Down along the western slopes of mighty Mauna Loa, the Kau district goes peacefully about business, thus far unaffected by the recent lava flows that have flooded the eastern side of the mountain. Coastal grasses blow with the winds along this southernmost stretch of coast, where green crystal and black sand beaches beckon. While Kau's attractions are not as catchy as the lava eruptions in neighboring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the dedicated explorer will find solitude and scenery equal to that of other, more touristy parts of the island.
Visit the serene Tibetan Buddhist temple just off of Highway 11 for a spiritual moment before hitting the beach. Watch for turtles at Punaluu Beach County Park and enjoy some of this coast's safe swimming before following the road west through monkeypod trees in Naalehu.
Regular vehicles can use South Point Road to reach Ka Lae (South Point), but to reach beaches to the east 4WD or a good pair of walking shoes is required. Locals fish from the point, while visitors have a look out to sea from this, the southernmost point in the U.S., then head for Green Sand Beach. Named for the colored olivine in the lava flows that created this beach it's a bit of a hike to reach and swimming conditions are not ideal, but this may be your only chance to see a an army-green beach.
Make a stop at the Kula Kai Caverns for a tour of a twisted underground lava tube, though you'll need a guide to explore some of the 13-miles of tunnels.
The Kau district covers close to 80 miles of coast, south of Kailua-Kona and due west of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.