Kau, Big Island

Hawaii Island’s southernmost region is vast, rural and remote. Kau seems almost untouched by modern civilization except around the small communities of Naalehu and Pahala. In this area you’ll discover things have moved along at a slow pace all their own.

Home to most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, this is a place of natural wonders where you can witness the growth of the Big Island right before your eyes. Other major sights in Kau include Ka Lae, known as South Point, the southernmost point in the United States. Punaluu Black Sand Beach is one of Hawaii’s most well known black sand beaches. In the upcountry Kau Desert within the boundaries of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park you’ll find footprints of long-ago warriors trapped in volcanic ash, a result of one of Kilauea’s rare explosive volcanic eruptions. 

Map of Hawaii Big Island

Explore Big Island by region: HiloHamakua CoastNorth KohalaKohala CoastKonaPuna.

Download Tour Map of Hawaii (Big Island)

Island Highlights

- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Home to Kilauea Volcano, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
- Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona): Lively, historic gathering place in the heart of Kona.
- Hilo: Home to botanical gardens, waterfalls and off-the-beaten-path local shops and restaurants.
- Waimea: Experience the cool uplands of paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country.
- Holualoa: Visit coffee country and taste why 100% Kona coffee is so famous.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Because of constant volcanic activity, you'll find white sands, green sands and black sands on Hawaii Island. Located on the southeastern Kau coast, Punaluu Black Sand Beach is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii.

Black Sand Beach's jet black shores are an unforgettable sight. Coconut palms fringe the upper edge of sand and you may also discover large honu, or Hawaiian Green Sea turtles, basking on the beach. Although it may be tempting, do not touch these protected turtles and do not remove any black sand from the beach.

Location: South of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube)

Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube

Take a adventurous walk in the dark through Nahuku, known as the Thurston Lava Tube, a 500-year old lava cave located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Lava caves like this are formed when a river of lava gradually builds solid walls and a ceiling. When the lava flow stops and the last of it passes downhill, a cave is formed. These caves can be a few feet high and only yards long, or they can stretch for miles with high ceilings.

There are several lava tubes you can visit around the island but Nahuku is the most easily accessible and is a fantastic example of a massive lava cave.

Location: Inside the boundaries of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Ka Lae (South Point)

Ka Lae South Point

Be sure to visit the southern cliffs of Hawaii Island in the Kau region and gaze out at the endless Pacific Ocean. Can you believe there’s nothing but deep-blue ocean between the spot you’re standing on and Antarctica? That’s because you're at Ka Lae, also known as South Point or simply “The Point,” the southern most point in the United States.

It is believed that the first Polynesians to arrive in the Hawaiian Islands disembarked here at Ka Lae somewhere between 400 and 800 A.D. With the ruins of heiau (temples), fishing shrines and other cultural vestiges found here its no wonder why this entire southern tip has been registered as a National Historical Landmark.

Location: At the Southernmost tip of Hawaii Island.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

This is the home of Kilauea volcano, one of the most active volcanoes on earth. The chance to witness the primal process of creation and destruction make this park one of the most popular visitor attraction in Hawaii and a sacred place for Native Hawaiians.

Here you'll find 150 miles of hiking trails through volcanic craters, scalded deserts and rainforests as well as a museum, petroglyphs, a walk-in lava tube and two active volcanoes: Maunaloa, which last erupted in 1984 and Kilauea which has been erupting since January 3rd, 1983.

Location: 45 minutes (30 miles) south west of Hilo.

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Memberships and Certification

 Hawaii Tourism Authority

Certified Hawaii Tourism Authority 'Destination Expert'.

A member of Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

 Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau

Acknowledgements & Credits


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Island Guides: Tips & Fun Things To Do