Hiking the Big Island’s Pololu Valley
Since Hawaii’s Big Island is known for its colorful beaches, I decided I need to see at least one colored sand beach during my husband and I’s anniversary trip there. There’s a handful of black sand beaches in the Big Island but none of them compares to the beauty of Pololu Valley. Pololu Valley is located at the end of Highway 270 on the northern side of the island. Getting there from our hotel in Waikoloa Village wasn’t too bad. The scenery was so stunning that we didn’t mind driving through narrow roads and mild bouts of rain. After an hour of driving, we finally reached the small parking lot at the end of the road. It was only 10 in the morning but the parking lot was already full. Thankfully, most of the people left after taking photos from the lookout.
The lookout boasts beautiful, panoramic views of the coastline
We weren’t sure if we should hike down since it was still drizzling but the black sand beach looked so inviting we had to just go for it. It would be a shame if we didn’t at least try to see it up close after driving for an hour. The trail was a bit steep and muddy. I wish we had been more prepared because we only brought our running shoes with us but thankfully, the muddy parts were sparse. We stopped along the way, taking photos of the sweeping views of the beach below. After a 30 minute hike – which included a couple of switchbacks – we finally reached the valley floor.
Before we reached the beach, we were greeted by tall ironwood trees that stretched out across a privately owned land. It was so lush and verdant, that we were almost tempted to cross the river and explore it on our own but instead, we held back and made our way to the black sand beach.
Privately owned land opposite the beach that reminds me of Jurrasic Park
Once I saw the black sand beach, I couldn’t help but touch it to see if it’s real. The sand wasn’t powdery or soft. It actually felt like one of my facial scrubs I have at home! Maybe this is where they get it? :p James and I walked along the shoreline and took pictures before finally settling on one of the logs that faced the ocean. We just sat there taking it all in, sharing laughs and stories about our Hawaii trip. We didn’t dare take a dip because 1. the water was too cold and 2. the current was really strong. After half an hour, we made our way back to the parking lot, which took us twice as long because our out-of-shape butts weren’t prepared for it at all.
Hiking down Pololu Valley is one of the best memories of our Hawaii trip. This is one of the rare places you get to see a black sand beach surrounded by verdant cliffs, the makings of a perfect Hawaii postcard. And the best part is, it’s easy to get to! Lush, wild and untamed, Pololu Valley is definitely one of Hawaii’s best kept secrets.
Things to know before you go:
- Approx. 2.5 miles roundtrip
- Difficulty: Easy
- Parking is free but limited
- The overlook is open daily and there’s no entrance free
- There’s no public restrooms
- This is not the best place to go for a swim because of strong currents. Heed the warning signs!
Getting to the trailhead:
- The trailhead is located at the end of Highway 270, just past the quaint towns of Hawi and Kapaau. There’s a small parking lot at the end of the highway that can maybe fit up to 9-10 cars. The trail is marked by a several warning signs.
Tips before your hike:
- Make sure you wear proper footwear. Some parts of the trail have been eroded and can be difficult to traverse. I only wore running shoes and it would’ve been fine on a normal day but since it was raining, I had to go really slow to prevent myself from slipping.
- Since the Big Island’s weather is a bit bipolar, don’t forget to bring your rain jacket/lightweight waterproof jackets. Mine served great purpose when did our hike.
- Bring a picnic to enjoy while you marvel at the beautiful, rugged coastline.
- Don’t forget to bring water! Although it only takes about 1- 1 1/2 hours to finish the trail roundtrip, it is also very steep.
Other Related Hawaii posts:
Where’s the best colored sand beach you’ve been to?
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