Sunday, June 5, 2011

Places we love: South Point

South Point is very famous and shows up in all the tourist literature. The thing is, it’s best to know a little bit about it before you decide to go. It’s not for everyone. We were there recently and as we headed out we ran into a couple who asked us if it was worth it. Chances are, if you have to ask this question, it’s not.

We LOVE South Point. It is one of our favorite places on the island. It is often extremely windy and is known for having extraordinarily clean air. The weather is changeable there, it can be sunny and bright enough to hurt the eyes and burn the skin, and it can also be so stormy you’re likely to be pelted with sideways-flying cold rain. The ocean is rough here, and crashes into the rocky shoreline. The trail to the beach is rough and rocky and runs through cattle pasture. Structures look worn and weather-beaten. It can seem a lonely, barren, isolated place. But I love this about it. It is gorgeous in its wildness.

When you drive south towards the tip of the island from Luana Inn you will pass through several microclimates. There are pockets of rain and green, and there are black desolate stretches of lava rock. The sky can be leaden or brilliant-blue. You reach the turn-off for South Point about forty-five minutes south from here, and then you drive South Point Road out another twenty minutes or so to the end of the road. This road is paved and slow, bordered by some homes, farms, and a wind farm. There are many broad fields and pastures, and lonely stretches of hearty grasses. When you get to the end of the road at the ocean, you park and walk. From here you walk about an hour and a half out the flat, rocky trail along the shore to the Green Sand beach. The beach is named for the olivine deposits that make it look velvety-green.

The hike is not hard, it just takes a little while. The trail is pretty flat and you can sometimes catch a ride with folks who cross it in trucks. There are some huge rocks and it’s rutted and worn so it’s not a good idea to take a rental car down it. You will hear birdsong and wind in the dry grasses, waves crashing, and perhaps the crash of a whale smacking its tail during whale-season. We’ve noticed that they sometimes congregate down here where they’re not harassed by boats. There are no hills nearby so you can see the sky forever. The sun can be so shiny-bright it can hurt. Everything feels clean and extra-bright down here, fresh and raw.

The Green Sand beach glints and shines in the sun. It looks like the result of a huge back hoe coming in and scooping a chunk out of the shore. You have to walk around behind the beach and climb down the back to get to it. (There used to be a ladder.) The water is rough here. You may see local kids playing here, but I don’t think I’d give it a try unless I was extremely comfortable in rough ocean water.

The thing about South Point and the Green Sand beach is that it is so gosh-darned gorgeous. It’s so clean and rough and raw and lots of our guests love this kind of thing. This describes so much of the Big Island, really: untouched, new, overwhelming in its true colors and silence and rawness. You will probably leave an afternoon of hiking at South Point feeling refreshed and very alive.

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