Quirky Attraction: Southernmost Point in the United States (Hawaii)

kalae hawaii sign

The Southernmost Point in the United States (Hawaii)
Location: Naalehu, HI (S. Point Rd.)
When to visit: Daylight hours
Cost: Free
Time needed: 15-60 minutes
Website: wikipedia.org/wiki/Ka_Lae (unofficial)
Further reading: Hawaii: The Big Island Guidebook (Amazon)

When people think of the southernmost point in the United States, they usually think of the famous Southernmost Point in Key West, Florida.

But that’s only the most southern point in the continental U.S. The country’s real southernmost point sits at the very bottom of the Big Island of Hawaii!

Known as Ka Lae or South Point, the southernmost point can be reached by a single road, South Point Rd., that extends off Mamalahoa Highway. Here’s what you’ll see if you visit!

Getting to the Southernmost Point in Hawaii

Appropriately, Ka Lae (sometimes just spelled Kalae) translates as “the point.” It takes a bit of effort to get there.

The drive from Kona Airport is 71 miles and about 2 hours. The drive from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is about 50 miles and 1 hour.

It’s a 10-mile drive from the Mamalahoa Highway to Ka Lae. To get there, put South Point Cliff Dive, Ka Lae, or South Point Park into your GPS.

Unlike Key West’s southernmost point, there’s no official marker or signage here to designate the exact spot of the southernmost piece of land. There’s a series of lava rocks here, and somewhere amongst them is the southernmost spot.

southernmost point in hawaii

Sights Near the Ka Lae Cliffs

On the drive to the southernmost point, you’ll pass a bunch of homes and farms. Look, I found the southernmost cows in the United States!

southernmost cows

Many of the trees stand sideways because of the constant breeze off the ocean.

wind blown trees - southernmost point in Hawaii
Look at all the wind-blown trees near the southernmost point in Hawaii!

Not far from Kalae is Papakōlea Green Sand Beach, one of a handful of green sand beaches in the world. There’s no road that will take you there, however.

You can drive down toward the southernmost point and then hike over to see the green sand. The trek is almost 3 miles each way.

south point kalae

The other big attraction here is the cliff diving. On calm days, locals will gather and plunge 40 feet from the rocks into the ocean.

There’s a ladder attached to the hillside so jumpers can get back up. The signs state that cliff jumping is prohibited, but nobody seems to be enforcing that rule.

cliff diving

We would never endorse breaking the law. But it was interesting watching all the folks who decided to take the leap.

cliff jumping

I wasn’t going to participate in the cliff jumping. That’s a little too risky for my taste. But watching it was fascinating.

You’ll spend anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes at the southernmost point, depending on how much of the diving you care to watch.

Some folks also go fishing in this area, since it’s a prime area for red snapper, giant kingfish, and others.

fishing cliff

Kalae is believed to be the spot where Polynesians first landed on Hawaii hundreds of years ago, although no one knows for certain.

The spot was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

So Ka Lae’s southernmost point may not be as popular with tourists as the one in Key West, but that’s a good thing. This one hasn’t been developed and promoted to visitors at all. It’s a good place for road trippers who want to see a geographically significant piece of land.

While you’re on the Big Island, check out the petroglyphs at Volcanoes NP and the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo. We also have a guide about how to split your time between Hilo and Kona.

You may also want to consider a helicopter tour over a volcano. That’s one of the coolest things you can do on the island!

Would you prefer to visit the southernmost point in Hawaii or the one in Key West?