Explore Na’alehu on the Big Island of Hawaii and local attractions
The largest city of the southern part of the Big Island, Naalehu is a sleepy and a low-key kind of place on the south side and that’s just how the locals like it – slow, simple and know all your neighbors around you. But outside of stopping by for snacks on the way to Volcanoes National Park, what is there to see you might ask? Check out the details below to exploring Na’ahehu town and beyond.
Where is Na’alehu located?
Drive down Hwy 11 from either Kona town ( about 59.3 miles) or from Volcano Village area (about 39.5 miles) and you will eventually run into Naalehu in the Ka’u district which is the largest district on all of the Big Island and includes the Volcanoes national Park.
History of Na’alehu and the South Point Area
Na’alehu means “the volcanic ashes” in Hawaiian and the little community is the largest place to visit along the way to Volcano or the many other attractions in the local area. Na’alehu is considered the southernmost-town in all of the United States. A tranquil community surrounded by lush forests, jagged coastlines and coffee plantations in the nearby Kau coffee district, Na’alehu is the main hub of the Kau district. Na’alehu was a busy hub of commerce in 1870s when the sugar cane industry was dominant in the area and the Na’alehu Sugar plantation operated and developed the local community for housing, shopping, churches and other community services.
Further down on Hwy 11 is the South Point area is historic and part of the National Historic Landmark with a variety of of ancient heiau(temples), fishing shrines and other ancient relics. This area has always been a popular spot for ancient Hawaiians to go for fishing which is a fertile fishing area. Because fishing was plentiful in the area, this site is one of the most feasible first areas of settlement of the Polynesians to Hawaii around 750 AD.
Things to see around Na’alehu area
Surprisingly for a small community in the Kau district, there’s quite a few places of interest to visit in the area.
Visit the Green sand beach at Papakolea
The closest swimmable beach is Papakolea which is a 5-mile hike along the coastline from the parking lot area of Green Sand Beach. There are casual taxi pickup rides to Papakolea and back for a tip to the driver. Check out this point on visiting the Green sand beach at Papakolea here for more information to visiting the area.
Visit the Black sand beach at Punalu’u
The Black sand beach at Punalu’u is a popular attraction to visit this expansive black sand beach which is also popular with the local honu or endangered green sea turtles that love to bask in the black sands of the beach area.
Check out the Southernmost tip at South Point
South Point or Ka Lae is the Southern most tip of the United States and believed to be the first area of discovery of ancient Polynesians that visited the islands and developed local communities in the area with shrines, temples and other historic places of interest in the region that is designated as a national historic landmark.
Enjoy some delicious malasadas at Punalu’u bakery
This is the most popular stopping point for delicious malasadas, breads and other sweet pastries made at the bake shop daily. Inside tip is to come early or your left with the small pickins at the end of day which is pretty limited.
Check out some coffee plantations in Pahala
Kau coffee is very popular in the area if not on the island and giving Kona Coffee a run for the money and prestige. There are a few different coffee places to visit for tours and tastings at their locations. Check out the best spots to visit here for more details.
Visit the Whittington beach area
The Whittington beach area is easy to pass through if you are driving quickly in the area but the beach park is nice to explore with the lagoon areas, beach and the beautiful coastline views from the park.
Explore the Volcanoes National Park – The Kahuku unit
The Kahuku unit is the newest extension of Volcanoes National Park that expands the park to the southeastern parts of Kau is a rolling pasture land area of the park that you can explore with a variety of hikes which where a part of the Kahuku ranch – one of the biggest cattle ranches on the Big Island. You can check out more details about visiting the Kahuku unit here for the various hikes and places of interest at Kahuku unit.
Visit the Na’alehu Farmers market
Every Wednesday from 8am to 2pm is the Na’alehu Farmers market located at the Ace Hardware store on the main drag. Visit for fresh produce, breads and bake goods, sundries and even some souvenirs you can buy from local crafters and artists in the area.
Places to eat in Na’alehu
Mostly the town is a stopping point to area attractions and Volcanoes National Park. Dining in town is limited but you can check out these places to eat
Ka Lae Coffee – eatery, coffee shop and baked goods along with some cool gift items
Punalu’u Bakery – the iconic bakery and delicious malasadas are the thing to eat here along with other sweet and savory goods in the shop
Hana Hou Restaurant – specializes in Hawaiian comfort food, delicious desserts and other home-made goodies
Taco Tita – little eatery specializing in Mexican food and specialty sauces they create on site.
Paradise Meadows – organic coffee farm, tastings, tours and specialty coffees made on site.
What else to see and do around Na’alehu area?
Check out these other fantastic attractions and places to visit in the Na’alehu and Kau region of the Big Island.
Explore Volcanoes National Park
Visit the Volcano Village area.
Have you visited Na’alehu?
Enjoyed your visit here or any other tips to share? Please share on the comments below.
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