Na’alehu

The center of activity in Big Island’s Ka’u district, Na’alehu is best known to non-locals as the southernmost town in the United States, but to those who live in Ka’u Na’alehu is known simply as “town”. Na’alehu is tiny, but this small town far away from the big cities is the best place to experience the grandeur and beauty that is Ka’u. Three beaches sit north of the town along the coast providing opportunities for surfing, snorkeling, tidepooling, and diving. They are Punalu’u (black sands beach), which is home to the only resort in Ka’u, Kawa’a, which sits on Hawaiian land and boasts some of the biggest waves around, and Honuapo (Whittington Beach Park), home to the native Hawksbill Sea Turtle. The small community of Waiohinu sits 2 miles west on the highway and 15 miles southwest is South Point, with it’s crystal clear waters, towering cliffs, and green sand beach.

It’s believed that polynesian settlers first made landfall in Hawaii in this area more than 1800 years ago, and Na’alehu contains some of the oldest human relics found anywhere in the state, with artifacts dating back to before 300 C.E.

It may not look it, but Na’alehu was once the center of a booming sugar cane industry. The pier at Honuapo once allowed ships to dock and carry away the sugar cane for sale to the mainland. Today the pier has rusted and coffee has replaced sugar cane as the cash crop of Ka’u.

Na’alehu is tiny (barely more than 1000 people) and very much connected to the closeby community of Pahala. All of Na’alehu’s children travel 13 miles north into Pahala every day to go to school.

Punalu’u bake shop, makers of Hawaiian sweetbread sold across the state, is located here, and it’s the main tourist attraction of the area. There are coffee farms along the highway that offer free tasting as well.

Na’alehu is best known for its wide, sweeping ocean views and high sea cliffs. Lush bright green grass fills cattle pastures above the shoreline. The cows here have a million dollar view. Above town Ka’alaiki road connects Pahala and Na’alehu and provides amazing views of the upland valleys, steep mountainsides, and the town itself.

There are several lodging options in the area for all budget ranges and several restaurants and bars, all claiming to be the Southernmost something. Na’alehu is not for everybody, but for those who travel to this remote corner of the island a quiet town with breathtaking landscape awaits.

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