Pololū Valley: Hiking, the Lookout, and Black Sand Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii

Pololū Valley: Hiking, the Lookout, and Black Sand Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii

Explore the stunning Pololū Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii, from hiking the trail to the lookout and enjoying the black sand beach.
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Located on the big island of Hawaii, the Pololū Valley Lookout is a gateway to a spectacular landscape that is both mysterious and breathtaking. A steep hike from Nui Valley (Nui Road) leads to a lush black sand beach hidden in the valley.

As you embark on this journey, you will witness the mighty Pololū Stream cutting its way through the landscape and the trees rising to the sky as if protecting this piece of paradise. This journey takes you to the lee side of Mount Kohala in the Pacific.

Here, on the edge of the Kohala volcano, you are not just a visitor, but part of something larger than life. Park your car, take a deep breath and prepare to step into a world of discovery, where every road leads to a discovery, every landscape to a masterpiece painted by nature.

Pololu Valley History

There is not only scenery and hiking here, but also a journey through time. Kohala Volcano, which had its last eruption about 120,000 years ago, is part of the volcano systems on the big island of Hawaii. This volcano forms the rich geological history behind the Pololū Valley, a remarkable feature in the Hawaiian Islands.

Think of it this way: 250,000 to 300,000 years ago, due to a massive landslide, part of the volcano fell into the ocean, creating these iconic sea cliffs and triggering a massive tsunami. This event formed part of the island and is the northernmost example of such events in the region.

hike down to pololu valley big island hawaii

The effects of this event have been felt on other islands, with marine sediments being found hundreds of meters high! Even today, the remnants of this landslide lie underwater 81 miles beyond the present shoreline, presenting a dramatic section of the series of erosion valleys that have shaped the Hawaiian landscape.

Visiting Pololū Valley

You have many options to explore the Pololū Valley! If you are looking for some excitement, this is the place for you!

The Easy Breezy – Pololu Valley Lookout: For those who want to see impressive views in a short time, a drive up the Pololū Valley Observation Terrace is a great experience.

You can see some of the most impressive views in your life without great effort. It’s like a small preview of the stunning beauty of the Pololū Valley. While you’re there, enjoy the cool weather and take in the breathtaking views of the cliffs.

The Moderate Challenge – Hike to the Valley Floor: Are you a little more adventurous? Put on your hiking shoes and prepare for the exciting but somewhat steep descent to the valley floor. The effort is definitely worth it.

Once your feet touch the unique black sandy beach, you will forget about the difficulties of the descent. Once you’re there, spend some time on the beach, but beware of strong currents and waves with high surf.

This is the perfect opportunity to see humpback whales and catch one of the most spectacular views of the island.

The Ultimate Thrill – Hike to the Next Valley: For exercise enthusiasts, why stop at just one valley? Pack water and snacks in your backpack and venture into the next valley. This is ideal for those visiting the Pololu Valley who are looking for a long journey immersed in nature.

Before embarking on any of these adventures, there is one important thing you should know: the lack of public toilets. Nature always calls out at the most inopportune times.

Your best option is to make a short stop at Keokea Beach Park, about 10 minutes from the lookout, or visit the restrooms behind the Statue of King Kamehameha in Kapaʻau, which you will pass on your way from Hawi to the viewpoint.

Pololū Valley Lookout

Perched high above the valley, the Pololū Valley Lookout is where you’ll first catch sight of the majesty that awaits. The sea cliffs standing tall against the azure ocean create a picture-perfect backdrop on the Kohala Coast. And here’s a pro-tip: if you’re visiting between December and March, you might even spot humpback whales making their annual journey along the North Kohala region.

pololu valley lookout big island hawaii

You could easily spend just 10 minutes here, snapping pictures and soaking in the views of the valley. But remember, the real adventure lies in the descent. From this vantage point, you’re 490ft (150m) above the valley floor, which beckons with its irresistible black sand beach. This is truly the end of the road, where the journey to the heart of nature begins.

Hike Down to the Valley

Looking out over the Pololū Valley Landscape from high above, this is where you get your first glimpse of the impressive scenery. These enormous sea cliffs on the Kohala Coast form a majestic backdrop against the deep blue ocean. If you visit between December and March, you can see baleen whales making their annual migration across the North Kohala region.

You can spend just 10 minutes here, photographing and admiring the views across the valley. But remember, the real adventure begins on the way down. From this point, you look down 150 meters towards the bottom of the valley with the black sandy beach as your backdrop.

directions to pololu valley big island hawaii

This trail, which has two names, Pololū Road and ʻĀwini Road, is an old government road that leads to ʻĀwini. So this hike is both a physical and historical journey.

Descending about 130 meters down for a distance of 1 kilometer, the trail offers breathtaking views of the cliffs and the feel of the black sand draws you in. It takes an average of 20-25 minutes for this steep descent.

The slope of the path is 13% on average, which makes its difficulty moderate. It can get slippery during or after rain, you will be in a state of excitement, but you should also be careful.

As you make your way along the path, you may come across things that will surprise you, such as swinging ropes tied to the rope along the way, adding a fun touch to your adventure. In addition, the area is under a trail ranger program that ensures that the trail remains protected and enjoyable.

Black Sand Beach of Pololū Valley

When you reach the valley floor, it’s like stepping into another world. A black sand beach in the Pololū Valley, surrounded by huge cliffs almost 150 meters high, surrounded by the roar of the deep blue ocean. This is not just a beach; it is an impressive panorama of nature’s power and beauty.

The texture of the beach is an interesting combination of fine black sands and larger rocks. These are no ordinary rocks; they are the kind that make you wonder how each one got there, adding to the dramatic charm of the beach at the bottom of the valley. However, if you plan to enter the water, you’d better bring shoes suitable for the water.

black sand beach of pololu valley big island hawaii

High waves, undercurrents and rip currents are common, so this is not a pleasant place to swim. Even experienced swimmers should not go too deep. Pololū Valley beach and Pololū beach offer a unique experience, but their natural strength should be respected.

Don’t worry if the ocean is very choppy! Behind the beach, the valley has large dunes and tall iron trees that protect it from flood waters. This is the perfect background for an Instagram-perfect photo or a peaceful moment alone.

With a little time and energy, you can wander along the paths parallel to the beach. These are your ticket that will allow you to explore other sides of the valley and perhaps reach the black sand in other valleys. However, and this is an important ‘however’ – the land further inland is under private ownership and contains sacred burial sites. Don’t venture too far; respect the boundaries and sanctity of the land.

Note of Caution: Unfortunately, the trail is a bit dangerous, literally. Due to a landslide in the 2006 Kiholo Bay earthquake, it is not safe to go any further. Although you can’t complete the full trail, you can still enjoy the views from your high vantage point.

Directions to Pololū Valley

Pololū Valley is located at the northernmost tip of the Big Island, on the eastern slope of the extinct Mount Kohala. To reach it, all you need to do is drive along the Akoni Pule Highway (Highway 270) 8 miles east of the town of Hawi and follow this road until you reach the north coast of the island.

Parking: Parking at the viewpoint is not extensive; it is quite limited. Especially if you arrive in Pololū Valley early in the day, you may find a suitable spot for your car.

The green valleys and meadows visible from the parking lot are a prelude to the impressive views you will encounter on the hiking path through the Valley.

The valley forms a deep cut in the landscape and is marked by the tranquil Pololu stream and places where ironwood trees protect the area. A hike down the Awini trail will reveal the full splendor of this place on Hawaii Island.


When our trip to Pololū Valley comes to an end, we are not just left with photos and memories. This place, a magnificent blend of Hawaii’s raw natural beauty, is etched in our hearts.