Hike the Awini Trial along the Kohala Coast
Hawaii › Pololu Valley Lookout
Added by Kristina Hulen
Hike across black sand beaches, coastal sand dunes, and rainforest trials to ancient Hawaiian ruins nestled in the bamboo forests of remote Hawaiian valleys. Approximately 6.0 miles roundtrip (2 to 3 hours). Trip can be modified to suit all types of fitness levels.
Take Hwy. 270 along the northern Kohala Coast and all the way to the end at the Pololū Valley overlook. You can park almost anywhere along the road there (besides the private homes), but spots fill up so get there early.
Start at the Pololū Valley overlook. If you are not fond of hiking, you can stop here and enjoy the vast and stunning views from the top. Otherwise, find the trailhead marked by an array of “danger” signs and hike down the wide switchback trail down to the valley floor (about 0.3 miles, or 20 minutes from the trailhead). Once on the valley floor, you'll find large trees, with the occasional rope swing or bench attached to the branches. Just ahead, you'll find the Pololū River (this river is fed by agricultural runoff, so avoid drinking any water here). You can cross the river down by the black sand beach, where the bank is normally dry. This is a great place to stop, and if you do, consider exploring the wooded sand dunes behind the beach. Although camping is technically illegal here, you may happen upon some campsites around the area.
Note: The surf at the northern shores is notoriously dangerous, so it is not advisable to swim here.
If you decide to continue, you can follow a path along the dunes to the eastern side of the valley beach, where you will find a smaller trail amongst low ferns, about one hundred feet behind the shoreline cliffs. The beginning of this trail is in a stagnant rainforest until you reach the top, where it opens up into a drier, grassland landscape.
The trail ends at a wooden bench that overlooks the Honokane Nui Valley. This is where most people usually stop, as the next portion of the trial is not for the faint of heart.
After continuing about 5 to 10 minutes down the ridge line, you'll find that trial sort of ends at some rocks blocking your path. The rest of this trial was ruined by an earthquake in 2006 and is no longer accessible, however, you can now rappel into the valley. On your right you should notice an animal skull in the rock and some gloves that previous hikers have left for others to prevent rope burn. Grab a pair, and directly across on the left you'll find a small trial leading to a series of ropes tied to trees and roots. It is fairly steep, but it is doable and safe if you take your time. Only one person should be on a rope segment at a time, and you should also be wary of loose rock falling down. I would advise rappelling backwards and in a sitting position. There are two separate sections of ropes to rappel, and after the last section, you'll follow a hiking trial to the valley floor. Here you can continue forwards along the main trial through a forest of thick towering bamboo to the Honokane Nui River. You can also veer left on a faint trial and explore the rock walls of ancient Hawaiian ruins. Be very respectful, as this area has a lot of history and is also considered private property. If you continue farther, you can make it to the beach, which is mostly made up of large lava rock.
Your return will be the exact some path, so give yourself time to climb back to the top. Make sure to return your gloves when you finish the rope climb!
- Sturdy ShoesSunscreenRain Gear (weather can be unpredictable)
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
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This hike is pretty easy, and is EASILY one of the prettiest places on the Big Island. The black sand beach at the bottom is absolutely beautiful, and if you hike all the way to the top of the next ledge you can see so much farther! Keep an eye out for whales in the winter months!
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