Round Trip Mileage: 0.5 mile
Elevation Gain: 300’
Pololū means long spear, and carves a long cleave on the northern side of Kohala Mountain. This magnificent wild valley is at the head of the Kohala Coast, the oldest part of the island with deep valleys and picturesque beaches. Most people only drive to the end of Hwy. 270 and gawk at the beauty of the rugged northern Kohala coastline from the Pololū Overlook. It’s a shame that they don’t realize that hiking one or two switch-backs down toward Pololū Beach provides a much better photo vantage. And of course, hiking down to the valley floor and spending some time on the beach is very worthwhile. Unfortunately, only the beach in this valley is public. All of the land upriver is privately owned.
Big Island Hikes has another hike that proceeds over to an overlook for the next valley, Honokāne Nui.
Trailhead: Take Hwy. 270 to the northern Kohala Coast, past the towns of Hawi and Kapa’au. Park at the end of the highway at the Pololū Valley overlook. There is room for about 10 cars at the end of the road in a parking area that fills up quickly, especially on weekends. If you must park along the road, ensure that you respect the private homes and heed "No Parking" signs.
Gear: Standard hiking gear. The beach has no services, so plan accordingly.
Hike: Start at the Pololū Valley overlook and find the trailhead for the Awini Trail marked by an extensive array of “danger” signs. Hike down the wide trail and stop at each switchback in the trail to take in the awesome views of the northern Kohala coast. One switchback is a particularly good spot for a photo. The valley floor is 1/4 mile from the trailhead. Once on the valley floor, the flora changes abruptly into large ironwood trees just behind the beach. Quickly cross the Pololū River where it meets the sea. The crossing might be dry. This river is fed by agricultural runoff, so carefully consider how you treat this water before drinking.
The Pololū Valley beach is mostly made up of moderately-sized polished lava rocks. The water here is notoriously dangerous and should only be attempted by very experienced swimmers and surfers. There is no lifeguard. The mounds of sand behind the beach are a fun place to spend some time. Look for the rope swings that are usually present. You’ll probably also notice some nice campsites, but camping here is illegal.
When you're ready, climb 300' back to the trailhead. If you'd like to keep hiking, read about the trail to Honokāne Nui.