Pololu Valley Hike and Black Sand Beach

Big Island Guide Travel Guide

Pololu Valley Overview

The Pololu Valley and its black sand beach is a remote gem, tucked away in the northernmost of a series of erosional valleys located along the Big Island’s Northern coast. The word Pololu means “long spear” in the Hawaiian language.

Pololu Valley Black Sand Beach from the Hiking Trail

This sculpted, emerald basin, ornate with dramatic waterfalls and breathtaking vistas, may look oddly familiar to you, as it was the setting of the 1997 film The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The valley was selected to transport audiences into a prehistoric paradise where T-Rex would seem completely at home. This primitive wildness still exists today as the valley is still a mostly uninhabited and inaccessible wonderland.

Aerial View of Pololu Valley Stream and the Pacific Ocean

Pololu Valley History

Pololu Valley is located along Kohala Mountain, the oldest of five volcanoes that make up the Big Island. Kohala is an extinct volcano, estimated to be around a million years old with its last eruption occurring about 120,000 years ago. This ancient shield volcano, slashed by multiple deep gorges after thousands of years of erosion has an ecosystem and topography radically different from anywhere else on the Big Island.

Northern Coast of the Big Island from Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley Hike

The Pololu Valley forms a deep cut in Kohala Mountain, around 300 feet deep near the lookout.  The secluded nature of this area make it a favorite among hiking enthusiasts.

Pololu Valley Black Sand Beach and Switchbacks on the Hike Down

You should expect incredible views, steep terrain, switchbacks, rugged trails, and slippery lava rocks along this hike. Pack accordingly with plenty of water and good footwear as the footing can be a bit challenging, especially if it’s raining. It’s about a quarter of a mile to the beach and it takes around 20 minutes to hike down, depending on your hiking ability and fitness level. Be prepared for a steep descent and an arduous ascent.

Pololu Valley Hiking Trail

Pololu Black Sand Beach

A picturesque beach awaits you on the valley floor, with a mixture of large lava rock stones and black sand. The ocean is very rough and unpredictable here, so we do not recommend swimming. The Pololu stream runs the length of the valley floor and empties into the ocean.

Pololu Valley Black Sand Beach and waves

There are some rope swings in the nearby ironwood trees that make for a nice spot to stop and play. There are no amenities here, and only the beach area of Pololu Valley is actually public. Camping is common, but actually not allowed here.

Pololu Valley forest with view of pacific ocean

The waves on this beach are mesmerizing and they make for fantastic photos. There is no lifeguard on duty and the water on the northern end of the island can be extremely dangerous. We don’t recommend swimming or surfing here due to the pounding waves and strong currents. Enjoy relaxing on the beach and watching the waves.

Pololu Valley Black Sand Beach

Getting to the Pololu Valley Lookout

Along the northern Kohala Coast, you will find the towns of Hawi and Kapaau. Both of these towns have fun things to see and do so you should do some sightseeing along the way. Continue past Kapaau along Hwy. 270 to the literal end of the road.

Pololu Valley from the overlook

There is a small parking area with a few spots at the Pololu Valley lookout. It is usually busy with sightseers and other hiking enthusiasts and parking can be tough during weekends. If the lot is full or if you’re in a truck or larger SUV, turning around in the parking area can be a task so park further back along the road, but pay attention to the “No Parking” signs and private property nearby.

Pololu Valley Lookout Sign

Did you take note the Fresh Off The Grid Shave Ice Stand, on the north side of the Hwy as you drove in? We usually stop there for a treat after our hike as that is the first refreshment and restroom (for customers) you will see on your way back from a hot Pololu Valley Hike.

Fresh Off The Grid Stand on the way to Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley Amenities

Pololu Valley Map and Location

End of the Road
Kapaau, HI 96755

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