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by Donald B. MacGowan

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.

Sacred Ki'i Guard the Place of Refuge at Pu'u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Whether you visit the Big Island for a few days, a couple weeks or a few months, you want to make the most of your time in Paradise. With such a wide variety of natural and commercial attractions, it is natural for the visitor to get a little overwhelmed in the “Option Overload” and not be able to make a balanced and informed decision on what they want to do and how best to spend their time.

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.

Pu'u Honua O Honaunau, the Place of Refuge, As Seen from Two-Step Snorkeling Beach, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Even choosing which beach you want to spend time on, or where you want to hike can be an exercise in confusion and conflicting advice.  Clearly, visitors to Hawaii could use help making quality decisions about how best to spend their time.

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.

Sacred Ki'i at Pu'u Honua O Honaunau, the Place of Refuge. The "Kona Style" of Polynesian Wood Carving is Considered Among the Best in the World and These Sacred Iki are Fine Examples, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Tour Guide Hawaii is excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, let’s look at what may be Hawaii’s most spiritual, historically important and beautiful attraction, Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park, and highlight just a bit of the information you might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks that could otherwise cause you to miss some very interesting places and amazing sights if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

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.

Pu'u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park Entrance, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pu’u Honua O Hounaunau National Historic Park: The Place of Refuge

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.

Hale O' Keawe Heiau and Keone'ele, Pu'u Honua O' Hounaunau National Historic Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Introduction: Writing about the Place of Refuge in 1889, Robert Louis Stevenson said: “There are times and places where the past becomes more vivid than the present, and the memory dominates the ear and eye…”

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.

Royal Fishpond, Place of Refuge, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Easily the most beautiful, peaceful and restful spot 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. It is also a wonderful area to wander, swim, hike, snorkel, relax, picnic or SCUBA dive

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.

Sacred Ki'i Guard Secrets as Old as Hawaii Itself, Pu'u Honua O Honaunau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Samuel Clemens and Kamehameha III passed many days in idle chat along the Great Wall of Honaunau; one can still sit upon the rock where they reclined and see the holes bored into the lava to support poles for awnings. For anyone who had any doubts about what Old Hawai’i was like, a trip to Honaunau will fill your imagination, your camera and your soul.

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.

Hale o Keawe and Temple Precincts, Place of Refuge, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Place of Refuge: A complex and strict order of law, known as the kapu system, controlled and governed everything in ancient Hawai’i from the order of crop rotation to proper sexual relations, what fish may be caught and in what season, what foods could be eaten by women and proper respect for the royalty (for instance, it was to break kapu for men and women to eat together, for women to eat pork or bananas, or for commoners to look upon the king or to step upon ground he had trod). Under the kapu law system, punishment for any transgression was swift and severe: immediate death by stabbing, clubbing, strangulation, drowning or burning. There was no appeal and no recourse; judgment was immediate and final.

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.

Path from the Temple Grounds to the Royal Precincts, Pu'u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Unless the accused could escape to one of the designated heiau at a place of refuge. Once there, the accused would undergo a cleansing ceremony by the kahuna and would be absolved of all crimes and allowed to return to his family and previous life, free of onus. Women, children and the infirm also took refuge at the Pu’u Honua in times of war, as did vanquished warriors wishing to submit to the winning chief. Not often mentioned, however, is the grisly sport the king’s men sometimes made of the unfortunate accused, chasing them across sharp a’a fields, through the surf, over mountains, toying with their victims only to butcher them upon the Refuges’ outer wall, seeming seconds from salvation. This too, was sanctioned by the law.

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.

A Passage Through The Massive Wall of Honaunau, Pu'u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The complex at Pu’u Honua O Honaunau, established as a National Historical Park in 1961, is vast, well preserved and pervaded by a soul-filling peace. Down the center of the complex 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.

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.

The Dry-Stack Masonry Employed by the Ancient Hawaiians, Using No Mortar, Has Survived Over Half a Millenium of Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes With No Apparent Damage: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The royal residence area includes 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 and venerated.

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.

The 'Ale'ale'a Athletic Field, Pu'u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

On the grounds of the refuge itself stands the stone platform, ‘Ale’ale’a, 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.

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.

An Ocean View Through Waiuohina Lava Tube View, Pu'u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leading south out of the refuge is the 1871 Trail, so named because area residence paid their 1871 taxes by improving and maintaining it. This trail leads to many important archeological sites such as the Ki’ilae Village, ‘Oma’o Heiau, Alahaka Heiau, Keokua Holua and the Waiuohina Lava tube.

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.

Sunset in the Vog Cast an Eerie Light on this Sacred Iki, Place of Refuge, Honaunau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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.

The Place of Refuge, Pu'u Honua O Hounaunau National Historic Park, From Across Honaunau Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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by Donald B. MacGowan

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.

Hulihe'e Palace in the Heart of Old Kailua Town, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Whether you visit the Big Island for a few days, a couple weeks or a few months, you want to make the most of your time in Paradise. With such a wide variety of natural and commercial attractions, it is natural for the visitor to get a little overwhelmed in the “Option Overload” and not be able to make a balanced and informed decision on what they want to do and how best to spend their time.

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

This is why Tour Guide Hawaii is so excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod video tour that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, as an example of the fabulous coverage our App for iPhone and iPod provides, let’s look at a fascinating historical site in the heart of Old Kailua Town itself, one which you might pass by, uninterested and uninformed, if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App to pique your interest and feed your curiosity.

Hulihe’e Palace

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.

Hulihe'e Palace on Ali'i Drive in Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

It is said that ghosts of Hawai’ian monarchs still haunt this palace, walking up and down the grand staircase and around the grounds. Built by Governor James Kuakini in 1838 as a home, it was used for many years by Hawai’ian royalty as a summer get-away palace, a place of great galas and parties. Abandoned to ruin in 1914, since 1928 the Palace has been operated as a museum by the Daughters of Hawai’i.

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.

View off the back lanai at Hulihe'e Palace, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Eric Carr

Also on the Palace grounds are the Pohaku Likanaka, a ceremonial execution stone, a fishpond and the Palace Gift Store, which has many fine art items and hard-to-find books on Hawai’iana.

The museum is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are friendly and knowledgeable docents who give free tours, which last about 45 minutes. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $1 for students; photographing inside the museum is forbidden.  The museum was heavily damaged in the earthquake of 2006 and was closed to the public for almost three years during repair and renovation.  The museum reopened to the public in 2009.

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.

Tiny Nimalu Beach (meaning = "shade of the coconut tress") at Hulihe'e Palace in Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

One of the more interesting things about the Palace is the derivation of its name, Hulihe’e. Huli means “to turn or spin” and comes from the same root as “hula” the “dance of turns”. He’e is a generic term for cephalopods (octopus and squid). The term “spinning octopus” refers not to an aquatic species, but rather to a form of tactical defense employed by the Hawai’ians when defending coastline against superior attacking forces. The defenders are spread-out in arms, or tentacles, which rotate from area to area as waves of attackers come ashore.

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.

Luakini Stone; a plae of human sacrifice at Hulihe'e Palace, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. Macgowan

Hulihe’e Palace was built by High Chief (later Governor) James Kuakini in 1838 as a home. After his death, Princess Ruth Ke’elikolani lived in a grass house (hale pili) on the grounds, the foundations of which are still visible. The Palace next reverted to a summer party palace for the Hawai’ian Royalty, then residing in Honolulu, especially King Kalakaua–The Merrie Monarch–until it was abandoned to ruin in 1914. Prince Kuhio, the first delegate to Congress from Hawai’i, inherited the Palace from his father and in the 1920’s decided to auction-off all the furnishings. The Palace staff numbered every piece and noted who the buyers were.

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.

Hulihe'e Palace fom the Kailua Pier, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Around the turn of the century, the Palace fell into disrepair and provided a discreet spot for men to gather in the evenings, play poker and drink by the light of kerosene lanterns. The Daughter’s of Hawai’i, when they learned in 1920 that the Inter Island Steamship Company planned to acquire and tear-down the Palace to build a luxury resort on the royal grounds, rescued the Palace and have operated it as a museum ever since. The Daughters of Hawai’i found the old list of purchasers of the furnishings Prince Kuhio had auctioned and persuaded many of the owners to return, re-sell or permanently lend these priceless pieces to the Museum.

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.

Hulihe'e Palace from behind, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Today the museum contains an impressive array of native Hawai’ian artifacts from fishhooks to clubs to combs. The walls are hung with many portraits of Ali’i and westerners important to Hawai’ian history. Also there are intricately carved pieces of furniture by local and European masters such as Wilhelm Fisher, including massive beds, impressive armoires and a 6-foot diameter table carved from a single koa log.

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.

Hulihe'e Palace From Mokuaikawa Church, Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

 

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.

Sunset over Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan



by Donnie MacGowan

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Fabulously rewarding, the hike into Waipi'o Valley may be short on miles, but it's long on elevation loss and gain. Hikers should be in good condition to attempt the hike and carry lots of drinking water--none is available anywhere on the åhike: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaii is, in fact, an island that is served by very few roads, that many people come to visit each year and that makes most of its wealth from the tourism industry.  Given this, it’s quite surprising how hard it can be to find useful, reliable and up-to-date information about anything from “is your favorite restaurant still in business” to “how’s the snorkeling this month?”.

Road names are in the unfamiliar Hawaiian language; friendly locals give helpful directions, but in rapid-fire pigeon English using landmarks unfamiliar to the visitor and many guidebooks are either woefully out of date or flat wrong. The first time visitor to Hawaii may be overwhelmed when bombarded by advertising disguised as visitor information, overzealous salespeople from rapacious time-share resorts and racks and racks of of advertising for tours, attractions and restaurants.

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The mile-long black sand beach, backed by ironwood forest and jungle at Waipi'o, call to the visitor to explore: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Even the experienced Hawaii traveler may find it difficult to ferret out the information he needs to find a unique, secluded or unusual experience in Paradise.  Finding current, reliable information on hikes on the Big Island can be equally frustrating.

Clearly, the visitor to Hawaii can use some help finding special places in general and information about, and help getting to, the best hikes on Hawaii Island.

To help you find the more secluded, wild and exotic destinations in particular, and to help you get more out of your Hawaii vacation in general, Tour Guide Hawaii has released a brand new iPhone/iPod Touch App .  This “must have” travel app is packed with hours of informative video on the most interesting places on Hawaii; helps navigate you to all the most popular visitor destinations, the most interesting attractions, the most romantic and secluded beaches; helps you effortlessly find hikes, snorkel spots, historical and cultural landmarks, shopping and dining. And of course, our new App includes directions to, and rating of, all the public restrooms! Learn all about the App, here.

The Waipi'o Region is filled with some of the highest waterfalls in the United States: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Waipi'o Region is filled with some of the highest waterfalls in the United States: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

But first, let’s talk about one of the finest short hikes on the Island of Hawaii.

Waipi'o Valley From About Half-way Down the Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waipi'o Valley From About Half-way Down the Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waipi’o Valley Hike

Day Hikers at the top, just starting down into Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Day Hikers at the top, just starting down into Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Waipi’o Valley is arguably the most magical place on the Big Island. Hawai’ian myths hold that the fastness of Waipi’o Valley is guarded by Night Marchers, legendary ghosts of Kamehameha’ long-dead armies, and that the impossibly steep, incredibly beautiful valley was excavated by a bragging warrior using his club to demonstrate his strength. While the geologic explanation is more prosaic and certainly much less colorful, that doesn’t detract from Waipi’o Valley’s charm and allure. Always listed among the most beautiful spots in the State of Hawai’i, this valley is as hauntingly lovely as it is distressingly difficult to see in its entirety.

Frank Burgess hiking down Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Frank Burgess hiking down Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The steep canyon walls and verdant fields of the valley floor, the mile long black sand beach and numerous immense waterfalls that line the valley walls all call out to the visitor for exploration, but this can prove challenging.

At Waipi'o Valley, numerous carcasses of cars that just couldn't hack the road lie along the jungle slope below the road: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At Waipi'o Valley, numerous carcasses of cars that just couldn't hack the road lie along the jungle slope below the road: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There is a four-wheel drive jeep road down into the valley but you really (and I mean REALLY) do not want to drive it, even in a four-wheel drive vehicle. The road is constantly steep (25% grade!!!), poorly paved, always narrow and winding, unbelievably hazardous and tricky, deceitful and populated by local drivers who really do not want you on their road. Really. Tours down into the valley in vans, on horse drawn wagons and ATVs can be booked in Honoka’a. Over-flights in fixed wing aircraft and helicopters also offer fine venues from which to see this amazing piece of Hawai’i.

Once the Waipi'o Valley Road reaches the valley floor, it becomes a mystical, marvelous tree-tunnel through the jungle: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Once the Waipi'o Valley Road reaches the valley floor, it becomes a mystical, marvelous tree-tunnel through the jungle: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Perhaps the most satisfying way to see Waipi’o Valley, however, is the way the ancient Hawai’ians did, by walking forthrightly down into it and then creeping, wheezily, back out. However, if you attempt this hike, don’t be deceived by the numbers. The hike may entail less than a thousand foot elevation loss (and subsequent gain to climb out) and fewer than 2 miles actual walking, but it feels much longer; it is hard, hot, dry, steep and, oh yes, did we mention hard? Really, really hard; no one who is not in very good physical condition should attempt this hike—better to pay for the van tour or flight. But the views and the photographs to be had by making this difficult hike are well worth the price of sweat and time.

An Enormous Waterfall at Mouth Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

An Enormous Waterfall at Mouth Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The hike down into the valley takes about ½ an hour. Allow twice that again for exploration of the valley floor and beach and at least an hour to walk back up. Be ever vigilant when walking on the road; local drivers will not deign to give you right of way and tourist drivers are notoriously at the very edge of loosing control. To reach the beach, simply stroll down the road; near where the road hits the valley floor, there is an intersection…take the road to your right (toward the ocean) which goes along public access to the beach and a spectacular 300 foot waterfall.

Hikers at the Stream in Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hikers at the Stream in Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Once on the valley floor head to the beach where you may wander through ironwood and fir copses along the black sand beach, bask in the cool mist of waterfalls or hike across the ridge into the next valley. Do not attempt to hike past the headland cliffs into adjacent valleys—it may seem passable, even tempting, but it is in fact impossible and extremely dangerous.

The mouth of the stream in Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The mouth of the stream in Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Camping at Waipi’o is not currently permitted, but free permits to camp at Waimanu Beach, the next valley over, are available from the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. The trail to Waimanu Valley starts were Waipi’o Beach meets the far (western) canyon wall and zig-zags its way up and out of the canyon, across the ridge and down into Waimanu Valley…it doesn’t look far, but it’s an all-day proposition to do this as a backpacking trip. There is one small bed and breakfast establishment, in Waipi’o Valley, but it is generally booked many months in advance.

There are porta-potties and litter barrels for visitor's convenience at the bottom of Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are porta-potties and litter barrels for visitor's convenience at the bottom of Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

If you do go down into the valley, no fresh drinking water is available, so take lots. All fresh water in Waipi’o Valley is infected with leptospirosis—do not drink it, do not get it into unhealed cuts. Be especially careful when playing near waterfalls or fording the shallow water at the stream’s mouth…the rocks are very slippery and there sometimes is quicksand. Be forewarned, swimming and surfing in the ocean here are for experts only, due to the strong currents and big waves.

Taro Farms in Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald B. McGowan

Taro Farms in Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald B. McGowan

You will hear tales of the marvels which lie back in the recesses of Waipi’o Valley…fabulous jungle, aery, lace-like waterfalls of breath-taking height, calm pools for skinny dipping. All this is true…but you must trespass across private land in order to reach them—and you should have permission to drive or walk there. Many of the land owners are less than thrilled at the number of tourists invading their secluded homes…they live down here for a reason. So hop into Honoka’a Town and sign up for one of the many tour options down that jungle road, into the back of the canyon, to the numerous, enormous, crazy waterfalls and scenery like you will see no where else on earth…Waipi’o Valley is a magical place that defies the powers of written description or photographs to do justice.

Another victim of Waipi'o Valley's harsh driving environment: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Another victim of Waipi'o Valley's harsh driving environment: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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


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

by Donald B. MacGowan

Hilo From the Air: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo From the Air: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

It can rain all day long for 50 days in a row, yet when the sun does shine, the views of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea from the Liliuokalani Gardens, or of Hilo Bay as you drive down from the mountains on Kaumana Drive, or the waterfall and flower choked jungle gulches leading to lovely small beaches along the highway north of town, make Hilo one of the most truly, achingly lovely spots on earth.

Rainbow at Lokawaka Fishpond, Hilo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Rainbow at Lokawaka Fishpond, Hilo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hilo bears the scars of killer tsunamis and racial intolerance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The seat of political power in Hawai’i County, Hilo is experiencing a long, painful slide into economic and physical decline. Having long since lost the war of social vigor, the battle for tourists and the struggle for attracting new residents and industry to Hawai’i’s newer, cleaner and much sunnier West Side, Hilo seems content to sit back on her mildewing laurels as the once-prosperous center of the sugar industry in an era long gone by, dictating policy and politics to the rest of the island while consuming the vast majority of Hawaii’s resources and swallowing the lion’s share of the taxes.

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

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

Yet, even in her dissipation and decay, Hilo is lovely, interesting and intriguing. Like a courtesan in her declining years, who, having squandered her riches, is forced to live off the charity of her wealthier relations, Hilo is still presentable, but far more notable for her raucous, and slightly ribald, tales of past glory.

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

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

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

Mauna Kea from Hilo Airport: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea from Hilo Airport: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #9: Made for Adventure: The Jungles, Volcanoes, Hot Springs and Tidepools of Puna!
by Frank Burgess, brought to you by Tour Guide Hawaii

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 around the south coast of Puna…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 McKenzie State Park in Puna District back to Kona. Driving along the Puna Coast, through recent lava flows and ageless jungle, through Ka’u and into Puna there several fantastic places to stop and explore, but there is also a lot of lovely, open countryside for several miles, so enjoy the panoramic views. Your Tour Guide download from iTunes will give you more detailed information about this area.

Deeper into mysterious Puna!

As you continue along the coast road, you will next encounter McKenzie State Park. Here the Ironwood trees create an unusual ambience of a pine tree forest. The sheer cliffs and majesty of the ocean beg for photographing. Swimming would be near impossible here, but the hiking is spectacular. Tour Guide will give more information about this other- worldly park. A permit is required for camping and the facilities are a bit run down, but it is secluded, private andbeautiful.

Not far away is Kahena Beach. This beautiful black sand beach involves a bit of a scamper to get down the cliff, but is well worth the effort. Tour Guide will give you the easiest path to take. You may notice that this beach is “clothing optional”, thus it’s popularity. Swimming here is good, but currents can be strong if you get too far from shore.

Drive just a few miles further and you come to what used to be the town of Kalapana. Kalapana and Royal Gardens were destroyed in the lava flows during the late1980’s.

What remain are a few homes and businesses where the road now ends. From here one can see the plume of smoke coming from the vent upslope. Sometimes the lava reaches the ocean about 2 miles from this spot.

A short five minute hike will bring you to Kaimu Beach, the newest black sand beach on the island. Tour Guide will give you the rich history of the ancient fishing villages that were here and the touching stories about the palms at Kaimu Beach.

Heading back from Kalapana, you will want to take Highway 130 toward Pahoa. This is your best chance of watching Kilauea erupt. Just a few hundred yards north of Kalapana, is the old turn off to Royal Gardens. This is now the official County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Site. Drive as far as the attendants will allow you, park and walk into where you can safely view the lava flowing into the ocean. Daily updates on the volcano and conditions at site are available at the Hawaii County Lava Viewing Desk, phone number 808.961.8093; more information is here and here.

Farther along the highway to Pahoa, you will see a “scenic turnout” where you can view the Puna Geothermal Vents. Here a company has tapped the natural steam to create electricity from these fumaroles. Tour Guide will show you how, with a short hike off the road, and you can sit in one of these natural sauna vents for some real relaxation.

Now you’re ready to head back to Kona. Take Highway 130 to Highway 11 and go south. If time permits, you may want to stop in Volcano Village, just off the highway, for some food, gasoline, shopping or maybe even some wine tasting. This may be the last gasoline available until you get back to Kona. Find your hotel in your Tour Guide and get turn-by-turn directions right to the door.

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.

Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #2: Kona Coast South of Honaunau to Ka’u

By Frank Burgess and brought to you by Tour Guide Hawaii

Frank Burgess stops to take a photo while hiking the Ka'u Desert Trail: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Frank Burgess stops to take a photo while hiking the Ka'u Desert Trail: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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 South from Kona along the Hawaii Belt Road towards Hawaii Volcanoes National Park…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 Pu’u Honua O Honaunau south to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.  Driving south 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.

Ho’okena is a lovely gray sand beach about 5 miles off the main hwy. This is a nice beach for swimming, snorkeling and picnicking. There are some trails to hike and decent restrooms. Camping is also available by permit only. Tour Guide has more information about trails to hike, camping, and where to get snorkel gear and camping permits.

Driving a few miles further, headed toward the volcano park, is the turn off for Milolii. Again about 5 miles off the main highway, Milolii is one of the last fishing villages in Hawaii. On the way down the views are spectacular, so keep your camera handy. Tour Guide will give you lots of history about this area, so make sure you listen to it on the way. If you are up for a short hike, park at the Miloli’i County Beach Park and hike the shoreline trail to beautiful, secluded, empty Honomalino Bay.

As with anywhere you travel, make sure to lock your vehicle when you leave it and don’t leave valuables in plain sight.

Tour Guide will show many other great places to explore as you continue driving south. We’ll jump ahead at this point to the southernmost town in the United States, Na’alehu. This quaint plantation town is a throwback to when sugar cane was the main export. Na’alehu boasts being a favorite spot for Mark Twain to rest and enjoy the old Hawaii lifestyle. The Punalu’u Bakery has become famous throughout the state for their sumptuous sweet bread. These are just two great reasons to stop and take in some of the local flavor.

Driving about 10 miles further south, your Tour Guide will recommend the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, one of the top 44 sites on the Big Island. This beach is not only famous for the jet black sand but also for the Hawaiian Green sea turtles and the Hawksbill sea turtles who reside nearby. Often you can see these magnificent creatures sunning on the black sand and, at certain times of the year, nesting and laying their eggs. All turtles in Hawaii are endangered species so touching them is forbidden and a $20,000 dollar fine is strictly enforced. Get up close for photos but please leave them alone. Tour Guide will give you some of the rich history of this area as well.

Driving south from Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, you will notice the highway begin to ascend toward the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Just after you see the Volcano Park sign, there will be a small parking lot, on the ocean side of the hwy, called the Ka’u Desert Trail Head. A one mile hike on this trail will bring you to the warrior footprints and a petroglyph field. Tour Guide gives the stories and history of this fascinating area.

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.

Many people, flying along the highway from Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, dash through South Hawaii as quickly as possible to reach the park without realizing they are missing some of the best, and least visited, places in the whole state. This southern end of the island is where the Polynesians first landed and began their colonization of the Hawaiian Islands; it is home to the beaches where most of the endangered green sea turtles breed and lay their eggs in the main Hawaiian chain, and it is home to some of the most amazing history and awesome history anywhere in the world.

Ghostly Steam and Glow of Lava at Waikupanaha: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Ghostly Steam and Glow of Lava at Waikupanaha: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Clearly, the visitor to Hawaii can use some help finding the more secluded, wild and exotic destinations and attractions. To help you get more out of your Hawaii vacation, Tour Guide Hawaii has released a brand new iPhone/iPod Touch App which navigates you to all the most popular visitor destinations, the most interesting attractions, the most romantic and secluded beaches; helps you effortlessly find hikes, snorkel spots, historical and cultural landmarks, shopping and dining. And of course, our new App includes directions to, and rating of, all the public restrooms! Learn all about it, here.

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

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

In addition to real GPS navigation, this app also allows you to navigate using Google Maps or, if no internet or phone service available, with on-board maps and driving directions! Our App is crammed full of entertaining and informative video presentations about how and where to snorkel, the best trails and beaches, what to pack to bring to Hawaii, cultural orientation and language tips!

Before you rush off to buy our new App on iTunes…let’s take a few minutes and explore some of the fabulous and fantastic things to see and do along the Hawaii Belt Road through South Hawaii that you might not miss if you weren’t using our fabulous App. Of course, our App has much more detail in its video content than we can present here, but this will serve as an indication of what you might otherwise miss.

Huge Portions of Hawaii Island Have Simply Broken Off and Slid Into The Sea in Giant Landslides; Here is the Escarpment from Onesuch Landslide on Kealakekua Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Huge Portions of Hawaii Island Have Simply Broken Off and Slid Into The Sea in Giant Landslides; Here is the Escarpment from One-such Landslide on Kealakekua Bay: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Loa South Flank Land Slides: The flanks of the Hawai’ian volcanoes are unusually unstable because of their extreme youth, rapid growth and because the flows are very thin, discontinuous and are comprised of loosely stacked a’a lava, air-fall material, pahoehoe lava with the loose rubble that forms when the lava flows into the sea. Because of this instability, many extremely large landslides in the past have broken loose, and this is the reason for the steep topography on the lower southern flanks of Mauna Loa. The angle of repose of Hawaiian lava flows (how steeply the land must tilt to get the lava to flow) is roughly 6 degrees, and looking at the gentle slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, one sees that they come very close to this angle. Therefore, topography on the island that is steeper than about 6 degrees represents either faulting, erosion due to water movement or to landslides. One such twenty-mile long landslide, from about Mile 109 on Highway 11 to just north of Miloli’i, slid away about 120,000 years ago. One can see the scar from where the landslide broke loose along Kealakekua Bay and the precipitous cliffs that enfold the Captain Cook Monument as well as the steep hills of South Kona and northwest Ka’u. This landslide generated a tsunami wave of sufficient height to completely wash over the 1427-foot tall summit of Kaho’olawe and wash high up on the mountains of Lana’i. Coral rubble deposited by this tsunami can be found to this day on top of Kaho’olawe and at altitudes in excess of 1000 feet on Lana’i.

Secluded, Romantic, Beautiful Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Secluded, Romantic, Beautiful Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Honomalino Bay: As the highway creeps along the edge of the land slide escarpments on Mauna Loa, every so often an opportunity to turn downhill and explore what’s “over the edge” presents itself…one such spot is just south of the 89 mile marker…the turnoff to Miloli’i fishing village and Honomalino Beach. The village and villagers of Miloli’i itself are a very insular Hawaiian community, wary of outsiders, and best treated with aloha and respect, from a distance. However, one of the true gems of West Hawai’i is Honomalino Beach. Rarely crowded, this lovely beach is is reached by a 20 minute hike from the south end of Miloli’i Beach County Park.

Drive slowly through their ocean-front village past the wreckage of the sea water desalinization plant, past the house inhabited by Elvis Presley in the movie “Girls, Girls, Girls” to the Miloli’i County Park. Park in the lot by the covered pavilion. The hike starts between the bathrooms and a yellow church and is always along the right fork of the trail, in and out of the surf line, to avoid private property. An interesting hike in and of itself, wandering along the beaches, through the dryland forest and over aa lava flows, it wanders about a mile and a quarter to the palm-lined beach. Snorkeling is very interesting on the north side of the beach, along the rocks, when the surf is low.  The water, though crystalline and clear, can sometimes be a bit chilly in spots doe to freshwater spring discharge through the sand.

The Old Mamalahoa Highway Rolls Through The Rural South Coast of Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Old Mamalahoa Highway Rolls Through The Rural South Coast of Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Old Mamalahoa Highway: A scenic stretch of the old Mamalahoa Highway between mileposts 88 and 86 offers a glimpse into what life in Old Hawai’i was like. This rough old road remnant rolls through macadamia orchard and wild countryside and is worth the detour. Driving this stretch of road, remember that to Island residents, the Hawai’i Belt Highway is relatively new; many people living in Hilo will tell you they haven’t been to Kona in 20 years or more because the road is just too hard to drive, you know they are remembering the old highway like this, as it used to be, not as it exists today.

Lehua Blossom and Bee in an Upland Ohia Forest: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Lehua Blossom and Bee in an Upland Ohia Forest: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Manuka State Park: An easy 1-2 hour stroll, a great place for a picnic or a break from driving The Belt Highway, Manuka State Natural Area Reserve and Manuka State Wayside Park lie between the 82 and 81 mile markers and offers the unique setting of both lush wet, and dry-land, forest. The arboretum around the parking lot was planted of native and trees first introduced during the 1930s to the 1950s. The hike, which circles through the forest to a pit crater, takes 1-2 hours and has well-marked nature points of interest along the way. The trail also winds over both newer and older lava flows, so it’s easy to see how the forest develops through stages as the lava ages and weathers. Although an easy walk, some of the footing is loose, so sturdy shoes should be worn; no water is available along the trail, so you should carry a quart per person. This also is a very pleasant place to observe some of Hawai’i’s unique forest birds at dawn and sunset. The cool, inviting and fragrant Wayside Park has ample parking, picnic tables, restrooms and water available. There is a small covered pavilion at which “by permit-only” camping is allowed.

View Across HOVE to the Windmills at South Point, Big Island Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

View Across HOVE to the Windmills at South Point, Big Island Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’ian Ocean View Estates (H.O.V.E.): Check your gas gauge, check your canteen, check your lunch box! Hawai’i Ocean View Estates is the last outpost of civilization for miles around. Hawai’ian Ocean View Estates is the world’s largest residential subdivision. As such, it lacks only three things: water, electrical power and, most importantly, residents. Built in the 1960s, ownership of the subdivision has passed from hand to hand, but lack of utilities has kept residence numbers low. Despite this, a hardy settlement has sprung up with a great sense of community, even though many residents rely strictly on catchment for water and personal generators for electricity. The climate in Ocean View is perfect year round, but there are no public beaches or cultural amenities, so it hasn’t flourished as a town. Ocean View boasts a few stores, restaurants, churches and a post office. Public restrooms are available below the Post Office.

Disaster of 1868 Lava Flows, South Flank of Mauna Loa: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Disaster of 1868 Lava Flows, South Flank of Mauna Loa: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Disaster of 1868/Kahuku Village: Ferocious earthquakes! Floods of glowing lava! Tsunamis swallowing hapless survivors! Between the 71 and 72 mile markers of Highway 11, just west of the South Point Turn-off, is the wild scene of a natural disaster the proportions of a Cecil B. DeMille film. The only remaining reminders of the disaster are the lava flow of 1868 exposed here, and the ruins of Kahuku Village which lie beneath it. Starting on March 27, 1868 and continuing for five relentless days, earthquakes shook the Ka’u region, including the worst earthquake recorded in Hawai’ian history, one of 7.9 magnitude on the Richter scale. Hundreds of landslides were loosed, cinder cones collapsed and small tsunamis continuously licked the Ka’u coastline. On the second of April, after a massive convulsion, a giant river of lava burst through from underneath, inundating everything in its path. A giant tsunami washed over the coastline, swallowing whole villages and canoe fleets, killing 46 people. Massive landslides flowed across the land, burying parts of Punalu’u and Ninole and ultimately killing 31 people.

Kae Lae, the Southern Most Point in the US: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kae Lae, the Southern Most Point in the US: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

South Point: This sweeping landscape arches openly and inviting from the tumultuous shore break at Ka Le to the icy heights of Mauna Kea’s summit almost 14,000 feet above. The farthest point south in the entire United States, South Point is haunting, windswept, wild, empty, beautiful. Although still only 1-lane wide in many places, the road to Ka Lae from the Hawai’i Belt Road has been greatly improved in recent years. The roads, beaches, boat launching facilities and parking are all free and on public land, contrary to what some signs and unsavory characters might try to tell you. Just don’t leave valuables in your car, and be sure to lock it up. The brooding and dilapidated wind turbines of the Kamaoa Wind Farm are along the road to Ka Lae. This wind farm, when all of the turbines are operating, can generate enough electricity to power 100 homes; unfortunately, usually 1/3 to ½ of the turbines are out of service at any given time. The surreal setting on the green plain with the cows grazing unconcernedly, coupled with the eerie, “sci-fi” sound of the generators makes this a unique place to stop, look and listen.

The waters at South Point are wild, crystalline turquoise and wicked. It is obvious from the surf and the currents that swimming is right out along most of this coastline. The only recommended snorkeling is at the Kaulana boat launch and at the green sand beach…and then it is recommended only in calm seas. But it is beautiful; perhaps as beautiful and wild a spot to snorkel as anywhere in Hawai’i.

Mahana Bay and the Green Sand Beach at South Point: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Bay and the Green Sand Beach at South Point: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hike to Green Sand Beach: Unique and special, Hawai’i’s green sand beaches are as beautiful as they are strange. The beach sands are composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point, the best known, is reached by turning left onto a signed, patchy-paved and dirt road immediately when you arrive in the Ka Lae area. Follow signs to the Kaulana boat launch and park just to the left (south) of it. The dirt road that leads along the shore to the green sand beach is sometimes gated and locked. Hiking distance is 2 ¼ miles each way along rolling tropical prairie (and if you cannot envision that, you really need to do this hike). Despite the multiplicity of dirt roads, you really cannot get lost as you are never out of sight of the shore. When you arrive above the beach on the crater rim, there is a faint track to scramble safely and easily to the beach. One can also easily scramble down from the middle (easternmost) of the cone, but this can be slippery. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up the way back to the crater rim is easy to follow. When visiting here, plan and act as if there were no services, and no rescue available.

A Community-Painted Mural on the Waiohinu General Store: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Community-Painted Mural on the Waiohinu General Store: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Waiohinu/Mark Twain Monkey Pod Tree: Waiohinu is a for-real Old-Hawaii town, as are it’s neighbors Na’alehu and Pahala. Waiohinu boasts a gas station and store, public restrooms, a small hotel and numerous bed and breakfasts as well as Margo’s Corner, a privately-operated campground. It is always wise to fill your gas tank at the first opportunity when traveling on the Southern Coast because there are no service stations operating at regular, predictable hours, or at all after dark, in most of these tiny towns. Waiohinu has another more historic distinction. It is here that Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) planted a Monkey Pod so he’d have a shady spot to sit and write. Although the original tree blew down in a hurricane in 1957, a new tree has sprung-up from the surviving roots and can be seen in the center of town by the State Historical Society Marker commemorating Mark Twain’s visit.

Downtown Na'alehu, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Downtown Na'alehu, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Na’alehu: Lovely, scenic, sleepy Na’alehu, the southernmost town in America is the not-so-bustling mercantile hub the southern end of Hawai’i Island. Here is the Na’alehu Fruit Stand, the source of wonderful fresh fruit and the best pizza on the Island; the Punalu’u Bakeshop, known Island-wide for its malasadas and Portuguese Sweet Bread. The Union 76 gas station is your best bet for after-dark gas in South Hawai’i, but don’t bet the farm on it being open on any given night. Especially during fishing season. The Na’alehu Police station, on the east end of town, is the only outpost of law and order constabulary between Captain Cook and Volcano.

Whittington Beach Park, Tucked Into a Small Cove Along A Portion of the Hawaii Coastline Reminescent of Big Sur: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Whittington Beach Park, Tucked Into a Small Cove Along A Portion of the Hawaii Coastline Reminiscent of Big Sur: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Whittington Beach Park/Honuapo Bay: The wild, ragged southern coastline of Ka’u, reminiscent of Big Sur, reaches its apogee here at Honuapo Bay. Although the County Beach Park is in poor repair and frequented by a less-than-desirable element, the raw sense of connection to the ravenous ocean, the eerie mood of the collapsed Pahala Sugar Co. wharf and the joy of ever-renewing life in the many tidepools and ponds that dot this shoreline make this Park a must-see stop. There are two, perhaps not conflicting, but interesting interpretations to the name Honuapo in Hawai’ian. If the reading is “honu apo”, it means “caught turtle”, a reference to the many dozens of Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles who make this bay their home. However, if you read the words as “honua po” it means “land of the gods”; clearly in such a wildly beautiful, stark and powerful landscape, this is an apt name, as well. The true meaning is lost to the mists of time and depredation on native culture made by the missionaries, but knowing how modern speakers of Polynesian delight in the multiplicity of puns and double entendres their tongue is mother to, it is not far fetched to imagine the ancient Hawai’ians giving the bay this name with both meanings intended.

Enangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle on Punalu'u's Famous Black Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle on Punalu'u's Famous Black Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park: Punalu’u’s black sand beach, a truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing is home to dozens of endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles. 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. 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. Camping is permitted around the pavilions by permit only and can be a windy, but wild and elemental, exercise in campcraft. Due to the exposed nature of the terrain, however, there is little privacy.

The Burnout Shell of A Sugar Refining Warehouse in Pahala: Phoito by Donald B. MacGowan

The Burned-out Shell of A Sugar Refining Warehouse in Pahala: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Pahala: Friendly, clean, quiet, scenic; Pahala seems a perfect community. Twenty years ago Pahala was a bustling center of activity for the Pahala Sugar Company, but with the demise of the sugar industry, Pahala residents have either moved on to other towns seeking new employment, or hunkered down the await what future may come. There are a few good art galleries and the old Plantation House Inn, which offer the traveler a look into post-plantation life in South Hawai’i. Pahala is also the only outpost for groceries, gasoline, banking, post-office and restaurant activities between Na’alehu and Volcano; one should be careful, however, as business hours tend to be irregular and never extend much past dark. The causal traveler should also be wary of a couple of bad speed traps on either side of Pahala. A re-birth, of a sort, is underway in Pahala and other small towns in Hawai’i; because of the extremely undervalued real estate, compared with the extremely over-valued real estate elsewhere in Hawai’i, mainlanders and retirees are buying up land as residents finally sell. This has caused a small renaissance in service-sector employment, but it will take a generation or two for these tiny towns to rebuild and return to their former bustling selves.

In Peaceful and Serene Wood Valley You Will Feel Insulated From the Hustle and Bustle of Western Civilization: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

In Peaceful and Serene Wood Valley You Will Feel Insulated From the Hustle and Bustle of Western Civilization: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Wood Valley: A few miles upslope of Pahala into the macnut groves is the tiny community of Wood Valley. There are no services available here, except for a couple of bed and breakfast establishments and the Nechung Dorje Drayang Ling Buddhist Temple, which serves as a place of teaching and retreat. If time permits, it’ is a very worthwhile way to spend a lunch hour by procuring a take-away meal in Pahala, then driving the short way up into Wood Valley to enjoy lunch in the utter tranquility that steeps this community.

Lava from Kilauea Flows Smoothly into the Ocean at La'epuki in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava from Kilauea Flows Smoothly into the Ocean at La'epuki in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a magical, spiritual, wondrous, strange and beautiful place comprised of great contrasts and contradictions: dry as dust desert to teeming tropical jungle; frigid sub-arctic wasteland to steaming black sand beaches to rivers of flowing lava. The star attractions in the Park are a pair of active volcanoes; Mauna Loa is the largest mountain on earth and Kilauea is most active volcano on earth. However, there are numerous other wonders from lava tubes to crawl down, black sand beaches with sea turtles to watch, mysterious petroglyph fields to explore, tropical jungles to hike through, endangered bird species to find, happy-face spiders to amuse and an otherworldly volcanic landscape so fresh it’s still steaming. Famed for its fabulous views of Mauna Loa and Kilauea as much as for its interesting exhibits,

The Jagger Museum (named for geologist Thomas A. Jagger) is open daily from 8:30a.m. to 5:00p.m. Exhibits include murals by Herb Kawainui Kane, seismograph charts of eruptions and earthquakes, geological displays and display about the natural and human history of the Park.

Perhaps the finest short day hike in the park, a four-mile, 2-3 hour trip down into, across and back out of Kilauea Iki Crater gives one an intimate feel for volcanoes, Hawaiian-Style. Along one side, thick fern and ohi’a forest skirts along the rim and on the other, lush tropical rainforest crowds to the very brink of the crater; bleak volcanic desert lines the crater walls and covers the floor. The start and finish of the hike are along well marked, wide trails. The remainder is an easily followed, well marked trail with stone ahu (cairns) over the crater floor. As always when hiking in the Park, it is wise to avoid the noonday sun, and to remember that afternoon showers are common, especially near where this hike meets the crater rim.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. During daylight hours, an access fee is charged. The Visitor Center has a 24-hour information line at 808.985.7017 and there is a 24-hour eruption hot-line at 808.985.6000. Within the Park tune to A.M. radio 530 for continuous information broadcast. Whether returning to Kona or to Hilo after visiting the Park, remember that after dark except for perhaps in Kea’au, there is little or no food and no gas available on the south end of Hawaii Island after dark.

Gas Stations, Stores and Restaurants Close Early Along the South Coast, Be Sure You Have Everything You Need Before Leaving Volcano Village!: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Gas Stations, Stores and Restaurants Close Early Along the South Coast, Be Sure You Have Everything You Need Before Leaving Volcano Village!: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Volcano Village: One should plan ahead and expect to fill the gas tank and tummy in Volcano Village, across the highway from Hawaii volcanoes National Park. Gas prices are not, contrary to what you may have heard, any more confiscatory in expense than anywhere else on the island and Volcano is home to some first class restaurants, bakeries, interesting shops and even the island’s only winery. Plan on staying a while and enjoying the aloha in this mountain town while you recharge yourself from your busy day in South Hawaii.

Could You Have Found This Without Tour Guide?  Here is the House Elvis Presley Lived in in the Movie "Girls, Girls, Girls": Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Could You Have Found This Without Tour Guide? Here is the House Elvis Presley Lived in in the Movie "Girls, Girls, Girls": Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Remember to check out our new for touring all of Hawaii…using the Tour Guide Hawaii iPhone/iPod Touch App will save you time, save you money and allow you to see and do more with your Hawaii vacation; this quick video tells you how.

Sunrise on Mauna Loa from Jagger Museum: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sunrise on Mauna Loa from Jagger Museum: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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. For information about the author, please go here.

All Media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

Inexpensive, incredibly interesting, indispensable.

Tour Guide Hawaii: Helping you day dream about, get organized for and enrich your trip to Hawaii!

Tour Guide Hawaii: Helping you day dream about, get organized for and enrich your trip to Hawaii!

Tour Guide Hawaii is a MUST HAVE application for Island visitors with an iPhone or iPod Touch. It will save you from “option overload” by helping you and your group select the sites to visit of most interest to you.  By providing you with in depth descriptions, history, directions, GPS coordinates and restroom information, Tour Guide Hawaii will also save you time and money!   By watching the informative videos, you can use this app to pre-plan your trip at home, in your hotel room or to learn more about the wondrous places you are visiting on the fly.  Hawaii residents with GPS iPhones will especially love the quick access to turn-by-turn directions and driving times to popular island destinations. It’s so easy and so packed with fascinating information you’ll wonder how people ever traveled without one!

Tour Guide Hawaii's in depth video presentations will tell you where to go, what to do, what to bring with you----saves you time and money by helping you decide which sites you absolutely MUST SEE!

Tour Guide Hawaii's in depth video presentations will tell you where to go, what to do, what to bring with you----saves you time and money by helping you decide which sites you absolutely MUST SEE!

Tour Guide Hawaii has been providing innovative touring products to the visitors the Big Island of Hawaii since 2004. Produced by island residents, this application contains over 3.5 hours of videos and audio/visual presentations on over fifty popular destinations, including some truly special places off the beaten path. With this App, you can experience the wonder of flowing lava, pristine snorkeling spots, spectacular waterfalls, scenic hikes, unbelievable beaches, breathtaking parks; you will be able to quickly and easily find secluded beaches, caves, quaint towns,  lava viewing, natural wonders, ancient historical sites, and much much more.

Each site has multiple pages of content and information. This includes an overview presentation with photos and a professionally recorded script which provides the site’s details and history. This will help to determine your interest in visiting sites, and enable you to get more out of them once you arrive.  Information for each site also includes information on what to bring and what to do, parking, access, facilities and amenities, an interactive map section which offers detailed audio instructions for getting there, an illustrated map, GPS coordinates for your navigation device, an interactive map(internet required), and turn-by-turn directions (GPS iPhone required). The illustrated map, offers useful directions and driving tips for iPod Touch users and for all users in regions with limited cellular service. Finally, each site contains information about the location and condition of nearby restrooms–a real bonus for strangers in a strange land.

Enrich your exploration of the Big Island with information! Sites and attractions are listed geographically and alphabetically to help you get where you are going and know what you are seeign when you get there!

Enrich your exploration of the Big Island with information! Sites and attractions are listed geographically and alphabetically to help you get where you are going and know what you are seeing when you get there!

Users have four ways to view a complete listing of island sites. Since the island’s coastal highway system takes a circular path around the island, you can view sites in the direction you are traveling in, both the clockwise and anti-clockwise.  The listings also are subdivided into geographic districts, helping you to easily select nearby destinations and restrooms. You can also quickly select sites through an alphabetical listing and the interactive map.

Bonus features include presentations to help orientate you to the island, plan for your trip, and make you feel at home once you arrive. An island overview video will quickly familiarizes you to the island and all of its regions. Audio/Visual presentations cover topics such as what to pack, island transportation, lava viewing, petroglyph fields, wildlife, snorkeling, island culture, useful Hawaiian terms and more. There are also listings of top beaches, hikes, and snorkeling sites. We’ve even provided itinerary suggestions to help you make the most out or your time in the island. And you’ll able to access all of this content quickly after viewing the provided quick start guide to our application.

We’re currently offering our application at a low introductory rate.  Update versions,  incorporating sophisticated enhancements currently in development, will be available as free upgrades in the near future. In its current release, our application is a bargain indeed…less expensive and more detailed than standard guidebooks, more informative than cumbersome maps and cheaper by far than bus and specialized van tours that can cost a small fortune on the Big Island.  Also, our Guide allow you to set your own itinerary, taking you to the places that interest you most, letting you stay the length of time you wish.  Constantly updated, our information is never out of date.  And touring the island in a rental car without our application could cost you a lot of wasted time and money…there’s a reason they call this “The Big Island”, and road are poorly marked.

Tour Guide's interactive, touch screen map puts the Island of Hawaii at your fingertips and helps you plan your trip, find sites of interest nearby or just put it all in context...

Tour Guide's interactive, touch screen map puts the Island of Hawaii at your fingertips and helps you plan your trip, find sites of interest nearby or just put it all in context...

We know from years of positive testimonials that the content in this application will empower you to experience YOUR perfect Big Island experience.

Whether you are on the Big Island right now, coming next week, or just planning it for the future, Tour Guide Hawaii is the best way to day-dream about Hawaii, organize your trip to Hawaii and get the most out of your visit to while you’re here.  Available today at the Apple App Store.

For more information on Tour Guide Hawaii’s fabulous new iPhone and iPod App, please go here, here and here.

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

by Frank Burgess

As you continue around the Crater Rim Drive, at Volcanoes National Park, there are dozens of great sights. A more recent crater, erupting with fire curtains in 1974, is Keanakako’i Crater. The pebbles around the rim were formed by froth from the lava as it was blasted into the air and cooled as they fell to the ground. This crater is a bit off-the-beaten-path, but Tour Guide shows the way.

Right along the Crater Rim Drive is the Devastation Trail (video here) formed by Kilauea Iki. When the Pu’u Pai vent erupted in 1959 it spewed pumice cinder and scalding ash burying the rainforest some ten feet deep. This caused the forested area to die leaving a barren wasteland where little has grown since. Tour Guide will take you on the three quarter mile paved hike, along the edge of this moonscaped region, and give more historical information as well.

At the end of the Devastation Trail is the Pu’u Pai overlook. This spot affords a view of Pu’u Pai (gushing hill) and Kilauea Iki (little Kilauea) (video here and here) and skirts the edge of the desert and rainforest as if some drew a line separating the two. Tour Guide gives the fascinating stories of 1900 foot lava fountains during this episode.

Super Tip: Bring plenty of water. I can’t stress this enough. There are few facilities available on the drives and hikes around the park, so make sure you stock up before leaving the Visitor’s Center. Besides, good hydration will keep you energized for all your fun activities. To your health.

On the east side of Crater Rim Drive is a delightful stop not to be missed, Thurston Lava Tube (video here). Tour Guide will tell you how lava tubes are formed when magma flows underground. It eventually empties leaving cave-like formations. Most lava tubes are very small; however Thurston Lava Tube is quite large. The National Park Service has paved a pathway through the tube, and installed lighting, to make this a 300 yard spelunking adventure for everyone to enjoy. The cave circles so that the entrance and exit end at the parking area. The giant ferns here invited the songs of exotic birds, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. This is one of the few locations where restrooms are available.

One of the best hiking and biking routes is the Escape Road (video here). Built for just what its name implies an alternate road for when the lava will inevitably cut the Chain of Crater Road, it makes a lovely down hill walk or bike ride. Tour Guide will show where to start at the Thurston Lava Tube parking area and end at the Mauna Ulu parking lot. This road meanders through some of the most cool and pristine rainforest to be found.

At the other end of the Escape Road is Mauna Ulu (video here), also accessible from Chain of Craters Road. This spot was formed by numerous eruptions between 1969 and 1974. A few yards down the road, you see the different types of lava formations left from these flows. Tour Guide will explain these types of lava in great detail. Across the expanse lies Pu’u Huluhulu, or shaggy hill. For those that are ready hike, there is a tree mile round trip hike to the top of Pu’u Huluhulu marked by cairns. From the summit, the views of the lava flows and coastline are indescribable.

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and touring the big island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

Copyright 2008 by Frank Burgess.  Photos and video opyright 2009 Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

This post has been updated and expanded here.

Feeling hemmed in by the spring drizzle in Kona, the Men of Tour Guide decided to take a much needed break and drive from Kailua Kona across The Saddle Road, up to the summit of Mauna Kea and down into Hilo.

Hualalai Volcano and Pu'uanahulu on the Big Island: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hualalai Volcano and Pu'uanahulu on the Big Island: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Driving out of Kailua Town on Highway 190, we passed Pu’unanhulu on the backside of  Hualalai Volcano, continuing to the junction with Highway 200, The Saddle Road, famed in song, legend and fable.

Looking Back Toward Kohala Mountain from Saddle Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Looking Back Toward Kohala Mountain from Saddle Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Saddle Road has a nasty reputation, which is only partly deserved.  Having been rebuilt from Hilo-side up over the saddle, there are only a dozen or so miles of rough, single lane roadway remaining.

Stopping at The Saddle, we decided to hike up Pu’u Huluhulu, the Shaggy Hill, a wildlife preserve on a prominent kipuka, or living island between lava flows.

Mauna Kea from Kipuka Huluhulu: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea from Kipuka Huluhulu: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kipuka Huluhulu offers superb views of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, as well as fabulous bird watching and a grand nature trail through a lot of native flora.

Vanishingly Rare Silver Sword Plant on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Vanishingly Rare Silver Sword Plant on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Taking John Burns Way from The Saddle up to the summit of Mauna Kea, we stopped at the Visitor’s Information Station for a rest stop, to acclimatize and to photograph some Silver Sword plants; one of the rarest plants on earth, Silver Swords grow only on Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and Haleakala.

From the Visitor’s Information Station we made our way up to the summit road.  This road, too, has an only partially-earned nasty reputation.  True, the road is mostly graded rock (it gets graded 3 times a week); true, it’s steep and narrow with NO shoulders and scary drop-offs; and, true, the weather can turn in a heartbeat from warm and sunny to full-on blizzard white-out.

The Men of Tour Guide Hard at Work on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Men of Tour Guide Hard at Work on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

However, anybody who has experience driving on dirt roads in the mountains and drives cautiously is apt to be just fine…afterall, it’s not the roughness of the road that keeps people from the summit, it’s the lack of air at altitude that kills the car. If you are in doubt about the drive, the Rangers at the Information Station can help you decide if you should drive up or not.

Hikers on Mauna Kea Summit Looking at Mauna Loa Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hikers on Mauna Kea Summit Looking at Mauna Loa Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The summit of Mauna Kea is one of my favorite places in all of Hawaii.  I’ve been here at all times of the day and night, in all kinds of weather; I have stood at the summit and seen the North Star and the Southern Cross in the same sky on the same night; I have skied and snowboarded from the summit and hiked to the top from sea level.  I’ve ridden my mountain bike up and ridden my Honda Ruckus scooter from Kailua Town up.

Mauna Kea Summit Temple: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Temple: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

I love this mountain.  In September of 2006, Sean O’Neil, a paraplegic, rolled his wheelchair to the summit all the way from sea level in Hilo. All I could think when I heard he’d made the summit was “There is a real adventurer with the heart of a lion…”.

Rolling our own way back down the John Burns Way to The Saddle Road, we discovered the spring monsoon was still in full swing as we headed east towards Hilo Town.  Of course it was raining on Hilo Side! Stopping in the foothills just west of Hilo, we spent some time exploring around Kaumana Caves, a lava tube that extends for 25 miles, formed in the 1881 eruption of Mauna Loa.

Frank Descends Into Kaumana Cave: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Frank Descends Into Kaumana Cave: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Entrance is gained at Kaumana Cave County Park by a concrete staircase descending into a skylight.  The adventurer is immediately faced with a question: explore the uphill portion or the downhill portion?  Whichever route you take, be sure to have 3 sources of light, a hard hats (knee pads are nice, too) and be prepared for wet and slippery rocks. If you’re not intent on exploring deeply, a walk into the portions where sunlight penetrates is still pretty amazing.

Looking Out Kaumana Cave: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Looking Out Kaumana Cave: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Continuing on into Hilo, we spent some time at Rainbow Falls, which, because of the recent rain, was swollen and immense.

Rain-Swollen Rainbow Falls: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Rain-Swollen Rainbow Falls: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

I explored the river a bit above and upstream of the falls and found an incredible tract of wild urban jungle (if that is not actually a contradiction in terms, it’s at least a brilliant name for a rock band…) and lots more smaller falls, continuing on up the river.

THe Jungle Behind Rainbow Falls: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Jungle Behind Rainbow Falls: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There is a trail along portions of this.

It was getting late as we explored downtown Hilo so we gassed the car and decided to drive home through Waimea.

Hualalai Sunset from Highway 190, Big Island, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hualalai Sunset from Highway 190, Big Island, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kailua Kona Sunset from the Pier: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sunset over Thurston Mansion from the Kailua Pier: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We blazed along laughing at our day’s adventure under an increasingly amazing sunset, arriving back in Kailua Town just in time to catch a meal of Kona Dogs and raspberry smoothies at Cousin’s in the Kona Inn Shops.  Best raspberry smoothies on the island, I’m telling ya!

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

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