If you want to get into a lively discussion with a fellow traveler, ask where the southernmost part of the USA is located. Many areas claim this special recognition, but at 19 degrees latitude, South Point beach on the Big Island takes the pineapple. Known as Ka Lae, it’s a National Historic Landmark District commerates the arrival of the Polynesians many centuries ago and it is believed they were the first Hawaiian settlers. Highway 11 is the main road from either Kona or Hilo to the southern part of the island. Depending on the route, designated scenic vistas of the ocean are along the two lane road or near the National Volcano Park and the black sand beach with green sea turtles. Once reaching Ka Lae, spot the turn off for Southern Point Road and drive 12 miles to the end of the road where the vast ocean takes over. Just imagine the fishermen and families living near the treacherous cliff, known for strong winds and rough ocean waters below. Worthy to see is their historical sacred place of worship and to the west, the green sand beach. Modern times have brought a windmill farm which generates electricity but it’s the ancient Hawaiian times that draws the onlookers.
A green sand beach west of South Point-photo courtesy of David J Laporte
On the way to or after a trek to the southern point, a delightful place to buy breads, cookies and sandwiches is the Punalu’u Bake Shop in Na’alehu. Picnic tables, a gazebo, small waterfall and music add to the ambiance of this popular planation style destination. Portuguese sugar workers made their native sweetbread back in the day and it’s still so popular, the bakery works day and night to keep up with the demand. Taro rolls, guava bread, mac nut sweet bread, and short bread cookies fill the senses. Although widely sold in grocery stores, coming to the bakery is a treat. Beautiful surroundings and heavenly aroma fill the tropical air. I’ve been known to call ahead and have Taro rolls put on hold, and once in line to purchase, add coconut bread and a fresh malasada donut.
Punalu’u Bakery-photo courtesy of M’Liss Hinshaw
Too tired to drive anymore? Stay at nearby Patty’s Motel with restful cabins and dine at Hana Hou Restaurant on property. Known for homemade pies and serving all three meals, I can attest to the hogzilla burrito tasting delicious. Not surprisingly, it is referred to as the southernmost restaurant in the USA.
The hogzilla burrito at Hana Hou Restaurant-photo courtesy of M’Liss Hinshaw
Hana Hou Restaurant at Patty’s Motel photo courtesy of M’Liss Hinshaw
Punalu’u Bake Shop Visitor Center
Route 11 Na`alehu (Big Island)
Toll Free Phone: 1-866-366-3501
Local Phone: (808) 929-7343