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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.

Akaka Falls on Kolekole Stream north of Hilo, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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

Akaka 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.

Just visible from the parking lot, the top of Akaka Falls peaks above the forest, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

There is a reason that Akaka Falls rates as the most visited tourist sites on the island of Hawai’i.  Simply put, the 424 foot, free falling plunge of clear water down a fern festooned cliff is not just an amazing and beautiful site, but there is a healing restfulness about the park that soaks into the visitor.

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.

Tourists and Hikers explore the tropical jungles around Akaka Falls, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Leaving the parking lot, the loop trail immediately splits.  Going left through along small streams past numerous small waterfalls, glens of fern, ginger, impatiens and stands of bamboo jungle, one reaches Akaka Falls in 5-8 minutes of ambling.  If you turn right, the trail loops up and down some hills, through a wonderful rain forest of flowers, ferns, heliconia, palms and bamboo to 100 foot tall Kahuna Falls in about 8 minutes of walking; Akaka Falls is then reached by following the same path another 2-3 minutes and 5-8 minutes after that you are back at the parking lot.

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.

Aerial view of Akaka Falls showing the immense canyon carved by Kolekole Stream, near the Hamamkua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

When you first see the immense canyon carved through the rigid basalt by Kolekole Stream at Akaka Falls, you will understand why the Hawai’ian’s named this place as they did. In  Hawai’ian , “Akaka”, means “a rent, split, chink, separation; to crack or split”.  At twice the height of Niagara Falls, Akaka Falls, and the Kolekole Stream canyon, mark a truly remarkable rent in the lower skirts of Mauna Kea.

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.

Akaka Falls Bamboo Jungle, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Of the many myths surrounding Akaka Falls, the most charming one tells of a stone located here called Pōhaku a Pele that, when struck by a branch of the Ohi’a tree, will call the sky to darken and rain to fall. Even without striking the rock, afternoons here tend to feature the nourishing rains that give life to the surrounding jungle, the streams and waterfalls.  If you came to Hawaii craving chance to wander through a tropical rainforest, this may be the easiest place to quickly immerse yourself in one of Hawaii’s fantastic jungles.

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 trails around Akaka Falls are punctuated by smaller waterfalls, stream and fern grottos, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Almost every town in Hawai’i has a “Waianuenue street”.  From the Hawai’ian syllables “wai” meaning “fresh water” and “nue” meaning “colorful” or “dancing”, the word “waianuenue” refers to the dancing colors, or rainbow, seen in waterfalls.  If you are lucky, and approach Akaka Falls on a sunny morning when the sun shines into to grotto, you may be blessed with seeing this lovely Hawai’ian icon, the waianuenue.

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 mouth of Kolekole Gulch where Kolekole Stream pours into the wild Pacific Ocean, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

After leaving Akaka Falls State Park, Kolekole Stream flows through feral sugarcane fields, pastures and jungle gulches before finally pouring into the raw Pacific Ocean at Kolekole Beach Park.  Definitely worth a visit, Kolekole Park is just off the Belt Highway, a bit north of the 14 mile marker. Turning off the highway surprisingly uphill, at the south end of the large suspension bridge, the Kolekole Beach Park road winds down to the river through a canyon choked with flowers, ferns and koa and palm trees.

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.

Small falls hidden in a bamboo and fern grotto, along the Akaka Falls trail, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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. With its true “Old Hawaii” ambiance, it is unlike anywhere you’ve ever been before…guaranteed.  Honomu, in Hawai’ian, means “silent bay” and one senses in this town that it is a quiet bastion of genuine relaxation, a half-forgotten island of healing solitude and welcome comfort.

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.

Kahuna Falls in Akaka Falls State Park, Hamamkua Coast, 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.

Fern Grotto at Akaka Falls State Park, Hamakua Coast, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

At Tour Guide 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.

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.

Wild orchids abound in the flower-choked jungles around Akaka Falls State Park, Hamakua Coast, 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

Hilo From the Air: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hilo From the Air: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

Rainbow at Lokawaka Fishpond, Hilo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Rainbow at Lokawaka Fishpond, Hilo: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hilo bears the scars of killer tsunamis and racial intolerance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mauna Kea from Hilo Airport: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Mauna Kea from Hilo Airport: Photo by Donnie MacGowan


Big Island Air, known as the Cadillac of the Skies, offers fully narrated airplane tours around the Island of Hawaii. Relax in our first class seating with plenty of leg and head room. Take beautiful pictures or video from our large windows. See coffee plantations, black sand beaches, rainforest, hundreds of waterfalls and of course the only active volcano in the state.

Big Island Air is conveniently located at the Kona Intl Airport with free parking. We fly 5 times a day, 7 days a week.
See your activity agent or concierge for the best prices on all your Hawaii activities.

Produced by Donald B. MacGowan; videography by Frank Burgess and Donald MacGowan; Narrated by Frank Burgess, Original music written and performed by Donnie MacGowan.

For more information about traveling the Big Island in general and Island Activities in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.