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Ka Lae - South Point

Ka Lae is in the Ka'uKah-eu district of the Big Island.  Ka'u is one of the most sparsely populated districts on the island due to its mostly dry climate.  You really get the feeling you are in a remote location driving through the Ka'u district.

Ka Lae is a National Historical Landmark as it is considered as the most likely spot where the first humans set foot on the islands.


This place is the southern most point in the USA and it has gone through many changes over the years.  At one time there were pavilion type structures, a restroom and other park amenities, but now they are gone, a casualty of the extremely high winds.  I remember using the restroom on one of our earlier trips down there and there is no sign of it now.


To the left is the actual south point of the island.  It is right in the center of the photo, that black outcropping of lava.  Some people venture out there, but it isn't advisable.  One year while we were at this spot looking out to sea like the photo shows, we saw about 6 whales just beyond the breakers.  One made a full body breech of the water.  It was spectacular and wouldn't you know we had just put the cameras in the car.

There is a lava beach down at the south point, but it is only really good for taking pictures of as there is not any sand.  There is a nearby green sand beach, but it takes a hike or 4WD vehicle to get to it.  Rumor is it is a clothing optional beach.

The waves can be formidable down here, so it is recommended  you stay out of the water - just in case you thought otherwise.

There is a beacon for shipping to know to stay away from the point.

On the west side there are cliffs where an earthquake caused the land to fall off.  The water at the bottom of the cliffs is very deep and the local fishermen use this to be able to deep sea fish right from shore.  They tie a plastic garbage bag full of air on the fishing line and fly it offshore like a kite.  When the bag finally settles down to the water the air filled bag acts like a giant cork.  I'm not sure how they land the fish when the catch them, but one fellow I spoke to said he walks down to the point and lands them there.

The above photo is very interesting for a couple of reasons.  The first time we visited south point there was a Volkswagen bug dune buggy that had been abandoned. That was in about 1994, I think.  In 2006 the only thing left of the bug is the engine block, shown in the inset.  The other thing interesting about the photo is the red rock.  It must have a high iron content, or maybe not, but it sure looks out of place amongst all that black lava.


On the road down to the point is a fairly large windmill farm.  It used to be something to see and hear with the fans churning out a whine as they generated electricity.  The farm looks like it is shutdown completely as there was only one fan turning and as can be seen in the photo, some of the fans have had their blades removed.  I understand replacement parts are just too expensive to keep the farm running.



Rental companies do not recommend taking their cars down to south point.  It used to be because of the poor South Point Road, but the road is fine.  A bit bumpy for the last part of it, but good enough to travel without worries.  Just remember to slow down and pull off of the road for oncoming traffic as it is not wide enough for two vehicles to pass. Now days they probably don't want to go down there to get you if you break down.

Posted by Richard Binckley at 3/21/2006 6:57 PM | View Comments | Add Comment |