There’s no doubt that Hawaii Island is big — it's larger than all the other Hawaiian Islands combined. That impressive size can seem intimidating when you’re flying to Kona or Hilo for the week. But if you care to go a little farther, you’ll find lots to see and things to do on the south end of the Island. Here in the Kau district, the southernmost part of the U.S. (and the midway point of Holoholo Challenge 2022), there are volcanic wonders, tasty food and drink, and arts and culture galore. You’ll be glad you went the extra mile.
Endless outdoor adventures
The fun begins in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The impressive park is home to dozens of unique hiking trails: long or short; paved or rugged; across lava fields or around old-growth trees. Be sure to stop by the visitors center to learn more about the sacred landscapes and get tips about which activity is right for your group. Just east of the park, Punaluu Beach is an memorable stop, where warm black sands attract sleepy honu (turtles). Keep at least 10 feet distance from the endangered species, per law, and check conditions before swimming or snorkeling. Unlike Honomalino gray sand beach, Punaluu has picnic areas and restroom facilities. Next, you might travel from beaches made of crushed lava rock to a thousand-year-old lava tube system. Outside the town of Ocean View, Kula Kai Caverns is a spelunker’s must-stop, where guided expeditions reveal the cave's unique geology and Hawaiian history. Of course, a tour of the Kau district might not be complete without a visit to Kalae, or South Point, the official southernmost point in the United States, a National Historical Landmark with the ruins of ancient heiaus (temples) and fishing shrines.
Big flavors in small towns
Across the Islands, you can find sweet bread loaves from the famous Punaluu Bakery. But locals will tell you that some of the bakery’s best goods are only found at its visitor center in Naalehu, where you can treat yourself to pastries fresh out of the oven and hearty sandwiches made on their signature sweet bread, plus plenty of gifts to bring home. Across the street, Hana Hou Restaurant and the adjoining Taco Tita garner rave reviews for their generous plate lunches, pizzas and burritos. For breakfast on the go (and a morning buzz), fuel up at Coffee Grinds in Ocean View, where the menu is big enough to satisfy every craving. You might be surprised to find authentic Thai cuisine in the remote Kau district, but Ka Lae Garden has all your favorite dishes, from Tom Yum to Pad Kee Mao, and more. Plan ahead for dinner at Kalaekilohana Inn & Retreat, where the menu is the chef’s choice and ingredients are sourced from local markets.
Immersive arts and culture
Not only does Kalaekilohana Inn & Retreat boast exceptional meals, but it’s also a picturesque place to call home for the weekend. Owners Kilohana Domingo and Kenny Joyce create an exceptional space, with four cozy suites that come with personal balconies, walk-in showers and complimentary farm-to-table breakfast. On top of that, Kalaekilohana offers intimate Hawaiian feather arts and weaving classes at a great price. For those who’d rather admire art than create it, set your sights on the talent at Kau Art Gallery in Naalehu. Local painters, woodcarvers, ceramicists and jewelry makers display their creativity in this snug space, with plenty of unique pieces for sale. More crafts can be found at Naalehu Farmers Market, held on Mondays and Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Discover the art of Kau-grown coffee — and why these beans give Kona’s some competition — with a Seed to Cup tour at Kau Coffee Mill in Pahala. Tours cover all stages of the operation, from the fields to processing, capping off with tastings of different roasts.