The town of Pahala is located on a scenic plateau of land about 900 feet above sea level in the Kau district of the Big Island. This area enjoys excellent ocean and mountain views, and Pahala town has many interesting shops and restaurants as well as a golf course.
In its early days Pahala was strictly a sugar cane town with only a sugar mill, plantation homes, a manger’s house and a general store. Pahala Theater was built in the early 1940s along with other public structures and the town became a focal point of the northeastern Kau district, just as Naalehu became the major town of southern Kau.
The sugar mill and plantation ceased operations in 1996 and the area’s diversified agriculture now includes macadamia nut orchards, coffee farms and flower farms. In recent year Kau coffee has won coffee tasting awards and gained notoriety alongside the renowned Kona coffee.
Ranching and tourism also contribute to Pahala’s economy. Many family-owned farms and ranches have taken the place of the large sugar plantations.
Kau High and Pahala Elementary School in Pahala is the state’s second oldest school, and its Kapono Building is the oldest public school building west of the Rocky Mountains.
The name Pahala is a reference to the ashes of the leaves of the native hala tree. The name comes from the once common practice of burning the leaves in large cracks that would appear in the sugarcane fields. Pahala town is home to about 1,600 people.