South Point at Ka Lae on the Big Island of Hawaii

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.

South Point at Ka Lae on the Big Island of 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.

How to get to South Point

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.

History of the South Point Area at Ka Lae, Hawaii

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.

Things to do around South Point at Ka Lae, Big Island

Here are some fun ideas about what to do once you reach Ka Lae

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.

South Point 2

Check out the crazy cliff divers at 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.

Check out what the local fishermen are catching at South Point fishing spots on the cliffs

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.

hike along the cliffs towards the wind farms with imposing cliffs to check out

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.

Catching local opelu just off the cliff areas of Ka Lae
Catching local opelu just off the cliff areas of Ka Lae

Fishing is popular just off the cliffs at Ka Lae
Fishing is popular just off the cliffs at South Point in Hawaii

Explore around the large stone heiau called Kalalea

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.

Food and leaf offerings at the stone heiau called Kalalea
Food and leaf offerings at the stone heiau called Kalalea

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.

Check out the art along the various trails

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

hike along the cliffs towards the wind farms

hike along the cliffs towards the wind farms with imposing cliffs to check out
Hike along the cliffs towards the wind farms with imposing cliffs to check out

Walk along the west side on the coastal trails going towards the boat ramp or to the Green Sand beach or Papakolea.

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.

Walk along the west side on the coastal trails going towards the boat ramp or to the Green Sand beach or Papakolea.
west side on the coastal trails going towards the boat ramp from Ka Lae

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.

Green sand olivine close up at Ka lae area
Green sand olivine close up at Ka lae area

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.

Details to visiting South Point at Ka Lae

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 Green sand beach at Papakolea

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

Visit Volcanoes National Park

Lava eruptions at Volcanoes National Park

Explore and visit Volcano Village close to the national park

Visiting Papakolea beach at South Point Area

Punalu’u Bake Shop

Whittington Beach Park

Have you visited South Point at Ka Lae?

Have you visited South Point at Ka Lae?

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Noel Morata this Hawaii Life

Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.