Big Island - Pololū Valley


What? : Pololu valley and beach is at the northern tip of the Big Island, Hawaii. Short but steep trail will take you from the viewing point to the ocean beach below. Located at the end of highway 270 long drive, your rewording will be the view of the raged shoreline cliffs, covered with deep green vegetation, deep valley, lagoon and black sand beach.


Where? : To get there you have to follow the Akoni Pule Highway (highway 270) until it ends, this will be 8 miles east of the town of Hawi at the Pololu Valley lookout. There is no way to keep driving and you must drive back on highway 270 to get to other island sections.

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Due note 1: As for any other hike, bring enough water with you.


Due note 2: If it is raining, or rained recently, it is much better to hike with close shoes and not with flip-flops, trail can get muddy and slippery. Bring light rain cover and ambarella is an also an option.


Due note 3: The ocean at Pololu valley is not a safe place to go swimming.


Due note 4: The inland area away from the ocean beach is privately owned. Don’t hike too far inland to avoid trespassing.


Due note 5: This trip will take you across the northern tip of the Big-Island from the relatively drier section into the rainier section of the island. Come prepared for rain.


Due note 6: The trailhead has no services at all, no water, no restrooms, and no cell service.


Due note 7: At summer don't forget the mosquito repellent.


My thoughts: I came here to watch sunrise… wake up 5:30am, drove 1 hour from the hotel and was here at the viewing point overlooking the bay before 7am…. 

Although that we had a good weather with only partial cloud coverage near our hotel at Waikoloa once I reach the north tip of the island (just before the town of Hawi) the weather completely changed. The wind starts to blow, sky covered with low dark clouds and heavy rain.

 I thought to myself that they will be like that for short time, and I may have break in the clouds and rain. When I arrived at the small parking lot just before 7am it was almost empty except 3 cars with small group of people that came to marriage ceremony here at sunrise.

It was so cloudy, foggy, with heavy rain that for long moments you can’t even see the cliffs at the far side of the bay. It does not look like I’m going to have any sunrise shots today …

The group decided to have a very short marriage ceremony and I decided to hike down to the beach. Overall, the short muddy hike was fun, it was raining all the time I was there, but it did not bother me too much. Short visit to the black beach, stroll along the lagoon and going up the same way I went down, all in all this took me a full hour.



The visit:


Pololu valley is at the west section of Kohala Volcano, the oldest of 4 other volcanoes that make up the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Kohala Volcano last erupted about 120.000 years ago, around 250.000 years ago part of the volcano fell into the ocean in a massive landslide.

This landslide creates the sharp tall standing cliffs falling to the ocean stretching on more than 5 miles of the island northeastern part. Waipi'o valley is the most southern valley that carved into the Kohala volcano, where Pololu valley is at the north side of this cliff section. There are no roads that cross this area south to north of the island.


Pololu valley is located on the west side of the mountain that get a lot of rain. The rain and rivers carved out the valley and created a fertile soil that is good for agriculture. These valleys were a popular place to live for the native Hawaiians.



The drive:

From the junction of highway 19 and 270 you need to drive 27 miles north on highway 270, this is around 45 min drive.

Just as you start driving north on highway 270 you will see on your left a turn into Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, the same road will take you also to Spencer Beach Park.

Soon after you will pass Kawaihae harbor, turn right at the fork.

Keep driving, on your way you will pass the small town of Hawi. Near the town there is a small Kohala Lighthouse at the oceanfront (can’t be seen from the main road), a Keokea Beach State Park (with showers and picnic tables) and on the main road you can see the large yellow statue of King Kamehameha.

At the end of the road, you will reach to a small (~10 cars) parking lot. There is limited parking space with minimal space to turn around, if parking is full park your car on the shoulder of the road and then walk back to the valley entrance.


The high overlook point is around 500 feet above the valley floor below. From here you have a magnificent view over Pololu Valley, series of impressive sea cliffs covered with lush green forest hanging above the sea and the ocean.



The hike down to the valley:

Before starting your hike, you can take few pictures of the breathtaking coastline, ragged cliffs, and vast ocean in front of you.

At the end of the parking lot, you will find the Awini Trail, clearly marked with all the “danger” signs.

From here, the short but steep hike will take you down into the valley, large lagoon, and the black sand beach at the valley floor.


The trail down into the valley is based on old road but it is not maintained for many years and after rain can be muddy and slippery.

The 0.6-mile hike down to the ocean level is short but steep and it will probably take you about 20 minutes to reach to the beach below.

Hike down the wide steep trail, at one of the switchbacks you will have a good view of the coast below.

At the end of the downhill section, you will reach ocean level, Just before the beach you will pass the large lagoon that fill the valley, the trail will lead you to your left into the black sand beach.

Here you can enjoy the beach but remember that there is no lifeguard and swimming here in the ocean can be dangerous.


If you will cross the outflow of the lagoon, on the right side of the beach, you can find a flat section covered with many trees and sandy hills closing the beach. There are many signs that indicate that from here this is private property you can’t get inland.

There are some trails parallel to the beach that make it easy to get to the far side of the valley.


If you are walking to the far end of the beach, you can follow the easy to find trail that is leading up the other side of the cliffs to the next valley, Honokane Nui. I did not have the time to hike this trail, so I have no information about this hike.


When you finish your visit at the beach you need to hike the steep, but short, climb back to the parking lot.


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