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South Point Canoe Sail.

If you are actually travelling in the direction this guide has led you then you should be heading south towards the Ka’u region. If not then you obviously chose a different direction which is fine because there are not too many wrong turns in paradise unless it’s late and you’re hours from your hotel, with no radio stations coming in and you’re about to be cut off by a river of molten lava. Don’t laugh, its happened, those footprints in the lava rock didn’t get placed their by someone on their way to the beach. Wherever you are on the Big Island right now that’s fine you’ve probably learned to improvise in the use of this guide. Congratulations you’re brain is still functioning even though you’re on vacation in Hawaii.

The actual place where Polynesians first stepped foot in Hawaii will always remain a mystery, but it was probably somewhere near the southern tip of the Big Island. This area seems like a probable place because their approach would have been from the south, where all of Polynesia lay. When sailing north, the Big Island would be the first island they would have seen, and South Point would have been the nearest landfall. Aside from the logic of such a choice, there is archaeological evidence supporting the supposition of a landing near Ka Lae, as the Hawaiians call the most southern tip of the island of Hawaii. Excavation of lava tubes, that were used as shelters, near Kailikii and Waiahukuni, villages four miles northwest of the Ka Lae, indicate people were using them by A.D.750. There is other evidence that indicates people first were in the area as early as A.D. 200.

Girls with haku and leis.

The cliff near South Point Park is a common mooring place for modern day fishermen who find these waters a rich resource. From the precipice the drop is about forty feet to the ocean‘s surface, but the cliff base goes down another thirty feet below the surface of the water. Ladders, hung to make access to the boats easier, swing freely in the air just above the sea. The cliff is deeply undercut. In the heat of the day the water looks inviting. It is so clear the bottom can be seen plainly. For some there might be a temptation to leap into the cool water, and climb back up the ladder. It looks inviting, but don’t do it. A swift current runs along the shore. The flow will carry anyone in the water straight out to sea. It is called the Halaea Current, named for a chief who was carried off to his death.

One of South Point's most famous scenic spots is Mahana Beach, also called Green Sands Beach because it has a distinctive golden green color. "The grains of green sand are olivine (or call it peridot if you wish although not much of the sand is truly of gem quality), a common mineral in much of the Hawaiian basalt, and as the basalt undergoes weathering the olivine becomes concentrated on this beach due partly to its high specific gravity." (They are apparent as green flecks in the raw lava stones used to build the columns and walls of the Jagger Museum at Kilauea’s Volcano National Park.) As lava reached the coast, erosional forces, and the specific gravity of the stones, perhaps are responsible for the accumulation of such a large quantity of the granules that produced the green sand beach.

Up the coast from South Point's main hub of activity, Naalehu town, and heading towards Volcanoes National Park you will pass by Punalu'u black sand beach and later a sign marking a road to Pahala. The short drive to Pahala is worth the excursion. In it are the not so active remains of the old Pahala Theater as well as a community that is now supported by macadamia nut farming as well as scores of small family owned coffee farms now springing up in the plush hillsides. Although the sugar industry is no longer operating there many of the homes in the village date back to the early 20th century including the two story plantation manager’s home which is now a museum and is open to the public for viewing. Pahala is a great place to gain perspective into what life was like on a sugar plantation a hundred years ago. Take time to also drive into the lush tropical Wood Valley and past a Buddhist temple also located near Pahala. Ask for specific directions to those sights at the local general supermarket, there is only one.

Outrigger canoe.

Punaluu Black Sands Beach.

Giant wave at South Point.

Sea tutle on black sands beach.

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