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by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Frank Burgess, brought to you by Tour Guide Hawaii

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

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

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

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

For an interesting day of driving, head north out of Kona on Hwy. 19. About 4 miles out of town we come across the Kaloko-Honokohau Historic Park. There is a new visitor center giving info on the significance of this area to ancient Hawaiians. Tour Guide has an extensive narration about this area. The adjacent Honokohau small boat harbor is an excellent spot to find hiking trails, beaches, snorkeling, whale watching and deep sea fishing.

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

Continue driving north past the Kona International Airport, you will be viewing lava fields dating back to 1802. Another 10 minutes brings you to the turn off for the Hualalai resorts. The Kona Village and Four Seasons resorts are surrounded by the beautiful Hualalai Golf Course, home of the PGA MasterCard Championship. Tour Guide lists every golf course on the Big Island. This whole resort area was built to be nearly invisible from the hwy.

After the Hualali Resorts, there is about 20 minutes of driving to reach the Waikoloa resorts. Tour Guide will you give info on some secluded beaches along the way. For most of these you will have to park on the hwy and hike to the shore. Since these beaches are so secluded, there will be no facilities. My favorite of these is Kua Bay. Here there is parking near the beach, restrooms and water available, but no shade. Since there is no sign on the hwy, Tour Guide will tell you where to turn to find this family friendly beach park.

Super tip: Hawaii is much closer to the equator than you may be used to. Even when it’s cloudy, the sun will burn the skin quickly. Your friendly staff at Tour Guide recommends you use sunscreen liberally and re-apply often, especially after swimming, snorkeling or hiking.  Drink more water than you think is necessary–avoid diuretics such as sodas, coffee and alcohol.

Next, as we head north, is the Waikoloa Beach Resorts. This beautiful resort area is cut right out of the jagged lava rock. It boasts the Marriott and Hilton Waikoloa which have shops and fabulous dining. Many coupons and much information of the restaurants and shops in this are can be found in two Big Island magazines, here and here. Hilton Grand Vacations operates a huge timeshare resort here and there are numerous condos all centered around two championship golf courses. Tour Guide will give turn-by-turn directions to the resorts and golf courses in this area.

The King’s Shops and Queen’s Marketplace, on Waikoloa Beach Drive, offers mid to high end shopping with some famous brand name stores. If an ultimate dining experience is what you’re after, world famous chef’s whip up their culinary delights to tempt your palate. There is also a food court for more casual dining. Tour Guide will take you to all of this, plus family activities like sun bathing, swimming, snorkeling, wind surfing and dinner cruises, focused around the most photographed sunset spot on the island, Anaeho’omalu Bay.

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

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

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

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

North Kona and Kohala: Ancient History, Sumptuous Beaches
Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site) 8 hours.

by Donnie MacGowan

The tour begins at the Keauhou Historic District with ancient battlefields, heiau (stone temples), surfing beaches and shopping in Kailua Kona. 15 minutes north of town is Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park. See how Hawai’ians used aquaculture to create thriving communities in desolate areas. Among the many coastal sites, Hapuna Beach State Park, 30 minutes north, is rated in the Top 10 Best Beaches of the world, then stop 20 minutes further at Pu’u Kohala National Historic Park to visit an enormous heiau erected to the war god, Kuka’ilimoku. After several more sites, the road ends at Pololu Valley where wild ocean, cliffs, rainforest, waterfalls and a black sand beach make for stunning photographs plus a one hour hike. Looping back, Highway 250 cruises 45 minutes over Kohala Volcano to the lush pastures of Waimea for history of ranching in Hawaii as well as great shopping and dining. From Waimea it is one hour back to Kona.

Leg 1) In Kailua Kona, start at Keauhou Historic District, southern point. Drive Ali’i Drive north to Kahalu’u Beach, Keauhou Historic District (north terminus), La’aloa Beach and Ahu’ena Heiau.

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

Kue'manu Heiau: the only temple to surfing gods still in use today: Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kue'manu Heiau: the only temple to surfing gods still in use today: Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For almost 400 years, temples and palaces along the Kona coastline served as a kind of “Rome of the Pacific”, a great political, religious and cultural center in Polynesia, until the capital was moved to Honolulu in 1850 by Kamehameha III. The most important, interesting and best preserved historical and cultural sites lie within the Keauhou Historic District, between Kahalu’u Beach Park in Kailua running south 6 miles to Kuamo’o Bay in Keauhou. The District contains perhaps a dozen fascinating sites that are easy to walk to, well maintained and quite interesting.

To see the numerous fascinating and important archaeological sites in the Keauhou Historic District, it is necessary to park your car in the free parking at either Kahalu’u Beach Park or the Keauhou Beach Resort and explore on foot.

Just uphill from the Historic District is the Kona Coffee District. Hawaii is the only state in the union which produces coffee, and Kona coffee is perhaps the finest in the world. Over 2 millions pounds of coffee a year are produced on about 600, 2-3 acre farms; tours of coffee farms and roasteries are available.

Kahalu’u Beach County Park

Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Loll in sand and sun under swaying palms, 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 is the crown jewel of Kona Coast County Beach Parks. This is the premiere snorkeling beach of the Island of Hawai’i; the snorkeling is in calm, shallow water. There is an abundance of fish of an enormous variety…perhaps the best display on the island. Go carefully into the water, being sure not to harass the endangered turtles, feed or harm the fish, nor touch or stand upon the corals.
There are numerous sites of historic importance around the park. It was here that the great queen, Ka’ahumanu, and her cousin Kuakini (later Territorial Governor) were raised. Abundant parking, disabled access, picnic tables, two shaded pavilions, two sets of public restrooms, showers and lifeguards round-out the facilities of this beautiful beach park.

La’aloa Beach County Park (White Sands/Magic Sands)

Boogie Boarders At La'aloaBeach, Kona Hawaii: Poto by Donne MacGowan

Boogie Boarders At La'aloaBeach, Kona Hawaii: Poto by Donne MacGowan

La Aloa Beach Park is a small, but fascinating, beach. The beach derives the name “Magic Sands” from the fact that for 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. The surf 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.

The La’aloa Heiau, makai of the parking lot, is very sacred to the native Hawai’ians and a hotly contested archeological site. Although not fenced off, visitors are asked not to wander the grounds of the heiau, disturb stones or walls. A county facility, it boasts showers, toilets and running water in addition to a volleyball court and lifeguards stationed throughout the day (except State Holidays).

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach

Ahu'ena Heiau Temple Precincts, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahu'ena Heiau Temple Precincts, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Centuries ago the inhabitants of this region built a series of sacred temples, or heiau, which were originally used for the purpose of sacrificing human beings to their war god, Kuka’ilimoku. This particular archeological site is called Ahu’ena Heiau, which in Hawaiian means “Hill of Fire”.

Built originally in the 15th century and rededicated by Kamehameha the Great in the early 1800s as the main temple of his capital, the current structures seen at Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built in 1975 under the auspices of the Bishop Museum with financial help from the Hotel King Kamehameha and are constructed to 1/3 the original scale. There are restrooms and showers located on the pier near the beach. Adjacent Old Kailua Town is a treasure of shops, restaurants and aloha.

Leg 2) From Ahu’ena Heiau, drive Palani Road east to Hwy 19; go north on Hwy 19 to Koloko Honokohau National Historic Park.

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park

Kaloko Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaloko Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

At Honokohau, ancient Hawai’ians took advantage of abundant freshwater springs to site a large community centered on fishing, fishponds and taro fields. The National Historic Park preserves a vast complex of important archeological sites, including heiaus, fishponds, a fish trap, house sites, burials, a holua (sledding track), a Queen’s Bath and abundant petroglyphs. The Information Center, which is near Highway 19, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and has full facilities, restrooms and a small souvenir and bookshop.

Leg 3) Continue north on Hwy 19 to Kekaha Kai State Park, Kua Bay, Anaeho’omalu Bay, Waialea Beach and Hapuna Beach.

Kekaha Kai State Park

Makalawena Wilderness Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Makalawena Wilderness Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

At Kekaha Kai, there are a wonderful set of beaches plunked down in one of Hawai’i Island’s gem parks. The northernmost and loveliest beach is Mahai’ula and the smaller, more southerly, 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 along the entire beach making the near-shore water a little cold. Hidden in a little pocket of wilderness, perhaps the finest beach on the island, Makalawena Beach, is contained in this park. It is reached by a 20-30 minute hike over beaches and rough lava from the parking lot. Swimming and snorkeling on this uncrowded, indeed largely unknown, beach are beyond excellent. Facilities include public restrooms and picnic tables, but no drinking water.

Kua Bay

Kua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The site of Kona’s newest beach park, this is a lovely white sand beach. Although there is no shade to speak of, 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. 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.

Access is via a newly paved road recently opened to the public (on the ocean-side from the Veteran’s Cemetery). Park facilities include parking, picnic tables, restrooms and water. Wild goats are frequently seen in this area.

Anaeho’omalu Bay

Anaeho'omalu Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Anaeho'omalu Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The most photographed sunset view on the Island of Hawai’i, Anaeho’omalu Bay is the icon of what most visitors envision Hawai’i to be like before they get here…swaying palm trees, a clean beach fronting warm, safe, swimmable ocean and 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). Facilities and services are available at A-Bay and on the nearby resort grounds.

Waialea Beach (Beach 69)

Waialea Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waialea Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie 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. 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. 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. Restrooms, picnic tables, water and showers round out the facilities.

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapuna Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Always rated in the Top 10 of American beaches, Hapuna Beach is the premiere beach destination on the Island of Hawai’i. Long, wide and phenomenally sandy, it has everything one dreams of in a Hawai’ian 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. Although most patrons must walk about 100 yards down a path from the parking lot, Handicapped Parking exists right on the beach.

Leg 4) Continue North on 19 to jct with Hwy 270; north on 270 to Pu’u Kohola and Lapakahi State Park.

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park

Pu'u Kohola National Historical Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Pu'u Kohola National Historical Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

A temple inspired by a god-sent vision of greatness, Kamehameha built Pu’ukohola in response to a prophecy by Kaua’i kahuna Kapoukahi that foretold if he built a great temple to his war god Ku in one day, Kamehameha would prevail in his wars of conquest and unite the Hawai’ian Islands. Perhaps as many as 20,000 people passing stones hand-to-hand from Pololu Valley raised this massive Heiau in a single day.

Pu’ukohola is the largest stone structure in Polynesia, not counting the modern rock wall in front of the Kailua Lowe’s Hardware store. The National Historic Park has a very nice, new visitor’s Center and Book Shop, clean restrooms and picnic facilities. Adjacent to the Park is Spencer Beach Park which has a full range of facilities as well as wonderful, protected swimming and snorkeling.

Lapakahi State Historical Park

Lapakahi State Historical Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lapakahi State Historical Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

At Lapakahi State Historical Park you can walk through the partially –restored remains of a 600-year old Hawai’ian fishing village, Koai’e.

Bear in mind that Kohala was not always the barren wasteland seen today. Initially dryland forest, a thousand years ago or more the native Hawai’ians burned the forest to clear farmland for dryland crops such as sweet potato. Primitive farming techniques, overpopulation, overgrazing by cattle and climate changes caused this area to become desert like. Admission is free, self-guided tour takes about 45 minutes. There are portable toilets but no water available.

Leg 5) Continue north, north east on Hwy 270 to jct with Upolu Point Road (incorrectly spelled “Opolu Point Road” on Google Maps; sometimes also labeled “Upolu Airport Road”). Continue north on Upolu Point Road to Mo’okini Heiau.

Mo’okini Heiau

Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Have you ever seen anywhere as stark, impressive, primitive and ancient, yet still able to raise the hackles on your neck? Here, untold thousands of people were sacrificed to worship a new god, the war god Ku. Mo’okini Heiau stands today at the north end of Hawai’i, the well preserved remains of a terrible luakini heiau built by the powerful Tahitian kahuna Pa’ao in the 11th or 12th century. This heiau was the first temple of human sacrifice in Hawai’i and the first site in Hawai’i to be preserved as a National Historic Landmark under the Historic Sites Act of 1935. Mo’okini Heiau is now part of Lapakahi State Historic Park; as Mo’okini is an active Heiau and visitors are reminded to stay away if religious observances are being celebrated. There are no facilities here.

Leg 6) Return Upolu Point Road to Hwy 270, continue north east to King Kamehameha Statue, Pololu Valley.


King Kamehameha Statue and North Kohala

King Kamehameha Statue, North Kohala: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

King Kamehameha Statue, North Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The green and lush north end of Hawaii Island contains a treasure trove of interesting small towns, important historic sights and incredible scenery.

The dreamy mountain town of Hawi is one of the few remaining outposts of what locals call “old Hawai’i”. Several small shops, galleries and restaurants make this a pleasant place to visit and grab something to eat on the way to or from Pololu Valley.

At 5480 feet, Kohala Volcano is the northernmost and oldest volcano on the Island of Hawai’i still above sea level. Perhaps the most ecologically diverse area on the island, the Kohala Mountains are dissected by deep, lush tropical valleys, and the slopes are covered by dryland forest, lava deserts, lonely windswept steppes and end in some truly wild beaches.

In the center of the tiny town of Kapa’au on the mauka side of the highway, stands a storied statue of King Kamehameha the Great. There are a few charming restaurants, shops and galleries in Kapa’au, including the justly famous Kohala Book Shop—definitely worth spending some time poking around. Hawi and Kapa’au have the only food and gas available north of Highway 19.

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley, Hamakua Coast: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pololu Valley, Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Violent, lush, wild; the north end of Hawai’i Island is as varied and exciting as it is unexpected. At the end of the highway are the Pololu Valley Overlook and the trail leading down to Pololu Black Sand Beach. The trail down to the beach drops 400 feet in 20 minutes of hiking—be forewarned, the hike up is difficult for those not in good physical shape and shoes, rather than slippers, are best here. This is one of the most beautiful, untamed spots in the tropical Pacific and should not be missed. There are no facilities at the valley overlook or within the valley.

Leg 7) Return west on Hwy 270 to jct with Hwy 250; take Hwy 250 south to Waimea.

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

Waimea Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Snuggled between Mauna Kea and Kohala Volcano in Hawaii’s scenic mountain heart, seemingly always shrouded in mist and chilly, Waimea is definitely Hawai’ian cowboy country. Although jeans and flannel shirts appear to be the town uniform, Waimea is very sophisticated, boasting some of the finest shopping and restaurants and the most modern hospital on the island.

From Waimea, Highway 250, the Kohala Mountain Road, spills beautifully through mountain, upland meadow and forest to the “Old Hawaii” town and artist community at Hawi.

Additionally, the cattle industry centers in Waimea. In 1793 British Navigator George Vancouver presented cows to King Kamehameha which were allowed to roam free and soon became a problem. Shortly after horses were brought to Hawaii in 1804, Kamehameha recruited California vaqueros, whom Hawai’ians called “paniolo”–a corruption of the word “Espańol”–to control the wild herds, and the generations-old ranching lifestyle here was born.

The vaqueros also brought their guitars and their love of music. A deeply musical people, the Hawaiians were intensely interested in these, the first stringed instruments they had seen. They quickly learned to work-out their own tunings, called “slack key guitar”, which more suited the style of their indigenous music.

Leg 8) At Waimea, take Hwy 190 to return to Kailua Kona.

Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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.comFor information about the author, please go here.

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

Melancholy, lonely, desolate; this beach cut into the fresh scar of an a’a flow marks the place where the Hawai’ian gods died at the battle of Kuamo’o. In 1819, the year before the Christian missionaries arrived in Hawai’i, forces loyal to Kamehameha II and Queen Ka’ahumanu fought to overturn the kapu system and the pagan Hawai’ian religion in favor of Christianity. Kahuna Kekuaokalani led the last supporters of the old ways and the old gods and fought a desperate battle here to preserve their ancient way of life, and lost. Their graves, numbering in the several hundreds despite the official-looking marker at the site, are under the numerous, large stone altars erected by the victors over the very spots the warriors fell.

A walk along the dirt road that bisects the battlefield is ineffably sad and a little creepy. However, the road soon climbs into dryland forest along the lava ocean cliffs and provides some memorable hiking and sunset views.

Kuamo’o Battlefield is located at the very end of Ali’i Drive, somewhat appropriately. No facilities.

For more information on exploring the Big Island of Hawaii in general, and the ancient villages and temples of Kona in particular, visit: www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Produced by Donnie MacGowan. Written, directed and filmed by Donnie MacGowan.  Original musical score by Donald B. MacGowan.  All media copyright 2008 by Donald B. MacGowan; all rights reserved.

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

Trip 1: North Kona and Kohala: Ancient History, Sumptuous Beaches
Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site) 8 hours.

The tour begins at the Keauhou Historic District with ancient battlefields, heiau (stone temples), surfing beaches and shopping in Kailua Kona. 15 minutes north of town is Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park. See how Hawai’ians used aquaculture to create thriving communities in desolate areas. Among the many coastal sites, Hapuna Beach State Park, 30 minutes north, is rated in the Top 10 Best Beaches of the world, then stop 20 minutes further at Pu’u Kohala National Historic Park to visit an enormous heiau erected to the war god, Kuka’ilimoku. After several more sites, the road ends at Pololu Valley where wild ocean, cliffs, rainforest, waterfalls and a black sand beach make for stunning photographs plus a one hour hike. Looping back, Highway 250 cruises 45 minutes over Kohala Volcano to the lush pastures of Waimea for history of ranching in Hawaii as well as great shopping and dining. From Waimea it is one hour back to Kona.

Leg 1) In Kailua Kona, start at Keauhou Historic District, southern point. Drive Ali’i Drive north to Kahalu’u Beach, Keauhou Historic District (north terminus), La’aloa Beach and Ahu’ena Heiau.

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

Kue'manu Heiau: the only temple to surfing gods still in use today: Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kue'manu Heiau: the only temple to surfing gods still in use today: Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For almost 400 years, temples and palaces along the Kona coastline served as a kind of “Rome of the Pacific”, a great political, religious and cultural center in Polynesia, until the capital was moved to Honolulu in 1850 by Kamehameha III. The most important, interesting and best preserved historical and cultural sites lie within the Keauhou Historic District, between Kahalu’u Beach Park in Kailua running south 6 miles to Kuamo’o Bay in Keauhou. The District contains perhaps a dozen fascinating sites that are easy to walk to, well maintained and quite interesting.

To see the numerous fascinating and important archaeological sites in the Keauhou Historic District, it is necessary to park your car in the free parking at either Kahalu’u Beach Park or the Keauhou Beach Resort and explore on foot.

Just uphill from the Historic District is the Kona Coffee District. Hawaii is the only state in the union which produces coffee, and Kona coffee is perhaps the finest in the world. Over 2 millions pounds of coffee a year are produced on about 600, 2-3 acre farms; tours of coffee farms and roasteries are available.

Kahalu’u Beach County Park

Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kahalu'u Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Loll in sand and sun under swaying palms, 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 is the crown jewel of Kona Coast County Beach Parks. This is the premiere snorkeling beach of the Island of Hawai’i; the snorkeling is in calm, shallow water. There is an abundance of fish of an enormous variety…perhaps the best display on the island. Go carefully into the water, being sure not to harass the endangered turtles, feed or harm the fish, nor touch or stand upon the corals.
There are numerous sites of historic importance around the park. It was here that the great queen, Ka’ahumanu, and her cousin Kuakini (later Territorial Governor) were raised. Abundant parking, disabled access, picnic tables, two shaded pavilions, two sets of public restrooms, showers and lifeguards round-out the facilities of this beautiful beach park.

La’aloa Beach County Park (White Sands/Magic Sands)

Boogie Boarders At La'aloaBeach, Kona Hawaii: Poto by Donne MacGowan

Boogie Boarders At La'aloaBeach, Kona Hawaii: Poto by Donne MacGowan

La Aloa Beach Park is a small, but fascinating, beach. The beach derives the name “Magic Sands” from the fact that for 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. The surf 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.

The La’aloa Heiau, makai of the parking lot, is very sacred to the native Hawai’ians and a hotly contested archeological site. Although not fenced off, visitors are asked not to wander the grounds of the heiau, disturb stones or walls. A county facility, it boasts showers, toilets and running water in addition to a volleyball court and lifeguards stationed throughout the day (except State Holidays).

Ahu’ena Heiau and Kamakahonu Beach

Ahu'ena Heiau Temple Precincts, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ahu'ena Heiau Temple Precincts, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Centuries ago the inhabitants of this region built a series of sacred temples, or heiau, which were originally used for the purpose of sacrificing human beings to their war god, Kuka’ilimoku. This particular archeological site is called Ahu’ena Heiau, which in Hawaiian means “Hill of Fire”.

Built originally in the 15th century and rededicated by Kamehameha the Great in the early 1800s as the main temple of his capital, the current structures seen at Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built in 1975 under the auspices of the Bishop Museum with financial help from the Hotel King Kamehameha and are constructed to 1/3 the original scale. There are restrooms and showers located on the pier near the beach. Adjacent Old Kailua Town is a treasure of shops, restaurants and aloha.

Leg 2) From Ahu’ena Heiau, drive Palani Road east to Hwy 19; go north on Hwy 19 to Koloko Honokohau National Historic Park.

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park

Kaloko Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kaloko Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

At Honokohau, ancient Hawai’ians took advantage of abundant freshwater springs to site a large community centered on fishing, fishponds and taro fields. The National Historic Park preserves a vast complex of important archeological sites, including heiaus, fishponds, a fish trap, house sites, burials, a holua (sledding track), a Queen’s Bath and abundant petroglyphs. The Information Center, which is near Highway 19, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and has full facilities, restrooms and a small souvenir and bookshop.

Leg 3) Continue north on Hwy 19 to Kekaha Kai State Park, Kua Bay, Anaeho’omalu Bay, Waialea Beach and Hapuna Beach.

Kekaha Kai State Park

Makalawena Wilderness Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Makalawena Wilderness Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

At Kekaha Kai, there are a wonderful set of beaches plunked down in one of Hawai’i Island’s gem parks. The northernmost and loveliest beach is Mahai’ula and the smaller, more southerly, 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 along the entire beach making the near-shore water a little cold. Hidden in a little pocket of wilderness, perhaps the finest beach on the island, Makalawena Beach, is contained in this park. It is reached by a 20-30 minute hike over beaches and rough lava from the parking lot. Swimming and snorkeling on this uncrowded, indeed largely unknown, beach are beyond excellent. Facilities include public restrooms and picnic tables, but no drinking water.

Kua Bay

Kua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kua Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The site of Kona’s newest beach park, this is a lovely white sand beach. Although there is no shade to speak of, 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. 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.

Access is via a newly paved road recently opened to the public (on the ocean-side from the Veteran’s Cemetery). Park facilities include parking, picnic tables, restrooms and water. Wild goats are frequently seen in this area.

Anaeho’omalu Bay

Anaeho'omalu Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Anaeho'omalu Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The most photographed sunset view on the Island of Hawai’i, Anaeho’omalu Bay is the icon of what most visitors envision Hawai’i to be like before they get here…swaying palm trees, a clean beach fronting warm, safe, swimmable ocean and 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). Facilities and services are available at A-Bay and on the nearby resort grounds.

Waialea Beach (Beach 69)

Waialea Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waialea Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie 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. 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. 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. Restrooms, picnic tables, water and showers round out the facilities.

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hapuna Beach, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Always rated in the Top 10 of American beaches, Hapuna Beach is the premiere beach destination on the Island of Hawai’i. Long, wide and phenomenally sandy, it has everything one dreams of in a Hawai’ian 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. Although most patrons must walk about 100 yards down a path from the parking lot, Handicapped Parking exists right on the beach.

Leg 4) Continue North on 19 to jct with Hwy 270; north on 270 to Pu’u Kohola and Lapakahi State Park.

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park

Pu'u Kohola National Historical Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Pu'u Kohola National Historical Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

A temple inspired by a god-sent vision of greatness, Kamehameha built Pu’ukohola in response to a prophecy by Kaua’i kahuna Kapoukahi that foretold if he built a great temple to his war god Ku in one day, Kamehameha would prevail in his wars of conquest and unite the Hawai’ian Islands. Perhaps as many as 20,000 people passing stones hand-to-hand from Pololu Valley raised this massive Heiau in a single day.

Pu’ukohola is the largest stone structure in Polynesia, not counting the modern rock wall in front of the Kailua Lowe’s Hardware store. The National Historic Park has a very nice, new visitor’s Center and Book Shop, clean restrooms and picnic facilities. Adjacent to the Park is Spencer Beach Park which has a full range of facilities as well as wonderful, protected swimming and snorkeling.

Lapakahi State Historical Park

Lapakahi State Historical Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Lapakahi State Historical Park, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

At Lapakahi State Historical Park you can walk through the partially –restored remains of a 600-year old Hawai’ian fishing village, Koai’e.

Bear in mind that Kohala was not always the barren wasteland seen today. Initially dryland forest, a thousand years ago or more the native Hawai’ians burned the forest to clear farmland for dryland crops such as sweet potato. Primitive farming techniques, overpopulation, overgrazing by cattle and climate changes caused this area to become desert like. Admission is free, self-guided tour takes about 45 minutes. There are portable toilets but no water available.

Leg 5) Continue north, north east on Hwy 270 to jct with Upolu Point Road (incorrectly spelled “Opolu Point Road” on Google Maps; sometimes also labeled “Upolu Airport Road”). Continue north on Upolu Point Road to Mo’okini Heiau.

Mo’okini Heiau

Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mo'okini Heiau, Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Have you ever seen anywhere as stark, impressive, primitive and ancient, yet still able to raise the hackles on your neck? Here, untold thousands of people were sacrificed to worship a new god, the war god Ku. Mo’okini Heiau stands today at the north end of Hawai’i, the well preserved remains of a terrible luakini heiau built by the powerful Tahitian kahuna Pa’ao in the 11th or 12th century. This heiau was the first temple of human sacrifice in Hawai’i and the first site in Hawai’i to be preserved as a National Historic Landmark under the Historic Sites Act of 1935. Mo’okini Heiau is now part of Lapakahi State Historic Park; as Mo’okini is an active Heiau and visitors are reminded to stay away if religious observances are being celebrated. There are no facilities here.

Leg 6) Return Upolu Point Road to Hwy 270, continue north east to King Kamehameha Statue, Pololu Valley.


King Kamehameha Statue and North Kohala

King Kamehameha Statue, North Kohala: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

King Kamehameha Statue, North Kohala Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The green and lush north end of Hawaii Island contains a treasure trove of interesting small towns, important historic sights and incredible scenery.

The dreamy mountain town of Hawi is one of the few remaining outposts of what locals call “old Hawai’i”. Several small shops, galleries and restaurants make this a pleasant place to visit and grab something to eat on the way to or from Pololu Valley.

At 5480 feet, Kohala Volcano is the northernmost and oldest volcano on the Island of Hawai’i still above sea level. Perhaps the most ecologically diverse area on the island, the Kohala Mountains are dissected by deep, lush tropical valleys, and the slopes are covered by dryland forest, lava deserts, lonely windswept steppes and end in some truly wild beaches.

In the center of the tiny town of Kapa’au on the mauka side of the highway, stands a storied statue of King Kamehameha the Great. There are a few charming restaurants, shops and galleries in Kapa’au, including the justly famous Kohala Book Shop—definitely worth spending some time poking around. Hawi and Kapa’au have the only food and gas available north of Highway 19.

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley, Hamakua Coast: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pololu Valley, Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Violent, lush, wild; the north end of Hawai’i Island is as varied and exciting as it is unexpected. At the end of the highway are the Pololu Valley Overlook and the trail leading down to Pololu Black Sand Beach. The trail down to the beach drops 400 feet in 20 minutes of hiking—be forewarned, the hike up is difficult for those not in good physical shape and shoes, rather than slippers, are best here. This is one of the most beautiful, untamed spots in the tropical Pacific and should not be missed. There are no facilities at the valley overlook or within the valley.

Leg 7) Return west on Hwy 270 to jct with Hwy 250; take Hwy 250 south to Waimea.

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

Waimea Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Snuggled between Mauna Kea and Kohala Volcano in Hawaii’s scenic mountain heart, seemingly always shrouded in mist and chilly, Waimea is definitely Hawai’ian cowboy country. Although jeans and flannel shirts appear to be the town uniform, Waimea is very sophisticated, boasting some of the finest shopping and restaurants and the most modern hospital on the island.

From Waimea, Highway 250, the Kohala Mountain Road, spills beautifully through mountain, upland meadow and forest to the “Old Hawaii” town and artist community at Hawi.

Additionally, the cattle industry centers in Waimea. In 1793 British Navigator George Vancouver presented cows to King Kamehameha which were allowed to roam free and soon became a problem. Shortly after horses were brought to Hawaii in 1804, Kamehameha recruited California vaqueros, whom Hawai’ians called “paniolo”–a corruption of the word “Espańol”–to control the wild herds, and the generations-old ranching lifestyle here was born.

The vaqueros also brought their guitars and their love of music. A deeply musical people, the Hawaiians were intensely interested in these, the first stringed instruments they had seen. They quickly learned to work-out their own tunings, called “slack key guitar”, which more suited the style of their indigenous music.

Leg 8) At Waimea, take Hwy 190 to return to Kailua Kona.

Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

For an interesting day of driving, head north out of Kona on Hwy. 19. About 4 miles out of town we come across the Kaloko-Honokohau Historic Park. There is a new visitor center giving info on the significance of this area to ancient Hawaiians. Tour Guide has an extensive narration about this area. The adjacent Honokohau small boat harbor is an excellent spot to find hiking trails, beaches, snorkeling, whale watching and deep sea fishing.

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

Continue driving north past the Kona International Airport, you will be viewing lava fields dating back to 1802. Another 10 minutes brings you to the turn off for the Hualalai resorts. The Kona Village and Four Seasons resorts are surrounded by the beautiful Hualalai Golf Course, home of the PGA MasterCard Championship. Tour Guide lists every golf course on the Big Island. This whole resort area was built to be nearly invisible from the hwy.

After the Hualali Resorts, there is about 20 minutes of driving to reach the Waikoloa resorts. Tour Guide will you give info on some secluded beaches along the way. For most of these you will have to park on the hwy and hike to the shore. Since these beaches are so secluded, there will be no facilities. My favorite of these is Kua Bay. Here there is parking near the beach, restrooms and water available, but no shade. Since there is no sign on the hwy, Tour Guide will tell you where to turn to find this family friendly beach park.

Super tip: Hawaii is much closer to the equator than you may be used to. Even when it’s cloudy, the sun will burn the skin quickly. Your friendly staff at Tour Guide recommends you use sunscreen liberally and re-apply often, especially after swimming, snorkeling or hiking.

Next, as we head north, is the Waikoloa Beach Resorts. This beautiful resort area is cut right out of the jagged lava rock. It boasts the Marriott and Hilton Waikoloa which have shops and fabulous dining. Many coupons and much 9information of the restaurants and shops in this are can be found in two Big Island magazines, here and here. Hilton Grand Vacations operates a huge timeshare resort here and there are numerous condos all centered around two championship golf courses. Tour Guide will give turn-by-turn directions to the resorts and golf courses in this area.

The King’s Shops and Queen’s Marketplace, on Waikoloa Beach Drive, offers mid to high end shopping with some famous brand name stores. If an ultimate dining experience is what you’re after, world famous chef’s whip up their culinary delights to tempt your palate. There is also a food court for more casual dining. Tour Guide will take you to all of this, plus family activities like sun bathing, swimming, snorkeling, wind surfing and dinner cruises, focused around the most photographed sunset spot on the island, Anaeho’omalu Bay.

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


A thriving Hawai’ian community out here in the middle of the desert? At Honokohau, ancient Hawai’ians took advantage of abundant freshwater springs to site a large community centered around fishing, fishponds and taro fields. The National Historic Park preserves a vast complex of important archeological sites, including heiaus, fishponds, a fishtrap, house sites, burials, a holua (sledding track), a Queen’s Bath and abundant petroglyphs. An information center and bookshop is located between the two access roads off the highway and the best place to start any exploration of the National Park. As a beach, Ai’iopio Beach is one of Kona s finest, most protected and fun places to swim. Abundant shade along a long wide beach and a protected reach make this is perfect to take children though the water is a little murky for ideal snorkeling. For more information, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

One of the unexpected joys of many people’s trips to the Big Island is their discovery of the rich and varied tapestry history that wraps the Island of Hawaii. .Hawaii is the only state in the union that has king’s palaces, temples to the gods of surfing and and architectural history that spans a millennium and a half. Many people don’t realize that the Kona Coast was an important region of major fishing villages, taro farms and religious centers for a millennium and a half. However, the Kona region rose to ascendancy as a religious and political center when King Umi founded his capital here in the 16th century. In 1812, King Kamehameha established Kailua Kona as the Capital of his newly united Kingdom of Hawaii.

For almost 400 years, temples and palaces around Kona served as a kind of “Rome of the Pacific”, one of the great political and cultural centers in Polynesia, until the capital of the Kingdom was moved to Honolulu in 1850 by Kamehameha III. Slipping into a sleepy, territorial back-water torpor, Kailua Town and the Kona district dozed gently through the plantation era and early statehood into modern times. Today, booming and exciting, this fast-paced area is the center of the Big Island’s financial and cultural reawakening in the new century. Just remember, when I describe the Kona District as a “booming and exciting… fast-paced area”, I mean “booming and exciting” in a very Hawaiian, mellow and relaxed way.

Some of the most important historical sites in all of Polynesia are right here in Kona-let’s take a quick tour of the Kealakekua Region of Kona, the portion that lies along the Hawaii Belt Road from Kainaliu south, turning at the junction with Highway 160 down to Napo’opo’o and into Honaunau. It was in this region the Kings of old ruled and dispensed justice; where the great explorer Captain James Cook spent time among the Hawaiians and ultimately lost his life; and where the two sustaining agricultural industries of ranching and coffee farming were born on Hawaii and flourish today.

Kainaliu Town
Lapping gently on either side of Highway 11, Kainaliu Town is one of the principle commercial centers of Up Country Kona. Kainaliu grew up at the intersection of two donkey tracks to service the sugar, coffee and ranching industries, sometime after the construction of Lanakila Church in 1867.

The star attraction in Kainaliu is, by far, the Aloha Theater and Aloha Angel Café. This historic and beautiful theater is still the center for stage productions of all kinds as well as cinematic shows; it is the centerpiece for the Kona Association for the Performing Arts (KAPA). Another of the towns interesting attractions is the amazing Oshima Grocery and Dry Goods Store (“If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”). In addition the town boasts numerous other businesses, galleries, furniture, thrift, herbal medicine shops as well as several wonderful restaurants and coffee houses. Donkey Balls has a candy factory that offers fun tours and tasty samples and Captain Cook Coffee has a roasting house right in town that gives weekday tours. When the weather turns wet in West Hawai’i, or you need a relief from the heat on the beach, a day spent browsing and eating in cool, shady Kainaliu is a real treat.

Aloha Theater
The Aloha Theater and its cafe, serve as a gathering place for the community and the home of independent, classic and second run films as well as the Hawaiian International Film Festival and various community events.

Construction of the Aloha Theater began in 1929 and was finished in 1932. long before Hawai’i was a state. Starting life as a silent movie theater, it survived the changeover to ‘talkies’ as well as the great fire of 1948 that destroyed much of it’s’ side of town. Still in use today as a performing arts center by the Kona Association for the Performing Arts, performances feature live music and dance as well as film. The Quonset-hut shaped original theater building and the original marquee still in use are very typical of the style used in other theaters of this period in Hawaii.

The Aloha Angel Café associated with the theater offers a wide-ranging menu of entrees, baked goods and deserts and is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Kona Hongwanji Mission
Originally built in Ho’okena in 1897, this Shin Buddhist Temple was moved to Kainaliu in 1906. The stone arch was built in 1915 and the temple itself has been extensively modified through the years, although the current structure’s arrangement dates from 1980. On the main alter is a carved sandalwood image of the Amida Buddha which was consecrated in 1933.

Kalukalu Homestead (Greenwell Farm)/Greenwell Store/Kona Historical Society Museum
Members of the Greenwell Family have been important in Kona history and society since Henry Nicholas Greenwell bought 300 acres of farmland at Kalukalu in 1850. Leaving the British military service at age 23 for adventure in gold rush California, Henry Greenwell was injured off-loading supplies and he sailed to the Hawai’ian Kingdom in search of a doctor for healing. Once ensconced in Kona, and like many early pioneers in Hawai’i, Henry Greenwell had several businesses and served the community in many ways: he was not only a farmer, but also a rancher and sheep herder, dairy farmer, importer, school agent, postmaster and the Customs Agent at Kealakekua Bay. He married Edith Caroline Greenwell in 1868 and they raised 10 children. During his lifetime in Kona, he and his neighbors, competitors and partners presided over the massive agricultural change in West Hawai’i as the small, Hawai’ian kuleana, or family garden plots, were rapidly displaced by large scale sugar and coffee farms and ranches.

The original Greenwell home at Kalukalu was torn down in 1960s, however the store Henry Greenwell built in 1875 is still standing and is operated today as a museum by the Kona Historical Society. Greenwell’s store was one of the very first commercial ventures to serve the growing upland Kona settlements; until then, poor wagon roads meant most stores and businesses were located along the coast at ports such as Kailua and Napo’opo’o.

Greenwell Farms, 15 acres planted in coffee which produces around a million pounds of coffee a year, is open for free tours Monday through Saturday from 8 to 4:30; tours last 15-20 minutes. In the Greenwell Store original buildings, the Kona Historical Society has its offices, archives and runs a small museum. The museum has an interesting array of artifacts from early Kona life and coffee and sugar farming as well as an impressive archive of historical photographs, which may be seen by appointment. The Museum is open weekdays only, from 9-3; $2 admission.

D. Uchida Coffee Farm
Have you ever wondered what life was like on a Kona coffee farm during the early 1900’s? The D. Uchida Coffee Farm is where you can listen and relive the story of Kona’s first Japanese coffee farmers.

The present day Kona Historical Society has collaborated with the Kona coffee community, creating a project which both amuses and informs the visitor of the chronicles of Kona Coffee. It is a chance to peek into a past Kona life style which is close to being altogether erased. The Kona Historical society arranges tours daily.

Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden
Hawai’ian culture and society, due to the limited resources of island living, revolved around the efficient and knowledgeable use of a vast array of plants for building, medicine, food, clothing and just about every other aspect of life in the Hawai’ian archipelago. The Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens preserves this ancient knowledge and the rapidly disappearing plants in a delightful garden which is now run under the auspices of the Bishop Museum. Amy Greenwell had a ferocious and wide-ranging curiosity about plants and their cultural uses, so this garden hosts not only indigenous Hawaiian plants and herbs, but also a variety of tropical botanical specimens from around the Pacific.

The park is open from dawn to dusk seven days a week and there are free guided tours on the first and second Saturday of the month at 10 am.; other tours can be taken by arrangement.

Manago Hotel
Built in 1917 by a Japanese mail-order bride and her husband with an initial investment of $100, The Manago Hotel started out as a single house and evolved, through numerous remodelings, into the oldest continually-operating hotel on Hawaii Island.

Kinzo Manago and his wife Osame bought the original cottage, stove and land with borrowed monies. Providing meals and futons to overnight guests, the Managos continually remodeled and enlarged the house to meet the rising demand of travelers on the Big Island.

The toko-bashira, or good-luck post necessary to any Japanese business, was acquired back in 1917. At that time all they could afford was a coconut log which the artist soaked in the ocean to soften and to keep termites out. When you visit, be sure to see it in the lobby, still hard as a rock, still beautiful after nearly 100 year.

Today, the grandchildren of Kinzo and Osame operate the Hotel with all the tradition, hard work, affection and commitment to service that their parents and grandparents put into the Hotel. The restaurant still serves world famous stuffed pork chops, best on the Island. Whether you come to eat, to stay or just to see this wonderful piece of living Hawai’ian history, be sure to take a stroll through the lobby and look at the photographs of Old Kona.

Kealakekua Bay Archaeological and Historical District/Captain Cook Monument/
Kealakekua Bay is one of the most truly magical spots in the State of Hawai’i. Beautiful and peaceful Kealakekua Bay (Pathway of the Gods) opens beneath steep, beetling cliffs on the ancient surfing beach along the shoreline of Napo’opo’o Village. The site of arguably the most important single event in the history of Polynesia and of unparalleled, majestic scenery, Kealakekua Bay is today home to pods of frolicking dolphins, hosting the greatest density of hammerhead sharks anywhere in the Pacific Ocean and providing some truly breathtaking snorkeling.

Captain James Cook made his longest visit with, and deepest impression on, the native Hawai’ians when he first arrived late in November of 1778. And it was along the shores of Kealakekua Bay where he met his tragic end in February 1779 during his second visit. Forever altered from the moment of Cook’s arrival, the evolution of Hawai’ian society would soon change in ways the Native Hawai’ians could scarcely have imagined just days before the Englishman made shore here.

In 1874 British sailors erected the current white obelisk monument to Captain Cook on a spot quite a bit distant from where he was actually killed. The area remains a piece of British Territory on American soil and is maintained by Brit sailors passing through.
One can see the monument, across the bay from Napo’opo’o, rising among the ruins of Ka’awaloa Village. Today, most tourists choose to come by boat to visit the actual monument. However, the monument is also accessible by hiking a trail down from the highway; this hike takes 4-6 hours round trip and drinking water is not available anywhere along the journey. Perhaps the most sought-after snorkeling area in Hawai’i, visitors also frequently kayak from Napo’opo’o to the monument to enjoy the Class Triple-A waters and abundant sea life.

High along the cliff walls can be seen numerous burial caves of the iwi (bones) of Ali’i, and in the late afternoon light, a greyish streak is visible on the northwest wall. Local legend has it that a canon-ball fired by Cook to impress the Hawai’ians left this streak as it smeared and bounced along the cliff. Close in along the beach, historic Hikiau (Moving Current) Heiau stands through the ages, witness to the tsunami of enormous changes that swept through Hawai’i with the coming of Cook and the Europeans, which began right here at Kealakekua Bay.

St. Benedict’s Catholic Church (Painted Church)
In 1899, Catholic Father John Velghe landed in Honaunau and built his parish church. Having decorated the inside of previous parishes in the Marquesas and Tahiti with painted scenes from Biblical stories, he proceeded to decorate the interior of the church with scenes whimsical to inspiring, earning this church the nick-name it is most commonly known as “Painted Church”.

Place of Refuge/Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park
One of the most enchanting, beautiful, and restful spots in all the Hawai’ian Islands, Pu’u Honua O Honaunau is a place of ease and regeneration for even the most weary and jaded soul. Of enormous historical and cultural significance, the sacred grounds at Honaunau are the best-preserved and largest remaining Pu’u Honua, or Place of Refuge, complex in Hawai’i.

The temple and royal complex and royal residences at Pu’u Honua O Honaunau, established as a National Historical Park in 1961, are vast, well preserved and pervaded by a soul-filling peace. On the grounds of the refuge itself stands the stone platform, ‘Ale’alea, which was used for sports, the Keoua Stone, legendary resting place of the Ali’i and the Ka’ahumanu Stone, where it is said the favorite wife of Kamehameha the Great hid after quarrels with her husband.

Down the center of the Park runs the Wall of Honaunau, 100 feet long, 10 feet tall and 17 feet thick. It separated the palace grounds of the Ali’ from the temple grounds of the Pu’u Honua. The wall was made without mortar or dressing the stones and has survived for over 500 years.

In the royal residence area are the canoe landing at Keone’ele Cove, Heleipolala Fishpond, several reconstructed residences and a canoe hale as well as the famous Hale Keawe, where the iwi (bones) of as many as 23 Ali’i ancestors of Kamehameha were once stored.

King’s Trail/Lava Tube
The King’s Trail, or Ala Ali’i, was renamed the Trail of 1871 when residents were asked to square their tax bill to the monarchy by repairing the over-grown and run-down trail. The trail leaves the road from the City of Refuge proper along the road to the National Park Picnic Area, or can be joined by the Shoreline Trail, taken out of the south end of the picnic area. Along the trail are ruins of several Hawai’ian villages, Heiau, cattle pens and so forth. The trail also crosses over a large lava tube, which is only about 150 feet long and leads to spectacular views of the ocean, where it emerges from the cliff about 40 feet above the water.

To celebrate the conclusion of your Historical Soirée, as long as you are in Honaunau you really ought to plunge into the refreshing waters at Honaunau Bay at wonderful Two Step Beach, swim with the colorful tropical fish, amazing green sea turtles and playful dolphins . Or, you could stop in for a cup of famous Kona Coffee at any one of a number of local coffee shops between Captain Cook and Kainaliu…not the harsh sameness of the ubiquitously monotonous Starbucks, each individually special Kona coffee cafe reflects the personality of the local growers and roasters who produce Kona Coffee, widely held to be the best in all the world. Also, the singular and exclusive galleries and stores along this stretch of highway makes perfect shopping for completely unique gifts to take home.

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

View my page on Big Island Video Hui
There’s a new project dedicated to videos of and about the Big Island, BIG ISLAND VIDEO HUI!

An on-going project where members can post Big Island videos, blog, and network, Big Island Video Hui is also a remarkable repository of videos and information about the Big Island of Hawaii.

Come, join us, post your videos or simply watch ours…the Big Island Video Hui promises to be an exciting place to learn more and see more about the Big Island, a unique social network for those of us who love the Big Island and an interesting place to post and view video about the Big Island.

Obviously, it’s all about the Big Island…visit Big Island Video Hui now!

Here’s a quickie video about Devil’s Throat in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park…

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