When you leave the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you will be turning to the left to continue your circle the island drive. Just a few miles down the road, if you turn right at the sign that directs you to the golf course, you will find the Volcano Winery.
I doubt that this little winery will ever make the top 20 of wineries to visit, but its a nice break and the wines are pretty good and better yet, affordable. If nothing else, you may want to consider a bottle or two as gifts, rather than the anticipated pineapple you might have been considering!
About 30 minutes further along Hwy 19 (aka Mamalahoa Hwy), you will come to Punaluu Beach Park, black sand beach. Its just a short mile off the highway and odds are excellent that you will also be able to view some Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles sunning themselves on the black sand or feeding in the shallows.
Punaluu Beach State Park, Big Island
Endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle
Its a nice place for a picnic, but make sure you bring lunch with you because you won’t find any food vendors in the area. If a picnic fits in your timeline, you may want to plan on stopping at Pahala, a small town about 6 miles back towards the Volcanoes National Park, to pick up some sandwiches or something.
Further along Hwy 19, you will come to the town of Naalehu, “The Southernmost Community in the USA, is their claim to fame. You will also find the Punaluu Bakery…it got its start at Punaluu, but moved to Naalehu years ago. You may have even seen some of their baked goods, particularly their sweetbreads, in stores around the island. My favorites are the regular and guava flavored sweetbreads.
About 15 minutes further along and you will come to the turn off that will take you down to the coast at Ka Lae (aka South Point). Its about 8 miles down and most of it through some pretty barren, windswept grasslands.
You have now reached THE southernmost point of the US! Next stop…Antarctica! I have an article located elsewhere on this blog on South Point, so I’ll leave this description brief. I will mention that Papakolea, the green sand beach is located nearby, requiring a 4.5 mile rd-trp hike to get there, so you want to make sure you’ve planned ahead and brought water, sunscreen, and a hat, if you plan on going.
South Point looking towards the northwest, Big Island
Papakolea (Green Sand) Beach, Big Island, Hawaii
Once back on Hwy 19 and headed back northward, you have about an hour’s drive until you reach Kailua-Kona. This drive includes some of the twistiest and narrowest roads you have been on so far. Locals will try to blow-by you as you maintain the 35 mph speed limit, but its much safer to go slow, especially when you’re not familiar with the roads.
There are places to stop and visit along the way as you get closer to Kailua-Kona; coffee outlets, Puuhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge), and I’ll be posting another article with more things to see and do in the Kona area in the near future.
As you can see, its a huge mistake to try and make this trip in one-day! I would encourage you to plan on spending at least a full-day exploring the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park! There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world!
As a matter of fact, if you only visited ONE PLACE on your entire visit to Hawaii…this should probably be it. Think about it. Where else can you see an active volcano/lava flow, lush tropical rainforests, innumerable birds found nowhere else on earth, Hawaiian petroglyphs, and find hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging, all in one locale?
I also strongly suggest you visit my website at www.myhawaiionline.com to learn more about the activities and places to go, as well as find links to several of the more popular ones.