Pololū Valley: Lookout Views, Hiking Trails and Black Sand Beach
Ready to experience nature like you’ve never seen before? Let’s talk about Pololū Valley, a hidden paradise where emerald cliffs meet a mystic black sand beach. From the unforgettable views at Pololū Valley Lookout to the heart-pounding hike down to the valley floor, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make your adventure unforgettable.
Pololu Valley History
It’s not just about the views and the hike; it’s also about stepping back in time. Kohala Volcano, which last erupted about 120,000 years ago, has a rich geological history that sets the backdrop for Pololū Valley.
Imagine this: between 250,000 and 300,000 years ago, a massive landslide caused a chunk of the volcano to fall into the ocean, creating those iconic sea cliffs and triggering a colossal tsunami.
The effects of this event were felt even on other islands, with marine deposits found hundreds of feet high! Even today, remnants of this landslide lie submerged, some 81 miles off the current coastline.
Visiting Pololū Valley
When it comes to experiencing Pololū Valley, you’ve got options galore! Want to stay comfy in your car? No problem! Craving an adrenaline rush? You’re covered! Whatever your pace, there’s a level of adventure waiting just for you.
- The Easy Breezy – Pololū Valley Lookout: For those looking for a quick dose of awe, driving up to the Pololū Valley Lookout is a treat. You don’t have to break a sweat to enjoy some of the most jaw-dropping views of your life. Think of it as a teaser trailer for the blockbuster that is Pololū Valley.
- The Moderate Challenge – Hike to the Valley Floor: Feeling a little more adventurous? Put on those hiking boots and get ready for an invigorating but somewhat steep descent to the valley floor. The effort is more than worth it. The moment your feet touch that unique black sand beach, you’ll forget all about the hike down.
- The Ultimate Thrill – Hike to the Next Valley: And for the exercise enthusiasts among us, why stop at just one valley? Strap on a backpack filled with water and snacks, and venture to the next valley. It’s a challenge, yes, but one that rewards you with unmatched isolation and beauty.
Before you embark on any of these adventures, there’s one crucial thing to note: the absence of public restrooms. Nature calls at the most inconvenient times, right? Your best bet is to take a pit stop at Keokea Beach Park, about 10 minutes from the lookout, or visit the restrooms just behind the King Kamehameha Statue in Kapaʻau, which you’ll pass en route to the overlook from Hawi.
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. And here’s a pro-tip: if you’re visiting between December and March, you might even spot humpback whales making their annual journey.
You could easily spend just 10 minutes here, snapping pictures and soaking in the views. 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.
Hike Down to Pololū Valley
Known by two names, the Pololū Trail and the ʻĀwini Trail, this pathway was once an old government road leading to Āwini. This makes the hike not just a physical endeavor but also a walk through history.
Descending approximately 420ft in just 0.6 miles, the trail offers breathtaking cliffside views, and the promise of black sand between your toes keeps you going. On average, it takes about 20 to 25 minutes to complete this steep descent. But don’t worry; the beach offers the perfect spot to catch your breath.
The trail’s grade averages at 13%, which we’d classify as moderate in terms of difficulty. Add to this the slipperiness during or after rains, and you’ve got yourself an exciting challenge.
Black Sand Beach of Pololū Valley
When you reach the valley floor, it’s like you’ve stepped into a different world. Imagine a black sand beach hugged by towering cliffs that rise almost 500 ft, all framed by the relentless, roaring ocean. This isn’t just a beach; it’s an awe-inspiring panorama of nature’s might and beauty.
The texture of the beach is a fascinating combination of fine black sand and larger boulders. And these aren’t just ordinary boulders; they’re the kind that makes you ponder how each one got there, adding to the beach’s dramatic allure. If you’re thinking of venturing into the water, though, you might want to bring water-friendly shoes.
The ocean here is not your average swimming spot. With high surf, undertow, and rip tides often present, this is no place for a leisurely swim. Only the experienced should venture in, and even then, not too deep.
If the ocean’s too rough, no worries! Behind the beach are large dunes and towering ironwood trees that act as natural barriers, protecting the valley from floodwaters. It’s a perfect backdrop for that Instagram-perfect shot or a quiet moment of solitude.
With a bit of time and energy, you can wander along the trails parallel to the beach. They’re your ticket to exploring the other side of the valley and potentially hiking into other valleys. But—and this is a big but—remember that the land further inland is privately owned and contains sacred burial sites. Don’t wander too far; respect the boundaries and the sacredness of the land.
A Cautionary Note: Unfortunately, the trail is a bit of a cliffhanger—literally. Due to a landslide during the 2006 Kiholo Bay earthquake, it’s not safe to go any further. So, while you can’t complete the full trail, you can still savor the views from your lofty perch.
Directions to Pololū Valley
Pololū Valley is situated at the northernmost tip of the Big Island, nestled in the eastern slope of the extinct Kohala volcano. All you need to do is follow the Akoni Pule Highway (Highway 270) until it ends—8 miles east of Hawi town.
Parking: The parking at the lookout is not a sprawling lot; it’s pretty limited. So you might have to engage in a delicate ballet of turning your car around and finding a spot on the shoulder of the road.
Whether you’re a hiking enthusiast, a beachcomber, or simply someone in love with nature, Pololū Valley has something for everyone. From the moment you step onto the lookout, you’re welcomed with sweeping vistas that set the tone for the rest of your trip.
The hike down to the beach? A challenging yet rewarding experience that unveils a black sand beach like no other. And if you’re an adventurer at heart, the trail to Honokane Nui offers a unique trek that encapsulates the wild, untouched beauty of Hawaii.