Story by Andrew Collins
An end-of-the-road destination on Hawaii Island’s spectacular — and relatively little-visited — North Kohala Coast, wonderfully picturesque Pololu Valley and its secluded black sand beach provide a memorable adventure for folks seeking them out. And part of the fun of visiting the dramatic valley is getting there. [Check out my “A North Kohala Road (and Food) Trip” blog for details on getting to the area and where to eat on your way there and back.]
At the end of winding, scenic Highway 270, past the town of Kapaau’s iconic statue of North Kohala-born King Kamehameha the Great, is a strip of pavement lined with parked cars and a small open lot with a few parking stalls. At the nearby Pololu Valley trailhead, about 450 feet above the valley floor, stop and take in the magnificent southeast view of the rugged Kohala Coast, comprised of massive sea cliffs, black sand beaches and, within its interiors, private cattle grazing lands. A good many stopping here simply snap a photo, hop back in their car and return home. They’re missing the best part.
For a much better view of it all, you can descend directly into Pololu Valley along the Awini Trail. However, consider wearing hiking boots or at least closed-toe shoes before heading in. Though well marked, the steep, switchback trail descending to the valley floor is rocky, uneven and a bit slippery in places. The trek in is short but strenuous.
On the valley floor is a long, sweeping black sand beach bisected by Pololu Stream, a small creek that’s easy to wade across. Logs and large rocks at the back of the beach offer good spots to set up a picnic. Also beyond the beach, a hilly grove of massive ironwood trees marks the start of a fun secondary hike, revealing views deep into the valley’s lush interior. The surf along the beach can get rough, so swimming is not advised.
About Andrew Collins: Oregon-based writer and editor Andrew Collins has written extensively about Hawaii over the past 20 years for a variety of publications, including Fodor’s, Four Seasons Magazine, About.com, and Out Magazine. You can view his most recent stories about Hawaii at About.com – Hawaii Gay Travel.