Planning a vacation to Hawaii and want some adventure? Visit South Point on the Big Island!
Here’s everything you need to know about cliff diving South Point Hawaii!
What is Cliff Diving and Is it Safe?
Cliff diving is an extreme sport where participants jump from a natural spot into the water below. It’s one of the most uncomplicated extreme sports available, and a relatively “simple” way to get an adrenaline fix. It requires no special equipment, just the courage to dive and a safe location.
Consider this before cliff diving:
- Is your location legal? Some cliffs around the world mark diving as illegal. Don’t ignore those warnings! Officials know more than you do about the characteristics of the current, the angle of the cliff, and what’s waiting under the water’s surface.
- Is there a way to climb up afterwards? Some dives, like South Point, have ladders to help people climb back to the surface. Others require you to climb your way back up. Ask yourself if your physical fitness matches your guts. If you aren’t able to get yourself back to safe ground you shouldn’t be jumping.
- Can you avoid a Belly Flop? A cliff jump that ends in a belly flop is every diver’s fear! That sucker would hurt. If you decide to jump, try to do so with as good of form as possible. Consider how high the jump is, and if you’ll have enough time to get out of a front flip into a safe position before hitting the water, or if a pencil dive will suffice.
- Is the current strong or calm? A fast current can indicate unsafe waters. Getting caught in swift-moving water can lead you out to sea or straight into the cliff’s rocky edge, so you must ensure the water is safe before jumping in. Ask yourself where is the current heading? Is there danger in that direction? Is there a safety plan in place in case you get caught?
- Do you have a plan in case of emergency? The safest way to cliff dive is to do it in a legal, safe spot with a buddy. The Buddy System worked on elementary school field trips and it still works today. Never do something which could be dangerous without a trusted friend who knows where you are and who to contact in case of emergency!
South Point, Hawai’i
South Point, Hawai’i, is famous for a few different geographical landmarks. It is, as the name implies, the southernmost point of Big Island, Hawai’i. This also makes it the southernmost point of the United States, and visitors can treat themselves to a selfie with a a sign saying so while there. It’s a gorgeous spot for cliff diving, and right next to one of the world’s only green sand beaches.
You can easily make a day of visiting South Point by starting at the cliff jump, going to the Southernmost Point sign, and then hiking to the Green Sand Beach!
Warning: the drive to South Point is beautiful, but there’s not much going on. Just settle in for a couple of hours in the car and enjoy some tunes!
Following some basic directions to get to the South Point parking lot, we joined a handful of other sightseers parked in a small dirt lot to see this famous spot.
One reason South Point is famous is the row of cement platforms down the cliff with metal ladders reaching into the ocean.
So why are the ladders there?
The rocky coast prevents smooth boat drops, so originally the ladders helped fishermen lower their boats in and out of the water. For the past few decades, however, people have used the ladders to conquer their fears and the Pacific by cliff jumping into the water below.
As a true thrill seeker, this was one thing we’d heard about and really wanted to do. I was a little more hesitant to jump, and wanted to check it out before I decided. Ben was more excited.
How it Feels to do the South Point Hawaii Cliff Jump
A small group of travelers were already standing at the platforms. Some taking posed pictures, some admiring the view, other deciding if they were brave enough to jump.
Ben immediately picked the jumpers from the crowd and started a conversation psyching each other up to go. Sure enough, Ben convinced 4 others to jump before he did!
It was fun watching others get themselves ready and stand at position, then jump as far as they could into the 5-story drop amidst a group of onlookers. It’s a pretty gutsy move, considering signs now dot the area warning people not to jump due to recent fatalities and injuries.
To not only choose to jump this distance but to ignore warning signs all in front of strangers who’ve decided your moment is their moment and are filming you? Not for me. But it was for Ben.
By the time Ben was set up to jump I was one of the crowd goading him on. It only seemed fair- he’d been there encouraging everyone else! It was actually kind of fun to cat call at him and tease him for hesitating in front of these new friends. Don’t worry, I was teased right back for not being woman enough to jump myself. What can I say? I’m a rule follower (most of the time) and we had to ensure that at least one of us returns to Whit!
Ben’s cliff jump was over in a second, and he played joyfully in the water before making the climb back up on the metal ladder.
He was out of sight for most of his climb up due to the steep cliff angle, but we could see the ladder shift and move under his weight.
Know what’s harder than jumping? Climbing back up.
Many reported that climbing back up the ladder was harder than getting the nerve to jump in the first place, because it moves and become slippery. After so many years of dangling over salt water it’s also rusted over in places, and Ben was nervous that it may break at any point.
Once at the top he was greeted with high-fives and congratulations from his fellow jumpers and onlookers. I think he enjoyed the attention and was on an adrenaline high, because he said, “You know, it was so fun I think I’ll go again!” and just ran off the edge a second time!
This time I couldn’t control myself. I felt like I was plummeting down, too, and just started screaming. When he emerged a few seconds later I yelled down, “You just gave me a heart attack!” to which everyone around us laughed.
The Best Part of Cliff Jumping
It was exhilarating watching Ben and the others do this incredible thing, but I think my favorite part was how everyone standing around became connected by adventure and empathy.
Before someone started to jump we were all just waiting our turn for a good picture spot, but then we all became one while watching people take their lives into their own hands. It was an incredible shared experience, and we even exchanged e-mail addresses with a few people.
I love how our shared experiences can bring people together!
And as for the cliff dive, I’m glad Ben survived.
What to Know Before Cliff Diving South Point:
- Accounts vary as to how high the jump is. It’s safe to say the jump is between 30-60 feet, with 40 or 50 feet being the most common guess.
- There are signs warning people NOT to jump because there have been jump fatalities. You are jumping at your own risk!
- The coast is very rocky, but the water is at least 20 feet deep so there are no concerns of hitting rocks at the bottom.
- The metal ladders are occasionally maintained, but erode quickly due to the ocean salt water. People have a harder time climbing up the ladders than jumping off the cliff, and often come back up with cuts around the body caused by the rusty ladder rungs.
- Be nice! You may not agree with cliff jumping or you may have opinions on people doing it, but those choosing to jump need a great deal of confidence to do so and they need support, not insults.
- The famous Green Sand Beach and the true southernmost point in the US are right beside the cliff dive, so do a little bit of planning and see those places, too!
Looking for more adventurous things to do in Big Island, Hawaii? Book top-rated island tours with local guides here!
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