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by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

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

Kua Bay Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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by Donald B. MacGowan

Suntanning at Two Step Beach, Honaunau Bay, Kona Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Two-Step Beach at Honaunau Bay

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.

Two Step Beach with the Pu'u Honua o Honaunau National Historic Park, Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Some of the finest, protected snorkeling and shore-diving in the world, and certainly one of the top 5 snorkel spots in the state, Two-Step Beach is located adjacent to the Place of Refuge, Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park. Hawaii has about 75% of the coral reefs in the United States; the Kona Coast contains about 57% of that…and Honaunau Bay has some of the most varied and extensive shallow-water coral gardens in Hawaii. If you want to see living coral by snorkeling, this is a great place to do it.

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.

Brad MacGowan Snorkeling at Two Step Beach on Honaunau Bay, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A wonderland of turtles, coral and fish, with frequent morning visits by dolphins, this snorkeling experience shouldn’t be missed. Although no swimming is allowed within the National Park, as a measure of respect of the sacredness of the Refuge site, Two-Step Beach offers a convenient place to enter Honaunau bay.

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.

Morning at Two Step Beach, Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The name Two-Step Beach is somewhat misleading…there is little sand here. The easiest way to get in the water for beginners is to simply walk down the boat ramp. Water near the ramp is fairly cloudy and chilly (due to near-shore springs), but quickly warms and clears up as one swims past the little point of rocks separating Keoneele Cove from Honaunau Bay proper.

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.

Two Step Beach in the morning sun, Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

More commonly, people enter by stepping off the short cliff into the water near the center edge of the lava bench. Two-Step beach gets its name from this short hop; there are two ledges that serve as steps down into the ocean. At low tide, it’s a simple matter of stepping down these steps: 1-2-OCEAN! At high tide, one simply steps off the edge and in. Getting out, one simply floats up to the steps, puts ones hands palms down and waits for a convenient, incoming wave to float you up and onto the bottom step—the process is more intuitive and physically easier than it sounds. Resist the temptation to put fingers into small holes and pockets in the rocks to haul yourself out—these are frequently filled with spiny sea urchins. Always lay your hands on the rocks palms down, don’t use fingers.

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.

Gary Burton and his daughter at Hounaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The best snorkeling is along the cliff edges and the shallows adjacent to the shore, where most of the fish and some of the coral are. That being said, the deeper water hosts amazing coral gardens fairly close to shore. Remember that you cannot get out of the water anywhere within the confines of the Park.

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.

Dolphin Rest Area, Two Step Beach, Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Remember not to harass or approach dolphin or sea turtles; they are federally protected species. A complete discussion of “snorkeling etiquette” and rules for protecting the reef and animals who live there may be found here. Briefly, do not step on or touch coral; do not feed the fish; do not approach turtles within 30 feet and do not approach marine mammals within 100 yards, Dolphins and seals may approach you, but remember, this ain’t Flipper—these are wild animals and sometimes bite. Do not reach out to them or swim towards them or their calves–they will interpret this as aggression and defend themselves vigorously.

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.

Liz Fuller at Hounaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Two Step Beach is notorious among locals for the spectacular sunburns visitors get here—whether they underestimate the raw power of the tropical sun and the reflection from the lava, or misguidedly believe you cannot burn on a cloudy day (you can, UV passes right through clouds). Don’t be one of those visitors who winds up with a vacation ruining sunburn. This is of such importance, I have written a special article about sunburn and sunscreen and one about sunglasses; you should read them and follow their suggestions. Finally, please wait to apply sunscreen until you are out of the water; wear a t-shirt and ball cap into the ocean to prevent burn while you are snorkeling. Sunscreen lotions and creams kill the coral and harm the fish.

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.

Carved bowls in the pahoehoe basalt at Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

To reach Two Step Beach, from Highway 11 head west (toward the ocean) on Highway 160 at the junction just south of Mile Marker 104. Drive about 5 miles to the entrance of Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park, turning right on a narrow 1-lane road (the only turn off) just before the National Park fee kiosk; follow this lane about 100 yards past the boat ramp at Keoneele Cove.

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.

Picknic, parking and restroom facilities at Two Step Beach, Hounaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Parking for Two Step beach is along the shore under the trees, just beyond the boat ramp. If no parking is available here, go back and park in the National Historic Park lot (it costs $5 for park entrance fee—but you get to see the Park after snorkeling, and it’s worth it!)–your vehicle is safer and you can used the civilized restroom of the National Park. Parking, picnic tables, barbecues and portable toilets are available.

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

Looking across Honaunau Bay towards Pu'u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park from Two Step Beach, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Curious about the ancient Hawaiians and what the Pu’u Honua National Historic Park is all about? Check out this informative article.

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.

Snorkelers at Two Step Beach at Honaunau Bay, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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

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

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

Two Step Beach, Honaunau Bay, Kona Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan



by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

Mahana Green Sand Beach (see video)

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

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

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

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

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park (see video)

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

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

A truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing, Punalu’u’s black sand-lined coves and beaches are world-renowned. Dozens of endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles swim the waters of Kuhua Bay, Ninole Cove and Punalu’u Harbor and frequently bask on Kaimu Beach here. The wildness of the ocean and the serenity of the freshwater fishpond and coconut palm-shaded beaches make this an ideal place to spend some soul-recharge time. Snorkeling, picnicking and camping, or just relaxing on the beach, are major destination pass-times here.

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

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

Kaimu Black Sand Beach

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

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

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

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

Kehena Beach

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

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

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

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

Pohoiki Beach at Isaac Hale Beach Park

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

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

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

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

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

Kapoho Tide Pools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan

This post has been expanded and updated, here.

by Donnie MacGowan

It’s springtime on the Big Island which means monsoon season here in Kona.

A Spring Monsoon Cloudburst in Kailua Kona (it dropped 2.6 inches of rain in 72 minutes, then we returned to brilliant blue sky and sun) : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Spring Monsoon Cloudburst in Kailua Kona (it dropped 2.6 inches of rain in 72 minutes, then we returned to brilliant blue sky and sun) : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Remembering that Kona Side of Hawaii is basically arid to semi-arid, “monsoon” simply means that rather than our usual brilliant weather of sapphire skies and tropical sun, we get a few days of grey skies and drizzle and a tropical cloudburst or two–nothing like the folks over on Hilo Side have to contend with.  But during the monsoon when we get a couple sunny days, we like to break out of the office, hit the road and see our favorite places.

Kealakekua Bay and Captain Cook Monument from Napo'opo'o: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kealakekua Bay and Captain Cook Monument from Napo'opo'o: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This time, we decided to take a ride down the Kona Coast and into Ka’u. Our first stop was at picturesque Napo’opo’o, where the Kealakekua State Historic Monument, Hikiau Heiau and the Captain Cook Monument are.

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

As well as immensely important historically (this is where Cook first met the Hawaiians, as well as the place where he died), dolphin, whales and some of the best snorkeling in the Pacific are here.

Next, we drove along the shoreline, past ancient battlefields, tiny beaches, awesome sea arches and historic churches to the National Historic Monument at Pu’u Honua O Hounaunau, the Place of Refuge.

Sacred Iki nd Hale Keawe at Pu'u Honua O Hounaunau, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Sacred Iki and Hale Keawe at Pu'u Honua O Hounaunau, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

This ancient site is enormously important historically and culturally and is very sacred to the native Hawaiians. Adjacent to the Monument is Two Step Beach which, like Kealakekua Bay, hosts unbelievably wonderful snorkeling. In addition to the great Ali’i of Hawaii, James Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson spent time here.

Two Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay--Some of the Best Snorkeling in the Pacific: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Two Step Beach at Hounaunau Bay--Some of the Best Snorkeling in the Pacific: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving South through the coffee country of Kona Mauka, we decided to drive down to Ho’okena Beach and do some snorkeling.

Ho'okena Beach In The Morning: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Ho'okena Beach In The Morning: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Recent changes to the beach include more parking, a kayak and snorkel gear rental and snack shop as well as full time caretaker and security…the camping may be a bit more regulated these days, but the beach is much cleaner and safer–it is a joy to visit again after it got so run-down a few years back.

Morning Campers at Ho'okena Beach Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Morning Campers at Ho'okena Beach Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving through Kona macadamia nut country across the old lava flows from Mauna Loa, we decided to check out the town of Miloli’i and hike into Honomalino Beach.

An Idyllic Morning at Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

An Idyllic Morning at Miloli'i: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Miloli’i calls itself the “Last Fishing Village in Hawaii” and is a tight-knit enclave of native Hawaiians. The town is beautiful, if obviously impoverished, and the locals, if treated with respect, are friendly and engaging. Be wary…they can also be a bit frisky, so leave no valuables in your car when you hike out to Honomalino Beach, about 20 minutes south along the spectacular coastline.

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Small House on Honomalino Beach: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Miloli’i, our wanderlust drew us down to South Point–the southern most point in the United States, and a region of deep mystery, spirituality and fascination. Near the Ka Lae Heiau, one of the most sacred in all Polynesia, we found some rare (perhaps modern) kite petroglyphs in the Queen’s Pond.

Kite Petroglyphs at South Point...Are These Modern? : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kite Petroglyphs at South Point...Are These Modern? : Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Crossing the tip of South Point, we drove to the Kaulana Boat Ramp and hiked into Mahana Beach–South Point’s famed Green Sand Beach.

Bathers at Mahana Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donad B. MacGowan

Bathers at Mahana Green Sand Beach at South Point, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

It’s always a treat to visit and a fascinating experience–beautiful, secluded, mysterious.

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

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

We drove back to the Highway past the Ka Lae Wind Farm, then down through Waiohinu and Na’alehu. Waiohinu is where Mark Twain stayed as he wrote his “Letters From Hawaii”, and the monkey pod tree he sat under is still by the roadside.

Coastline of Ka'u from near Na'alehu, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Coastline of Ka'u from near Na'alehu, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Finally, we wound up at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach to visit the amazing sea turtles and watch the sunset.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Ambles Off into the Punalu'u Sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Ambles Off into the Punalu'u Sunset: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Returning to Kailua Kona in the waning light, we arrived back in town just in time for seafood buffet dinner at the King Kamehameha Beach Resort. Could there be a more perfect day?

Kailua Kona in the Evening Light from Kailua Harbour: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kailua Kona in the Evening Light from Kailua Harbour: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

Copyright 2009 Donald B. MacGowan.  All photos copyright 2009 Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

This post has been expanded and updated here.

Trip 3: South Kona, Ka’u and Puna: Wild Southern Coastline, Immense Volcanic Mountains and Mysterious South Point

Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 12 hours.

Headed south from Kona, connect to Highway 11 and drive 20 minutes to sample Kona Coffee. Numerous farms offer tours to discover the history and processing of this highly prized beverage. In this region are Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook Monument, the locations where Hawai’ian history was forever changed and the best snorkeling in the state. Follow the beach road 10 minutes to Pu’u Honua ‘O Honaunau National Historic Park. Discover why this spiritual complex was a “place of refuge”. Continuing south 1 hour, after some beach time and a short hike, is South Point Road. This is where early Polynesians arrived and started a village based on the rich fishing grounds offshore. Nearby is the trail for a 3 hour round trip hike to a Green Sand Beach (bring drinking water). Then drive 30 minutes south to visit endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtles at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. From Punalu’u it is a 2 hour drive back to Kona.

Leg 1) Start at north end of Keauhou Historic District on Ali’i Drive, head south on Ali’i Drive to jct with Kamehameha II Hwy; east on Kamehameha III to Hwy 11. Take Hwy 11 south to jct with Hwy 160, just south of the town of Captain Cook. Head downhill on Hwy 160 to Napo’opo’o Village, turn north on Pu’uhonua Beach Road to Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park at end of road; this is where you view the Captain Cook Monument.

From Hapaialii Heiau to Keeku Heiau, Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

From Hapaialii Heiau to Keeku Heiau, Keauhou Historic District, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Keauhou Historic District and Kona Coffee

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

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

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

Captain Cook Monument and Kealakekua Bay from Manini Beach at Napo'opo'o, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan
Captain Cook Monument and Kealakekua Bay from Manini Beach at Napo’opo’o, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kealakekua Bay Historical District and Captain Cook Monument

A place of both dramatic historic events and unparalleled scenery, beautiful and now peaceful Kealakekua Bay (Pathway of the Gods) opens beneath steep, beetling cliffs on the ancient surfing beach along the shoreline of Napo’opo’o Village. The site of arguably the most important event in the history of Polynesia, home to pods of frolicking dolphins, providing some truly breathtaking snorkeling, Kealakekua Bay is one of the most magical spots in the State of Hawai’i.

Across the bay from Napo’opo’o stands the solitary white obelisk that marks the lonely Captain Cook Monument. It was in this broad bay that Captain James Cook made his deepest impression on, and longest visit with, native Hawai’ians when he first arrived late in November of 1778; and it was here where he met his tragic end in February 1779 during his second visit. At the State Park at the end of the road in Napo’opo’o are picnic facilities, pavilions and restrooms.

Pu'u Hounua O Hounaunau, The Place of Refuge: Photo by Donald MacGowan
Pu’u Hounua O Hounaunau, The Place of Refuge: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

A beautiful, peaceful, restful piece of Old Hawai’i, Pu’u Honua O Honaunau is a place of ease and regeneration for weary and jaded souls. Of enormous historical and cultural significance, the sacred grounds at Honaunau are the best-preserved remaining Pu’u Honua, or Place of Refuge, complex in Hawai’i. It is also a wonderful area to wander, snorkel, relax and picnic. For anyone who had any doubts about what Old Hawai’i was like, a trip to Honaunau will fill your imagination, your camera and your spirit.

A complex and strict order of law, known as the kapu system, controlled and governed everything in ancient Hawai’i. Under this system, judgment was death, immediate and final, unless the accused could escape to one of the designated places of refuge. There the accused would undergo a cleansing ceremony, be absolved of all crimes, and allowed to return to his family free of onus. The National Park has a Visitor’s Center and bookshop, full picnic and restroom facilities. Although no swimming or snorkeling is allowed within the Park, adjacent is Two-Step Beach on Hounaunau Bay, one of the premiere snorkeling spots on the Island.

Leg 3) Return to Hwy 11 via south leg of Hwy 160, continue south on Hwy 11 to Ho’okena Beach Road; Ho’okena Beach Road west to Ho’okena Beach.

Ho'okena Beach, South Kona: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ho'okena Beach, South Kona: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Ho’okena Beach County Park

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

Frequented by dolphin, stuffed full of pelagic and reef fish and turtles and boasting crystal clear, warm and calm waters, Ho’okena is a must-see beach for avid snorkelers and divers as well as sea kayakers. During the winter months, female Humpback whales and their babies frequent the waters off this bay.

Wonderful beach camping, new showers and restrooms, picnic tables and abundant fresh water make this county park a gem. Camping is by permit only on a first come-first served basis.

Leg 4) Return to Hwy 11 via Ho’okena Beach Road; continue south on Hwy 11 to Miloli’i Road; Miloli’i Road to Miloli’i Beach Park; trail to Honomalino Beach.

Honomalino Beach, South Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Honomalino Beach, South Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Honomalino Bay

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

Snorkeling is very interesting on the north side in the rocks, when the surf is low. The water, though very clear, is sometimes quite cold due to spring discharge in the sand on the beach. There are no services here, leave no valuables in your car.

Leg 5) Return to Hwy 11 via Miloli’i Road and continue south on Hwy 11 to South Point Road; South Point Road to South Point.

Cow and Windfarm: South Point--Ka Lae--Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Cow and Windfarm: South Point--Ka Lae--Ka'u Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

South Point (Ka Lae)

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. Polynesians established a thriving colony based upon the incredibly rich fishing grounds just offshore. South Point is the farthest point south in the entire United States. The road to Ka Lae from the Hawai’i Belt Road is infamous although greatly improved in recent years; check your rental agreement before driving here. There are no services…plan and act accordingly.

Leg 6) Head back north on South Point Road to Kaulana Boat Launch Road; take road to boat launch, Green Sand Beach trail to Green Sand Beach.

Mahana Green Sand Beach, South Point Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mahana Green Sand Beach, South Point Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Trail to Green Sand Beach

Absolutely unique to the island of Hawai’i 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 bizarre color of the water shrieks for underwater photographs. Watch for strong currents; do not go out far nor if the surf is high or there are strong winds.

To get there, follow signs to Kaulana boat launch; park left (south) of the boat launch. Hiking distance is 2 ¼ miles each way along rolling tropical prairie. Stay in sight of the shore and you cannot get lost. Although tricky to spot on the way down, from the beach looking up the way back to the crater rim is easy to follow. There are no services here; plan and act accordingly.

Leg 7) Return from Kaulana Boat Launch Road to South Point Road to Hwy 11; proceed southeast on Hwy 11 to Punalu’u Road; Punalu’u Road to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park.

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

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

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park

A truly remarkable place of great peace, beauty and spiritual healing, Punalu’u’s black sand beach is world-renowned. Endangered Hawai’ian Green Sea Turtles swim the waters here and bask on the beach. The wildness of the ocean and the serenity of the freshwater fishpond and coconut palm-shaded beaches make this an ideal place to spend some soul-recharge time. The ocean here can be rough, so use caution when swimming.

Available services include water, picnic tables, restrooms, electrical outlets, and pavilions, parking; camping is by permit only. During peak tourist time, there is a souvenir stand with some packaged food items and canned drinks for sale, otherwise the nearest food, gasoline and other services are in either Pahala or Na’alehu.

Leg 8) Return Punalu’u Road to Hwy 11; take Hwy 11 west and north to Kailua Kona.

Sunrise at Ahu'ena Heiau in Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Sunrise at Ahu'ena Heiau in Kailua Kona, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

Coming to my island for a vacation? There are three things I always recommend the first-time visitor do. First, get in the air. Secondly–go to a luau. Finally, I advise people of every age to get in the water and go snorkeling. You will find your mind going back to that experience over and over through the years much more so than many of your other travel experiences.   Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series will discuss Snorkeling Technique and Part III will cover Snorkeling Safety; Part V of the series will cover snorkel spots on the Big Island.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Gary Burton and his duaghter snorkel at Hounaunau Bay: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Now, let’s talk a moment about snorkeling etiquette and protecting the reef and the animals who live there.

Please do not feed the fish, it disrupts their natural feeding habits and you may be injured. Reef fish are territorial and do occasionally “nip” but you should not chase, harass or touch them (this includes octopi). The oils on your fingers will injure their skin and they may carry diseases which they can pass to you on your hands. For photographing reef fish, whether snorkeling or scuba diving, simply find a feeding spot (usually a boulder or dead coral head teeming with algae, and wait calmly and silently nearby. They will slowly begin to check you out and if you can remain still long enough, eventually surround you leading to excellent photos and a very memorable experience.

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

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

Called Honu by Hawaii’s natives, the Hawaiian Green Sea turtle is beautiful, serene and seeming wise. Though they have swum the oceans for over 200 million years, peacefully feeding on algae and invertebrates, this highly successful product of amphibian evolution is in grave danger. Loss of habitat, hunting and molestation by humans has conspired to push the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle to the very verge of extinction.

Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle at Papakolea Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Protected now by state and federal law, the population of once millions of individuals has been decimated to just a few hundred thousand; although they are making a comeback, Hawaii’s honu are still very much endangered.

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

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

Although harder for the snorkeler to approach, but certainly no less in danger of molestation are the marine mammals: dolphin, seals and whales. In general, it is illegal, dangerous and generally a bad idea to approach marine mammals within 100 yards; 300 yards for females with calves. Dolphins and seals, in particular, may choose to approach you-just remember, this ain’t “Flipper”-these are wild animals and they bite. Hard. If approached, remain calm (absolutely entranced, of course, but calm); do not approach any young animals and do not reach out to them as they may interpret this as aggression on your part and possibly bite. Male seals may exhibit dominant behavior and have been know to *ahem* mount swimmers. Avoid these unpleasantries by observing and enjoying these animals from a distance.  About whales…uh, wait a minute…if there is anybody out there crazy enough to swim out into the open ocean and harass a 60,000 pound animal with a mouth twice the size of a king-size bed, nothing I say is going to stop them…just use some common sense, OK?  Leave them alone—besides…it’s the law.

And now a word about sharks–two words, actually: “Don’t Worry”.  There’s good news and bad news about sharks in Hawaii–first the bad news: if you are in water deeper than your knees, you are probably within 200 yards of a shark.  The good news?  You will never know it.  The truth is that you are not likely to see or encounter a shark…period.  Tens of millions of people swim Hawaii every year without seeing so much as a dorsal fin break the water. Don’t worry–you are not what they eat (so you won’t attract them) and generally, they are more afraid of you than you are of them.  To dispel visitor’s apprehensions about sharks, the Hawaiian Tourism Bureau used to advertise that tourists were more likely to get hit on the head by a falling coconut than bitten by a shark…but they decided THAT was not a real cheery statistic to crow about, either.  In reality, there are only about three shark bites a year in Hawaii—which is amazing considering there are hundreds of thousands of people in the water, all day, every day of the year.

Photograph by Donnie MacGowan

A cloud of raccoon butterfly fish at Kahalu'u Beach: Photograph by Donnie MacGowan

Having said that, bear in mind that all sharks demand respect and there are several things you can do to make yourself generally safer in any shark encounter.  Number one safety tip is: avoid them.  Sharks are stealth hunters and in any conditions where they are obscured in the water, they will hunt. Therefore–do not go into the water until at least an hour after dawn, be out of the water by about 4 pm; do not enter the water if it is murky; avoid stream mouths.  Obey beach closures; obey warnings from the Lifeguards.  Little sharks don’t get to be big sharks unless they pay strict attention to avoiding whoever is bigger than they are–small sharks generally will glide silently away from you without you ever having known they were there.  Big sharks are different.  They may approach you.

The most common conventional wisdom you hear is: if you are being stalked or approached, swim purposefully, not panicked, away from the shark at an angle.  Do not swim at high speed straight from him, it will trigger his predator-prey response and he’ll chase you.  Do not splash excessively; this sounds like a dying fish (i.e., dinner) to sharks. Remember that the larger sharks eat sea turtles…to a shark hunting below you, your outline paddling on a surfboard or boogie board, looks remarkably like a sea turtle.  When you approach the water, seeing three or four sea turtles sunning themselves on the beach is normal; seeing twenty or thirty indicates that something very large and hungry is hunting the water nearby.  The presence of dolphin nearby is no guarantee there are not also sharks nearby.

There are hundreds of bits of advice for surviving shark attacks from hundreds of shark experts and attack survivors from all over the world—I will not pass these on to you for two reasons.  First and foremost, I am a not a shark expert; secondly, I have never needed any of them because I have followed these sensible rules for years and have never, not once, seen a shark while snorkeling.  I’m out there 4 or five days a week, year round.  You won’t see one either.  Relax and enjoy your snorkeling…as I said…don’t worry.

Finally–many people ask “What’s the etiquette for, um–er–answering nature’s call?”  Easy–for wet stuff, just swim a bit away from people and let go, maybe maintaining forward momentum so as not to create a “cloud”.  No, this isn’t why the ocean is salty.  For solid stuff, get your partner and both of you swim in and get out, visit the rest room.  No exceptions for that.

Part I of this series discuses Snorkeling Gear; Part II of this series will discuss Snorkeling Technique and Part III will cover Snorkeling Etiquette; Part IV of the series covers Snorkeling Safety and Part V will cover Big Island Snorkel Spots.

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