Hidden Gem That Is Just Waiting For You To Explore: 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 balanced and informed decisions on what they want to do and how best to spend their time.

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 somewhere near your hotel?  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?

Kua Bay Sunbathers: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kua Bay Sunbathers: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ranked in order, with the best on top, are our picks of the best beaches on the Island of Hawaii—we tried to choose beaches with a range of attributes and interesting features, rather than beaches that are all very similar.  Ranking these beaches is an onerous task since each is a gem and we’ve had to leave off many that are equally fine for their own reasons.  This list at least provides an excellent starting point for deciding where you want to spend you beach time.

Hapuna Beach: A mile long, 200 meters wide and with warm, calm, crystal clear-turquoise waters, always one of the top-ranked beaches internationally, Hapuna is clearly the “Alpha Beach” on the island.  Sometimes crowded, this beach is usually fairly empty until about 11 a.m.  A great beach for sunbathing, it has only fair boogie boarding and rather passe snorkeling.

Hapuna Beach from the south: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapuna Beach from the south: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Anaeho’omalu Bay: A long crescent of sugary sand backed by swaying palm trees; snorkel, sail, paddle boat and kayak rentals on the beach and interesting hikes both north and south, make Anaeho’omalu is a great place to spend the day for any family.  Anaeho’omalu is one of the most sought-after sunset images to photograph in the state of Hawaii. Although spectacular for its scenery and beach social scene, the water at Anaeho’omalu is a bit cloudy for ideal snorkeling.

The Justly Famous Anaeho'omalu Beach is a Long Crescent of Gorgeous Sand: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Justly Famous Anaeho'omalu Beach is a Long Crescent of Gorgeous Sand: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach: The large, beautiful beach with acres of jet black sand, backed by a jungle of palm trees and with clear waters stuffed with endangered green sea turtles make Punalu’u not just one of the loveliest beaches in the world, but also one of the most interesting.  Although a little cold due to near-shore springs, the clear waters and black sand bottom at Punalu’u offer fabulous and unique snorkeling.  Madly crazy rip tides and strong currents out near the surf zone make Punalu’u a dangerous place for beginning boogie boarders.  There are numerous historic and pre-contact ruins in the area that make this a great place for exploration.

Bradford MacGowan Filming at Punalu'u Beach: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Bradford MacGowan Filming at Punalu'u Beach: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Waialea Beach: Another lonely crescent of sugar sand which is relatively unknown, even by many locals, Waialea is generally uncrowded, lovely beyond description, and has a wild underwater features to tempt even the most jaded snorkeler.  Fine snorkel exploring, hiking and scrambling both north and south of the beach yield secret treasures of small coves, private inlets, sea arches and wild underwater topography.

Happy Bathers Relax in the Warm, Crystaline Waters of Waialea Bay: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Happy Bathers Relax in the Warm, Crystalline Waters of Waialea Bay: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Makalawena Beach: Perhaps the loveliest beach in Polynesia, Makalawena is the perfect sand crescent beach backed by palms and iron wood trees and with morning-glory-draped sand dunes.  A easy mile hike in from Kekaha Kai State Park keeps this beach uncrowded. Snorkeling here is better than perfect, camping here is so wonderful we don’t know why it’s not actually mandatory.  The coastline hike a few miles north from Makalawena to Kua Bay along the ancient, paved Ala Ali’i (Trail of Kings) is one of the finest, most rewarding shoreline hikes on the island.

Long, Lonely and Wholly Wonderful Makalawena Beach in Kekahai State Park: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Long, Lonely and Wholly Wonderful Makalawena Beach in Kekaha Kai State Park: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach (South Point): One of a handful of true green sand beaches in the world, the Mahana Green Sand Beach near South Point is not to be missed.  Beautiful, haunting, intriguing. Although the hike is 2 ¼ miles each way, the trail is relatively flat and easily followed. Snorkeling here, due to the green sand and vibrant water color is delightfully weird—be sure to purchase an inexpensive, disposable underwater camera.  Scenery is best viewed early morning and afternoon, although afternoons tend to be quite windy.  Swimming is safe in the protected bowl of the bay, but strong, relentless currents in the open ocean call for extreme caution beyond the bay.

Mahana Green Sand Beach in the Afternoon: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach in the Afternoon: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kua Bay: One of Hawaii County’s newest beach parks, Kua Bay is a true gem of a beach—although somewhat small, it is a lovely setting with warm waters perfect for snorkeling, boogie boarding or just relaxing in. In recent years, Kua Bay has become Kona’s leading “social beach” with scores of young visitors and locals coming to chill in the sand and sun every day.  Snorkeling is superb on both the north and south ends near the rocks, boogie boarding is great when the surf is up…like all Hawaii’s beaches, Kua can become hazardous in times of high surf.

Kua Bay from the north: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kua Bay from the north: Photo by Donald MacGowan

For more information about traveling to Hawaii in general and exploring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. Information about the author can be found here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan.

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.

By Donald B. MacGowan

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Donnie MacGowan Snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie 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. The “one-one-one, experiencing the world through the fishes’ eyes” magic of swimming in those bath-warm lagoons surrounded by clouds of tropical fish is an amazing, restful and restorative pursuit-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 Etiquette; Part IV of the series covers Snorkeling Safety and Part V will cover Big Island Snorkel Spots.

Part II: Let’s talk about technique: how are we going to do this?

Before getting into the water, where is your partner? Never snorkel alone; never get more than 20 feet from your partner. Memorize the color of your partner’s mask and snorkel…this is how you will recognize him from a distance in the water.

Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Bart Hunt Filming Fish at Kahalu'u Beach: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

Also before getting wet, you should make sure your mask is clean and that you have applied some form of defogger to it, either the commercially available solution (DO NOT get this stuff in your eyes!) or by simply rubbing some spit over the insides of the lenses. Pull the mask on your head, leaving it perched up on your hair as you enter the water. You should enter the water on a sandy patch of beach that does not drop off too steeply and is not in an area attacked by large waves.

Do not put your fins on before you are in the water. After wading out until the water is between knee and waist deep, face the incoming waves, sit down (this will also help you adjust to the temperature of the water–sometimes a bit of a shock but soon you get used to it) and pull your fins on. From this position, duck your head under and get your hair and face wet (to help the mask seal). Now stand up and pull the mask down, arranging hair, strap and snorkel mouthpiece to maximize the seal integrity and personal comfort. This may take some adjusting to get all the hair out from under the seal, to get the snorkel mouthpiece in the right position and get comfortable. Don’t worry if there is a little fog on the mask at this point.

When the mask is sealed and you feel ready, bend at the knees, stretch arms forward and lean forward slowly until you are floating. Kick rhythmically, steadily, but at a pace you can keep up for some time. See? IT’S FUN! Oh, wait–don’t forget to breath! Seriously, some people may feel a little claustrophobia at first with the mask and snorkel, and in chilly water it’s natural to have short, gaspy breathing by instinct. Relax, concentrate on taking slow, even breaths. Snorkeling is relaxing, to be sure, but you have to be relaxed to snorkel. Breathe. Smoothly, rhythmically.

Many people find they breathe and move more efficiently with their hands clasped behind their backs. Use your hands in sweeping motions to turn, or back up or fend-off too-near snorkelers, then clasp them back behind you again for cruising. Again, breathe. Smoothly, rhythmically.

If at any point you feel uncomfortable, simply stop, tread water (or stand up in the shallows), and put your mask up on top of your head. Look around you. See? It’s easy! But never, ever remove your mask all the way while in the water–you could drop it or it could be taken by a wave and then you’d be having significantly less fun, really quickly. If there is fog in your mask, pull your mask away from your face just a fraction of an inch and just for a moment while under water to allow just a little bit of water in. Pull your head out of the water, allow the water in the mask to rinse away the fog, then tilt the mask away from your face just a moment again to drain the water out. Practice this in a place you feel comfortable. When you get good, you can do this without even stopping–this technique also allows you to clear your mask of leakage (and all masks leak a little) while on the go.

What’s that gurgling noise? Occasionally, especially if the surf is up or you are diving, water gets trapped in the snorkel. You can purge the snorkel simply by exhaling strongly through it and blowing the water out the top, or more easily by lifting your head above water, spitting out the mouth piece and allowing it to dangle in the air and drain clear. Cake.

Poke your head out of the water frequently to check that your partner is within 20 feet of you and to keep yourself oriented relative to your entry and exit places. Stay alert–it’s easy to loose track of time, get carried farther than you thought by a current you didn’t even notice, wander out of your comfort zone, lazily paddle away from your partner, accidentally stray into a dangerous zone. So stay focused, stay oriented, always know where you are, where your partner is.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Amanda Maus Snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Gosh, what’s that down there on the bottom? Diving is what snorkeling is all about. Do not expect to go deeply; do not expect to stay down long; err on the side of safety, be conservative in your actions. The ocean is composed of stacked layers, frequently of surprisingly different temperatures, sometimes distressingly moving in different directions. It is entirely possible to be swimming in quiet water, dive a half dozen feet under the surface and find yourself caught by a current you didn’t even know existed…don’t fight it, but turn and kick to the surface immediately so you can evaluate this new wrinkle while catching your breath.

To dive efficiently, start off by floating flat, face down, on the water. Fill your lungs and empty them completely a few times to charge your blood with oxygen. One more big breath in, then let half out (a lung-full of air will make you floaty and keep you from diving very deeply); with your arms forward, pointing at your target, bend at the waist, kick once then lift your feet in the air, allowing the weight of your legs to push you under. Keep kicking as you submerge. Do not over estimate the depth you can dive or the time you can spend down. Learn your limits slowly and safely. Uncomfortable? Turn quickly and kick to the surface, breathe, rest, try it again. Water pressure on the eardrums will make your ears ache in just a few feet of water; to alleviate the pain and adjust the pressure in your head, as you dive pinch your nose, close your mouth and “blow” to pop your ears. If pain, discomfort, dizziness or other distress continues, turn and kick to the top. Stay there for the duration of your swim.

Where are all the fish? The water near shore may be murky from fresh-water springs, lots of people wading or surf action; swim out a little until the water gets crystal clear…that’s better. Although you will likely see large swarms of fish swimming about all over the bay, remember they live along the rocks and coral and not over sand, so that’s where the most interesting stuff is. Check out cliffs, ledges, pockets and boulders. Look closer. You can get a cheap, disposable underwater camera for less than ten bucks at WalMart–it may be the best $10 you spend on your whole trip. Get two. Don’t forget to take pictures of each other, too.

Before you get tired, before you feel your back getting sunburned, before you shoot the last picture, before the wind comes up or the surf builds, it’s time to get out. Don’t push it, the ocean plays for keeps. Remember your plan; where’s your sandy exit point? Swim toward it; keep swimming until you are in about the same depth of water where you put your fins on–it’s easier to stand up from a floating position in about navel-deep water. Keep your eye on the ocean as you walk out onto the beach. Wasn’t snorkeling amazing? Wait’ll you see those pictures!

After getting out, trust me, you are going to want to rinse yourself off–the ocean salt is really irritating to your skin as you dry off. You also need to thoroughly rinse your gear–the salt attacks and destroys the rubber and plastic. If there are not showers or any way to rinse off where you are snorkeling, you should bring a jug of water (about one gallon per person for body, hair and gear will do it) to do this. No, no, you really, really will want to rinse off after, I promise.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Humuele'ele at Honomalino Bay, Big Island, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Part III of this series will discuss snorkeling etiquette; Part IV will discuss snorkeling safety and art IV will discuss the best places on the Big Island to go snorkeling.

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