One of Hawaii's assets is its location in the tropical latitudes. At just 18.9° above the equator, Ka Lea (or South Cape) is the southernmost point in the United States -- and a National Historic Landmark. Ocean currents collide here so it's a better place for fishing than swimming. A twelve mile dirt road past wind farms provides difficult access to this remote windswept spot. Historically, it's known to be the island's discovery site as an ancient Polynesians built a Heiau (temple) that once stood on this broad promontory.
Not far from South Point on the Kau coast lies the Green Sands and Black Sands Beaches, so named for their unusual color. On an island scattered with sandy beaches, these two are unique and shouldn't be ignored. Punaluu Black Sand Beach is especially striking with its lush lagoon and towering coconut palm trees, known for the sea turtles that sometimes take refuge there. We searched but couldn't find them during our midday visit. Perhaps they come ashore later at sunset.
Located near the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park, the pitch black sands are unmistakably the product of rich lava flows that have been pulverized by the wave action along the shoreline. Strolling along the beach is a strange experience, much like traipsing across a coarse field of Grape Nuts cereal... Crunch! Crunch!
A little further down the road we visited a well-known coffee plantation, the Ka'u Coffee Mill, and toured their operation. Kona coffe is famous and we couldn't pass on the opportunity to learn more about the magic behind the brew.
The essence of good coffee is proper picking, sorting, drying, roasting, brewing -- and of course we learned all the details during the tour. This mill processes the coffee berry to extract the flavors and prepare the beans for worldwide distribution. Through this brief introductory tour, I developed an appreciation of the effort involved to produce a great cup of java that we enjoy every morning.