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by Donald B. MacGowan

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

The characteristic wishbone shape of Rainbow Falls on a characteristically gray day in Hilo Hawaii---No Rainbows Today!: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are many wonders and enigmas, out of the way and generally off the beaten track, on the Big Island of Hawaii that have garnered a lot of word-of-mouth popularity over the years; the Golden Ponds of Ke-awa-iki, hike to see the flowing lava and the weird, fabulous and storied colored sand beaches of the Big Island come immediately to mind. The almost folk-tale way in which traveler’s impart information to each other about these incredible places guarantee that serious errors in the nature and history of these places, or even errors in directions on how to get there, creep in to the accounts. It would be a shame to set your heart on seeing a place a friend told you that you just had to visit and not be able to find it, or not understand what it was you were seeing once you got there.

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

A true connoisseur of water falls finds a unique way to enjoy Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

We here at Tour Guide have endeavored to seek, collate and present an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information on visiting over 500 locations on the Big Island, coloring the material with our decades of personal experience living on the Big Island. Today, you may access that information here on this blog or by renting our hand-held computer/GPS unit which shows location aware video presentations about all these sites. Recently, we have released a version of our tours downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers more than 50 areas of island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and and the relaxing.

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

During dry conditions, there is barely a trickle of water coming over Rainbow Falls in Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Our goal is to insure you have the most fun, most interesting and enjoyable vacation here in Hawaii–that you are provided with all the information you need to decide where to go and what to see, and that you are not burdened with out-dated or incorrect information…

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

So, now let’s talk about fabulous Rainbow Falls, in Hilo Hawaii.

Wailuku River Park and Rainbow Falls

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

During wet weather, Rainbow Falls becomes a thunderous cascade, Hilo Hawaii Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The subject of recent and ancient legend, Rainbow Falls is the lovely emblem of Hilo town. The cave beneath Rainbow Falls is said to have been the home of Hina, mother of the demi-god Maui, who brought fire to mankind. It is also said to be the place where Kamehameha buried his father’s bones.

During wet weather, Rainbow Falls becomes a thunderous cascade, Hilo Hawaii Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The surging Wailuku River above Rainbow Falls during the spring monsoon, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The characteristic wishbone shape of Rainbow falls is best seen at moderate river flows…too little water and only a single drizzle remains, too much runoff and the falls merge into a single, roaring flume. At any time, however, it’s a beautiful place and worthwhile to visit.

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

The Wailuku River below Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Waianuenue in Hawai’ian means “rainbow in waterfall”, and just about every village in Hawai’i large enough to have paved roads, has a “Waianuenue Street”. This particular waterfall was called “Waianuenue” by the ancient Hawai’ians, and remains the reigning queen of its namesake. A remarkable and lovely waterfall, the rainbows within it, which are the emblem of the state of Hawai’i, are best seen in the mid to late morning.

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

A view over the Top of Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Follow the trail uphill and to the left along the river bank, through a banyan tree jungle and a dizzying perch at the top of the falls. Hiking a bit further leads to delightful swimming and wandering; please note, however, that swimming in rivers and near falling water is dangerous. Don’t go in if the current is swift or if recent rains have swollen the river.

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

Rainbow Falls During Monsoon, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

One can follow the Wailuku River all the way to the Boiling Pots (be wary; footing can be muddy and treacherous, especially at times of high flow) and thence on up to Pe’epee Falls State Park, although conditions may dictate you leave the river canyon and follow the roads at some point.

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

The banyan jungle above Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

It’s best to go early in the morning when the rainbows are visible (if it’s sunny) and before the big tour buses begin pulling in. Late afternoons the park can sometimes be over-run with unruly teenagers who may make the visitor feel uncomfortable. As with many parks in Hawaii, the facilities are run down and the restrooms are a disgrace but the scenery, the falls, the hike and the tropical malama aina are more than worth the effort to see this magical place.

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

Jungle lagoon on the Wailuku River above Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

Inside the Banyan Jungle above Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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by Donald B. MacGowan

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.

South Point's Justly Famous Green Sand Beach is a Popular Hiking and Snorkeling Destination, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are many places on the Big Island of Hawaii that have undeserved infamous or unsavory reputations for one reason or another–the reputations of the road to South Point and Saddle Road come immediately to mind.  Once difficult, even dangerous, to drive, they have been more or less tame for decades–yet the reputation remains, passed on to unsuspecting visitor’s who trust what they are told.  Recognition of this must be balanced with the sure and certain knowledge that in the same breath they condemn the South Point road, someone may tell the same visitor of the hazards of, say, the road to the summit of Mauna Kea or The Road To The Sea in South Kona–both of which can be truly dangerous roads requiring skill, good weather and four-wheel drive to negotiate.

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 Past the Kaomoa Wind Farm to South Point from Ocean View in South Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

We here at Tour Guide have endeavored to collect and present the most up-to-date information on visiting over 500 locations on the Big Island, coloring the material with our decades of personal experience living on the Big Island.  Today, you may access that information here on this blog or by renting our GPS unit which shows location aware video presentations about all these sites.  Recently, we have released a version of our tours downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers more than 50 areas of island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and 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.

Fishermen on the Cliffs at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Our goal is to insure you have the most fun, most interesting and enjoyable vacation here in Hawaii–that you are provided with all the information you need to decide where to go and what to see, and that you are not burdened with out-dated or incorrect information…

So, let’s talk about going to storied South Point on the Big Island which, despite what you may hear to the contrary, is a delightful drive and an amazing place to explore.

Hawaii’s South Point

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.

Visitor's Contemplate the View South from the Actual Point at South Point. Many People Drive All the Way Out Here, Take Pictures at the Point, and Then Drive Back, Never Dreaming of the Rich Tapestry of Wonders That Await Even Casual Exploration: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Haunting, windswept, wild, empty, beautiful. Imagine the gratitude and wonder of the first Polynesians who, after voyaging at sea without sight of land for more than a month, finally made land here at Ka Lae. This sweeping landscape arches openly and inviting from the tumultuous shore break at Ka Lae to the icy heights of Mauna Kea’s summit almost 14,000 feet above.

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.

South Point's Guardian Trucks at Kaulana Boat Launch, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

South Point is the farthest point south in the entire United States…not Key West Florida, as some guidebooks claim. The road to Ka Lae from the Hawai’i Belt Road is infamous, but has been greatly improved in recent years, although it’s still only 1-lane wide in many places. Even today some rental agencies admonish you not to take their cars down this road. Relax. The road is fine, although blind turns and hills command your attention and should curb your desire to speed. Also, all the roads, beaches, boat launching facilities and parking are free and public, despite 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 (there also is no “Visitor’s Center”, contrary to the sign).

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 lone cow contemplates Kamoa Wind Farm at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Along the road to Ka Lae are the brooding and dilapidated wind turbines of the Kamaoa Wind Farm. 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.

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 Actual South Point at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At South Point proper are a number of dilapidated structures and foundation ruins. The Army had a barracks here during World War II; the paved road was built in 1955; during the sixties, the Navy built a missile tracking station which the Air Force later took over and renamed South Point Air Force Station, which closed in 1978.

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.

Although There is Some Disagreement on the Interpretation, These South Point Petroglyphs are Believed by Most to Represent the First Three Polynesian Voyaging Canoes to Reach Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

History: The Polynesian pioneers who first reached South Point routinely made incredible voyages that put European seafaring and exploration of a millennium later to shame. More than a thousand years before Columbus, in tiny, twin-hulled canoes that were entirely of carved wood lashed together, using no nails or wooden pegs and employing sails made of tree bark, Polynesians embarked on a voyages that were thousands of miles farther than those of Christopher Columbus, and without the aid of a compass or charts with which to navigate. Using the stars, currents, patterns of migration of the birds and fish, patterns in the waves, water temperature and the color of the undersides of clouds, these explorers navigated, explored, sailed and paddled all across the Pacific spreading their culture, language and peoples at the time when the Roman Empire was crumbling and centuries before the Age of Vikings.

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.It is thought that voyagers from the Marquesas first landed on Hawai’i, at South Point, quite early in the fourth Century AD; certainly the earliest archeological artifacts found in the Hawai’ian Islands are found here. At Ka Lae the Polynesians established a thriving colony based upon the incredibly rich fishing grounds just offshore. The colony was connected to the rest of Polynesia by trade routes to the Southern Islands and regular trade and travel between the Marquesas, Marshals, and Tahiti continued for centuries. Evidence of their colony can be found at Kalalae Heiau, just below the light tower at the Point.

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.

Kalalae Heiau, South Point, Ka'u Heiau: Donald B. MacGowan

The small, but extremely well-preserved, Kalalae Heiau is classified as a ko’a, or fishing shrine, to the god Ku’ula. Just below the shrine and in the rocks to the west, one can find grooves and holes cut into the rock. These are attachment and guide points for anchor lines for ancient fishing canoes. The currents at Ka Lae are so strong, and flow uninterrupted to Antarctica, that Hawai’ians could not fish and keep their canoes from being driven away simultaneously, so they fed ropes, secured to the rocks out to the canoes, to keep them from drifting away with the currents.

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.

Kalalae Heiau has numerous sacred standing stones. On the main platform outside the heiau is a pohaku amakua referred to as “Kumaiea” which means “female”. On the smaller stone terrace just north is another standing stone associated with the god Kanaloa and referred to as “Kanemakua” (male). Inside the heiau wall is a stone called “Ku’ula” after the patron god of fishermen; north of the structure stand Makaunulau (named for a navigational star) and ’Ai’ai (a dependent or ward), south is Wahine hele (“place from where the women leave”): Photo Donald B. MacGowan

Like most animists, Hawai’ians invested worship and respect and intuited spiritual power in a range of natural objects and phenomena: rain, volcanic eruptions, the sea, sharks, fresh water springs, the surf and rocks, among many others. Pohaku O Kane, or sacred rocks, were among the most common spiritual objects of worship, whether they were naturally occurring in the landscape (pohakuia loa), or set on platforms (pohaku amakua) or carved (pohaku iki). Kalalae Heiau has numerous examples of the former two. On the main platform outside the heiau is a pohaku amakua referred to as “Kumaiea” which means “female”. On the smaller stone terrace just north is another standing stone associated with the god Kanaloa and referred to as “Kanemakua” (male). Inside the heiau wall is a stone called “Ku’ula” after the patron god of fishermen; north of the structure stand Makaunulau (named for a navigational star) and ’Ai’ai (a dependent or ward), south is Wahine hele (“place from where the women leave”). Examples of pohakuia loa include the Pohakuwa’a Kauhi (literally “canoe rock by the shrubs”) right at the shoreline, which was used to focus meditations before long canoes journeys, and Pohakuokeau (“stone of the currents” or “stone of the years”), which stands offshore. The name Pohakuokeau reflects the Hawaiian belief that the stones would turn over when there was a political change in government.

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.

Body Surfing at the Justly Famous Green Sand Beach, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo Donald B. MacGowan

Hike to Green Sand Beach: Absolutely unique to the island of Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the handful of green sand beaches composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these.

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.

Afternoon sun on bathers at The World Famous Green Sand Beach, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The sand grains on this beach are formed from olivine crystals weathering out of the lava and cinders from the cone over an eruptive vent that has been partially breached by the sea. The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the somewhat protected cove formed by the remnant of the cone makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot. Be very wary of currents and do not go out far nor in at all if the surf is high or there are strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.

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.

Hikers on the trail to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

To get there, turn left onto a signed, patchy-paved and dirt road immediately when you arrive in the Ka Lae area following signs to the Kaulana boat launch. Proceed down the road and park just to the left (south) of the Kaulana boat launch, where there is a dirt road that leads to the green sand beach; there is gate ¼ mile down this road. The gate is almost always locked and the road primarily provides access for hiking, ATVs or mountain biking: private vehicles are prohibited. 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.

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.

Hiking down the cinder cone to the Green Sand Beach is much easier than it appears, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

When you reach the end of the trail, you are a hundred or so feet above the beach on the rim of the remnant of the crater. Look closely for the faint track to scramble safely and easily to the beach (there is occasionally a blue trash barrel to mark this spot, but always there is a cairn of rocks). There is one sort of tricky spot where you have to inch your way over a 3-foot ledge, but almost anybody from senior to child can negotiate the hike to the beach. One can also easily scramble down from the middle (easternmost) of the cone where there is a short ladderway at the top, but this can be slippery. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up, either way back to the crater rim is easy to follow.

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.

Cliff diving at the Green Sand Beach is popular with locals. We do not reccomend it--the rip tides and currents around the rocks are very strong, the water is shallow and divers must be experienced and have perfect timing to hit the waves just right, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo 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.

Cliff diving at the Green Sand Beach is popular with locals. We do not reccomend it--the rip tides and currents around the rocks are very strong, the water is shallow and divers must be experienced and have perfect timing to hit the waves just right, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Snorkeling: 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. However in a few protected areas by the boat hoists there is reportedly safe snorkeling, close to the cliffs and only when the sea is calm. Hardy spear fishermen with mask and fins tether themselves with ropes to the steel ladders in the cliff-side; this is obviously risky for the casual snorkeler. The only recommended snorkeling is at the Kaulana boat launch or at the Green Sand Beach and then only in calm seas. But it is beautiful; perhaps as beautiful and wild a spot to snorkel as anywhere in 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.

The Justly Famous and World Renowned Green Sand Beach at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii, Famed in Song, Legend and Fable: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There are no services. At all. None. And a goodly long way to drive to get to any…plan and act accordingly.

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.

About halfway in to the hike, the edge of the cinder cone above the green sand beach becomes visible, South Point, Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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.

Frank Burgess standing in one of the famous ruts in the old road to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Ka'u Hawaii. This is why you want to hike instead of drive: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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.

Ai'iopio Fishtrap at Sunset, Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: 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.

Fishtrap at 'Ai'opio, Koloko Honokohau National Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. 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.

Aerial View of the South Entrance to Koloko Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii, Showing Ai'iopio Fshtrap: 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 one of Hawaii’s most interesting, fabulous and significant historical parks, Koloko-Honorary National Historic Park, just north of Kailua Kona. This park is almost wholly unknown to visitors…and, strangely, many locals as well; characterized by lovely, deserted beaches, ruins of villages and temples, basking sea turtles and miles of hiking trails, the place is flat amazing.  We will highlight just a bit of the information you might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks about this gem of a park; this information is just a fraction of what is available on Tour Guide’s iPhone App. You see how easily you could miss a lot of great stuff, fun things to do and amazing sights if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park

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 toward the far end of Ai'iopio Beach, across the Ai'iopio Fishtrap, at Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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 several heiau, fishponds, fishtraps, 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.

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.

Pili Hale at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii; Kailua Kona and Hualalai Volcano are in the background: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The archeological sites at both the north and south ends of the Park are worth the little hiking it requires to see them. When exploring these ancient villages, springs and ponds and temples, remember that they are sacred to the Hawaiian people.  Please treat them gently, and with respect…leave only footprints, take only photographs.

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 a perfect place to take children, though the water is a little murky for ideal snorkeling.

The shady Ala Hele Kahakai, or shore trail, winds between the north and south ends of the park and intersects with the Ala Hele Ike Hawai’i trail, coming makai (seaward) from the Visitor’s center.

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 Ancient Seawal; at Koloko Fishpond is Getting Some Modern Repairs at Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The North Entrance of the Park is reached along a one-lane dirt road just south of the Hinalani St. intersection with the Highway, near mile marker 96. This road is open Thursday through Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and it is not a good idea to get locked behind the gate. Fortunately short and in generally good condition, the dirt road quickly leads to the coast and many archeological sites which are worth the quick drive and short hike. Reconstructed Kaloko Fishpond spotlights the enormous construction projects the Hawai’ians were capable of undertaking in their heyday. A kuapa, or rock wall, separates the fishpond from the ocean, with a gated opening which allows fresh tidal waters to pass in and out of the pond, but through which the growing fish cannot swim. Aquaculture of this magnitude could feed thousands of people; however, other foodstuffs besides fish were grown at Kaloko. Looking around the countryside from the Kaloko fishpond it is possible to see many elevated planter boxes made of the local basalt rocks, in which taro was gown. Taro, prepared as poi and baked as unleavened bread, was a staple food for the early Hawai’ians.

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 South Along the Coast from the Koloko Fishpond at the North End of Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The North Entrance has facilities limited to composting pit toilets and picnic tables.

In the middle of the Park, the Information Center, Hale Ho’okipa, is situated in an obvious parking lot in the middle of an a’a lava flow just south of the intersection of the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway and Hina Lani street on the ocean side of the road.

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 Ho'okipa, the Visitor's Center at Koloko=Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo By Donald B. MacGowan

The Information Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and has full facilities including drinking water, restrooms and a small souvenir and bookshop. The Ala Hele Ike Hawai’i trail leaves the visitor centers a heads to the beach past numerous archaeological sites, both pre-contact and historic. The Old King’s Highway, a beautiful, narrow stone-paved path, passes through a’a and pahoehoe north and south from the Visitor’s Center to the other two Park entrances.

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.

These enormous stone piles, as seen from near the intersection of the Ala Hele Kahakai and the Ala Hele Ike trails, lead to the Queen's Bath Golden Pond at Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Accessed by the Ala Hele Ike Hawai’i trail from the Visitor’s Center, and lying more toward the interior of the park, the Queen’s Bath, in particular, is quite unique. The natural pool was improved by the native Hawai’ians to provide smooth stones on which to sit and stand and to make it a pleasant place, even though it’s located in the middle of an inhospitable a’a field.

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 Sacred Queen's Bath Golden Pond at Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii. When You Visit the Queen's Bath, Please "Malama Aina", Respect The Land. Do Not Wade or Swim in the Pond, Especially If You Are Wearing Sunscreen. Not Only is this Pond Sacred To the Native Hawaiians, But It Is a Delicate Micro-Environment Filled With Unique, Rare and Endangered Aquatic Life: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

You can also get there from the North Entrance by walking south beyond the north end of the beach to a large rock wall. Looking mauka (towards the mountain) along the wall, a series of enormous rock piles can be seen. Follow the trail along the border between the yellow grass and fresh lava, to and then between the first two rock piles; head for the only green shrubbery in the area and you’re at the pond!  When You Visit the Queen’s Bath, Please “Malama Aina”, Respect The Land. Do Not Wade or Swim in the Pond, Especially If You Are Wearing Sunscreen. Not Only is this Pond Sacred To the Native Hawaiians, But It Is a Delicate Micro-Environment Filled With Unique, Rare and Endangered Aquatic Life.

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.

Ai'ipio Beach is a safe place to bring the family to enjoy the ocean. Generally uncroweded, sheltered from tides and currents, shallow and bath-water warm, it's a deflightful way to experience the ocean at Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At the south end of the park, adjacent to Honokohau Harbor, is Ai’iopio Beach, Hale O Mono Heiau and the Ai’iopio Fishtrap.

Different in design from the rock wall and fishpond structure seen at the Kaloko Fishpond in the northern end of the Park, Ai’iopio Fishtrap is a unique and ingenious invention of the Hawai’ians. Comprised of a large spiral built of basalt stones piled up in the bay, fish enter the trap’s system of canals and walls over the top at high tide, but are trapped within by the receding water of the out-going tide. Hale O Mono Heiau, an ancient Hawai’ian temple still in use for religious ceremonies today, stands guard over the fishtrap at the entrance to Ai’iopio Beach.

The hike along the beach from the North Entrance to the South Entrance is one of the few, beautiful wilderness beach hikes left anywhere in the State of Hawaii. The trail passes through the remnants of a once vibrant fishing and farming community; many ruins, fish ponds and springs dot the area, which is also famous today for its populations of wildlife and birds. One is virtually assured of seeing basking green sea turtles along the beach. Dolphin and pilot whales are frequently seen offshore. During Humpback Whale season, (November through March), the whales are often seen frolicking off the coast here. Of course, the famous Kona sunsets are incomparable from the wild and beautiful beach.

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.

Ai'iopio Beach, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, South Entrance, Kona Hawaii: Photo 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 Hale O MonoHeiau at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

To see Hale O Mono Heiau and Ai’iopio Beach, turn makai (toward the sea) from the Highway onto Kealakehe St and then right (north) into the harbor area, and continue to the end of the paving on the north side of the yacht basin. A few minutes walk brings you to public porta-a-potties, Hale O Mono Heiau and the south end of Ai’iopio Beach. A small ranger station and port-a-potties are the only amenities available at this end of the Park; however a store, restaurant and public restroom are available at the adjacent yacht basin.

The hike along the beach from the North Entrance to the South Entrance is one of the few, beautiful wilderness beach hikes left anywhere in the State of Hawaii.  The trail passes through the remnants of a once vibrant fishing and farming community; many ruins, fish ponds and springs dot the area, which is also famous today for its populations of wildlife and birds.  One is virtually assured of seeing basking green sea turtles along the beach.  Dolphin and pilot whales are frequently seen offshore.  During Humpback Whale season, (November through March), the whales are often seen frolicking off the coast here.  Of course, the famous Kona sunsets are incomparable from the wild and beautiful beach.

This large, stone wall is some of the last remnants of the once thriving farming and fishing villages and sacred temples along this stretch of coastline, Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Kona Haaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Few people realize that the Kona Coast in general, and in particular the region between Keauhou and Kailua, was the vibrant and populous social, political and religious center of the Hawai’ian Islands for nearly five hundred years. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park allows you see the some of the best ruins and reconstructions anywhere in the state, just as they sat after they were abandoned in the early 1800s. It would be a real shame for visitors to come all the way to the State of Hawaii and miss this important, spiritually refreshing and beautiful place.

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.

Ala Mamalahoa, an ancient paved road that has been in use for over a milenium passes through the eastern side of Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park in Sunny Kona Hawaii--where all the fun is! 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.

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.

Paddling a Hawaiian outrigger canoe through the sunset, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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.

Mauna Loa looms over the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National 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.

Warrior Footprints of the Ka'u Desert as photographed in 2006, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. 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.

Frank Burgess hikes the Ka'u Desert Trail: Photo by Donnie 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 a hike you might have heard about, but might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks and would otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Ka’u Desert Trail/ Warrior Footprints, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

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 Ka'u Desert Trail as it winds away from the Parking Strip, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Just inside the National Park boundary, where the Hawai’i Belt Road enters Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from the West, is a small parking strip that many visitors, in a hurry to visit more well known attractions, might overlook. You should slow down and pay closer attention, because this small parking lot is the gateway to a host of wonders within the Mars-like landscape of the Ka’u Desert section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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 Ka'u Desert Trail is part of a vast system of intersecting trails within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

From about 4200 feet elevation down to sea level, the Ka’u Desert Trail wanders across this high, barren expanse of basalt and sand dunes formed of volcanic ash. Other trails intersect the Ka’u Desert Trail and travel from the Hawaii Belt Road east to Kilauea Crater as well as west to the intersection with the Ka’aha Trail then down the Hilina Pali to the coast. Seldom in a National Park is such unrelentingly inhospitable, but intensely spectacular, land made so accessible by trail.

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.

Unconsolodated ash sifts across the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There is no water, there is no shade, there is no protection from the elements; the land and climate are as unforgiving as they are alluring. For details about hiking or backpacking in this spectacular, empty portion of the Park, contact the Backcountry Office at the Kilauea Visitors Center (808.985.6000). Do not venture from your car here without carrying water.

Unconsolodated ash sifts across the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Ka'u Desert Footprints are preserved under a small ramada: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

But there is something more about this seeming unearthly spot that inspires people’s imagination and draws them to visit this lonely place. Less than a mile, scarcely a twenty minute walk, from the parking lot are the remains of footprints made by a party of doomed warriors more than 200 years ago.

Ka'u Desert Footprints are preserved under a small ramada: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The lunar-like surface of basalt and ash of the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kilauea’s eruptions are generally characterized by the leisurely, almost peaceful outpouring of lava and occasional more than mild earthquakes. However, it is not unknown for Madam Pele to erupt in a blast of fury, spreading ash and tephra for hundreds of miles. As recently as 1790 and again in 1924, such violent, steam-driven eruptions have occurred. These eruptions result from groundwater percolating downward through the earth to near the volcano’s magma chamber. The water becomes super-heated and, surging along existing structural weaknesses, makes new conduits to the surface, finally erupting in a roiling mass of superheated steam, ash, tephra and rocks. This type of eruption, and the ash they produce, are key to the mystery and eeriness of this site.

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 same footprint as shown above, but photographed in 2010; note that erosion and vandalism have greatly degraded the integrity of the cast: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The warrior footprints preserved here under a modern ramada are believed to have been formed in 1790. At this time, Kamehameha the Great was solidifying his military and political hold on the Island of Hawai’i, though not all his foes were vanquished. His cousin Keoua organized an army and, while Kamehameha was occupied elsewhere, he seized parts of Ka’u and Puna districts. Keoua sent an army overland to directly challenge Kamehameha…however, camping overnight at the volcano they were caught by the massive, explosive eruption. Fearing he had angered Pele, he organized his army into three columns for a hasty retreat from the falling ash. The first column seems to have emerged unscathed, but the second column went missing. When these warriors and their families were encountered by the third column, come searching for them, they were found dead on the ground, in close groups still clutching each other, overcome by the toxic volcanic fumes. The footprints seen here along Ka’u Desert Trail are from these doomed warriors and their families, made and preserved preserved in the the shifting ash dunes of the Ka’u Desert landscape. It is said that as many as 400 warriors, women and children died here.

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.

Ka'u Desert Ohia Lehua Blossom: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The people of Hawai’i Island accepted Pele’s judgment against the interloping Keoua and, although he continued to fight, he never came close to turning the tide of battle against his cousin, Kamehameha. As an ostensible peace offering to his cousin, Kamehameha invited Keoua to the ceremony sanctifying the newly erected Pu’u Kohola Heiau. However, when Keoua’s canoe approached the temple grounds, he was seized and immediately sacrificed to the War God, Kuka’ilimoku, thus becoming the first human sacrifice at the new luakini heiau and ending a vexing political problem for Kamehameha, all at one 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.

The Ka'u Desert Trail as it reaches the Warrior Footprints: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

An emergency phone is available here; there are no other services.

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 Warrior Footprints are preserved under this Ramada in the Ka'u Desert, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Frank Burgess

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.

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.

Ka'u Desert Ohia and Bee, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

The Justly Famous Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The Justly Famous Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: 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.

On the Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

On the Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. 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.

Hawaii's Green Sand Beach at South point in the afternoon: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaii's Green Sand Beach at South point in the afternoon: Photo by Donnie 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 a hike you might have heard about, but might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks and would otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Everett Maynard, Co-Founder of Tour Guide Hawaii, Hikes to the Green Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Everett Maynard, Co-Founder of Tour Guide Hawaii, Hikes to the Green Sand Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

South Point’s Justly Famous Green Sand Beach Hike; Papakolea Bay and Mahana Beach, Hawaii

Looking down on the green Sand Beach at South Point Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Looking down on the green Sand Beach at South Point Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Absolutely unique to the island of Hawai’i, beautiful and strange, are the handful of green sand beaches composed of crystals of the semi-precious mineral olivine (also known as peridot). The green sand beach at South Point is the best known, largest and most accessible of these.

The Amazing Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B.  MacGowan

The Amazing Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

To get there, turn left onto a signed, patchy-paved and dirt road immediately when you arrive in the Ka Lae area following signs to the Kaulana Boat Launch. Proceed down the road and park just to the left (south) of the boat launch, where there is a dirt road that leads to the green sand beach. The road has a gate which is sometimes locked as the road primarily provides access for hiking, ATVs or mountain biking: private vehicles are, ostensibly, prohibited but are becoming more and more common—this is the reason for the multiplicity of washed out tracks.

The two-track leading to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii is perfect for mountain biking: Photo by Donnie MacGowan!

The two-track leading to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii is perfect for mountain biking: Photo by Donnie MacGowan!

We suggest you walk—it’s more enjoyable and it saves wear and tear on a delicate ecosystem.

Severe erosion and deeply rutted roads result from ignorant tourists driving acros the plains...these ruts are larger than many cars! : Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Severe erosion and deeply rutted roads result from ignorant tourists driving acros the plains...these ruts are larger than many cars! : Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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. Road conditions along the road to the beach vary dramatically from week to week and the road becomes impassable with even a gentle rain; this is another reason we do not suggest drive but rather enjoy the short, pleasant hike.

Hikers returning from the Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hikers returning from the Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

About mid-way you begin to see the far side of the cone, out of which the bay has been eroded, poke up above the rolling grassland.

When you reach the end of the trail, you are a hundred or so feet above the beach on the rim of the remnant of the crater. There is a weather-beaten, old sign about 100 feet from the crater rim that directs you to the path down. Look closely for the faint track to scramble safely and easily to the beach (there is occasionally a blue trash barrel to mark this spot, but always there is a cairn of rocks). There is one sort of tricky spot where you have to inch your way over a 3-foot ledge, but almost anybody from senior to child can negotiate the hike to the beach.

Sound Advice to Visitor's...don't scratch messages in the canyon walls and don't take the sand! : Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Sound Advice to Visitor's...don't scratch messages in the canyon walls and don't take the sand! : Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

One can also easily scramble down from the middle (easternmost) of the cone using a set of stairs, but this can be slippery at the best of times—even dangerous if wet. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up the way back to the crater rim is easy to follow.

Hiking the cinder cone onto the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hiking the cinder cone onto the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Close up of the sand from the Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Close up of the sand from the Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The sand grains on this beach are formed from olivine crystals weathering out of the lava and cinders from the cone over an eruptive vent that has been partially breached by the sea. The beach lies in the interior of the cone, and the somewhat protected cove formed by the remnant of the cone makes for a wonderful swimming/snorkeling spot.

Olivine Phenocrysts In Hawaiian Basalt...the source of the sand at Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Olivine Phenocrysts In Hawaiian Basalt...the source of the sand at Green Sand Beach, South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Happy bathers getting wet at the Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Happy bathers getting wet at the Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Swimming, snorkeling and surfing are delightful within the confines of the bay. Be very wary of rip tides and ocean currents; do not go out far nor in at all if the surf is high or there are strong winds. The bizarre color of the water shrieks for color photographs, particularly underwater photographs taken while snorkeling.

Boogie Boarders at the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Boogie Boarders at the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

No water is available anywhere along the hike or at the beach–be sure to take at least two liters of water per hiker for drinking.  If you plan on swimming, you may wish to take an extra liter or two of water to rinse hair and torso, as well as a dry change of clothes.  It’s miserable hiking in wet clothes with salty skin.

About half-way through the hike you begin to see the top of the cone out of which the bay holding the Green Sand Beach has been carved: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

About half-way through the hike you begin to see the top of the cone out of which the bay holding the Green Sand Beach has been carved: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are no services. At all. None. And a goodly long way to drive to get to any…plan and act accordingly.

Frank Burgess--just another day at work at Tour Guide Hawaii--hiking to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Frank Burgess--just another day at work at Tour Guide Hawaii--hiking to the Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

We do not reccomend you try this, it takes courage skill and timing--as well as strong swimming skills to return to the beach...Gren Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

We do not recommend you try this, it takes courage skill and timing--as well as strong swimming skills to return to the beach...Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Eric Carr heads home after another day at the office at Tour Guide Hawaii...South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Eric Carr heads home after another day at the office at Tour Guide Hawaii...South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

by Donald B. MacGowan

Astronomical Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea from Pu'u Koholo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Astronomical Observatories on the Summit of Mauna Kea from Pu'u Kohola: 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.

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.

Huddle of Telescopes on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Huddle of Telescopes on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie 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 couple hikes you might otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.

Donnie’s Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea Summit Hikers: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Hikers: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Today, I’d like to take you to the top of Mauna Kea. At 13, 796 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea’s summit is the highest point in the State of Hawaii; since its base lies at 19000 feet below sea level, its has a base-to-summit height of 33,000 feet, making it the tallest mountain on earth. It’s also one of my most favorite places on earth.

Mauna Kea Icy Summit Warning: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea Icy Summit Warning: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea began forming on the sea floor about one million years ago. Its name means “White Mountain” in the Hawaiian language and it is snowcapped much of the winter, and the summit is covered with permafrost 35 feet deep. During the ice ages, Mauna Kea’s summit was glaciated 3 times, starting about 200000 years ago and ending only 11000 years ago. One can see the U-shaped valleys and cirques, striated bedrock, glacial tills covering the summit area and remnants of ice-damned lava flows from those times. There are even the remains of extinct rock glaciers near the summit.

Eric Carr, Master Cameraman, Filming on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Eric Carr, Master Cameraman, Filming on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Visitor’s Center and summit are reached via a road which turns off Saddle Road at about 6600 feet elevation near the 28 mile marker and tortuously stumbles its way up the south side of Mauna Kea to the Visitor Information Station at about 9300 feet. The road, though steep, is paved to the Visitor’s Center. Above that, the road is graded dirt for about 5 miles, returning to asphalt paving for the final sprint to the rim of the summit crater. Road conditions for the summit road are available at 808.935.6263.

Mauna Kea Moon From the Visitor's Information Station: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea Moon From the Visitor's Information Station: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The visitor’s center is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. 365 days a year. Informational multimedia presentations, souvenirs, and some food items are available here, as well as clean restrooms and drinking water. Every evening after dark the center allows visitors to stargaze through several telescopes and informational talks by visiting scientists are occasionally scheduled. Saturday and Sunday Center staff lead escorted summit field trips, but visitors must provide their own vehicle. Call 808.961.2180 for information. It is suggested that summit-bound visitors stop at the Visitor’s Center for at least half an hour before heading to the summit so they can acclimate.

Above the Visitor Information Station there are no public accommodations, no water or food and no gasoline service; the observatory buildings are closed to the public and usually locked. There are neither public telephones nor restrooms, only port-a-potties. An emergency phone is located in the entrance to the U of H 2.2 meter Telescope building.

Mauna Kea Summit Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving the summit road to the very top of Mauna Kea is neither as dangerous as the car rental companies want you to believe, nor as casual as many Big Island residents will tell you. True, the summit road is unpaved most of the way, it is steep and winding with limited view planes; the road is extremely hazardous when wet or icy, which is often, and it’s subject to frequent dense clouds, snow, rain and fog obscuring all vision. Also, balmy summer conditions may turn into lethal winter rages in minutes with little or no warning.

Cinder Cones and a Radio Telescope on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Cinder Cones and a Radio Telescope on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

However, the road is generously wide, routinely graded and poses no real threat to the cautious driver. The safe driver can expect to reach the summit in about ½ an hour after leaving the Visitor Information Station. Remember, it’s not the roughness of the road that will impede your car; it’s the elevation that will starve it for oxygen. To be safe, take as much time winding your way back down the mountain as you took coming up, using the lowest gear to save wear on brakes. Check your car rental agreement–many forbid you to drive this road. If you go anyway, your insurance is void, and you do so at considerable financial risk. Remember, people DO crater their cars on occasion.

The Weather Can Change in an Instant on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Weather Can Change in an Instant on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

If the weather turns frightful, simply head down immediately. Relax, be calm and drive carefully; you can be confident that, even if you have to slow to 10 miles per hour in places, you’ll be down to the safety of the Visitor’s Center in a mere 40 minutes or so.

Superstition to Science; An Ancient Hawaiian Temple Shares The Summit With The Most Modern Astronomical Obsdervatories on Pu'u Weiku Summit, Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Superstition to Science; An Ancient Hawaiian Temple Shares The Summit With The Most Modern Astronomical Obsdervatories on Pu'u Weiku Summit, Mauna Kea Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The summit of Mauna Kea, hosting the largest assemblage of astronomical instruments and telescopes in the world, is truly an amazing place; a seductive juxtaposition of icy heights raised up from steaming tropical jungle; the age-old altars of sacred Hawai’ian gods alongside edifices of the most modern of sciences; of frigid landscapes carved during ancient ice-ages alongside fiery volcanic landforms; all wrapped around a fabulous trip with a wee rumor of danger, just for spice! Beautiful, awe-inspiring, 360 degree views of the entire Big Island also include the islands of Maui, Kaho’olawe and Lana’i on clear days. The glow from Kilauea Volcano can be seen on clear nights. Although daytime temperatures during the summer can peak in the 60s, it is generally cold-to-frigid, frequently wet and very windy on the summit. Plan and dress accordingly.

View from Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

View from Mauna Kea Summit to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The summit area is also culturally and religiously important to the native Hawai’ians, hosting many religious Heiau, an obsidian adze quarry and numerous other archaeological sites. Remember this landscape, and the archeological sites upon them, are sacred; take nothing but photographs, don’t even leave footprints. Some ruminations on the Hawaiian Snow Goddess, Poliahu, and personal reflections about the summit of Mauna Kea can be found here.

Mauna Kea Summit Trail: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Trail: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Parking is limited, but the hike from the top of the road to the actual summit is a must for any who have ventured this far and are in good shape. A stone altar and a USGS survey point mark the actual summit of the mountain, about a 15 minute walk up a cinder trail from the top of the road. A trail leading around the summit crater takes about 30 minutes to trek and traverses some very wild country with amazing views. Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water and hydrate frequently to help stave off altitude sickness. Do not leave the safety of the parking lot if you are feeling ill or the weather is at all chancy—in fact, in deteriorating or poor weather, or at the onset of queasiness, one should leave the summit immediately and descend.

Justly Famous Videographer Frank Burgess at Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Justly Famous Videographer Frank Burgess at Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Alternately, for those in excellent physical condition, one can hike to the summit from the Visitor’s center. Featuring unparalleled views, wild landscapes, archeological sites and more, the hike is about 6 miles in length, gains about 4500 feet in elevation and takes 6 to 10 hours to get up, depending on the hiker. There is no water available anywhere above the Visitor’s Center, so take enough to get up, and back down. Frankly, many people opt to hitch-hike down the mountain after hiking up. In fact, for folks short on time, or for whom scenery and not summit-conquering are the main goals, catching a ride to the summit and hiking down is a great alternative, and takes only about 3 1/2 hours.

Gary Burton and His Ddaughter Nearing Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Gary Burton and His Ddaughter Nearing Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Another absolutely stunning hike in the summit area, one that is accessible to nearly anybody in reasonable condition, is to Lake Wai’au. Park at either the lot at about 12000 feet, near the 5 mile marker, or the lot at about 13000 feet, near the 7 mile marker. Needless to say, one hike is uphill in and the other is uphill out; but both are less than a mile long and have similar elevation changes. I prefer the upper trail because the view of the summit astronomical complex on the hike out is phenomenal. An absolute jewel of an alpine tarn in its own right, at 13,020 feet Lake Wai’au is one of the highest permanent lakes in the world…permafrost seals the lake bed in the loose tephra and glacial drift on which it sits. It’s about 300′ by 150′ by 8 feet deep and, yes, I personally can vouch for its having been snorkeled. Not much to see in there, though.

Lake Wai'au on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lake Wai'au on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

There are a few health concerns about visiting the summit of Mauna Kea as well. In brief: children under 16, pregnant women, and people with respiratory, heart, or severe overweight conditions are advised not to go higher than the Visitors Information Station. Scuba divers must wait at least 24 hours after their last dive before traveling to the summit.

Mauna Kea's Snowy Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea's Snowy Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Acute mountain sickness, resulting from exposure to high altitude, includes nausea, headache, drowsiness, shortness of breath, and poor judgment.  Aspirin and lots of water are palliatives for altitude sickness, but the cure is immediate and rapid descent. Sufferers will notice almost complete cessation of symptoms upon regaining The Saddle. Altitude sickness can be dangerous, even life threatening, and rapid onset of comatose condition, or even death, may be unexpectedly swift.

On the Way Up on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

On the Way Up on Mauna Kea: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Finally, there is severe risk of serious sunburn and eye damage, particularly when there is snow on the ground. Be sure to wear sunglasses rated to at least 90% IR and 100% UV (both UVA and UVB); wear sunscreen rated to at least SPF 30. Long sleeves and pants help reduce the susceptibility to sunburn.

Mauna Kea's Vanishingly Rare Silver Sword Plants: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea's Vanishingly Rare Silver Sword Plants: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Most visits to Mauna Kea’s summit are extremely pleasant experiences, encompassing easy adventures which may feature mild altitude euphoria, fabulous views and a great sense of relief at reaching the paved road and public restrooms at the Visitor’s Information Station after leaving the summit.

Mauna Kea Science Huddle: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea Science Huddle: 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.

Mauna Loa Summit from Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Loa Summit from Mauna Kea Summit: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

From Mauna Kea's Summit Trail to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Mauna Kea's Summit Trail to Mauna Loa: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donnie MacGowan

Looking Across Kilauea Iki to Halema'uma'u Eruption; The Kilauea Iki Trail Can Be Seen Etched Across the Floor of the Crater: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Looking Across Kilauea Iki to Halema'uma'u Eruption; The Kilauea Iki Trail Can Be Seen Etched Across the Floor of the Crater: Photo by Donald 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?”.

A Morning Glimpse of Mauna Loa Behind Kilauea Iki Crater: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Morning Glimpse of Mauna Loa Behind Kilauea Iki Crater: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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.

Looking Down From the Rim of Kilauea Iki Crater as Hikers Cross the Floor of the Lava Lake: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Looking Down From the Rim of Kilauea Iki Crater as Hikers Cross the Floor of the Lava Lake: Photo by Donnie 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.

Misty View of Kilauea Iki Crater and Rainbow: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Misty View of Kilauea Iki Crater and Rainbow: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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 Jumbled floor of Kilauea Iki Crater Lava Lake: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Jumbled floor of Kilauea Iki Crater Lava Lake: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

But first, let’s talk about what is arguably the finest short hike on the Island of Hawaii.

Kilauea Iki Crater Trail

Frank Burgess Along the Kilauea Iki Trail: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Frank Burgess Along the Kilauea Iki Trail: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Perhaps the finest short day hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park—and one of Hawaii Island’s best hikes, this four-mile, 2-3 hour trip climbs down into, across and back out of Kilauea Iki Crater. Crossing the crater floor on this surface provides one of the most interesting hikes in the Park. Looking up from the bottom of the crater, one can see the distinctive “ring around the crater” marking the high point of the lava lake during the last eruption. The four mile loop-hike descends from the rim in two places and crosses the crater floor in about three hours hiking at a nominal pace, giving one an intimate feel for volcanoes, Hawaiian-Style.

Along the Kilauea Iki Crater Rim Trail: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Along the Kilauea Iki Crater Rim Trail: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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 following the rim with handrails and stairs in some spots as you begin to descend into the crater. The remainder is an easily followed, well marked trail with stone ahu (cairns) over the crater floor.

Pu'u Pua'i From Kilauea Iki Crater Rim Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pu'u Pua'i From Kilauea Iki Crater Rim Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The hiker should keep their eyes open for Pele’s Hair and Pele’s Tears (fine, thread-like and bead-like deposits of volcanic glass), gaseous vents and other marvels of the living lava mountain. Bore-hole measurements taken in 1988 indicated that roiling molten lava was lying only 230 feet beneath the skin of the caldera at that time; today it is unknown what amount of liquid may be left, but the temperature just a couple hundred feet beneath your hiking boots is in excess of 1000 degrees.

On this hike you should take plenty of water, light rain gear, suncream, a map and compass. In addition, you should wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots and be in fairly good physical condition. As always when hiking in the Park, it is wise to avoid the noonday sun, and to remember that afternoon showers are common, especially along the crater rims. Remember that the start and finish of this hike are at an elevation of over 4000 feet…take it easy and enjoy the incredible views.

Looking Straight Across Kilauea Iki Crater: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Looking Straight Across Kilauea Iki Crater: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A video about this hike is available here.

Looking Out of the Forest Across Kilauea Iki Crater: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Looking Out of the Forest Across Kilauea Iki Crater: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, hiking the Big Island in particular, or about our new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please also 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.  All rights reserved.

Kilaue Iki Crater and Trail from Pu'u Pua'i Overlook: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kilauea Iki Crater and Trail from Pu'u Pua'i Overlook: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A River of Lava Flows Down The Pali Toward The Ocean Entry at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Big Island Air

A River of Lava Flows Down The Pali Toward The Ocean Entry at Waikupanaha, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Big Island Air

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.

Glow From the Vent in Halema'uma'u, Kilauea Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan August 2008

Glow From the Vent in Halema'uma'u, Kilauea Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan August 2008

Even choosing what activities you want to participate in…do you want to snorkel, hike, go on a whale watching tour?  We highly recommend you go hiking on your visit…but where do you go?  Many of the justly famous mountains, canyons and beaches of Hawaii all have superlative hikes, but which are best?  Which suit your interests?  Are you looking for an experience that is away from crowds, secluded and empty or one that’s exciting, but perhaps a little more tame?  Do you want to hike near your resort or find one that’s at the end of a day of delicious wandering?  Do you have the hankering to climb Hawaii’s highest peak, and the world’s highest peak from base to summit?  How about a stroll through dryland forest, over ancient lava fields to a wilderness beach? And what about hiking to the Lava…is that really safe?  Is it as unimaginably magical as it sounds?

Ranked in order, with the best on top, are our picks of the finest hikes on the Island of Hawaii.  We’ve tried to strike a balance in ranking these places since each is a gem in its own right, we’ve had to leave off many that are equally fine in their own right and of course, recommending some means that their popularity will increase and hence, they will become more crowded.  This list at least provides an excellent starting point for deciding where you want to spend you trail time.  When you arrive we ask that you treat these special places, and the people who live near them, with care, respect and aloha.

Explosion Cloud of Littoral Explosion at the Waikupanaha Lava Ocean Entry, Big Island, Hawaii:  Photo by Donad B. MacGowan

Explosion Cloud of Littoral Explosion at the Waikupanaha Lava Ocean Entry, Big Island, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Lava Viewing at Waikupanaha Ocean Entry: This is truly the one “Must-See” trip for every visitor to Hawaii Island; the unimaginable spectacle and beauty of the earth remaking herself thorough volcanic eruption.  Explosions, glowing and flowing lava, waterspouts. lightening and every kind of geological excitement you can imagine, located at the end of an extremely short hike along a trail that is accessible to almost everyone.  See a video here.

Littoral Explosions as Lava Enters the Ocean Near Royal Gardens: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Littoral Explosions as Lava Enters the Ocean Near Royal Gardens: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kilauea Iki Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: An amazing, wonderful walk through lovely fern and ohi’a forest down the sides and onto the still-steaming floor of an enormous volcanic crater that was, only a few short decades ago, the hellish cauldron of a frothing, liquid lava lake of fire. A fascinating, 4 mile/2 ½ hour loop hike of only moderate difficulty, most people in only fair shape can easily complete it in a couple hours. See a video here.

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

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

Mahana Green Sand Beach at South Point: One of a handful of true green sand beaches in the world, the Mahana Green Sand Beach near South Point is not to be missed.  Beautiful, haunting, intriguing. Although the hike is 2 ¼ miles each way, the trail is relatively flat and easily followed. Swimming and snorkeling in the bay is fabulously weird due to the water color, just be wary of currents out from the mouth of the bay.

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

Mauna Kea Summit: Whether you struggle up the 6-mile climb from the Visitor’s Information Station, or take the 20 minute short hop hike from the end of the road, visiting the summit of Mauna Kea should be on every visitor’s wish list of things to do.  Simultaneously the highest point in the state of Hawaii and the tallest mountain from base to summit on earth, Mauna Kea is an otherworldly, unique, starkly beautiful place.  The hiker is reminded to be wary of changeable weather, severe snow storms that can strand you, altitude sickness, dehydration and sunburn. See a video here.

Makalawena Beach: Perhaps the loveliest beach in Polynesia, Makalawena is the perfect sand crescent, beach backed by palms and iron wood trees with morning-glory-draped sand dunes.  A easy mile hike in from Kekaha Kai State Park keeps this beach uncrowded. Snorkeling here is better than perfect, camping here is so wonderful we don’t know why it’s not mandatory.

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

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

Captain Cook Monument on Kealakekua Bay:  Accessed by a steep trail this 2.5-mile hike takes about 1-1 1/2 hours to descend, somewhat more time to come back up.  The snorkeling at the monument is second to none and the hike is a fabulous walk back in time, through fruit groves, cattle pastures, lava flows and an abandoned Hawaiian village.  Take water, a lot of water, there is none to drink anywhere along the trail or at the bay, once you are there or on the all-uphill hike out. See a video here.

The Captain James Cook Monument at Ka'awaloa Village in Kealakekua: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Captain James Cook Monument at Ka'awaloa Village in Kealakekua: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waipi’o Valley: An amazing hike into the Waipi’o fastness, down a steep narrow road to the largest black sand beach on the island.  If vast open spaces, scenery, wild tropical flowers, waterfalls and amazing beaches are your thing, this is your hike.  Once on the valley floor, exploring along the beach or farther on to subsequent valleys can take hours, or days, depending on your level of energy and interest.

Waipi'o Valley on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi'o Valley on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Honomalino Beach: Starting in the Old Hawaiian Fishing Village of Miloli’i, the hike wanders along the coast in and out of the surf line to the wild and untamed Honomalino Bay—a wonderful place to picnic, snorkel or kayak. Exploring on foot in the area of the bay provides many wonders and archeological treasures, from abandoned temples and villages to the largest holua, or sledding track, in Hawaii. Remember to respect the Hawaiian natives, their culture and their sacred sites.

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Lava from Kilauea Enters the Sea at Waikupanahu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava from Kilauea Enters the Sea at Waikupanahu: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan, except where otherwise noted.

Kilauea Iki, meaning little Kilauea, is the still seething remnant of a quite recent (1959), spectacular eruption that filled the crater with a molten lake of lava and threw fire fountains as much as 1900 feet in the air. For a sense of scale, the worlds tallest building, the Taipei 101 which is 101 stories tall and 1667 feet high, would be dwarfed by these fire fountains.

Distances across the crater are hard to guess, as steam jets up from small cracks in the now-hardened lava-lakes surface and the minute specks of hikers cross its black expanse, but the crater today is more than a mile long, 3000 feet across and almost 400 feet from the rim to the surface. At its peak, the volcano spewed about two million tons of lava per hour; however, between spurts, much of this liquid drained back into the subterranean plumbing of the caldera, thus giving the distinctive ring-around-the-crater look to Kilauea Iki.

For more information about touring Hawaii in general and the Big Island in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.wordpress.com.

Written and produced by Donald B. MacGowan; videography by Frank Burgess and Donald MacGowan; Narration by Frank Burgess; Original Music by Donnie MacGowan

When Kilauea Iki erupted from vents on Pu’u Pai in November of 1959, several feet of hot ash and cinder-sized pieces of pumice fell on the lush fern forest downwind. Devastation trail follows the edge of this inundation, linking the Kilauea Iki Overlook Parking lot with another parking lot at the intersection of Crater Rim Drive with Chain of Craters Road in a wonderful and interesting 0.7 mile, 30 to 45 minute) hike.

During the eruption, fire fountains of molten lava shot up as high as 1900 feet tall from the eruptive rifts. For a sense of scale, the world’s tallest building, the Taipei 101 which is 101 stories tall and 1667 feet high, would be dwarfed by these fire fountains. These immense fountains spread ash, pumice and spatter all around the area, as well as fed liquid lava to the lava pond within Kilauea Iki crater. The spatter was hot and plastic enough to weld together into the spatter cones you see on Pu’u Pai, however, the tephra and ash pumice spread out and fell downwind, depositing an immensely thick (as much as 3 meters) blanket when the eruption column collapsed between fountains. This pumice buried lush forest, which is preserved on the eastern side of Devastation Trail. On the west side of the trail is the sterile, moon-like devastation surface of pumice. A few o’hia trees, dead and bleached, poke up through the pumice and very gradually some o’hia, ohelo and ferns are beginning to recolonize the dead zone. Look for numerous tree molds along the trail in the section about a third of the way from Pu’u Pai to the Devastation Trail parking lot.

Pumice results when there is a lot of gas and water dissolved in the liquid lava. As the lava is erupted, pressure is released, the melt begins to cool quickly and the gas is rapidly exolved from the liquid lava—much the way carbon dioxide is exolved as a bubbly froth when you shake a can of soda pop. The spatter and lava in the ponds cool slowly enough for all the gas to escape, and the resultant rock is very dense when it finally solidifies. The pumice, however, chills so rapidly it forms a glass-like, frothy substance because it traps the bubbles. This is why pumice has a low enough density to float on water.

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