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Guide To South Hawaii

Updated on June 1, 2015
Puu`honua O` Honau`nau Place Of Refuge
Puu`honua O` Honau`nau Place Of Refuge


Most people rush through Ka`u on the Hawaii Belt Road, heading to or from Volcanoes National Park. Its main towns, Naalehu and Pahala, are little more than pit stops.

If you take the time and get off the beaten track, you'll discover black- and green-sand beaches, and an electricity farm sprouting rusty windmill generators and some interesting sights.

The Kau District is formed entirely from the massive flows of Mauna Loa and presents some of the most ecologically diverse land in the islands. The bulk of it stretches 50 miles from north to south and almost 40 miles from east to west, tumbling from the mountain through the cool green canopy of highland forests. The Kau desert is a "chemical desert". The sulfur steams cause only sour rain to fall, which destroys every form of life immediately.. Ka Lae was probably the first landfall made by the Polynesian explorers on the islands.

On your search of Hawaii’s southernmost point ( It lies at a latitude 500 miles farther south than Miami and twice that below Los Angeles) and the famed green sand beach you will enter the KaLae historical Landmark district, only to drive for 12 miles to find out that you can only get to the beach on foot on a 6 mile hike, or with a 4x4. Don’t let this discourage you, because even though is place is mentioned nowhere, it is still a special place to visit with lots to see.

Start at the Information Center, where your charming host will explain the sacred sites and sights of the area. You will be guided to hidden beaches, burial sites and, of course, the famous green sand. .

On your hikes you will come through a surreal landscape brimming with past and history as you find ancient canoe mooring holes, caves and sand dunes. This is the real thing, and the reason why it is worth the seemingly endless drive through the fields to get here.

The Ohana running the information center is doing a great job in preserving this special place, and in sharing its culture with the visitors. Information Tel : 929-7142.

Puuhonua o Honaunau Park and Place of Refuge

Not quite in Kau, but certainly worth the stop and drive off the main road, this Hawaiian place of refuge is one of the best restored traditional artifacts in all of Hawaii. For a mere $2.00 admission fee you can hear old legends and rituals from the knowledgeable park rangers who take care of this special place.

In a time of kapu law ( the ancient system which separated the subjects from the ruling class as well as the social status of men and women ) this place had high significance for those who had broken the law, and their only hope was to reach the sanctuary before being killed by the enforcers of the law.

Puu`honua O` Honau`nau is a several acre large park which offers a rare glimpse in the mystical world of long ago. With hand carved, towering tikis, Hawaiian huts and canoes, high and long coral walls and the swaying palm trees against a merciless sunny sky it will definitely provide you with the shots you have been looking for.A royal fishpond, burial caves and canoe moorings are among the other attractions in the refuge.

If you want to stay close to this magical place, there are a few great B&B's in this area : The Cedar House in Captn' Cook and the cozy Dive Heaven, a B&B that welcomes divers and non-divers from all over the world and offers diving tours and instruction on Kona's famous coastline


Even though the area seems quite desolate and empty, there are some great beaches to discover, especially for those who like to experience unique sand colors and empty beaches. The long drives from the main road seem to discourage most visitors on their quest to see more in less time. If you have the time - don't miss out and enjoy the special " feel " of these places. White and sandy beaches can be found in every vacation destination - the ones in Ka'u can't.

South Point

The southernmost tip of Hawaii and the southernmost point in the United States. The first landfall of the ancient Polynesians - loaded with archaeological sites.

Green Sand Beach

The lava in this area contains olivine weathered into sand like particles distributed along the beach. You can reach the beach after a six-mile hike east of South Point.

Punalu`u Black Sand Beach

Punalu`u is a lovely dark black sandy bay, lined with beautiful coconut trees. These trees are very unusual for the area, but Punalu means "Diving Spring" in Hawaiian, because they found a fresh water source on the floor of the bay. Usually you can meet a lazy sea turtle taking a nap on the beach.


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