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Breathe deep and the delicious scent of freshly baked goodies will lead you to Punalu‘u Bake Shop. As America’s “Southernmost Bake Shop” located in rural Kaʻū, this oasis is a popular landmark for visitors and residents on the way to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

“It’s a nice rest stop where people can see our sweetbread and cookie bakery operations,” says General Manager Connie Koi, a 27-year veteran of the bakery. “My favorites are the lilikoi-glazed malasada and traditional sweetbread loaf.”

She says the malasada are the most popular item. “Our guests rave about them,” says Koi. “You should see their faces light up when they see our pastry cases. They simply can’t decide which one to buy, so they end up buying a box full of them. We have a variety of them such as the lilikoi-glazed, traditional taro, mango or guava sugared, apple, strawberry, haupia (coconut cream), guava, pineapple or mango filled, vanilla or chocolate filled, and our rendition of the Boston Cream Pie we call the Bismark—vanilla cream filled topped with a delicious chocolate icing.”

Opening its doors in January 1991, Punalu‘u Bake Shop was the brainchild of former mayor Mufi Hanneman, who was the CEO of former owner C. Brewer & Co. at the time. He wanted to create jobs for people living in the area.

“I love the environment of being out in the country and working in such a beautiful setting that is close to home,” says Koi.

In addition to savoring the baked treats, visitors can also stop by the gift shop and pick up islandmade gifts, crafts and souvenirs such as postcards, coasters, t-shirts, ball caps and more.