Ka'u is a land district within the County of Hawaii. On the mainland, counties are often the smallest official land division with towns being inside the counties, but on my island of Hawaii (the whole island in its entirety is considered to be one county) the island is divided into districts. There are no legal towns, though unincorporated towns do exist. So there is only one mayor, the mayor of the County of Hawaii. This island is big...hey it's not nicknamed Big Island for nothing! It's been divided into sections long before westerners arrived, with Ka'u being one of them. Ka'u is the biggest district in square miles, though not population. I don't know the population figure off the top of my head, but there's not a lot of people living here.
Ka'u sports a reputation for having "the southernmost" of just about everything in the United States. Tourists will see signs for the southernmost restaurant, beer, cafe, B&B, farmers' market, ranch, etc. You name it and somebody is sure to be claiming it's the southernmost.
Ka'u also has a reputation for its people as a whole being a bit more independent as far as the government is concerned. Anytime there's a fuss going on between the populace and the government, Ka'u residents are quick to remind anyone listening that Ka'u was never conquered, meaning conquered by King Kamehameha. It's a boast of independence, of being subjucated but not really conquered. The Ka'u peoples also had a reputation in ancient times of having overly demanding leaders die from accidents. Present day locals haven't forgotten. Perhaps the mayor aught to be nervous.
Ka'u residents, particularly those who have lived here for several years or born here, strongly want to maintain the status quo. They are leery of changes, especially those that involve hotels, tourist traps of any kind, industry of any sort. They have effectively kept out numerous resort attempts, a space port, a prison, a biofuel plant, the development of a new village, and the reorganization of an existing subdivision. They've blocked the county from cutting down trees in the highway right of way going through a small town in order for the county to install a sidewalk, which the locals felt was not needed nor wanted. "Keep Ka'u Ka'u" is an oft heard rallying cry anytime some new developer rears his head.
The majority of the district is rural and zoned agricultural. There are several beef cattle ranches (the dairy closed a few years back), with some of the operations being quite large. Numerous small flocks of sheep or goats. Large tracts planted in macadamia nuts. Same for eucalyptus plantations. A few good sized areas in coffee. A few orchards producing citrus and mangos. And lots of micro plantings of just about everything. Lettuce farms. A CSA. A tea farm. Several small truck farms. A few bee keepers. But sugar cane is gone, relegated to people's backyards.
Ka'u not completely rural, wide open spaces. It hosts a few small towns and several subdivisions, one of which is the largest in the US......though not the southernmost. ;) Though rural, there are actually very few farmers or ranchers. Most of the residents just opt to live in this rather remote spot. How remote? Figure on close to a one or two hour car ride to either Kona or Hilo depending upon where one lives. Kona or Hilo is where the real shopping and business is.
The entire district exists on the slopes of two volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Ka'u runs from the ocean coast (makai) to the top of Mauna Loa (mauka). So the terrain is highly varied, as is the flora and fauna.
On future posts I'd like to delve deeper into my impression of this wonderful area.
Photo-- Halema'uma'u, the summit crater of Kilauea volcano, with the recent eruption crater.
A closer look down the throat of the volcano, courtesy of Volcanoes National Park Observatory camera.