Hike to Pololu Valley Lookout
The Pololu Valley lookout lies at the end of Highway 270 on the Big Island of Hawaii, offering a majestic view of the Kohala coastline. The thin valley, whose name means “long spear” in Hawaiian, is carved into the Kohala Volcano, which last erupted 120,000 years ago.
Pololu Valley was created, in part, by a massive landslide some 200,000 to 300,000 years ago, which sent a portion of the volcano crashing into the ocean and triggering a tsunami that affected the entire island chain. The ample water in the valley was used by the ancient hawaiians to irrigate taro fields--a practice that continued in Pololu until 1905, when construction of the Kohala Ditch redirected water to sugar cane plantations.
Hiking Pololu Valley
Most visitors to Pololu Valley stop at the lookout, which offers a view of the majestic Kohala coastline. If you're up for a moderate hike, however, you can experience even better views on the Pololu Trail switchbacks, which drop 420 feet to the valley floor.
The hike down to the valley floor takes about half and hour. Once in the valley, a short walk takes you to Pololu Beach, with its black sand and large volcanic boulders. Lovely though the beach is, avoid entering the water, which is known for treacherous undertow, high surf, and unpredictable riptides. Lifeguards do not patrol the beach, so remember the most important rule of swimming in Hawaiian waters: when in doubt, don’t go out!
While the lush jungle higher in the valley looks tempting, visitors should stay on the beach. Much of the land higher in the valley is privately owned, and the region is dotted with sacred burial sites. Keep to the beach and hiking trail to avoid trespassing charges or inadvertently damaging important cultural sites.
Pololu or Awini Trail?
The trail leading to the Pololu Valley floor is part of an old government road that led to Awini, and is referred to as both Awini and Pololu Trail. Whatever you call it, the trail can be slippery during rainy weather, and there are no facilities at the beach. Wear proper hiking shoes and attire and be sure to take some water with you.
From Pololu Beach you can continue to hike to the top of Honokane Nui, the next valley on the coast. The Honokane Nui trail is for more experienced hikers who can cope with muddy, slippery switchbacks, and ends in an amazing view of Honokane Nui and part of Honokane Iki Valley.
Getting to Pololu Valley Lookout
To reach the Pololu Valley lookout, take Akoni Pule Highway (Highway 270) through Hawi. Eight miles after Hawi the highway ends at the lookout.
Parking at the end of the highway is limited and fills up quickly. If you choose to park on the road shoulder, be respectful of local residential properties and obey any “No Parking” signs. Arriving early increases your chance of finding parking and rewards you with sunrise at the lookout!