Most visitors to the Big Island will eventually hop in their car
rentals for a drive around the island. And most of these will at least pass
through Naalehu Hawaii at some time. The tiny community is the southernmost
US city, and this is the reason most people will make a token stop here at least
for a photo next to the sign. Few indulge in Naalehu travel with the town as
their vacation destination. There are few Naalehu
hotels here, but there are some charming bed and breakfast inns and a number
of vacation rentals.
If you are looking for an active vacation with plenty of hiking
and are seeking a vacation destination with truly secluded and deserted beaches,
then this southernmost US city fits the bill. The rocky, windswept cliffs that
line the shore are dotted with wonderful green sand and black sand beaches.
The name of the town literally means "the volcanic ashes," and it is the material
ejected from the island's volcanoes that have formed the black and green sands.
The waters off Ka Lae South Point, which is the southernmost point in the United States, contain some of the best big-game fishing on the island, and the beaches provide some of the best opportunities for viewing endangered monk seals and sea turtles, especially the critically endangered hawksbill. Ka Lae South Point is the place where the first colonizers, who were from Tahiti, first landed sometime between 400 and 800 AD, and it is the site of the first native Hawaiian settlement. Here is an ancient heiau (temple) and some of the earliest archaeological evidence of early Hawaii. Whether you've come for a few days or just an afternoon excursion, Naalehu travel can be quite rewarding.
Naalehu Hawaii is located in the Kau District, the far southern tip of the
island. Like the northern portion of the Kohala
Coast, it is very undeveloped. What few towns exist in the area are tiny,
and the tourism infrastructure is relatively unsophisticated. The town is on
Highway 11, the main route between Hilo
and the Kona Coast, and
the main route for access into Volcanoes National Park. In this southernmost
US city you will find a few restaurants, a gas station, and stores to buy water
and other supplies.
You can reach Ka Lae South Point from Naalehu Hawaii on South Point Drive.
The turnoff is on Highway 11 about seven miles west of the town. You will drive
for about 20 miles, on a tarmac road past macadamia nut tree orchards and wind
farms. There is then a dirt road and a two-mile hike to reach Papakolea Green
Sands Beach, but you can avoid the hiking if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Once you arrive, you'll be on one of only two green sand beaches in the world;
the other is in Guam. About six
miles north of Naalehu off Highway 11 is Punaluu Beach—one of the most picturesque
of the black sand beaches on the Big Island. Coconut palms at the edge of the
sand provide shade, and there are picnic tables. It is an excellent snorkeling
beach with great tide pools, and it is frequented by sea turtles. Naalehu travel
to this beach is more accessible than to Green Sand Beach, so you will find
other swimmers and sunbathers here, but they still don't come close to the numbers
you encounter in the more developed resort areas.