Hiking on the Big Island: Pololu Valley

Last Updated on April 12, 2019 by Janet Frost

Hawaii’s Big Island has been on our minds and in the news this year. We have watched volcanic eruptions and marauding hurricanes with fascination and dread. But this rugged and diverse island will stand strong. The terrain of Hawaii, the Big Island, ranges from silky black beaches to  plunging rocky cliffs, from lush green rainforests to lunarlike lava fields. Add to this diversity two volcanoes and a peak with elevation of 13,000ft and you have an amazing playground for nature lovers. Without question, hiking on the Big Island is spectacular.

Let’s Go Learn Things about the Big Island of Hawaii…

Quintessential Hawaii

On the northeast tip of The Big Island of Hawaii sits one of my favorite beaches. This silky black sand beach protected by the lush Jurassic Park setting stole my heart. Pololu Valley is nestled snugly against the edge of the majestic Kohala Forest.

Located at the veritable end of the road  (State Hwy 270) the official lookout provides a view of rippling  earth-folds cascading down to a deep blue sea.

Pololu Valley Lookout

From the top of the ridge at the lookout you can catch a small glimpse of the tantalizing black sand beach down in the valley of the Pololu stream.

The lookout is listed in the guidebooks as a spectacular vista, assuming that many would be content with the view alone.  But as we passed several multi-generational groups looking over the edge longingly, I knew it would be a very frustrating situation to forego the hike down.

Hiking the Pololu Valley Trail

We had come to this slice of paradise with the intention of hiking down to the valley floor.  The hike to the beach is only about ½ a mile down and a manageable hike, but it is a steep trail that requires concentration on the way down, endurance on the way back up and would be treacherous if the conditions were wet.   With each twist and switch back, the ability to concentrate was interrupted by another spectacular view and photo-op. The aforementioned lush valley, beckoning black sand and intensely blue crashing ocean continually stopped us in our descent.  

The Enchanted Pololu Valley

Once down in the valley, you are mesmerized by the peaceful and almost spiritual setting.   The valley and stream stretch placidly to the south seeming to lead into a land that time forgot. 

To the north, the ocean pulls your attention from the tranquil valley.  As you approach the beach, you can see evidence of  generations of hikers that have gone before.  There is a tree swing and spot for a bonfire.

Delicately balanced hiker’s cairns dot the black sand.  The rippling earth-folds from this vantage point are almost as overpowering as the surf.  It is a sublime spot for a rest and picnic. 

hiking on the Big Island
Rock Cairn

The surf has significant riptides and swimming is not recommended. Because of the slightly daunting trail down, the beach is sparsely populated. After crossing the stream along the beach  you will connect with the remainder of the  Awini Trail, another opportunity for hiking on the Big Island. This trail takes you over the ridge to the Honokane Nui viewpoint.

Words to the wise for hiking on the Big Island

Wear the right shoes for rocky and possibly slippery hiking
Do not underestimate the effect of heat and humidity.
Carry plenty of water and be sure to take time to absorb the contemplative beauty of this valley. These tips apply to all hiking on the Big Island. 

Day Trip Ideas

This is an ideal  day trip out of Kona.  On the way up we enjoyed a healthy and energizing breakfast at  Waimea Coffee Co. The charming village of Hawi is worthy of a stop and the drive along the Kohala coast is beyond scenic.

We rounded out our day with a refreshing brewski lunch at The Big Island Brewhaus in Kamuela, HI.

Hiking on the Big Island

There are plenty of opportunities for hiking on the Big Island. Check out our other post about the Capt Cook Monument Trail. Have fun and be safe and remember to stop and absorb the beauty.

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One thought on “Hiking on the Big Island: Pololu Valley”

  1. Ahhhh!
    Looks like a wonderful hike with spectacular views, salty air and the lovely sound of waves hitting the shore. Great descriptions!
    I wish Hawaii was closer til Norwaii 🙂

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