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Explore Ka‘u

places to see and things to do

Above Pahala

Ka‘u Coffee Farms (5-10 minutes)

Acres upon acres of coffee grow just above Pahala in Moa‘ula and Wood Valley on the slopes of Mauna Loa.

Ka‘u Coffee Mill (5 minutes)

Ka‘u Coffee Mill’s visitor center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. See how coffee is processed and roasted and sip a delicious cup of freshly brewed coffee as you sit at the Koa coffee bar and enjoy original murals by Kathleen Kam.

Wood Valley Temple (5 minutes)

Past the coffee mill, more macadamia nut orchards and cattle ranches, sits a historic Buddhist retreat center and temple that is open to the public.

North of Pahala, along Hwy 11

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (30 minutes)

Halfway through the Ka‘u Desert you’ll enter the park boundaries, and in another 15 minutes you’ll reach the entrance. This part of the park encompasses Kilauea Volcano, one of the world’s safest and most active volcano (it has been erupting since 1983).

See Halema‘uma‘u vent let off steam and gasses that glow at night due to the lava lake below. Walk through rainforests and lava tubes, as well as along steam vents and sulphur banks. Drive down to the coast to see petroglyphs and sea arches.

Make sure to bring a flashlight, proper walking/hiking shoes, a rain jacket and sunscreen.

Volcano Village (30 minutes)

Just a mile past the entrance to the national park you’ll find yourself in an artsy town surrounded by rainforest. There are several places to eat here; it’s a perfect stop for lunch while you visit the park.  

South of Pahala, along Hwy 11

Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach (10 minutes)

A few minutes away lie a beautiful black sand beach, coconut groves and resting sea turtles. Snorkel with the Hawai‘i state fish, called humuhumunukunukuapua‘a, Hawaiian green sea turtles and much more.

Kawa (12 minutes)

Look for a yellow gate on the coastal side of highway 11, park on the paved area in front. A decent walk along a bumpy road will lead you to one of the prime surfing beaches in Ka‘u and one of the most pristine estuaries in the state. Bring water.

Honu‘apo/Whittington Beach Park (13 minutes)

Look for monk seals (the Hawai‘i state mammal) here. Community members and organizations came together to purchase this land for the county, saving it from development. As a result, Ka‘u has the longest undeveloped coastline in the state—and this park has one of the healthiest estuaries on the island.

Na‘alehu Town (15 minutes)

Here you’ll find several of the southernmost eateries in the United States: Punalu‘u Bake Shop (a popular stop to pick up sweetbread and malasadas), Hana Hou (a local favorite with delicious pies) and Shaka bar and restaurant.  Pick up fresh local veggies and crafts from the farmers market at Ace Hardware and Shaka on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

Kalae/South Point (40 minutes)

The southernmost point of the United States, Kalae is thought to be the first landing place of early Polynesians in Hawai‘i. It is a popular destination for fishermen and thrill-seeking cliff jumpers. Make sure you have a local guide show you where to jump.

Green Sands Beach (70-minute hike/4WD)

From Kalae, visitors can hike or take a very bumpy 4WD trail out to Green Sands Beach. Walk down a steep hillside with makeshift stairs and steps to the beach made up of tiny olivine crystals. It is prohibited to remove the sand, but pictures are welcome!

Kahuku Unit of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (40 minutes)

The Kahuku side of the national park is open on Saturdays (except the first Saturday of every month) and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hike or drive around historic ranch land and peer into deep forested pit craters filled with native plants.

Make sure to bring a flashlight, proper walking/hiking shoes, a rain jacket and sunscreen.


Average drive time from Pahala to Kona: 1 hour 45 minutes
Average drive time from Pahala to Hilo: 1 hour 15 minutes