South Point at Ka Lae: Uncover the Untamed Beauty on Hawaii’s Southernmost Tip (updated 2023)
The South Point at Ka Lae on the Big Island is basically that, meaning ‘the point’ in Hawaiian and is the southernmost area of the island. The southern most tip of the island is a historic area that is one of the first places the Polynesians traveled through to the islands with some of the temples, heiau and historic places around the region.
The area of South Point in Hawaii is dramatic, rugged and fun to explore the outdoors in this wild coastline areas of Ka Lae, Hawaii.
How to get to South Point, Hawaii
Drive down Hwy 11 from either Kona town or Downtown Hilo area and between mile markers 69 and 70 is a sign directing to the South Point area. The two-lane road to South Point passes through farm lands, macadamia nut groves and beautiful pasture land for around 12 miles until you reach the South Point area. You’ll notice the huge windfarms because of all the strong winds in the area. To the right, you’ll see the Komoa wind farms built in the 1980s but not operating anymore and rusting away slowly around the landscape.
Close by you’ll also see the newer Tawhiri Power GE turbines with 14 wind turbines in the area. The road turns more into a single lane gravel and dirt road that heads out to a fork at mile marker ten, that you can either drive to the Green sand beach at Papakolea and the Kaulana boat ramp or continue on to the South Point area. The right fork continues on to South Point at Ka Lae which is a short drive to the end with the parking lot facing the cliff area.
South Point at Ka Lae on the Big Island of Hawaii
History of the South Point Area at Ka Lae, Hawaii
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. You’ll find a lot of big fish to include mahimahi, tuna and snapper in the area. Huge wooden hoists are located along the cliffs and used to lower boats into the sea for fishing the area. Prior to these hoists, ancient Hawaiians bore holes into the rocks to secure ropes to boats below.
The entire area of South Point is in a National Historic Landmark with a variety of ancient heiau(temples), fishing shrines and other ancient relics.
Weather and best times to visit South Point area
The weather at South Point is characterized by a mild and pleasant tropical climate throughout the year. Summers, from June to September, bring warm temperatures with averages ranging from the mid-80s to low 90s Fahrenheit (around 29-35 degrees Celsius). Winters, from December to February, tend to be slightly cooler, with temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to low 70s Fahrenheit (around 18-23 degrees Celsius). It’s worth noting that South Point can experience stronger winds compared to other parts of the island, adding to the rugged charm of the area.
The best times to visit South Point largely depend on your preferences and the activities you wish to engage in. Generally, the shoulder seasons of spring (March to May) and fall (October to November) offer pleasant temperatures and relatively fewer crowds. During these times, you can explore the area without the peak tourist rush and enjoy a more tranquil experience.
It’s important to keep in mind that South Point can be subject to sporadic rain showers throughout the year. Packing a light rain jacket or umbrella is advisable to be prepared for unexpected rainfall. These rain showers often pass quickly and can add to the dramatic beauty of the landscape.
Top 9 Things to do around South Point at Ka Lae, Big Island
Around the southern tip of the Big Island in this mostly barren and pasture land, the rich history of the area is still present along with popular activities on the shoreline from fishing to jumping off the cliffs.
Here are some 9 fun ideas about what to do once you reach Ka Lae
1. Check out the cool blow holes next to the cliffs
There are two blow holes that are close to the cliff area and fun to walk around, but be careful since there are no barriers around the opening.
2. Check out the cliff divers jumping off Ka Lae
Crazy cliff divers, locals and tourists do occasionaly jump from the top of the rocks to the cold ocean below and climb back up the stairs. This is dangerous and not recommended for people that don’t know the conditions, ocean currents and harm from jumping the cliff which is around 40 feet in height.
3. See what the local fishermen are catching
On weekends the entire coastline is buzzing with families and fishermen doing some long haul casting below to catch some delicious fishes to cook later. Some will show you what they have caught in the area like Opelu, yellow fin tuna and some other local fishes in the area.
South Point fishing is a pastime and also a livelihood even now around the cliffs of Ka Lae with families and locals casting directly from the cliffs above.
4. Explore around the large stone heiau called Kalalea
An ancient Heiau at the point of Ka Lae made by the ancient Hawaiians that came to settle this rugged area an fish along the bountiful waters in the area. The Kalalea Heiau is thought to be a fishing heaiu made with different platforms and stones that represent the fishing gods Kū‘ula and ‘Ai‘ai. The smaller platform is made with and the small smooth little rocks and a large upright stone called kanemakua (male), associated with the god Kanaloa.
5. Check out the art along the various trails
There are a few rock and art pieces made by locals that are fun to check out and have thought provoking messages for those interested in finding out what these are here for and what they mean.
6. Hike along the cliffs towards the wind farms
There is a coastline trail skirting the cliffs from South Point towards the taller cliffs with the wind farms and this trail is gorgeous. Around .75 miles until you reach the no trespassing sign and fence cordoning off the pasture land. At this point you can walk back the coastal hike but stay at the distance from the ledge especially on windy days
7. Walk along the west side on the coastal trails
You can explore the rough trails going towards the boat ramp or to the Green Sand beach or Papakolea if you want to experience this lonely stretch of coastline and check out all the olivine drifts of sand around the coastal areas.
This area is windy and more rugged and you’ll find small swatches of olivine beach areas in between the sandy soils on the coastline.
The coastline towards the South Point boat ramp is exposed but with no cliff areas and areas of black, white and green sandy coves along with large boulders and smooth rocks shaped by the pounding surf.
8. Check out the olivine sand at the many sand drifts on the eastern side of South Point
This unique feature or crystal forms in the many areas where there are stretches of sand drives and little coves where you will spot a lot of the green olivine crystals against the dark black and white sands in the area.
9. Hike all the say to the Green sand beach at Papakolea
This is quite a hike if you are willing to do this all the way from Ka Lae. Or you can drive to the parking lot area closer to the start of the main coastal trails that lead to the green sand beach. If time is more limited then taking a casual cab ride on the back of local pick up truck drives is a fast and cheaper option of exploring the area.
Papakolea is the closest swimmable beach and is approximately a 5-mile hike a from the parking lot area of before South Point.
Check out our post on exploring the Green Sand Beach here for more information.
Details to visiting South Point at Ka Lae
When you are parking, make sure to leave no valuables or anything in the car in view that can be broken into.
Although there are a lot of visitors that do jump from the cliffs and into the ocean, this is dangerous and landing in the ocean is always unpredictable along with climbing back up the cliffs.
The currents around South Point are strong and the only landmass south of the Big Island is Antarctica which is a long way off. The current’s have a name known as the “Halaea Current” and will sweep any
Daredevils diving the cliffs straight out to sea.
There is a metal light beacon on the left of the hoists that denote the actual southern most point of the island and work a walk through the cliff areas.
There is a rock wall close to the beacon that designates the Kalalea Heiau and is a spiritual spot and should be treated with respect so do not climb or sit on the fragile rocks and sacred site.
More inside tips to visiting South Point at Ka lae
Visiting South Point at Ka Lae is a unique experience, offering a blend of natural beauty and Hawaiian history. Here are some inside tips to enhance your visit:
Historical Significance: South Point is not only known for its stunning landscapes but also for its historical importance. Take some time to learn about the ancient Hawaiian fishing village that once thrived here and the significance of Ka Lae in Hawaiian culture.
Cliff Jumping: While it’s an adventurous activity, cliff jumping is popular at South Point. If you’re an experienced cliff jumper and conditions are safe, you can take the plunge into the clear waters below. Always exercise caution and be aware of ocean conditions.
Green Sand Beach: A short hike from South Point, you’ll find Papakolea Beach, one of the world’s few green sand beaches. The unique olivine crystals in the sand give it its distinctive color. Be prepared for a rugged hike and bring plenty of water.
Bring Supplies: South Point is a remote area with limited facilities, so it’s wise to bring your own supplies, including water, snacks, and any necessary beach gear. There are no restaurants or stores nearby.
Wind Farm: Nearby, you’ll see a wind farm with large turbines. It’s an interesting sight and a reminder of Hawaii’s efforts to embrace renewable energy.
Fishing: If you enjoy fishing, consider trying your luck at South Point. It’s a popular spot for local anglers, and you might catch a variety of fish, including ulua (giant trevally).
Sturdy Footwear: Wear sturdy shoes, as the terrain can be rocky and uneven. Comfortable walking or hiking shoes will help you explore safely.
Lighthouse: While you can’t enter the lighthouse, you can admire it from the outside. It’s a historic structure and an iconic part of the landscape.
Respect the Environment: Remember to respect the natural beauty of South Point. Leave no trace, and be mindful of the fragile ecosystem and wildlife in the area.
Wind and Sun Protection: South Point is windy, and the sun can be intense. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the elements.
Visiting South Point at Ka Lae is a rewarding adventure that allows you to connect with Hawaii’s natural and cultural heritage. By being prepared and respectful of the environment, you can make the most of your journey to this remote and captivating destination on the Big Island.
Other places to explore around South Point and Kau district
Check out the Naalehu town area for small town vibe, food and conveniences
Visit the Black sand beach at Punalu’u
Explore and visit Volcano Village close to the national park
Visiting Papakolea beach at South Point Area
Have you visited South Point at Ka Lae?
Enjoyed your visit here or any other tips to share? Please share on the comments below.
Conclusion to visiting South Point at Ka Lae
A visit to South Point at Ka Lae is a remarkable journey into the untamed beauty of Hawaii’s southernmost tip. With its rugged cliffs, breathtaking vistas, and the famous Green Sand Beach, this extraordinary destination offers an unforgettable experience for adventurous souls and nature enthusiasts alike.
Whether you’re marveling at the crashing waves against the cliffs, taking in the panoramic views of the vast Pacific Ocean, or exploring the unique geological formations, South Point captivates with its raw and untouched allure. The area’s mild tropical climate ensures comfortable conditions throughout the year, allowing you to immerse yourself in the surroundings and appreciate the rugged charm of this remote location.
To make the most of your visit, consider exploring South Point during the shoulder seasons when the weather is pleasant, and the crowds are fewer. This allows you to fully embrace the serenity of the area and have a more intimate experience with the stunning landscapes.
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