Time: 2-3 HOURS
Distance: 3 MILES
Elevation Gain: 650 FEET
Foot Traffic: HIGH
Challenges: Hot and humid
What to Bring: Water, Snack, Swimsuit
Sights: Sea Cliffs, Black Sand Beach, Pololu Valley, Honokane Nui Valley Lookout
A popular hike located in the northern part of the Big Island, this trail is absolutely stunning. It starts with a downhill descent right along the coast with amazing views of a black sand beach and massive sea cliffs. Once you reach sea level, you can hang out at the beach or head inland and take in the beautiful valley. For those looking for more of a workout, you can follow the trail past the beach and hike uphill along some more switchbacks until you reach the Honokane Nui Valley lookout. This lookout gives you an even more expansive look of the valley and sea cliffs beyond. This is one of those must do Big Island Hikes.
After a late night doing the Blackwater Dive off Kona, I was looking for a casual morning hike to ease into my Saturday on the Big Island. Last time I hopped to the Big Island, I had checked out the Waipi'o Valley Hike (sorry no write up) on the northern part of the Big Island and it was awesome. The huge sea cliffs paralleling a beautiful black sand beach were simply amazing to look at. Coming back I knew I wanted to visit the Kohala area again, but this time somewhere different. I settled on Pololu Valley, a similar hike to Waipi'o, but with a few less people. The Kohala coast of the Big Island stunned me yet again.
Here's a rough shot of the hike I did. The hike starts out on a series of switchbacks from the Pololu Valley Lookout to take you down to the Black Sand Beach. The hike down to the beach and back is only about 3/4 of a mile and 350 feet of elevation change. For those looking for a little more physical activity, you can continue on to the Honokane Nui Valley Lookout which requires you to hike another 2.2 miles round trip and 300 feet in elevation to reach it. This is what I did and I can tell you the trek up to the lookout is totally worth it.
The hike begins at the Pololu Valley Lookout at the end of Akoni Pule Highway. There's a small parking lot at the lookout, but it fills up quickly. I got to the lookout around 9am on a Saturday and I got the last spot. You can park along the road leading up to the lookout, but be careful as there are a few no parking zones.
Not even on the trail yet and look at these views!
There's a few caution signs at the trailhead. I will tell you that there were plenty of people swimming at the beach when I got down there. However, these signs must be here for a reason...
The trek down was quite pleasant. It is a series of partially shaded switchbacks with plenty of views of the coast. The hike back up, however, was a bit tougher. I was hiking back up around noon and the midday sun had really made this area crazy hot and humid.
But when I was walking down, the trek back up was the least of my worries. These views were superb! You can begin to make out the black sand beach, a surprisingly common sight to see on this volcanic island.
The sea cliffs were very reminiscent of the Kalaupapa Trail on Molokai and the portion of the Kalalau Trail I did on Kauai. Something about the way the cliffs meet the water is always a spectacular sight to see.
Within 10 minutes, I had reached sea level. Time to take a few pictures.
I wandered around the beach a bit checking out the spots. If you head inland you can get a more expansive view of the valley.
There's even some toys strewn about in the trees. Here we have the Stoked Swing. I'm pretty sure I saw a rope swing somewhere as well. Of course, I have no idea how sturdy any of this stuff is...
It was time to continue on. My next goal was the Honokane Nui Valley Lookout. To hike there, you continue north along the beach. There's a nicely laid out path in the trees to help you find your way.
Once the beach ends, you should be able find an obvious path that continues back up the mountain.
The path isn't difficult as it has switchbacks, but it is uphill and humid, so you can expect to be sweating.
But you will soon forget about all that sweat because you will be overcome by a beautiful aroma. There's a bunch of guava fruit lining the trail and it smells amazing! If you can find a ripe guava (this one is not ripe) I recommend trying it. How many places can you get fresh and delicious fruit along your hike?
Once you get above the tree line, take a look back south towards the beach. If it's clear enough, you can make out the island of Maui. That is Haleakala Crater, the tallest peak on Maui and home to the prettiest sunrise I've seen in my life.
Finally, we've reached the Honokane Nui Lookout! It's quite obvious you've reached it since there's this nice bench here. It's the perfect spot to eat a snack and look out into the ocean and valley.
It also made for a great spot to play with my drone. Here's a shot of me flying back into the valley.
And another looking south along the cliffs.
And this one, which gives a great perspective of the lookout. I don't know if you can tell, but I'm actually third wheeling pretty hard here. That object on the left side of the photo is not some tree stump, it's actually a couple locked in a deep embrace. I had no clue this was going on at the time. Gotta love technology's ability to capture moments like this.
After I had enough third wheeling, I decided to head back down to the beach... to play with the drone some more. Seriously, this place is just too beautiful not to try to capture with photos.
This shot really captures the whole black sand beach concept.
And a shot of those sea cliffs. The beauty speaks for itself.
And one last photo of everything as I made my way back up to the start. I don't know if it's the cliffs, the beach, the smell, or a combination of the three, but there is a magical beauty to this place. If I ever get the chance, I will definitely come back.
Check out my video of this beautiful hike!
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Also Check Out
- Big Island Hikes description of this hike