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Southern Accents: Exploring the Big Island's remote South Point



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Kalalea Heiau and, just beyond it, Ka Lae's marine craft light tower.

For 15 minutes this spring I was the southernmost person in the United States.

It happened near the beginning of my morning exploring the near-flat swath of dry, wildly windswept coastal grasslands and dirt dunes surrounding Ka Lae, the geographic southernmost point of the Big Island and the Hawaiian Islands. I was standing on a small lava-rock outcropping jutting out into the blue Pacific, safely distant from tide pools replenished by an endless march of angry, crashing waves. No one was waiting in line to be the next southernmost person in the U.S.

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The crystalline waters off of Ka Lae's sea cliffs.

The nearest human souls to me were a trio of shoreline fishermen several hundred yards away, perched on sea cliffs facing the calmer, crystalline waters of Ka Lae’s west side. They were inhaling Spam, teri-beef and fried chicken from their bento lunches while waiting for fish to bite. Beyond them, a dozen or so others—judging by their rental cars, probably first-time Ka Lae visitors like myself—gazed wide-eyed at the odd-for-Hawaii, prairielike landscape surrounding them.

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The prairielike landscape of Ka Lae.

The bragging rights that come with being as far south as anyone can get in the U.S was so geeky cool, I immediately blasted hastily shot iPhone photos to friends back in Honolulu and our HAWAII Magazine Facebook page.

“Wish you were here,” and all that.

The moment duly captured, the iPhone was returned to my backpack soon enough, replaced in my hand by my black notebook. The distinction of being the southernmost person wasn’t the only reason I’d come to Ka Lae.



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