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by Donald B. MacGowan

Sometimes lost in the shuffle between visiting the mile-long sugar-sand beaches of Kohala and the spectacular snorkeling at the Kona-side beaches, the southern beaches of Hawaii Island are by no means second class, poor cousins. Beautiful and alluring in their own right, many are highly unique, offering unusual conditions and rare scenery, all are well worth visiting and none are more than a couple hours drive from Kona or Hilo. Here is a smattering of the best of the Southern Beaches of Hawaii Island. All these beaches are a bit off the beaten track and, with the exception of Punalu’u, aren’t on any standard tour of the island. Many of these are remote, none are crowded.

We always advise visitors to be careful with their possessions and leave no valuable in the cars. The locals are friendly and open, so let your smile be your passport and talk story with them; open yourself to an adventure that only begins with getting to know the people of Hawai’i and visiting their beaches.

Mahana Green Sand Beach (see video)

The Beautiful Green Sand Beach at South Point of the Island of Hawaii is Reached by an Easy 2 1/4 Mile Hike: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Beautiful Green Sand Beach at South Point of the Island of Hawaii is Reached by an Easy 2 1/4 Mile Hike: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Absolutely unique to the island of Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the handful of green sand beaches composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these. The sand grains on this beach are formed from olivine crystals weathering out of the lava and cinders from the cone over an eruptive vent that has been partially breached by the sea. The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the somewhat protected cove formed by the remnant of the cone makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot. Be very wary of currents and do not go out far nor in at all if the surf is high or there are strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.

To get here take the South Point Exit from the Hawaii Belt Road between Ocean View and Na’alehu; drive to South Point and, where the road splits, take the Mahana Boat Ramp  (left) branch of the road.  This road is dirt and broken pavement, but is quite good until the last couple hundred yards above the boat ramp.  Park in the obvious flat spot just above the boat ramp and be sure to leave no valuables in your car.  The 2 1/4 mile hike is along a terrible dirt road to the Green Sand Beach; the gate at the start of the road may or may be locked…just walk around it. Road conditions along the road to the beach vary dramatically from week to week and the road becomes impassable with even a gentle rain; therefore we do not suggest driving it at all but enjoy the short, pleasant hike. The beach lies in the center of a cinder cone breached by the sea. Once you reach the edge of the cone the obvious trail goes over the side and along the interior wall, angling toward the beach,  Alternately, one can hike to the top pf the cone and pick your way down the steep cliff and sand slope (there are a set of stairs at the very top–then it gets tricky); this is very direct, but can be slippery and treacherous.  Be wary of rip tides and currents, do not swim beyond the protected reach of the bay.  Aren’t you glad you read this article before you came here?  Now that you are here you understand why I insisted you buy a disposable underwater camera and bring it…look at the color of that water!  There are no services or facilities here. At all. None. And a goodly long way to drive to get to any…plan and act accordingly.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park (see video)

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

Bradford MacGowan Filming at Punalu'u Beach: Photo By Donnie 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 of Kuhua Bay, Ninole Cove and Punalu’u Harbor and frequently bask on Kaimu 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.

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.

Available services include water, picnic tables, restrooms, electrical outlets, and pavilions, parking; camping is by permit only. During peak tourist time, there is a souvenir stand with some packaged food items and canned drinks for sale. Due to chilly waters, off-shore winds, strong currents and a fearsome rip, swimmers and snorkelers should use caution when swimming at Punalu’u, but it’s hard to resist getting in and swimming with all those turtles.

Kaimu Black Sand Beach

Kaimu Black Sand Beach near the Village of Kalapana: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kaimu Black Sand Beach near the Village of Kalapana: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The state’s newest black sand beach, Kaimu Beach, is a barren crescent of sand fronting an unforgiving expanse of lava from the 1990 flows. The old beach and the fishing village of Kalapana that stood along it are long gone, buried under 50-75 feet of lava. The palm trees growing along this trail are the result of one woman’s commitment not to allow her community, her beach, her culture to die under the lava. Planting thousands of palm sprouts, she encouraged her community, school children state wide and hundreds of others to plant the young trees. Today, the realization of her vision of rebirth is in the growing palm groves out on the barren lava plain. The trail to the new black sand beach is marked with these young palms.

Near the parking area along the path are exposed fossils, lava casts of palm trees and other plants…keep a sharp eye out, they are everywhere. Swimming is hazardous at the new beach, so is surfing, the ocean currents being strong and treacherous. But take some time to relax, wade, feel the sand beneath your feet and contemplate the drive of one dying woman to rebuild a world she loved from a devastation few of us can imagine. From the lava hillocks along the trail are nice views of the eruption plume at Pu’u O’o, on the flank of Kilauea as well as the steam clouds where the lave enters the sea at Waikupanaha. This is one of the few places where both can be seen easily and at the same time.

Kehena Beach

Kehena in Puna is a Gorgeous Gem of a Beach; Frequently Clothing Optional, There Is a Sense of Both Community and Welcome Here: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kehena in Puna is a Gorgeous Gem of a Beach; Frequently Clothing Optional, There Is a Sense of Both Community and Welcome Here: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When the eruption of 1955 created this beautiful black sand beach, the County was swift to capitalize on it and, creating a wonderful beach park, built stone steps down the cliff to the beach. When the beach dropped a full 3 feet during an earthquake in 1975 the stairs were shattered. Like so much else around this island, these stairs were never rebuilt and today terminate about ten feet above the current level of the beach—if you want to get down to the beach, therefore, you must take the dirt path that goes out of the left side of the parking lot.

Once on the beach the first thing that may strike you is that many of the locals who frequent this park have forgotten to put on proper beach attire…or any other attire whatsoever, for that matter. The second thing that will strike you is what a lovely, wonderful spot this is. In the shade of palms and ironwood trees this primeval and idyllic beach is generally sunny even when the rest of Puna is rainy. Swimming here is great, but ocean currents are strong and dangerous not far from shore. The locals are friendly but frisky, so don’t leave valuables in your car.

Pohoiki Beach at Isaac Hale Beach Park

Looking Across Pohoiki Beach to Isaac Hale County Beach Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Looking Across Pohoiki Beach to Isaac Hale County Beach Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A lovely black sand beach with an expert surf break, Pohoiki Beach is one of the very few real beaches and boat ramps in Puna District; as such this park sees a lot of traffic. It is also the site of the best surfing and some of the wildest snorkeling and scuba diving in Puna. If you do get in the ocean here, go in left of the boat ramp—be alert to bodacious boat traffic (they won’t be alert for you) and for fairly dangerous ocean currents. Understandably, given the crowded nature of this small place, some locals are less than welcoming of visitors. Graciously share this ocean treasure with the residents, but and leave no valuables in your car.

A short path along the shoreline leads from the parking lot, past a house with abundant “No Trespassing” signs, just a few minutes stroll then turns about 20 yards into the jungle to a secluded, perfectly lovely natural hot spring that is wonderful for soaking. Locals usually don’t bother with swimwear here, you shouldn’t feel required to, either.

The facilities at Isaac Hale Park Beach Park have been recently rebuilt, refurbished, upgraded and expanded considerably—this once run-down park is now a quite well-appointed. The facilities include of expanded parking, soccer fields, picnic tables, showers and port-a-potties. Camping is allowed with a Hawaii County permit.

Kapoho Tide Pools

The Kapoho Tide Pools Offer a Unique, Fascinating Snorkeling Experience: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Kapoho Tide Pools Offer a Unique, Fascinating Snorkeling Experience: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Stuffed with abundant sea life, this sprawling basin of lava tidal pools is a remarkable treasure for snorkelers of all abilities from the starkly frightened to the seasoned veteran. Moorish idols, yellow tangs, various wrasses and eels, sea urchins and sea cucumbers abound and there are even some nice corals in the deeper pools. The largest pool is called “Wai Opae”, which means “fresh water shrimp”. Keeping to the left of the main channel keeps one away from most of the ocean currents, which can be surprisingly strong, even in small reaches, where ponds empty into the ocean.

An amazing place to spend the day, Kapoho Tide Pools has wonderful snorkeling for people of all levels as well as other general beach activities, including just plain beach exploring, shell collecting, swimming and fishing. No real facilities exist here beyond the parking lot, so come prepared.

Hawaii's Beaches Offer Much More Than Just Sunbathing and Snorkeling--Many Are Associated With Cultural or Historical Sights and Have Intersting Tidepools and Wildlife.  Here, Endangered Green Sea Turtles Leave Enigmatic Tracks In The Sand At Punalu'u Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaii's Beaches Offer Much More Than Just Sunbathing and Snorkeling--Many Are Associated With Cultural or Historical Sights and Have Interesting Tidepools and Wildlife. Here, Endangered Green Sea Turtles Leave Enigmatic Tracks In The Sand At Punalu'u Beach: Photo by Donnie 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

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by Donnie MacGowan

Imagine yourself in your home; it rains, sleets and snows through the long winter.  Now imagine you are lying under cerulean blue skies bathed in healing sunlight on a warm golden sand beach, playing in bath-temperature water, and snorkeling among the brightly colored tropical fish and placid, but amazing sea turtles. Sound too good to be true? In West Hawaii, this soothing daydream is our day-to-day reality

Beaches of South Kohala and the Kona Coast

Kua Bay

Kua Bay on the Southern Kohala Coast is a Gem of a Little Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kua Bay on the Southern Kohala Coast is a Gem of a Little Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The site of West Hawaii’s newest beach park, this is a lovely white sand beach. Although there is little shade, the swimming and boogie boarding in the crystalline waters is primo. Strong currents and large waves call for respect, here; if the surf is up, don’t go in. Also, sometimes winter storm surf removes the sand to offshore, leaving a rocky shelf that is less fun than the sandy beach. Strong onshore breezes cause riptides and an influx of jellies.

Behind the beach on the north end is a small, inviting fresh-water pool. Don’t be seduced—it is bottomed by foul-smelling quicksand and is extremely nasty. There are sacred, native Hawaiian sites and ruins to the north of the beach. Please do not disturb them.

Park facilities include parking, picnic tables, restrooms, and water. Wild goats are frequently seen in this area.

Makalawena Beach

Long, Lonely and Wholly Wonderful Makawena Beach in Kehakai State Park: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

One of the last, large, wilderness beaches in Polynesia, frankly, Makalawena is the finest beach on the island and the most beautiful beach setting to boot. This is the amazing beach you flew over just before you landed at Kona International Airport. This beach sports a series of coves, refreshing shade, big sand dunes, and a nice freshwater pond to rinse off in.

This beach is reached either by traveling the (extremely) 4WD road from the highway between mile markers 88 and 89, or by hiking about 15 to 20 minutes along an easy trail from Kekaha Kai State Park. The trail goes over rough pahoehoe and a’a flows and through keawe breaks, so shoes are required.

The land fronting the beach is owned by Bishop Estate/Kamehameha Schools and is slated to be turned into a development of condos and resorts; vigilance and protest on the part of locals and visitors is the only way we can keep this last, wild Kona beach wild.

Kekaha Kai State Park

Kekaha Kai State Park Contains a Series of Brilliant, Huge Sandy Beaches, Yet Because of the Bumpy 2 Mile Drive In, Remains Almost Unknown To Visitors: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kekaha Kai State Park Contains a Series of Brilliant, Huge Sandy Beaches, Yet Because of the Bumpy 2 Mile Drive In, Remains Almost Unknown To Visitors: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A superbly wonderful set of beaches and one of Hawaii Island’s gem parks. The northernmost and loveliest beach is Mahai’ula and the smaller, less fine one is Ka’elehuluhulu Beach. The water is fine for swimming and boogie boarding but may be a little murky for ideal snorkeling. There are numerous small springs making the near-shore water a little cold.

The mansion of the original owners, the Magoons, can still be seen on the northern edge of the beach. Tours of the mansion have become scarce to sporadic in recent years; if you are interested, contact the Kona Historical Society.

Turn makai at the State Park sign, between mile markers 90 and 91; the road seems nasty to impassable but can be traveled by most passenger vehicles. Facilities include public restrooms and picnic tables, but no drinking water.

Honl’s Beach

Honl's Beach on the Edge of Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Honl's Beach on the Edge of Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

This small beach on the outskirts of Old Kailua Town is where boogie boarding was invented in the 1970s and is a favorite spot for surfers. Honl’s 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 on both sides of Ali’i, but can be tight here during good surf; crossing Ali’i drive can be harrowing at certain times of the day. A new bathroom with running water has recently been constructed on the mauka (mountain) side of the road.

Kahalu’u Beach

Kahalu'u Beach is Kona's Premiere Snorkeling Spot But Is Also A Fabulous Place To Watch Dolphins, Whales and Sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kahalu'u Beach is Kona's Premiere Snorkeling Spot But Is Also A Fabulous Place To Watch Dolphins, Whales and Sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Loll in sand and sun under swaying palms, watch humpback whales dance in an exotic Kona sunset, snorkel among rainbow-colored fish on a protected reef or ride surf where the Kings of Hawaii defined the sport a thousand years ago! Kahalu’u is the choice destination of Kona Coast County Beach Parks.

Kahalu’u is the most popular snorkeling beach on the Island of Hawaii with good reason; protected from the open ocean by a seawall, the reef is also protected against commercial aquarium fishing. The snorkeling is in calm, shallow water and there is an abundance of fish—perhaps the best display on the island. Dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles call this bay home, thrilling the snorkelers. Numerous freshwater springs and shallow water bathers make the near-shore snorkeling unpleasantly cloudy, but about 100 feet offshore the water turns crystal clear and the display of coral is nothing short of amazing.

Outside the seawall is an excellent surf break that is for intermediate or better surfers and boogie boarders. There is a fair current north out of the bay and along the coast—swimmers caught in this current should relax and swim with the current, angling towards land.

Most days there is a food wagon selling sandwiches, burgers, shaved ice, and cold drinks at reasonable prices and a vendor renting snorkeling gear and boogie boards.

Two-Step Beach/Honaunau Bay

Two-Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay Has Some of the Finest Snorkeling in the World: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Two-Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay Has Some of the Finest Snorkeling in the World: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Some superb protected snorkeling and shore-diving is located at Two-Step Beach, adjacent to the Place of Refuge National Historic Park. A wonderland of turtles, coral, and fish, with frequent morning visits by dolphins, this snorkeling experience shouldn’t be missed. No swimming is allowed within the Park, as a measure of respect of the sacredness of the Refuge site; however, Two-Step Beach offers a convenient place to enter Honaunau Bay.

One can enter the bay either by walking down the boat ramp, or by stepping off the short cliff into the water. Two-Step beach gets its name from this short hop. Near the center edge of the lava beach there are two ledges serving as steps to the ocean. At low tide, it’s a simple matter of stepping down: “1, 2, OCEAN!” At high tide, one just steps off the edge and in. Getting out, one simply approaches the steps, puts hands palms down and waits for an incoming wave to float you up and onto the bottom step—the process is easier than it sounds. Resist the temptation to put fingers into small holes and pockets in the rocks to haul yourself out—they are filled with spiny sea urchins. Always lay hands on rocks palms down; don’t use fingers.

The best snorkeling is along the cliff edges and the shallows. Remember that you cannot get out of the water within the confines of the Park. Remember dolphin and sea turtles are federally protected species.

Ho’okena Beach County Park

Hookena Beach in South Kona IS a Fabulous Beach Plunked Down in the Middle of Real Old Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Ho'okena Beach in South Kona Is a Fabulous Beach Plunked Down in the Middle of Real Old Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Brilliant snorkeling, decent boogie boarding, passable shell collecting, and wonderful camping—it’s a wonder Ho’okena Beach is not more popular with visitors. Nestled alongside the ruins of Ho’okena Village, this beach is a wonderful place to spend a morning or a weekend.

Frequented by dolphin, stuffed full of pelagic and reef fish and turtles, and boasting crystal clear, warm and calm waters, Ho’okena is a must-see beach for avid snorkelers and divers as well as sea kayakers. Hiking south over the hills and through cow fields brings one to numerous small, sandy beaches where ocean current conditions make shell collecting possible. Hiking north from the park, one finds the remnants of once-thriving Ho’okena Village, in past times the main rival to Kailua for steamer traffic, but now all but lost to the ravages of tsunami, earthquake, and the passing of time. During the winter months, female Humpback whales and their babies frequent the waters off this bay.

Wonderful beach camping, new showers and restrooms, picnic tables, and abundant fresh water make this county park a gem. There is a vendor renting snorkel gear and kayaks as well as selling some snack and sundry items. Camping is by permit only on a first come-first served basis.

Honomalino Bay

Honomalino Beach is a Short Hike From the Old Hawaiian Fishing Village of Miloli'i: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Honomalino Beach is a Short Hike From the Old Hawaiian Fishing Village of Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A true gem of West Hawaii and rarely crowded, Honomalino Bay is reached by a 20-minute hike from the south end of Miloli’i Beach County Park. The hiking trail starts between the bathrooms and a yellow church and the path to Honomalino is always along the right fork of the trail, in and out of the surf line, to avoid private property.

Snorkeling is very interesting on the north side in the rocks, when the surf is low. The water, though very clear, is sometimes quite cold due to spring discharge in the sand on the beach.

So now that you are armed with all this information and you’ve had the best-ever, mid-winter, beach daydream you’ve had in years, I just have to ask … what are you doing sitting there in your cold, wet, winter misery for? C’mon over to West Hawaii and soak up your fair share of the rays!

Monk seal at Honl's Beach near Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Monk seal at Honl's Beach near Kailua Kona: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and touring the beaches of 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.

Imagine, as it rains, sleets, and snows on you through the long winter, that you are lying under cerulean blue skies, bathed in healing sunlight on a warm golden sand beach, playing in bath-temperature water, and snorkeling among the brightly colored tropical fish and placid, but amazing sea turtles. Sound too good to be true? In West Hawaii, this soothing daydream is our day-to-day reality.

Hapuna Beach, One Of Hawaii's Most Popular, Is Frequently Quite Empty: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapuna Beach, One Of Hawaii's Most Popular, Is Frequently Quite Empty: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lying in the rain shadow of two enormous volcanoes reaching from sea level to almost 14,000 feet in the sky, the weather year-round on the west coasts of the Big Island is universally gorgeous, reliably warm, and indescribably delicious.

Our beaches range from wide, mile-long golden swaths of sands bounded by turquoise waters on one side and stands of palms and mangroves on the other to the tiny patches of white sand plunked down in the middle of town where everybody gathers to cool off in the afternoon and gaze at West Hawaii’s unbelievable sunsets. Let’s take a quick tour of just a sampling of the unbelievably fabulous, romantic, relaxing, beautiful beaches of West Hawaii. Our trip starts on the north end of the Kohala Coast and proceeds south towards the Kona Coast.

Hapuna Beach

At Hapuna It's a 7 Minute Walk From The Car To The Beach...Be Sure To Bring Everything You Need: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

At Hapuna It's a 7 Minute Walk From The Car To The Beach...Be Sure To Bring Everything You Need: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Always rated in the top ten of American beaches, Hapuna Beach is the premiere beach destination on the Island of Hawaii. Long, wide, and phenomenally sandy, it has everything one dreams of in a Hawaiian beach: abundant sun, surf, clean, clear and quiet snorkeling water, shade, and well-maintained facilities.

There are lifeguards, several pavilions, barbecues, picnic tables, restrooms, showers, and a small café. The center of the beach is for wave play and boogie boarding; the north and south coves are quieter, for snorkeling or gentle floating.

Waialea Beach (Beach 69)

69 West Side Beaches 1_edited-1

Waialea Beach (Beach 69) Is An Ideal Family Beach and Is Almost Always Uncrowded: Photo by nie MacGowan

A perfect crescent of golden sand backed by abundant shade at the edge of the beach makes this an ideal, though little known, family beach. After about 10 in the morning and on windy days, the water in the bay is a tad murkier than ideal for snorkeling, but most of the visitors to this beach don’t seem to mind. A chain of tiny islands and pinnacles leads northward to crystalline water and a long coral reef for some of the most outrageous snorkeling and shore diving anywhere in the state.

A trail over the north headland leads to a secluded (often clothing optional) cove and then onward to Hapuna Beach. Although most of the shore is relatively free of currents, only experienced snorkelers who are strong swimmers will want to snorkel around the north end of Waialea, past the cove and the reef, past the sea arch, and on to Hapuna—a long, but rewarding swim with some of the most incredible underwater vistas available to the snorkeler in the world.

Take the Puako Road exit from the highway and turn north toward Hapuna. Near Pole 71, an obvious, newly paved road and parking lot indicate the start of the short trail to the beach. Restrooms, picnic tables, water, and showers round out the facilities.

Anaeho’omalu Bay
The most photographed sunset view on the Island of Hawaii, Anaeho’omalu Bay is the icon of what most visitors envision Hawaii to be like before they get here—swaying palm trees, a clean beach fronting warm, safe, swimmable ocean, and hordes of eager beach boys bearing large, tropical drinks with comical names like “Malahini Wahine Wahoo.” Here at the bay, one can rent snorkel or surfing gear, sign-up for sailing trips, snorkel tours, windsurfing lessons or scuba dives, order food and drinks, or just lounge pleasantly in the niumalu (shade of the coconut palms).

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

Named for the ancient fishponds behind the beach, from the words anae (“mullet”) and ho’malu (“to protect”), Anaeho’omalu Bay is known as “A-Bay” to locals. In addition to swimming, snorkeling, diving, windsurfing, and just plain hanging out, the area around A-Bay is also rich with archaeological sites, including section of the Ala Ali’i (King’s Trail), fish ponds, heiau (temples), and petroglyphs.

Walking the trail south from A-Bay to Kapalaoa Beach will take one along not only vistas of incomparable beauty and wildness, but also reveal numerous rarely visited petroglyphs. There is good snorkeling along the farthest south pocket of sand on Kapalaoa Beach. One can follow this tail several miles all the way south to Pueo Bay and Ke-awa-iki Beach along lava flows and shoreline, but it is a long, hot hike with no water for drinking available.

Walking north along the trail (shoes required) over sand, lava, and coral, to the Hilton Waikoloa Resort is an unforgettable sunset stroll, and a good introduction to the wild beauty of the Kohala Coast. There are numerous tidepools, a couple with resident Honu, Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.

Follow the Mauna Lani Resort road to the left turn clearly marked Anaeho’omalu Bay, turn and proceed to the end of the road. Facilities and services are available at A-Bay and on the Resort Grounds.

Kiholo Bay Area
Snorkeling, country music, history, ancient fish ponds, and medical science … what more could anyone ask for?

This remarkable, beautiful, and sadly popular area is accessed in two ways: first, by a gravel road going ocean-ward from the highway immediately south of the Overlook pullout at mile 82. This road is only open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., but accesses the south end of the bay, a pebbly beach terminated in austere a’a flows to the south. The round house on the beach was built by country and western singer Loretta Lynn, but was condemned and taken by the State when it created the beach park. Swimming and boogie boarding here are excellent in low to moderate surf, but beware of current and surginess; if the surf is high, do not go in. A trail south below the big mansion on the headland leads about three quarters of a mile to a tiny black sand beach with an amazing coral garden. This little beach is my favorite snorkeling secret on the island.

A Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Suns Herself on the Long, Sinuous Kiholo Beach Which Alternates equal Portions of Bedrock, Pebble and Black Sand: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Suns Herself on the Long, Sinuous Kiholo Beach Which Alternates equal Portions of Bedrock, Pebble and Black Sand: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A 4WD road/trail continues north along the black pebble beach and cliffs to Kiholo Bay proper. This part of the Kiholo Area can also be accessed via a newly rebuilt dirt road that leaves the parking lot immediately south of mile marker 81.

Along the beach, on the mauka side, is a freshwater spring and pond in a lava tube (Keanalele Waterhole), a great place to rinse off after swimming or hiking along the beach. Please rinse off excess sunscreen in the ocean before enjoying this refreshing pool. Also along this portion of the beach are a number of mansions, most notably the Bali House (oh, you’ll know it when you see it) and the home of Earl Bakken, the billionaire inventor of the pacemaker. Believe the no trespassing signs you see here.

Full of turtles, beautiful to swim, and a wonderful place to learn to surf, Kiholo Bay proper has it all. In addition, the sweat required to reach it has the added bonus of weeding out the undesirables. Just north of Kiholo Bay is a beautiful, turquoise brackish lagoon, all that remains of a 2-mile long fishpond erected by Kamehameha the Great around 1810, which was destroyed by the Mauna Kea lava flow of 1859.

At Kiholo, as with other beaches on the Island of Hawaii, it is quite usual to see several sea turtles basking on the sand. If, however, you see dozens and dozens of turtles out of the water on the beach, you may properly suspect something big enough and with strong enough jaws to eat a 6-foot diameter turtle is cruising the nearby waters—a good clue that perhaps this is not a day for casual swimming.

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Here at Waialea Beach, The Near Perfect Year Round Weather, Turquiose-Bath-Temperature-Waters And Relative Lack of Crowds Illustrate Why the Kohala Coast Beaches of Hawaii Island Are Among the World's Favorites: Photo By Donnie MacGowan

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

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

By Donnie MacGowan

Coming to my island for a vacation? There are three things I always recommend the first-time visitor do. First, go on an air tour. 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.
Photo by Donald MacGowan

Bradford MacGowan Snorkeling at Pu'u Honua O Hounaunau: Photo by Donald MacGowan

We’ve covered snorkeling gear and technique…before we go any farther, let’s talk a minute about snorkeling safety.

First and foremost, as with all ocean sports, never turn your back on the ocean. Just as important, never snorkel alone; never get more than 20 feet from your partner. Before getting in the ocean, memorize the color of your partner’s mask and snorkel…this is how you will recognize him from a distance in the water. Listen to advice from the lifeguards, obey posted warnings, always pay attention to the currents, surf conditions and surges over rocks. Chat with people coming out as you are going in…what were conditions like?  What do the recommend?  Where was the cool stuff?

Plan your points of entry and exit before you get wet; try to enter and exit from sandy areas with little of no surf. You and your partner should agree on a plan about where you are getting in and getting out of the water, what part of the bay you are going to explore and how long you plan to be out. Don’t overestimate your abilities, plan conservatively, err on the side of safety. Don’t change this plan once you are in the water, except to make it shorter and more safe.

Don’t confront incoming waves head-on, don’t try to jump over them and don’t turn your back on them; duck under incoming waves before they reach you.  Watch the local kids on boogie boards…see how they duck the waves?  You do that, too.

Never snorkel on windy days. Offshore winds may take you unexpectedly out to sea or make it hard to swim back in and onshore breezes stack extra water, high on the beach, making nasty rip-currents as it flows back into the ocean. Onshore breezes also bring in jelly fish and man-o-war.

If you are caught in a current, don’t panic; don’t swim against the current but rather swim diagonally across it toward shore. Keep going, you’ll make it. No, keep going.  I know you are tired., but you’ll get there if you just…keep…going.

Novices should NEVER enter caves or explore under overhangs.  No, I don’t care, don’t do it.  Be extremely careful when swimming near rock formations, pinnacles, spires or reefs…snagging your swimsuit on the rocks or coral while underwater can quickly evolve from a minor irritation to a life threatening emergency.

Many people like the extra comfort and safety provided by wearing an inflatable snorkeling vest or having a “floatie” such as a polystyrene noodle or a boogie board.  I say do it—don’t be intimidated by those idiots out there with nothing, be swayed by the intelligence of those out there who do have something for extra flotation.  A noodle or boogie board will also allows you a platform to rest on and catch your breath between dives, and helps you navigate any waves more comfortably.

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. I cannot stress this enough–it’s easy to get overtired; get your partner and swim in BEFORE you feel fatigued, thirsty, sunburned; BEFORE the wind comes up or the surf builds. So stay focused, stay oriented, always know where you are, where your partner is.

Safety around fish, marine mammals and sharks is thouroughly discussed here.

Lee Ann MacGruder Snorkels the shallows at Ho'okena Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lee Ann MacGruder Snorkels the shallows at Ho'okena Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sunscreen washing off your body pollutes the water and is a major factor in coral death–wear a t-shirt and baseball cap to avoid sunburn while in the water, waiting until you are out of the ocean and rinsed off to apply sunscreen. Sun screen and sunglasses, necessary to combat the deceptively severe tropical sun, are so important that I’ve written a separate articles about sun burn and sunscreen in Hawaii and what sunglasses you should bring to Hawaii. Too many visitors drastically underestimate the strength and ferocity of our sun and wind-up with vacation-ruining sunburns.

Many things in the ocean sting, most commonly sea urchins–avoid them, do not handle or step on them. White vinegar kills sea urchin stings from embedded spines and, regularly applied, helps to dissolve the spine. Other home remedies for sea urchin, jelly fish and other stings include the application of moistened tobacco, hydrogen peroxide or urine (this latter can be hard to self-administer and will quickly let you know who your real friends are). Like wasp stings, most stings from ocean creatures are not medically dangerous, merely a painful nuisance, but it’s best to be prepared with whatever remedy you choose in your beach kit. Some jellyfish stings and all man-o-war stings are potentially life-threatening and need to be treated at the emergency department of the nearest hospital.

This shouldn’t even need mentioning, but of course, if you’ve been drinking–even a little, you should not go snorkeling. Snorkeling is best done between about 9 a.m. and noon, anyway, so sobriety shouldn’t even be an issue. Oh, right; you’re on vacation–I forgot.

Don’t forget to drink lots of water…immersion in salt water is very dehydrating and just swimming around you’ve worked harder–and sweated more–than you realize. Be kind to your skin and rinse yourself and your gear with fresh water immediately after you get out of the ocean and remember to apply sunscreen and wear your sunglasses. Don’t overestimate your skin’s tolerance for beach sun; a nasty sunburn is distressingly easy to acquire and will absolutely ruin your vacation. Now might be a good time to go inside and cool off, rest a bit–you are on vacation, you know?

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Bradford MacGowan Photographs a school of Humuhumuele'ele at Kahalu'u Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

That’s a few of the gear technique and safety tips you should bear in mind…remember to heed whatever advice the lifeguards give you–they are seasoned professionals who intimately know their beach; obey posted rules and be wary of riptides and currents. Most of all, spring for a cheap-o $10 disposable underwater camera, get in the water and enjoy…those fish won’t photograph themselves, you know!  Shoot, they;re cheap…buy two!  And take pictures of each other, for Pete’s sake!

A video covering many of these topics is available here.

For more information about visiting and touring Hawaii in general, and exploring the fabulous snorkeling on the Big Island in particular, visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com – a short video about snorkeling in Hawaii is available here. To see a funny video of my family learning to snorkel in Hawaii, go here. For information about the author, go here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan.

By Donnie MacGowan

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mask, Fins and Snorkel: 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–seeing my island from the air is the only way to appreciate its vastness and diversity of landscapes-and it’s the best way to see the erupting volcano.

Secondly-go to a luau–for people with limited time, you will not be able to discover much about the magic of the local lifestyle, and although canned and packaged for visitor consumption, a luau is a good place to get an introduction to it.

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. There are some things to bear in mind about snorkeling, however, so let’s take a moment to talk about gear (covered here, in Part I), technique (covered in our next post, Part II), reef etiquette and the animals which inhabit the coral reefs (which will be in Part III), safety (Part IV) and snorkeling wilderness beaches (Part VI).

First some advice about snorkeling gear:

Bringing vs. Renting vs. Buying: Bringing your personal snorkeling gear from home insures that you are familiar with the gear and you know that it fits…but it’s a hassle in your luggage. In this day and age of paying for extra baggage, it may be better to simply rent. Renting gear once you get to your destination is cheaper than buying it there and you don’t have to make room in your luggage to lug it home. If you do decide to buy, remember stores like COSTCO and WalMart sell great gear at low prices–you do not need to drop a fortune on snorkeling gear at a dive shop or specialty shop to get perfectly serviceable, safe and comfortable gear at affordable prices.

Fit: The mask should fit snugly over the face; you should be able to hold it onto your face with suction simply by taking in a quick breath through your nose. The strap should be snug enough to hold the mask in place against face but it should not be tight–if it is too tight, it’ll make wrinkles in the seal, letting water in. Simple water pressure against the outside of the mask seals it. If you wear glasses, either use contacts while snorkeling or get a mask that has vision-corrected mask lenses (which is more expensive, but almost universally available); it’s almost never possible to seal a mask around your glasses. The strap should pass up around the “ball” of your head, not over the ears…make sure the strap is easily adjustable and spend sometime getting the fit right–it’ll make you lots more comfortable and safe in the water.

Fins should fit snugly like shoes, but you should able to pull them on and off without a struggle. If they are too loose, you’ll either lose them or get blisters; if they are too tight, you’ll get cramps AND blisters. With fins you need to make a choice. Shoe-style fins are easiest for the novice to use, but if you have to enter the water over rocks, your feet may get abused as you wade out barefoot–it is unsafe to cross the beach or rocks wearing your fins; wait until you are in the water. Strap-style fins allow you to wear reef-walker shoes with the fins, which makes rocky entries easier. If you choose this option, make sure the fins fit over your feet with the reef shoes on.

Snorkels come in a confusing array of styles and an astounding range of prices. Although some have space-age design features, a decent snorkel with a comfortable mouthpiece and a simple splash guard is all that’s required. I personally prefer models with a flexible tube with a drain/purge valve connecting the mouth piece to the snorkel.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Laurie Maus Using a Boogie Board as a Floatie: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Floaties: Many beginners, and even experienced ocean explorers in surgey or high surf conditions, appreciate having a floatation device. Standard life-jacket styles are not recommended because they are designed to keep your head above the water while the whole point of snorkeling is to keep your head under the water. There are specially designed snorkeling vests and belts which work quite well, but are waaay spendy. Boogie boards are a nice alternative; they have a wrist leash so you won’t get separated from it and provide a floating platform to rest on, making your forays out over the reef longer and more enjoyable. Safer, too. Another, much less expensive, alternative is the foam “noodle” available in the toy department of all WallMarts and stores like that. I like to attach a boogie-board wrist leash to mine to keep it from floating away when I dive down. A large noodle will support even a full grown man upright in the water when ridden “horsey-style”.

All the gear you drag with you needs to be carried in something and by far the best way is in a nylon mesh bag; rental gear will come in one and you can buy them inexpensively where you buy your mask and fins. Since you must rinse your gear off with fresh water immediately after you climb out of the ocean, this allows the gear to “breathe” as it dries, obviating the annoying growth of mildew.

For after your swim, a large, thirsty towel is also a nice beach accoutrement, but do not use it to lie on the sand with. Buy a cheap rice mat instead (again, at WalMart or such)–it won’t collect sand, it’s cooler on the skin, smells nice and it means your towel will be clean and sand-free when you use it to dry-off. Don’t forget to bring drinking water…lots and lots of drinking water. Immersion in salt water is dehydrating by itself and just swimming around you’ve worked harder–and sweated more–than you realize. Wear a t-shirt when in the water to protect from the sun–suncream kills the corals so don’t put it on and then get in the water. Rinse yourself and your gear with fresh water immediately after you get out of the ocean and remember to apply sunscreen at this point and to wear your sunglasses. Sun screen and sunglasses, necessary to combat the deceptively severe tropical sun, are so important that I’ve written a separate articles about sun burn and sunscreen in Hawaii and what sunglasses you should bring to Hawaii. Too many visitors drastically underestimate the strength and ferocity of our sun and wind-up with vacation-ruining sunburns.

Don’t overestimate your skin’s tolerance for beach sun. For instance, now might be a good time to go inside and cool off, you know?

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Liz Maus Snorkeling at Hounaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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 a video presentation covering much of this information, go here. For information on the author, go here.

This post has been updated, expanded and improved!  Please go here.

Reprinted from here.

Packing Your Bags for Hawaii: With airlines now charging for a second–or in some cases even for the first–piece of luggage, and strict “50 pounds per piece of luggage” weight limits being enforced, the thrifty traveler is forced to plan ahead wisely to avoid racking-up expensive luggage fees. I used to travel by the motto “Don’t check your baggage unless you can afford to lose it; if you can afford to loose it, don’t bring it”, thus I never traveled anywhere with anything more than my carry-on. While it is always good to travel as lightly as possible, with the advent of stringent new carry-on limits and my advancing age (and concomitant increasing desire to travel in comfort) I have learned to travel with only one piece of checked baggage plus my carry-on. The key is packing smart so you can pack less.

Be Smart About Your Carry On Baggage: Most airlines allow you to bring one carry-on bag and a personal item such as a purse or a lap-top. I push this a little by bringing a carry-on bag plus my lap-top in a computer pack which also has room for one video camera, my SLR Camera and an emergency change of clothes (in case all my other luggage is lost). Usually they let me get away with this. Because I trust neither baggage handlers nor TSA inspectors and my luggage has been lost more times than I remember, I pack my other video camera and the majority of my clothes in my other carry on bag so they don’t have to be checked. In this bag I also carry a quart of water (purchased at the airport, after security inspection) and some snacks.

You’ll want at least one book to read on the flight; your tickets, reservation confirmations, travelers checks, list of phone numbers, spare glasses and medications should be put in a water-proof bag in the carry-on bag you intend to hold most tightly to.

Remember that more books, extra batteries, memory cards, video tape or film for your cameras can be purchased at Wal-Mart or Costco on-island almost as cheaply as on the mainland and it isn’t necessary to fill your luggage up with extras. If you do pack film, and it is in your carry-on, be sure to protect it against x-rays.

Plan for Your Activities: You may be planning on indulging in some particular activities while in Hawaii that require specific gear or clothing–it is best to think this through thoroughly when packing. If you are going snorkeling, many people intend to save money by bringing their own gear. This is false economy if it causes you to pay for an extra piece of luggage on the plane. Buying snorkel gear on the island is fairly inexpensive and renting it is fast, easy and even cheaper. The same can be said of renting diving gear and golf clubs. Activities such as hiking and horseback riding require a fairly specific wardrobe, but if you plan correctly, you only have to bring your hiking/riding boots and an extra pair of pants and shirt suitable to the activity. If you plan on visiting the mountain summits, remember that they can be quite cold–even snowy or rainy–so plan and pack accordingly. If you bring boots, I advise wearing them on the plane to save room and weight in your bags. As for photography gear or musical instruments–any expensive or delicate equipment for that matter–my philosophy is to never turn loose with it. Never check your cameras, your guitar, your laptop, etc–it’s a recipe for loss.

Plan for the Weather: Being tropical, temperatures at sea level in Hawaii vary only by about 10 degrees between day and night and throughout the year. It’s hot during the day, plan a cool wardrobe. The windward side is generally rainy and the “up-country” towns (mountains) frequently can experience afternoon showers. Evenings, particularly up-country, are delightfully cool as there is generally an evening or onshore breeze. With forethought, your wardrobe can cover all these situations without being bulky, heavy or ornate.

Specifics: Suits in Hawaii are unnecessary; even Circuit Court judges wear Aloha Shirts under their robes here. A nice shirt, generally an Aloha Shirt, and a pair of khakis are the wardrobe of choice at the finer restaurants and nightclubs–everywhere else, it’s shorts and sandals. I would advise a total wardrobe consisting of a polo-style shirt and a couple Aloha Shirts, one pair of long khakis and three pair of shorts, a couple tank tops or t-shirts; that’s all you need to cover most bases. Women may want to toss in a light sundress or skirt. Sandals are all you’ll need or want in the way of footwear (your feet will be HOT)–unless you want to toss in a pair of running shoes for exercise or hiking.

Bring two swimsuits–you will be amazed how pleasant being in the water is in the hot tropics, whether you are just cooling off in the pool after a hot day or snorkeling with the turtles and fish daily, so you’ll probably want to swim everyday. Swimsuits rarely dry overnight and it’s a lot more pleasant to get into a warm, dry suit than a wet, cold one.

If you plan on riding horseback or exploring the higher elevations such as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or Mauna Kea, be sure to bring some jeans and hiking shoes, a warm sweater and light rain jacket/windbreaker also. A compact traveler’s umbrella is always a good idea.

Don’t forget to pack your toiletries and personal items; I used to carry these on, in case of lost luggage, but restrictions on liquids and gels and razors make this impractical. Medications, of course, go in the carry-on. Sun block, sun hat, sunglasses and sun-burn cream (I use an aloe gel) will make your vacation smoother, but can be purchased cheaply locally if you don’t quite have room for them.

Just as an aside, two things you need to be head’s up about when you are in Hawaii–if you begin to feel thirsty, you’ve waited too long to get a drink of water; if you begin to feel the sun, you’ve waited too long to put sun block on. Drink more water than you think you need, apply sun block before you go out and re-apply more often that you think you need. Your body is used to more moderate climates and won’t warn you in time of the danger.

Many people plan ahead by leaving ample room to bring back souvenirs and gifts; modern restriction on the number of pieces of luggage allowed make this impractical. Instead, I spend the month before my trip weeding through my wardrobe, taking one very nice set of clothes and the remainder of the clothes I take are items bound for the thrift store. Thus, I simply leave them at the end of my stay and thereby have more than enough space in my luggage for anything I buy. Remember that the U.S .Post Office sells flat-rate, pre-paid, specified shipping-weight boxes for very inexpensive rates. Ask for “Flat Rate Shipping Boxes” and ship those gifts home safely, cheaply and with no fuss on your part.

For more information about visiting and touring Hawaii in general, and exploring the historic and cultural sites on the Big Island in particular, visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com or http://www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. For more information on Donald B. MacGowan, the author, go here.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Donald_MacGowan

Snorkeling Etiquette on Kahalu’u Beach

By Donald MacGowan

Loll in sand and sun under swaying palms, watch humpback whales dance in an exotic Kona sunset, snorkel among rainbow-colored fish on a protected reef or ride surf where the Kings of Hawai’i defined the sport a thousand years ago.

Kahalu’u Beach is the most popular snorkeling beach on the Island of Hawai’i with good reason; protected from the open ocean by a seawall, the reef is also protected against commercial aquarium fishing. The snorkeling is in calm, shallow water; there is an abundance of fish of an enormous variety…perhaps the best display on the island. Dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles call this bay home, eating the limu and thrilling the snorkelers. Numerous freshwater springs and shallow water bathers make the near-shore snorkeling unpleasantly cloudy, but about 100 feet offshore the water turns crystal clear and the display of coral is nothing short of amazing.

Outside the seawall is an excellent surf break that is for intermediate or better surfers and boogie boarders. There is a fair current north out of the bay and along the coast…swimmers caught in this current should relax and swim with the current, angling towards land.

Adjacent to Kahalu’u Beach is St. Peter’s Church, locally know as “The Little Blue Church”; it is the most photographed church in the State of Hawai’i. The history the St. Peter’s is fascinating and takes longer to tell than a tour of its Spartan interior and dozen pews. Originally built in 1880 on the site of La Aloa (Magic Sands) beach, the church was dismantled and hand carried piece by piece to its current location at Ku’emanu Heiau in 1912. In 1938, Father Benno of St. Michael’s added the belfry and the porch. Twice since it was situated here, St.Peters has been moved off its foundations by tsunami, but due to its small size and sturdy construction, has survived long in a harsh environment.

The Hawai’ian word Kahalu’u can be translated as “the place where people go into the water”; in ancient, as well as modern times, Kahalu’u was a place of recreation, relaxation and restoration. There are numerous sites of historic importance around the park, such as the breakwater, Paokamenehune, which predates the 15th century temple complexes in the area and is widely said to have been built by the menehune (sort of the Hawai’ian equivalent to leprechauns), but building was actually initiated to enclose the bay as a fishpond. Whether the work became beyond the powers of the Ali’i at the time to administrate or the surfing faction won-out in the battle over use of Kahalu’u Bay is not known, but the breakwater was already in disarray at the time of European contact in the 18th century. The springs on the northern edge of the park, at Ku’emanu Heiau, Waikui Punawai, where luakini sacrifices were ritually cleansed and today surfers rinse ocean water off themselves after surfing. Between St. Peters and the northern restroom is the Awa pae Wai O Keawaiki canoe landing which figured prominently in the Maui-Hawaii wars of the 16th Century. The large pond between the northern restrooms and the small pavilion, Wai Kua’a’la loko, was the private bathing pond of Hawai’ian Ali’i in residence at Kahalu’u.

Between the two pavilions is another ancient canoe landing and even into historic times, a halau wa’a, or canoe storage house, was situated here. An important heiau and royal residence, Mokuahi’ole, stood where the large pavilion is today. It was at this site that the great queen and wife of Kamehameha the Great, Ka’ahumanu, and her cousin Kuakini (later Territorial Governor) were raised.

Most days there is a food wagon selling sandwiches, burgers, shave ice and cold drinks at reasonable prices and a vendor renting snorkeling gear and boogie boards.

Since Kahalu’u Beach is where most people go to snorkel, let’s take a moment to talk about reef etiquette and the animals which inhabit the coral reefs. Please do not feed the fish, it disrupts their natural feeding habits and you may be injured. Reef fish do occasionally “nip”, so do not chase, harass or touch them (this includes octopi). The oils on your fingers will injure their skin and they may carry diseases which they can pass to you on your hands.

No discussion of Kahalu’u would be complete without a word about Hawaii’s Green Sea Turtles. Called Honu by Hawaii’s natives, the Hawaiian Green Sea turtle is beautiful, serene and seeming wise. Though they have swum the oceans for over 200 million years, peacefully feeding on algae and invertebrates, this highly successful product of amphibian evolution is in grave danger. Loss of habitat, hunting and molestation by humans has conspired to push the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle to the very verge of extinction. Protected now by state and federal law, the population of once millions of individuals has been decimated to just a few hundred thousand; although they are making a comeback, Hawaii’s honu are still very much endangered. Honu may grow up to 45 inches and weigh as much as 400 pounds at maturity, reached at 25 years of age.

Hawaiian Green sea turtles can easily be differentiated from the other near shore sea turtle in Hawaii, the much less common Hawksbill turtle, by counting the scales between the eyes. Hawksbills have four scales between the eyes and Hawaiian Green Sea turtles have two. Lady honu crawl on shore to lay their eggs, generally after migration to the quieter shores of the French Frigate Shoals, 800 miles northwest of Hawaii, or the black sand beaches on the south end of the Big Island of Hawaii.

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

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

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

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

For more information on visiting Hawaii in general and touring the Big Island in particualar, go to www.tourguidehawaii.com as well as here.