Big Island Awini Trail
Pololu Valley Beach Hike
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.
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 a victim of the October 2006 earthquake, and the trail into the valley was reportedly 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 from 2006 is evidence of such.