Last year on Matt’s and my road trip to Key West, Florida we were sure to make a pit stop at the Southernmost point of the Continental U.S. and even though it was silly and touristy, it was a silly and touristy moment we waited in life for and share a cute, touristy memory of. So, when we found out that the southernmost point of the U.S. [in an actual state] is on the Big Island of Hawai’i we knew that we had to play Southernmost Tourists again!
Matt + me in Key West last summer!
⋙ Ka Lae – The Southernmost Point of U.S. ⋘
Driving down to Ka Lae you pass driveways covered in signs to sample things from pineapples to coffee to chocolates among other tasty treats. We resisted the temptation to sample anything and carried on to the Southernmost tip of any state in the U.S.
Now, I have a disclaimer for the next two paragraphs – I wrote these just after visiting this site. While we were there we saw (which you’ll read about shortly) one person who said he had jumped in one spot and we watched one person jump into the water from the cliff, and that is all. We saw the cliff from our limited perspective, but upon coming home I was showing my parents videos of where we were and asked if they would’ve jumped. It was then that I saw something that changed my mind and made me regret the feelings below.
When we reached the southernmost point we saw a couple of things. First, a whole in the rock that you could climb a small way down into, but to me it looked like a death trap as water from the tide flows in and sucks back out. There was a small crowd of people staring into it as a kid (I say kid, realistically he was probably only a few years younger than me) walked up and said he had just jumped in, swam through the caves under the edge of the island and came up a ladder on the coast. My first thought was, ‘I’m sorry, what?’ He was so totally serious though and I looked at Matt, feeling old and extremely unadventurous and said, “If I were his parents I would be piiiiissed.” I didn’t even like Matt getting too close to the edge. Ha!
The second thing we saw, after marveling at the idea of that we walked a few steps closer to the edge of was a wooden platform. This platform wasn’t just the Southernmost point, it was also, despite many signs warning against it, a jumping off point where we watched a couple of brave souls leap from the edge and into the water. This I was actually a bit tempted by, but Matt was not okay with it, and that gave me a great excuse to chicken out. The heights don’t bother me so the 40 ft jump wasn’t an issue, but I’m not the biggest fan of the ocean, especially here where it’s notorious for some insanely strong currents – heck, I was told that the point is named after a chief who was swept away to his death by these waters… no thank you.
Jumpers can climb back up this ladder after jumping into the water.
Here’s the video that made me change my mind:
Although, there are still warnings about jumping here, which you do at your own risk, if I would have known that the rock we were standing on was essentially the top of a cave, I would’ve totally jumped! Matt and I have both decided we are definitely going to jump next time we are there. From our angle, and not talking to anyone who had jumped, we had no idea that there wasn’t a cliff to get slammed into below us! So, if you have the feelings I mentioned above while standing at the edge, I hope that maybe seeing this video (which kinda bums me out to share because I hate the idea of people bringing drones everywhere) will help you make a more educated decision on whether jumping is something you would want to do or not.
Ka Lea is apparently also a great spot for fishing, so you can find people casting off the top of the cliff, but I can also attest to it just being fun to stand on the southern most point of a state and be entertained by all the daredevils.
⋙Papakōlea Beach – The Green Sand Beach ⋘
I had heard of white sand beaches and black sand beaches, but I hadn’t heard of a green sand beach before. That’s probably because there are only a grand total of FOUR green sand beaches in the ENTIRE WORLD! Isn’t that crazy?! I was already incredibly intrigued just from the color, but then when I found out it was so very rare, I just had to visit! Upon more research I found out that you could either walk 6 miles roundtrip, take your own 4wheel drive vehicle or pay $15 per person to get a ride to and from the beach ($10 one way). Being the budget travelers and hiking lovers that we are we chose to walk. The path isn’t one set path, there are the many, many paths that the 4wheel drive vehicles created on the way down. However, even though there are several paths they all take you to the same place.
This hike was much different than I thought it was going to be. I thought we would be following a sandy shore along the way, but even though it is near the coast it isn’t the typical beach look. I just was expecting that because of the photos I had seen of the green sand beach.
Even without the sands, it was a beautiful walk.
Be sure to wear a hat and sunglasses because the dirt can and will blow up all over you. More than anything, I would highly recommend protecting your eyes.
After what felt like a while (we had read online that it was 5 miles round trip, but when we get back we discovered that it was actually 6 miles) when suddenly we came upon this bay and the green sand beach. It is actually inside a collapsed cinder cone! Isn’t that cool?!
We made our way to the top of the cliff leading down on to the beach and the path down was actually a lot easier than it looked from afar.
We finally made it! I’m so glad that we walked because it felt like an awesome reward for the hike. Plus, what a way to relax before heading back to our car? Not to mention that we saved $30 by hiking!
The cliffs surrounding are unique and beautiful as well, but let’s talk about the main attraction – that beautiful green sand! The green color comes from the mineral olivine, which is the main mineral in the gemstone green peridot. Because it’s really like a stone crumbled the sand sparkles and it is beautiful! I don’t think that photos really do justice to how olive-green it is in real life. It’s really special to see this natural phenomenon that can only be found three other places in the world.
note: you’re not supposed to take any of this sand off the beach
When Matt and I did this hike, like I said we skirted the edge of the island, which I think made our round trip hike a little more than 6 miles, but if you’re hiking this formation is what you want to get to because it’s the collapsed cinder cone that encloses the beach. Above was what it looked like the first time we noticed it (It looks like a formation in the middle of the ground, doesn’t it?) and the photo below is a bit more detail of the cinder cone.
I would DEFINITELY recommend visiting both of these places when taking a trip to the Big Island. I loved seeing two pretty incredibly unique places on Hawai’i.
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