Hiking Hawaii – Pololu Valley

One of the benefits of living in Hawaii is the opportunity to be outside just about every day of the year. With steady warm temps year round (depending on where you are in Hawaii) it’d be a crime to not get outside! So, I’d like to feature different trails that are fun opportunities to explore and enjoy Hawaii, the Big Island!

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley Trail has always been one of our most favorite hikes on the island. I remember first doing this hike back in 2005 and it was so peaceful and not many people there. Over the last 18 years though, the area has definitely changed. However it’s changed, it’s still one of the most beautiful places on the island with its black sand, smooth lava rock beach and scenery that reminds you of the movie Jurassic Park.

big island looking out at the valley

Looking towards the valley from the parking area.

On our first venture to the valley, it was exciting to drive to the end of the road. When you live on the mainland, you don’t get to experience finding where a road ends very much. On an island, it’s more common than you think!  Driving up to the end and seeing the beauty of this valley is always breathtaking.

Parking is very limited, still is today, and it can be tricky to turn around in the small area. Most people are parking on the side of the road. Just watch to make sure the drop off from the road isn’t more than your vehicle can handle. The trail is a dirt switchback that goes down 420 feet along the side of the cliff. It’s 0.6 miles each way. Depending on the weather it can be a bit tricky to maneuver for when it rains, it’s very slick. I’d recommend not going when the trail is wet and muddy. Over the years, a lot of the dirt has eroded and many more rocks are now visible which can make the trail a bit more difficult.

hiking the trail with an ocean view

A part of the trail to the valley. With erosion, more rocks become visible.

One of my favorite parts of the trail is when you get near the bottom, there are tree branches that cover a section and provide some shade. It’s a neat part that always tells me, you’re almost there! Once you get to the bottom, remember to take in a deep breath, look around and feel the magic. The valley is special, sacred and deserves our respect.

covered section of the trail

Covered section of the trail with my husband taking in the shade.

I love being in the valley. There’s something so peaceful about it. The ground is covered in soft pine needles and sand. The beach is black sand, smooth lava rock and the canopy of trees that cover the area provides some much needed shelter from the elements. The river flowing to the back of the valley from the ocean is a sight and will change with the weather so be cautious. Over the last few years, burial grounds have been marked and made known to the visitors. Please be respectful and do not climb the mounds and stay on the trails.

river in the valley

At the bottom of the trail facing inland with the river.

ocean river in the valley big island

Ocean river leading back into the valley. It is recommended that you don’t swim here. It’s not really that kind of beach. It’s more to sit and listen to the waves crashing onto the black stones and then the water being sucked back and draining away. If you’ve never heard the sound of water hitting a stone beach, it’s music, it’s serenity and it’s daunting. It’s great when the tide is out and you can actually walk the black sand beach. Unlike other black sand beaches on the island, the sand is very fine and soft.

black sand beach on big island hawaii

Black sand and smooth lava rock encompass this special beach.

feet in soft black sand

Soft, fine black sand. Once you’re done taking in the beauty of the valley, you now get to walk back up that 420 ft! It’s not hard, per say but it is a workout and will get those lungs pumping! Back at the top, you can then look down on the beauty you were able to witness in person.

What You’ll See

Besides some of the most amazing scenery ever?! You’ll see a black sand beach, historic sites like burial mounds, forest and some of the best waves on the island. However, it’s not just about what you’ll see but you’ll feel when you get into the valley. Like I said earlier, it’s magical and sacred and if you’re listening and aware, you can feel it.

trees by black sand beach

At the bottom, looking out towards the ocean under the canopy of tall trees.

Protecting Pololu Valley

In the last few years, a group of people have started a 501c3 to protect Pololu Valley. Their mission is to educate people on the land and history and also protect the valley from development. I for one, cannot imagine this valley and the surrounding area any other way than what it is now. It’s perfect and this group has done wonders to clean up the trails, cut down unnecessary trees to see more of the views and keep people safe. To learn more about protecting Pololu Valley click here.

Do I Recommend

Yes, as long as you’re able to hike switchbacks on a cliff side, down 420 ft and back up the 420 ft. If it rained recently, the trail will be slick and muddy. Make sure you dress for the weather and bring water. Leave no trace in the valley and bring your trash with you. You’ll want to wear close-toed shoes/sneakers/hiking boots but definitely bring a towel to wipe your feet off after playing in the sand so you can put shoes back on! You might hit anything from sunshine and 70 degrees to rain and 50 degrees. Plan ahead and check the weather. If it’s raining, it’s not a good time to make the trek down. Dogs on a leash are allowed. There are no bathrooms.

If there are spots available, you can park at the trailhead and get out to look at the views. The aunties and uncles that volunteer their time there will be happy to talk story about the history of the valley and their mission to keep it sacred grounds. Always be prepared and remember to be respectful of the land.

sign for pololu historic trail

Trailhead sign

Happy hiking Hawaii!


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