Ka Lae – South Point and the Green Sand Beach
Ka Lae, or the point, is the most southernly point in the USA. It is well worth the time to drive down to south point as it is commonly referred to.
Near the end of the road there is a fork. The dreaded fork in the road. To see the overlook, turn right or west and it is a short drive to the parking area near the cliffs. We were there on a bright sunny day so the views were spectacular. The wind was out of the south so the waves were crashing up against the cliffs. Under more docile conditions, like when the trade winds are blowing from the northeast, people jump and dive off the cliffs here.
There we locals with tents set up selling souvenirs the day we visited. One of their more interesting offerings were olivine necklaces made from the olivine found in south point. It is the ground up olivine that makes the green sand beach green at Papakolea.
Another interesting feature was the hole in the lava near the parking area where the water gushing in and out when the conditions are right. The day we visited the water was really moving up and down. We talked to a young local later on our trip and he was sharing how he and others jump into the hole as the water is rising and scramble back out on the jagged lava before the water rushes back to the ocean. No thanks. This looked very treacherous.
Check out the crazy divers at South Point
When you are done at the south point lookout head back to the fork in the road and turn right to get to the parking lot for the green sand beach (Papakolea). The pavement ends here. About a quarter mile down the road is a boat launch and the dirt road is not too bad until this point. If you are planning on hiking to the green sand beach it is about an hour each way from the parking lot. You can hire a local to drive you in a four wheel drive vehicle if you don’t want to walk. We actually rode in a pickup going to the beach. I was in the back and it was horrible. They crammed 6 of us back there and it was really a rough ride. I was covered in dust and pretty beat up by the time we got to the beach. Ironically, the main selling point for hiring a local to drive you was to avoid the dust. Hmmm. I opted to walk back and it was a very enjoyable walk and would recommend it to anyone who is physically able.
The green sand beach is in the collapsed cone of an extinct volcano so it is a steep hike down. This walk is definitely not for everyone. Swimming not recommended under certain conditions so be forewarned. The beach is definitely green and interesting to visit. There were lots of signing reminding you that it was a $500 fine for removing sand from the beach. Don’t think about that either.
Captain Dan’s Tips for visiting Ka Lae and the Green Sand Beach: When going to the cliffs near the lookout, don’t drive a rental car all the down to the parking area you see in the picture below. It is very rough as the pavement ends and there are LARGE potholes. Your rental car company won’t like you too much if you rip off the muffler backing up. If you hire a local to drive you to the green sand beach, negotiate the price both ways beforehand. The going rate was $15 / person when we visited in high season. Don’t ride in the back of a pickup like I did. There are plenty of other options if you are patient. We saw people riding in air conditioned jeeps and polaris UTV’s having a great time while we were getting beat up and filthy dirty.