Where is the southernmost point in the U.S.? You might say Key West, Florida, where an anchored concrete buoy (the Southernmost Point Buoy) marks the spot. But this roadside attraction actually marks the southernmost point in the continental United States. To find the real southernmost point in the U.S. you have to travel across the country, and the Pacific Ocean, to Ka Lae on Big Island, Hawaii.
Ka Lae (which in Hawaiian means “the point”) is the southernmost tip of the Big Island, of Hawaii, and of the 50 states. Also known as South Point, it’s an essential stop on a Big Island road trip for beautiful Pacific Ocean views and bragging rights.
Registered as a National Historic Landmark District, KaLae (under the name South Point Complex) is believed to be the area of the first Hawaiian settlement, where Polynesians first landed in the islands on their way from Tahiti as early as 750 A.D.
The area is known for its great fishing opportunities, breathtaking landscapes of ocean water and coastal cliffs, and strong currents and winds. This is great for the nearby Tawhiri Power’s wind farm, but a detriment for swimmers.
Warning signs on site heed caution for would-be dippers and divers… though many visitors ignore the cautions and go cliff jumping at their own risk. A deadly current, known as Halaea Current after a swimmer who didn’t listen to the warnings, is strong and can drag swimmers out into the great waters.
How do you get to Ka Lae South Point?
To get to Ka Lae, take Route 11 (Mamalahoa Highway) and turn south on South Point Road. From there it is about 11 miles to the visitor parking lot, follow the signs for Ka Lae/South Point. If you’re using a GPS or Google Maps on your phone, plug in South Point Park, Ka Lae, or South Point Heiau.
What else to do in the area:
- View the sacred Kalalea Heiau fishing shrine and cultural relics along the coastline.
- While visiting the Southernmost tip of the United States, the closest towns to explore are Nāʻālehu (Naalehu), Pahala, and Ocean View.
- Papakōlea Green Sand Beach is one of two green sand beaches in the United States and features green crystal sand in a 49,000 year old cinder cone made from the Mauna Loa volcano.
- Punaluu Bake Shop and Visitor Center is known as the “Southernmost Bakery in the USA” is a fun stop for gifts, coffee, local delicacies, and their famous Hawaiian Sweetbread.
- Eat at Hana Hou Restaurant, the Southernmost restaurant in the U.S.A., which features Hawaiian-style comfort food.
More photos of Ka Lae, the Southernmost Point in the U.S., on Big Island, Hawaii:
Ka Lae, the Southernmost Point in the U.S., on Big Island, Hawaii
Location: Kalae, Hawaii 96772
Cost: Free to See