End of Highway 270, Big Island
While thousand of tourists flock to Hawaii each year and never leave the comforts of their resort, there are also plenty of people who come to Hawaii in search for adventure and an off-the-beaten path experience. For those looking for the later, than a visit to the Pololu Valley on the Big Island is definitely a worthwhile trip.
Located at the end of Highway 270, past the quiet Hawaiian towns of Hawi and Kapa’au is the Pololu Valley—which is the Northernmost of a series of majestic valleys that form the east coast of the Kohala Mountain. In Hawaiian, Pololu means “long spear,” which is echoes the past of this valley where early native Hawaiians once lived long ago.
Pololu Valley is a pristine and beautiful valley once inhabited by early Hawaiians, but long since abandoned because of fear of Tsunamis. The valley, however, was not abandoned for lack of spectacular and awe-inspiring views and the lookout from above the valley offers spectacular vistas of green sloping cliffs dropping into the ocean below.
If you are feeling up for an adventure, there is also a hiking trail that criss-crosses the valley and and drops down to the beautiful black-sand Pololu Beach, located at the bottom of the valley. Because of these areas inaccessibility to cars, the area remains calm and pristine and is a great out of the way destination.
Hiking Pololu Valley
The trail through this beautiful valley to the black sand beach at the bottom of the green-coated cliffs is about 4 miles long, and descends nearly 1000 feet. The hike is moderately difficult (of course much easier on the way down than on the way back up) and follows a rocky path which traverses the Pololu stream several times.
Because the hike back up to the top is strenuous, hikers should allow 2-3 hours for the round-trip journey. In fact, the trail was long closed due to earthquake damage, but has now re-opened to the public. While the journey back up the steep valley walls also may be challenging, the hike is well worth the effort.
The path takes hikers through groves of hau and ironwood trees as they descend further into the valley and across marshland and the valley stream below. Depending on recent rainfall levels, the stream can either be a trickling broke or a fairly substantial stream, but should not be too difficult to cross either way.
As the zigzagging dirt path takes you through beautiful ironwood trees, through marshland, past the creek flowing through the valley and offers stunning views of waterfalls and the cliffs dropping into the ocean.
Once you arrive at the beach, bring a picnic, spread out and relax. The breathtaking scenery is well worth the steep climb up and down. Some people do brave the rough surf and go for a swim at this beach, but use extreme caution, especially in winter months as the surf and currents can be very strong.
Getting to Pololu Valley
To get to Pololu Valley, drive to the very end of Highway 270 on the big island. At the parking lot/trailhead at the end of the highway you can either enjoy the spectacular scenery from your car, or you can take the adventurous route and hike down into the valley and onto the black sand beach below.
What to Bring
- good shoes
- adventurous spirit
Photos from John Fischer