The name for the southern tip of the island of Hawaiʻi comes from Ka Lae in the Hawaiian language which means "the point". It is often spelled as one word, Kalae, or called South Point or South Cape. A confluence of ocean currents just offshore makes this spot one of Hawaii's most popular fishing spots. Both red snapper and ulua are plentiful here. Locals fish from the cliffs, some dangling perilously over the edge of steep lava ledges. Swimming here, however, is not recommended, due to the current. In fact, it is called the "Halaea Current", named after a chief who was carried off to his death.
The confluence of currents also means the area is prone to accumulation of marine debris. Most of this coastline is very remote and difficult to access, and is probably the most debris-littered coast in the state, primarily due to its difficult access for debris removal. This debris poses an entanglement threat to wildlife and may refloat during storms. The shoreline is used by Hawaiian monk seals and hatchling hawksbill turtles, both endangered species. Efforts to clean the coastline are organized by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund in conjunction with the NOAA.
Ka Lae is accessible via South Point Road, a 12-mile paved narrow road leading from State Route 11 (Hawaii Belt Road), the turn off being about 7 miles (11 km) west of the village of Nāʻālehu and east of Ocean View, Hawaii. The strong winds cause some trees to become almost horizontal with their branches all growing in the same direction near the ground. The road forks near its end, with one branch leading south to Ka Lae and the other east to Papakolea Beach, known for its green sand.
Ka Lae is the southernmost point in the 50 United States.