Ka‘u is the largest district in Hawaii and the southernmost. Historically, it is important as the most likely landing area for the first Hawaiians and the location of the first settlement. It was the location of some of the last battles for control of Hawaii island, and the decision of Ka‘u’s last ali‘i, Keoua Ku‘ahu‘ula, to agree to a meeting with Kamehameha – which he believed would lead to his death – was a crucial event in the creation of a unified Hawaiian kingdom.
After Western contact, the sugar industry dominated the economy of Ka‘u, and ranching was also important. Although the sugar industry closed in 1996, the rural character has been maintained, and Ka‘u now enjoys some of the longest stretches of undeveloped highway and coastline in the state. The appeal of the district’s natural beauty owes much to the Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, and Ka‘u has a unique location between two segments of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.