The Northernmost town in Big Island’s district of Ka’u, Pahala is much smaller and quieter than it once was. Originally the center of a bustling sugar cane plantation, Pahala’s location was chosen for three reasons: It sits on a flat plateau on the side of the mountain, it has direct access to a water well, and it was strategically centrally located in the sugarcane fields.

The Name “Pahala” means “Ashes from the Hala Leaf”. During the early sugar cane days when cracks were found the in the sugarcane fields workers would fill them with Hala leaves and burn them.

Sugarcane was Pahala’s biggest industry and the lifeblood of the town for over 150 years. Pahala suffered majorly as sugarcane prices fell from the 1970’s to the mid 1990’s. The sugar mill closed in 1996, and with it many people were forced to move elsewhere for work. Today the sugar cane fields have all been converted to Macadamia Nuts, which grow well in Pahala’s upland warm, sunny climate.

The town is also home to the oldest public school on the island, and the second oldest in the state, established in 1881. It serves all of the Ka’u high serves the entire Ka’u region and many students in the distant corners of the region commute several hours a day to attend school.

Experiencing sunshine year-round, Pahala is far less rainy than Volcano, it’s neighbor to the north. Many people visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park choose to stay in Pahala because it’s much warmer than Volcano as well. Attractions around Pahala include Punalu’u (Black Sands Beach) just to the south, as well as Kawa’a Beach and Honuapo (Whittington Beach Park).

The extremely picturesque Kaalaiki Road connects Pahala to Na’alehu throught the mountains above both towns. If traveling between the two places and you have some time to spare, this is the road to take. It provides amazing aerial views of both towns and offers a glimpse into the lush, steep valleys hidden up the mountain.

There is one bed and breakfast in Pahala (Pahala Plantation Cottages), as well as the nearby Sea Mountain resort at Honuapo.