Pahala Things To Do
Things to Do near Pahala Town on Big Island
A small town called Pahala, the northernmost town of the Ka’u area, was once a site of Hawaii’s large sugar cane plantation. Pahala is also the largest town in the region, offering the amenities that stir the interest of many locals. Today, Pahala is much smaller than it used to be but still offers a beautiful oasis for visitors looking to explore the lush landscape and powerful volcano scenery.
Directions to Pahala
Hilo International Airport is the ideal airport to fly into when planning a visit to the Big Island’s southern and eastern side, including Pahala. To get to Pahala, drive south on Hawaii Belt Road (Highway 11) from Hilo International Airport, and drive for just over 50 miles. At this point, turn right onto Kamani Street to officially start your exploration of Pahala!
Kona International Airport is another option, though it is further from Pahala than the airport in Hilo. Regardless of where you start, the Hawaii Belt Road is the perfect road to take you through all the charming, picturesque towns along the coastline of Hawaii’s Big Island.
Continuing with your trip, take the Kaalaiki Road to Na’alehu. This stunning drive is a must-see if you have time to spare. The road takes travelers through the mountains above both towns, allowing you to get aerial views of the towns and steep valleys in the Hawaiian mountain range. You won’t be able to resist pulling out your camera!
Brief History of Pahala
The quiet town of Pahala was once larger than it is now. Back when Hawaii’s largest industry was sugar cane production, Pahala was home to a sugar cane plantation. It had direct access to water and was among many sugar cane fields, making it an ideal spot. For over 150 years, Hawaii thrived on the industry of sugar cane production before falling prices led plantations all around the Big Island to close, migrating workers to the still-open camp in Pahala. Eventually, the steep prices that Hawaii continued to charge for sugar cane led the plantation to close in 1996 due to a lack of worldwide demand.
Back in the sugar cane days, Pahala consisted of a manager’s house and camps for workers. These camps were typically self-sufficient and were a center of several plantation dwellings, small stores, and even had small services like a blacksmith in the camp. As the town continued to grow in the 1940s, the Pahala Theater was built.
Pahala’s name is also derived from the town’s sugar cane plantation days. During the early days of the industry in what is now Pahala, workers would fill cracks found in the sugar cane fields with Hala leaves and burn them. This led to the name Pahala, which means “ashes from the Hala leaf.”
Pahala is also the site of the Big Island’s oldest public school, established in 1881. It serves the entire Ka'u region, even students who travel several hours each day to attend.
After the sugar cane industry came to a close in Hawaii, Pahala and other plantation towns began to diversify their industries. Pahala has since converted old sugar cane fields into Macadamia nut fields, which grow very well in the warm, tropical climate around the town. Pahala is also home to a growing coffee farm industry, gaining a reputation among the coffee-producing towns along the Big Island. Some other workers began working in the hospitality industry.
The town while small is the largest town in Ka’u. Historic manager homes still exist and have been restored by dedicated locals who have found success working in other industries in the area. Pahala has a few casual restaurants, schools, a small shopping center, a hospital, and a few churches. These amenities bring many locals from surrounding towns to Pahala.
Weather in Pahala
The climate in Pahala is warmer than towns in neighboring regions. In the late spring and summer months, the town can experience high temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, only dipping to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months. The town is also less rainy than some other towns. For this reason, many visitors to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park stay in Pahala, rather than Volcano, since it is warmer in the Ka’u region town.
Punaluu Black Sand Beach
Black sand is one of Hawaii’s most unique natural sights to see. Punaluu Black Sand Beach is a result of the region's volcanic activity and is one of the Big Island's most popular black sand beaches. Many visitors and locals enjoy Punaluu Black Sand Beach, but you'll see large Hawaiian green sea turtles ("Honu") also enjoying what the beach has to offer.
Punaluu Black Sand Beach is just under 10 minutes from the heart of Pahala. Take the Hawaii Belt Road (Highway 11) south for just under 6 miles. Then, turn left on Punaluu Road, which leads you directly to the stunning and unusual black sand beach.
Ka'u Coffee Mill
Ka'u Coffee Mill is a must-see in the Ka’u region when visiting Pahala. The coffee plantation offers a tour of their “Seed to Cup” process, so you can learn all about their award-winning process. Make sure you try Ka'u Coffee Mill’s tasty coffee and Buzz Berries!
Stop for a cup of authentic Hawaiian coffee at the local Ka'u Coffee Mill, which is located just north of Pahala. To get there, take Pikake Street and continue along onto Wood Valley Road. After 1.6 miles, the Ka'u Coffee Mill will be there to greet you with plenty of coffee tours and samplings.
Wood Valley Temple - Nechung Dorje Drayang Ling
The Wood Valley Temple is a Buddhist temple, which is also a retreat destination that offers a peaceful escape amidst the Big Island's relaxing tropical surroundings. While there is the option to stay at the Wood Valley Temple's guest house, you can stop by for a day trip. You can participate in events and teachings about Buddhism and the Nechung Monastery as well.
The Wood Valley Temple is located north of Pahala by only 8 minutes of driving. To get to Wood Valley Temple, head north on Wood Valley Road for 3.8 miles, at which point the intriguing, historic attraction will be on the right.
Make Pahala a stop on your Hawaii getaway!