More than 250,000 years ago, the great Kohala Volcano experienced such a massive eruption that part of the mountain slid into the ocean. The powerful landslide hit the ocean with such force that it sent marine life more than 100 feet high on the other Hawaiian islands, and archeologists are still uncovering their fossilized remains. And you can see the remnants of this devastation on the north shore of The Big Island in the Kohala Cliffs.
Pololu Valley is the northernmost of the seven valleys carved into the Kohala volcanic landslide region on the northern edge of The Big Island. At the bottom of this dramatic landscape, you’ll find the beautiful black sands of Pololu Valley Beach. It is the prize of the northern coast.
Each of the region’s seven valleys is fed by a stream, and each valley has its own waterfall. Native Hawaiians loved to call these valleys home due to the constant supply of fresh water, and the valley provided protection. Now, you can explore these valleys and beaches on foot.
You can get a glimpse of the valley and beach without leaving your car. Simply drive the Akoni Pule Highway (Route 270) out of the town of Hawi for eight miles until the road ends. From here, you’ll get breathtaking views down the dramatic landslide cliffs. It looks a bit like a mini Na Pali Coast.
But, if you truly want to experience Pololu Valley Beach’s beauty, you’ll have to earn it. The lookout at the end of Akoni Pule Highway stands 490 feet above the beach, and you’ll have to brave a short but steep hike all the way to the valley floor. You can find the trailhead at the lookout, and it is sometimes referred to as the Awini Trail.
The hike only lasts about a half-mile, but you’ll be descending quite rapidly. Remember, you’ll have to hike back up and out of the valley, so if you’re not confident in your fitness to do so, it’s best to sit this one out. The hike mostly takes place on an old government road, so there’s no getting lost. But the trail can get very slippery after a rain, so make sure to wear sturdy shoes with good grip.
You’ll notice that the ocean is rather violent once you descend to the beach’s black sand. Swimming is not safe at Pololu Valley Beach no matter how calm the water looks, and you’re a long way from help. It’s best to explore the valley and the beach’s dunes while staying out of the surf.
The valley is thunderously beautiful. You’ll be gobsmacked by the size of the tropical trees, and your eyes won’t believe the contrast in colors. The glowing blue water, the deep black of the sand and the verdant green of the valley’s forest is almost too much to handle. Make sure you bring a good camera capable of capturing all the color.
The sand of the beach is made up of shattered volcanic rocks, and you’ll find plenty of larger volcanic rocks in the mix. This can make walking very uncomfortable, so make sure to have shoes that can handle the gritty mix.
There are easy-to-follow trails inside the ironwood trees of the valley’s forest. You can easily explore the valley for 20 or 30 minutes before returning to the beach to ascend back to the car. Just make sure you get to this spectacularly beautiful location early in the morning to beat the crowds. Pololu Valley Beach’s tremendous scenery is a poorly kept secret.