South Point is located on the southern tip of the Big Island about 7 miles (11 km) west of the town of Naalehu. Also known as Ka Lae (“The Point”), South Point is the southernmost location in the United States. The nearest land to the south is Antarctica!
The waters off South Point are subject to extremely strong offshore currents. Swimming in this area is not recommended as it can be extremely dangerous and there are no lifeguards in this remote and windblown area.
South Point is thought to be the place that the first Polynesians arrived in the Hawaiian Islands some time between 400 and 800 A.D. Today the South Point region is designated as a National Historic Landmark due to the many archaeological ruins in the area including a heiau (sacred place of worship) and an ancient fishing shrine.
Canoe-mooring holes in the cliffs at South Point are thought to have been carved into the rock more than one thousand years ago. Long ropes were tied to the cliffs so the canoes could drift out to sea during fishing without being swept away in the strong currents.
Today South Point is still a productive fishing location where fisherman cast their lines from the steep lava ledges to catch ulua, red snapper and other fish plentiful in these waters. Also located in the windy South Point Area are two wind farms which generate electricity using windmills.
The Ka Lae Light was originally a small lighthouse built in 1906 and then replaced in 1929 with a steel tower. That tower was replaced in 1972 with a concrete tower standing 32 feet (10 m) and using solar power. Also near the shore at South Point are also some old structures which were used a century ago to help lower cattle and agricultural products into ships.
At the Kaulana Boat Launch near South Point is the beginning of a 2.25 mile (3.6 km) trail that leads to Mahana Beach (Green Sand Beach). A volcanic cone near the beach has a vein of the semi-precious gem mineral called olivine which waves pulverize into green sand.
South Point is reached by following the Mamalahoa Hwy. (Hwy. 11) to just past Mile Marker 70 and then going south on South Point Road for 12 miles (19 km).