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8 Feb 2016
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Big Island Activities

Hawaii's best black sand beach - Pololu Valley

Located on the rugged northern coast of the Big Island, Pololū Valley is one of the island’s oldest and most picturesque locations. With high sea cliffs, lush vegetation and a beautiful black sand beach, the valley is sure to impress even the most experienced travelers.

How to Get to the Pololū Valley

Pololū Valley is located at the terminus of Highway 270, about 5 miles past the town of Kapa’au. The parking area at the start of the hiking trail is small and narrow, but street parking is easy to secure along either side of the highway. In 2022, a check-in station for hikers was set-up at the beginning of the trail down to the valley.

It is the northernmost in a series of spectacular erosional valleys along the slopes of Kohala Mountain. Many visitors come for the spectacular views from the highway lookout, but the valley floor and black sand beach can be accessed by a 30 minute hike that is mildly strenuous. It is recommended that you bring water as the hike down is short but rigorous. 

Pololu Valley black sand beach

The coastal scarp that stretches from Waipio to Pololū Valley is the result of an ancient landslide that swept more than a cubic mile of land into the ocean. The 6-mile long stretch of high sea cliffs beginning at Pololu Valley is where the massive landslide broke off from Kohala Mountain - likely creating a massive tsunami that propogated towards the west coast of North America. On the hiking trail, you will be treated to stunning views of the sea-cliffs and steep offshore islands covered in vegetation and palm trees.

Coastline of Pololu valley - hawaii's best black sand beach

Enjoying Pololū Valley

At the base of the valley, visitors will find one of Hawaii’s most renowned black sand beaches. Inland, a forested dune with plenty of make-shift rope swings can be explored - though in 2022, no trespassing signs were placed in many of these areas. A hiking trail continues up the other side of the valley, but it becomes gradually more diffuse and muddy as the trail approaches the next valley over - so traveling farther than Pololu Valley is not recommended. 

The ocean at Pololū Valley is unpredictable and dangerous to enter. Powerful rip currents and large surf, enhanced by the funnelling of trade winds between the high peaks of Maui and the Big Island, create ocean conditions that even experienced locals tend to avoid. 

Swim or body board at Pololu Valley beach

Pololū Valley was a sacred location to the native Hawaiians, and it remains so today. Visitors are asked to keep the area clean to preserve it’s unforgettable beauty.