Pololu Beach

Pololu Beach – Secluded Beach in an Ancient Valley
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Located in the historic Pololu Valley, Pololu Beach is a secluded beach accessible only by a ¼ mile hike from a lookout area above. Once accessed, the area offers a black sand beach surrounded by a lush forest of ironwood trees. While not safe for swimming, this is an excellent spot for enjoying beautiful views while surrounded by nature.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Located on the northernmost tip of Hawaii, Pololu Valley sits in the Big Island’s Kohala region. In fact, the valley is located alongside an extinct volcano, Kohala mountain, that is thought to be over a million years old. It likely last erupted about 120,000 years ago. This makes it one of the oldest parts of the island.

Even all these years later, Pololu Valley, and its beach, remain relatively untouched by modern times. In fact, the prehistoric appearance of the area caused it to be used as a setting in the 1997 film The Lost World, the second installment in the Jurassic Park series.

The beach here is beautiful, and extremely remote. To access it, you must first drive all the way to the end of Highway 270 in Kohala. Here, you will see a small parking area adjacent to a lookout area. Before heading down to the beach, we recommend taking some time at the lookout point to enjoy some truly spectacular ocean views. At certain times of the year (particularly the summer), the area is staffed by volunteers from the Pololu Valley Steward Program. They will provide information and answer your questions about the area.

From the lookout point, look for a trailhead, highlighted by a wooden sign. This will lead you to an approximately ¼ mile trail that winds its way down to the beach below. The trail is somewhat steep and rugged, with several switchbacks. It is fairly wide but can be slippery due to an abundance of lava rocks. The hike can take about 20-30 minutes. Be sure to take your time and enjoy the breathtaking views, particularly at the switchbacks.

Once you reach the beach, you’re greeted by black sand surrounded by a thick forested area of ironwood trees. Some of the trees have fun and relaxing rope swings tied to them. Pick a spot and set up a blanket or picnic lunch on the beach and enjoy the only public land in the Pololu Valley. In the winter, this is an excellent spot for whale watching.

We strongly recommend against swimming at this beach. High surf, big waves, a strong undertow, and unpredictable rip tides make the water here treacherous for even the most advanced swimmers. This is a place to sit and admire the water, not to swim, surf, or play in it.

In addition to being secluded, this beach doesn’t offer any amenities. There are no bathrooms or changing areas, and there is no lifeguard on duty.

For active explorers, there are several trails running parallel to the beach that can be traversed. However, when hiking, don’t travel too far inland. This is all privately owned property, and trespassing should be avoided. Additionally, there are some historic sites and sacred burial grounds further back into the forest that should not be disturbed. Be sure to save energy for the steep hike back to the parking area when you’re done on the beach.

While not ideal for swimming, this secluded, naturally stunning alcove beach is a beautiful spot for a picnic, sunbathing, whale watching (in the winter) or taking in the sunset. For those that don’t mind the hike to get there, this beach is a hidden gem.

Insider Tips:
-Parking can be pretty difficult. The lot at the overlook fills up quickly, and can be very tricky to turn around in. Instead, you may want to look for roadside parking on the lead up to the lot. However, as most of this land is privately owned, beware of and abide by all “no parking” signs, to avoid trespassing on private property. If there’s no parking, you may want to wait for a space to become open or come back on another day.
-You are likely to see several campsites set up along the beach. While this would make a beautiful camping spot, camping is actually illegal here, so we strongly recommend against it.
-If you’re looking for a more accessible beach, Keokea Beach Park is about a 10-minute drive from here. It offers showers, restrooms, and picnic tables.