Pololu Valley is one of the more stunningly picturesque settings anywhere on the Big Island. With palm trees giving way to the raw and rugged coastline and the lush valley, the scene has all the makings of a Hawaii postcard.
Pololu is the northern and western-most of a series of valleys that open to the ocean on the north coast of the Big Island. Waipi'o Valley sits at the opposite end, approximately 10 miles (16k) along the shoreline to the southeast.
The Pololu Valley overlook and trailhead is at the end of Highway 270, about 20 minutes east of Hawi. From the overlook a steep trail traverses along the west wall of the valley down to Pololu Beach. It’s fairly steep and rocky but usually only takes about 20 minutes going down. This is one of our favorite places to go hiking in Hawaii.
Upon reaching the valley floor, veer left and cross the small stream to explore farther down the black sands beach. Take your time, experience the peacefulness of the place, soak it all in.
Give yourself at least twice as much time for the steep hike back to the top as it took coming down. This trail gets muddy and very slippery when it rains, so keep an eye on the sky.
Even if you aren’t much of a hiker, it’s worth driving north to enjoy the gorgeous view from the Pololu overlook. If you decide not to hike all the way to the bottom, there’s a nice viewpoint about half way down that’s even prettier than the top.
There are some interesting rocks along the shoreline. When the tide is out, a lovely grey/black sands beach is unveiled. Being on the north coast, there is almost always heavy surf here. Use extreme caution if you decide to venture into the ocean for a swim.
Walk along the shore, and then explore the magical wooded dunes behind the beach. It’s a fascinating place, quiet, peaceful, a little bit mysterious.
If you’re up for a little more exploring, venture to the east end of the beach and dunes where the trail continues 600 feet up the far side of Pololu Valley. It’s a steep hike to the top but affords another spectacular view and photo opportunity when you reach the ridgeline between Pololu and the next valley to the east, Honokane Nui.
If you continue into the Honokane Nui valley, you will discover that hiking in Hawaii can have unexpected surprises. After you leave the ridgeline, about five minutes into your descent it appears the trail simply ends, which it does, sort of. Part of the trail disappeared when the mountainside slid during the 2006 earthquake. In the shrubbery off to the left, you may notice a series of ropes tied to trees and roots, dropping straight down through the thicket toward the valley floor. Use your own discretion. We have continued along to the bottom, using the ropes as support to climb down the makeshift trail of loose dirt and rock, and found it quite fascinating. It’s a challenge and we’re not making any sort of recommendation about what you should do!
Upon reaching the bottom you will notice some rock wall remains of another time. A faint trail cuts off to the left toward the ocean. If you continue on the main trail through the clearing, then through a thick growth of towering bamboo, you come to the stream. We like to boulder hop, following the stream to the ocean. If you make it to the shoreline, don’t even think about going in the ocean here. From Pololu to Honokane Nui, give yourself at least an hour each way.
The Pololu Valley trail is one of those places where you can discover just how much fun hiking in Hawaii can be. On top of being utterly gorgeous, hiking the Big Island can be exciting, mysterious and challenging; or if you prefer, as simple as stepping a few feet from your car to enjoy the view.