If you take the time to drive all the way to Pololu Valley at the end of Highway 270, don't settle for the view from the overlook! Take the time to explore. The trail, sometimes referred to as Awini Trail, that leads down to the black sand beach (Pololu Valley Beach) takes approximately half an hour to hike. The dirt and root trail can be steep in places, but the various views of the valley along the way make even part of the walk worth it. You will find the trailhead near the parking lot. Look mauka and you should see a brown sign guiding you to the trail. It is smooth sailing going down, but getting back up can be a real workout.
Once you reach the valley, you'll pass through a small picnic area and can either continue on the path above the beach or go down and wiggle your toes in some black sand. The beach is a lovely stretch of fine black sand rimmed with black lava rock and shockingly emerald green beach ground cover. However, rough surf and the occasional appearance of Portuguese Man-o-wars make it not the ideal beach for swimming. Streams in the valley are susceptible to flash flooding. Exercise caution when crossing and be aware of weather conditions. Nearly all streams in Hawaii pose the threat of bacteria. Never drink the water and do not swim with open cuts. Into Pololu Many sections of the valley are on private property and only accessible through tours. Before the October 2005 earthquake, one of these was a hiking tour along the Kohala Ditch Trail provided by Hawaii Forest and Trail along a mile and a half hike to see Kapaloa Falls. This amazing waterfall drops 300 feet above and 200 feet below the trail. You could walk right behind this natural wonder. Unfortunately the Kohala Ditch Trail was destroyed during that earthquake, and for the foreseeable future this tour will no longer be offered. Beyond Pololu on Awini Trail If you just didn't get enough of the Big Island's gorgeous valleys at Pololu, there is a hike that will take you over the next ridge and into Honokane Nui "big" Valley. The Awini trailhead can be found on the trail that runs above the beach. (You can reach it from the beach, but it involves walking over lots of rocks.) Expect this hike to the top of the ridge to take an additional 45 minutes to hour both ways. The trail can be quite muddy if it has been raining. The views into Honokane Nui and the coast are simply stunning from the ridge. The wind blowing in the shrubs and trees and helicopters buzzing close over your head enhance the expansive view. Near the top of the ridge you'll reach a small plateau with a large rock. This is probably one of the best angles to photograph the coast and the mouth of the valley. Unfortunately, as far as we know, you can no longer continue beyond this point. Honokane Nui was another victim of the October 2006 earthquake, and the trail into the valley was destroyed. In the event it reopens, it's likely not worth your trouble. The "beach" is nothing but boulders usually, and the view isn't worth the extra work. Whatever the situation during your visit do NOT even think about taking the coastline to the valleys beyond Pololu. It is a very tempting prospect; however, this is extremely dangerous; one errant wave could easily knock you off the rocks and into the ocean. The cliffs are also known to have landslides as the coast continues its process of erosion. The earthquake is evidence of such. A note on permits Pololu at the shore is Government/State land and you can hike it without any problems. Most of the valley itself (heading inland) is owned by Surety Kohala. This (as far as we know) includes the Awini trailhead that heads up the ridge between Pololu and Honokane Nui. Honokane Iki (the next valley over from Honokane Nui) is also owned by Surety Kohala. It's a good idea to inquire about a permit if you plan to hike up the the ridge. (808) 889-6257 Kamehameha Schools owns the land in Honokane Nui, but this is a non-issue since the trail into Honokane Nui also collapsed in the October 2006 earthquake. Beyond Honokane Iki it's mostly government land back to Waimanu.
Article Edited/Contributed by: John Derrick