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This post has been updated and expanded here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mauna Kea Summit Temple: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Mauna Kea Summit Temple: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

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

Frank Descends Into Kaumana Cave: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Frank Descends Into Kaumana Cave: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

Looking Out Kaumana Cave: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Looking Out Kaumana Cave: Photo by Donald MacGowan

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

Rain-Swollen Rainbow Falls: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Rain-Swollen Rainbow Falls: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

There is a trail along portions of this.

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

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

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

Kailua Kona Sunset from the Pier: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

This post has been greatly expanded, updated and modified—a very much superior version resides here; I think you will prefer it!

Photos and Text by Donald MacGowan

The Men of Tour Guide decided to take some much needed time away from the office and take a scenic drive to the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island.

The Men of Tour Guide on the Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Men of Tour Guide on the Road: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We left Kailua Kona in the early morning and drove Highway 190 towards Waimea Town.

 Along Highway 190 Looking Toward Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Along Highway 190 Looking Toward Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We past by the spectacular over looks of the Kohala Coastline and on up the hills towards Pu’uanahulu.

Hualalai Volcano and Pu'uananhulu from Hwy-190--Note Yellow Blossoms on Silver Oaks: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hualalai Volcano and Pu'uananhulu from Hwy-190--Note Yellow Blossoms on Silver Oaks: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

When we reached Waimea, snow covered Mauna Kea was standing tall in the morning sun to greet us.

Snow on Mauna Kea Waimea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Snow on Mauna Kea Waimea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Statue of Heroic Paniolo Ikua Purdy, Waimea Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Statue of Heroic Paniolo Ikua Purdy, Waimea Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Dropping down to the Hamakua Coast from Waimea on Highway 19, we past through the fragrant and beautiful eucalyptus forest, with more views of Mauna Kea.

Driving through the Eucalyptus Forest on Highhway 19 Between Honoka'a and Waimea: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Driving through the Eucalyptus Forest on Highhway 19 Between Honoka'a and Waimea: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Snow on Mauna Kea from Hwy 19: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Snow on Mauna Kea from Hwy 19: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

We paused in Honoka’a Town for a much needed cup of coffee and to take a moment to stroll the enchanting shops along the main street of town.

Honoka'a Town is Lined With Intersting and Wonderful Shops and Restaurants--Including Some of Hawaii's Best Antique Stores: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Honoka'a Town is Lined With Intersting and Wonderful Shops and Restaurants--Including Some of Hawaii's Best Antique Stores: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Like a Miniature Triceratops, This Jackson's Chameleon Unconcernedly Strolls the Streets of Honaka'a: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Like a Miniature Triceratops, This Jackson's Chameleon Unconcernedly Strolls the Streets of Honaka'a: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Driving north, we headed toward Waipi’o Valley with the idea of hiking down to the beach.

Waipi'o Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi'o Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Loading up the cameras and gear, Frank and I headed down, while Everett explored around the top of the canyon.

Waipi'o Valley Day Hikers: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi'o Valley Day Hikers: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Reaching the floor of the canyon, we explored the beach, the mouth of the river and the waterfalls–Waipi’o is a place of magic, myth and great beauty–it was absolutely lovely to have an unhurried morning to poke around and explore.

Mouth of Waipi'o Stream: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Mouth of Waipi'o Stream: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi'o Stream from the Mouth of Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Waipi'o Stream from the Mouth of Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

After shooting as many pictures as our batteries could stand, we climbed up out of the canyon..it’s only a mile and less than a thousand feet, but it’s a hike that’ll get your full attention! And it’s gorgeous and awe-inspiring the whole way back up…out of breath? Stop and enjoy the view!

The Road in Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Road in Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

View Down into Waipio Valley Floor: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

View Down into Waipi'o Valley Floor: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Catching our breath and having a bite of lunch, we continued our Soiree down the Hamakua Coast, next stop–Laupahoehoe Park and Tsunami Memorial.

Overview of Laupahoehoe Park, Hamakua Coast, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Overview of Laupahoehoe Park, Hamakua Coast, Big Island: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Explosive Wavespray at Laupahoehoe Park, Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Explosive Wavespray at Laupahoehoe Park, Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Next, we took a small restroom break at Kolekole Park and wound up exploring the river and canyon there.

Kolekole Stream Near Kolekole Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kolekole Stream Near Kolekole Beach: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kolekole Stream leaps heroically off Akaka Falls and flows through one of the most amazing jungle Canyons on the Island of Hawaii.

Kolekole Canyon Road: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Kolekole Canyon Road: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Since we’d seen Kolekole Stream flowing into the sea, we decided to drive through the town of Honomu (fabulous ice cream!) and visit Akaka Falls to see how the park renovations were coming along.

Akaka Falls: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Akaka Falls: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Numerous Small Waterfalls Dot the Fern Grottos Around Akaka Falls: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Numerous Small Waterfalls Dot the Fern Grottos Around Akaka Falls: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Finally, we decided to drive the Pe’epekeo Scenic Drive–an old and very scenic section of the Mamalahoa Highway–before heading home to Kailua Town.

Along the Pepe'ekeo Scenic Drive: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Along the Pepe'ekeo Scenic Drive: Photo by Donald MacGowan

At this point, we decided to hustle home–we just had time to get back to Kailua Town and catch the Taco’s el Pastor special at Habeneros!

Sunset over the Ancient Surfing Temple of Ku'emanu Heiau, Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Sunset over the Ancient Surfing Temple of Ku

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

This post has been greatly expanded and updated, please go here for better, more and new information.

Trip 2: Kona to Hamakua Coast: Spectacular Waterfalls, Incredible Canyons and Lush Rainforest
Approximate minimum time start to finish (to see every site): 9 hours.

This day offers spectacular waterfalls, lush rainforest and beautiful canyons, shopping, dining and 2-one hour hikes.

Highway 190 leaves Kona north to Waimea then on to Honoka’a and Waipi’o Valley in about 1 1/2 hours driving. The photos from the valley overlook are postcard gorgeous and Honoka’a has cute shops and restaurants. After a 1 hour drive, seeing several sites along the Hamakua Coast, Highway 220 branches to Akaka Falls. Follow the paved loop through the tropical jungle and smell exotic flowers along this not-to-be-missed, easy 1 hour waterfall hike. Be sure to stop in Honomu for the unique shops. Proceeding south on Highway 19, ten minutes, is the Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive (4 Mile).  Along this road is Onomea Bay Trail, a 1 hour round trip hike, down to the ruggedly picturesque coastline. From there it’s 20 minutes to Rainbow Falls, Hilo’s signature waterfall. Hilo is the largest city on the island and has numerous shops, malls, museums, restaurants and beaches, such as Richardson Beach, near downtown. From Hilo, it is a 2 1/2 hour drive back to Kona.

Leg 1) In Kailua Kona, start at Ahu’ena Heiau, take Palani Road east to Hwy 190; take Hwy 190 through Waimea to Honoka’a.

Morning at Ahu'ena Heiau, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Morning at Ahu'ena Heiau, Kailua Kona Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Waimea Town Nestled Against Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea Town Nestled Against Kohala Mountain: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waimea Town and Cowboy Country

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

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

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

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

The Main Street of Honoka'a is Lined With Fun and Interesting Shops: Photo by Donald MacGowan

The Main Street of Honoka'a is Lined With Fun and Interesting Shops: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Honoka’a Town

Built in the era of sugar great plantations and left culturally and economically isolated after the industry collapse, until recently Honoka’a was content to drowse along through the decades. A boom in real estate and return of vital human energy to the area has made a literal renaissance of the town. It boasts numerous wonderful restaurants, gift and boutique shops and the highest density of antique shops on the island. Be sure to stop to explore a little on your way to or from Waipi’o Valley…it’s a fun, happening kind of place and always steeped with aloha.

Driving north or south out of Honoka’a, remnants of old sugar mills, fields and wild cane can still be seen. When Captain Cook arrived in 1778, only wild sugar cane was growing; at its height in the mid-1960’s one in 12 people were employed in the sugar industry which produced in excess of a million tons of sugar annually. Though the business is gone, what is left are the people who once worked the fields and mills. The melding of the rich cultures of Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Portuguese, and others is what gives today’s unique Hawaii lifestyle its sweet flavor.

Leg 2) At Honoka’a, turn north on Hwy 240 to Waipi’o Valley.

Deep and Mysterious Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Deep and Mysterious Waipi'o Valley: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Waipi’o Valley

Waipi’o Valley is arguably the most magical place on the Big Island. The steep canyon walls and verdant fields of the valley floor, the mile long black sand beach and numerous immense waterfalls that line the valley walls all call out to the visitor for exploration.

Always listed among the most beautiful spots in the State of Hawai’i, this valley is as hauntingly lovely as it is difficult to see in its entirety.

Tours down into the valley in vans, on horse drawn wagons and ATVs can be booked in Honoka’a. Over-flights in fixed wing aircraft and helicopters also offer fine venues from which to see this amazing piece of Hawai’i. Hiking down and wandering the immense black sand beach, exploring the ironwood copses and sand dunes and discovering the hidden waterfalls is also a popular way to see the canyon. Although the hike down is only a little over 1 mile and a thousand feet elevation loss, the climb back up is sweltering in the ferocious sun and heat. Think twice before hiking down. Facilities at the Scenic Overlook include a pavilion and restrooms; there are none within the valley itself.

Leg 3) From Waipi’o Valley, return to Honoka’a on Hwy 240, get on Hwy 19 and head south.

Leg 4) Take Hwy 19 south to Laupahoehoe then Kolekole, continue south to Hwy 220; west on Hwy 220 to Honomu, then to Akaka Falls.

Laupahoehoe on the Hamakua Coast: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Laupahoehoe on the Hamakua Coast: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Laupahoehoe Park

A place of great beauty, of awesome displays of oceanic power and of tragic memories, Laupahoehoe Park stands where 20 children and teachers at the Laupahoehoe School were killed in the tsunami of 1946. Inside the park on a small hill overlooking the jetty is a memorial stone inscribed with the names of those who died in the tsunami. There are restrooms, campgrounds, picnic facilities, pit barbecues and ball fields. The pounding of the raw ocean on the jetty reminds one that not every beach in Hawaii is made for swimming, however the fishing here is excellent.

Kolekole Beach Park, Hamakua Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kolekole Beach Park, Hamakua Coast Hawaii Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kolekole Beach County Park

The river you saw magnificently jumping with such abandon off the cliff at Akaka Falls ends its journey to the sea by sluicing through this Koa-tree filled canyon and smashing into the surf at Kolekole Beach Park. A wild beach, a jungle canyon and a waterfall swimming hole are fun things to do at Kolekole Park.

The visitor is advised to admire the ocean, but not go in. The currents and tides are lethally treacherous here.

Facilities at Kolekole Beach Park include picnic pavilions and tables, pit barbecues, showers, restrooms and drinking water.

Akaka Falls from the Air: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Akaka Falls from the Air: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Akaka Falls

There is a reason that Akaka Falls rates as the most visited tourist site on the Island of Hawai’i. Simply put, the 420 foot, free falling plunge of clear water down a fern festooned cliff is an amazing and beautiful site. Leaving the parking lot, the paved loop trail of about one mile, winds through a wonderful jungle of exotic flowers, ferns, orchids, ginger and bamboo. Two smaller falls are also seen along the way to the stellar Akaka Falls. Akaka Falls has restrooms but no other facilities.

When visiting Akaka Falls, be sure to save some time to explore the shops, galleries and cafes of Honomu on the way back to the highway; it’s unlike anywhere you’ve ever been before…guaranteed.

Leg 5) Return Hwy 220 through Honomu to Hwy 19, then south on Hwy 19 to Old Mamalahoa Highway (or Kulaimano Road to Old Mamalahoa Hwy); this is the Pe’epekeo Scenic Drive. South and east on Old Mamalahoa Hwy to Onomea Bay; continue on Old Mamalahoa Hwy south to southern jct with Hwy 19.

Pe'epekeo Scenic Drive, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Pe'epekeo Scenic Drive, Hamakua Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive

Located just a few minutes north of Hilo on Highway 19, this “Old Road through Old Hawai’i”, a four-mile-half hour scenic wander, parallels Highway 19 but is removed worlds away from the traffic and hustle along the main road. Rolling along old cane fields, jungle-canopied in places, passing waterfalls and crossing creeks, the Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive is a special treat for the visitor who may be thinking they waited a century too long to visit Hawai’i. On a sunny day, on a rainy day, it doesn’t matter; this scenic drive is a joy. There are no services available along the scenic drive.

Onomea Bay, Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Onomea Bay, Hamakua Coast Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Onomea Beach Trail

Only a few miles north of tame and sedate Hilo Bay, Onomea Bay is subject to the full fury and magic of the open Pacific Ocean. Rugged, jagged, majestic, the wickedly sculpted cliffs along the bay belie the easy 15 minute walk down to the beach. Accessible to most walkers of even marginal condition, the trail leads alongside a botanical garden (be sure not to wander through any of their gates unless you are a paying customer) and meanders down to the canyon mouth, past a tiny waterfall at the end of the stream and to the beach. There are awesome opportunities for photo

Leg 6) South on HWY 19 to Hilo; get on Hwy 200 (Waianuenue Avenue), head south-southeast to Rainbow Drive and Rainbow Falls.

King Kamehameha Statue, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Kilgore Trout

King Kamehameha Statue, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Kilgore Trout

Hilo Town

Beautiful but wet, metropolitan but decrepit, bustling but laid back, Hilo is a lovely, maddening, heartbreaking, addictive study in contrasts. In can rain all day long for 50 days in a row, yet when the sun does shine, the views of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea from the Lilioukalani Gardens, or of Hilo Bay as you drive down from the mountains, or the rain-forest and waterfall choked gulches with lovely beaches along the highway north of town, make Hilo one of the most truly, achingly-lovely spots on earth.

More laid back and sleepier than bustling Kailua Kona, Hilo is the largest town on the island, and the county seat. The Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, Tsunami Museum, Lyman House Missionary Museum and the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo are all wonderful places to learn about various aspects of Hawaii. There are numerous shopping districts, two large malls and the Historic Old Hilo downtown shops to browse through, a variety of sprawling green parks, a fabulous tropical arboretum right downtown and a mile-long black-sand beach fronting the bay to explore. Hilo’s Farmer’s Market is a “must see” for any visitor who is spending time on this side of the island.

Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Prescott Ellwood

Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Prescott Ellwood

Rainbow Falls and Wailuku River Park

The subject of recent and ancient legend, Rainbow Falls is the lovely emblem of Hilo town. 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. The rainbows within the falls are best seen in the mid to late morning. Follow the trail to the left along the river bank 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.

Restrooms are by the parking lot and a souvenir shop is located across the street.

Leg 7) Return Hwy 200 (Waianuenue Road) to HWY 19, then east on 19 to Jct with Kamehameha Ave; Kamehameha Ave east to jct with Kalanianaole Ave to Richardson Beach Park.

Richardson Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Richardson Beach Park, Hilo Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Richardson Beach Park

Richardson Beach Park, with its towering palms, fresh water pools, delightful surf, secluded and calm tidepools, lawns and general ambience of tropical paradise, is almost certainly very close to what most visitors expect from Hawai’i—hence it popularity.

Views of Mauna Kea at sunrise and sunset from this beach are unparalleled. The snorkeling here along the small black sand beach is the best of the Hilo area and the surf is a busy mix of beginner to intermediate level waves. Restrooms, showers, water, picnic tables and a lifeguard round-out the amenities of this wonderful place. There is also a Hawai’i County Police Department substation here.

Leg 8) Return on Kalanianaole Ave to Kamehameha Ave to Hwy 19; take Hwy 19 north to Honoka’a and jct with Hwy 190; drive Hwy 190 west to Kailua Kona.

Off the Pier in Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Off the Pier in Old Kailua Town: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

Driving south on Hwy 270, just past the town of Hawi, you will see the turn off for Hwy 250 on the mountain side of the road. This hwy will take you over Kohala Mountain to the town of Waimea. This hwy is rated by AAA Travel as one of the top 10 most scenic highways in the U.S. Along the way you will pass through beautiful pasture lands, areas for horseback riding, ranch style dinners, ATV tours and Hummer tours. Tour Guide will give the history of this area as well as activities offered here.

At the other end of Hwy 250 is Waimea. This town is known for the paniolo, the Hawaiian word for cowboy, and the Parker Ranch. At 3500 ft elevation, the cooler climate is perfect for growing all sorts of fruits and vegetables as well as a variety of livestock. There are also some fabulous restaurants featuring some of the best chefs in the world. Tour Guide will tell you about the storied history, museums, tours, shopping and dining. For such a small town there is a lot to do here.

From Waimea, it’s time to head south on Hwy 190 on our way back to Kona. Along the way is Waikoloa Village. This is mostly a residential town but is built around the Waikoloa Village Golf Course. This Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed course has some stunning views from the 2000 ft elevation. Tour Guide will show you where there is a shopping center with grocery, restrooms, restaurants and a gas station.

Super Tip: Finding restrooms on the road can be difficult when you are driving in unfamiliar territory. Tour Guide has a special feature that helps you to find the nearest public restroom anywhere you are on the island. This is super handy when touring with the family.

Along the way back to Kona, you will pass some of the finest beaches and most interesting historical and cultural spots on the Kona-Kohala Coast. Tour Guide can tell you all about these fascinating places, as well as opportunities here for whale watching, wild-life viewing, hiking and sight-seeing.

From Waikoloa Village, continue driving south on Hwy 190, about 30 minutes, until you arrive back in Kona. Tour Guide will give you turn-by-turn directions to your resort to end you’re second day of touring by car.

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