Awini Trail to Honokane Nui Lookout

The Awini Trail From the Pololu Valley Overlook to Honokane Nui Lookout: Marvel at the Sea Cliffs & Valleys of the Windward Kohala Coast
Local Expert's Rating:
4.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

The Pololu Valley Overlook at the end of Highway 270 is dramatic enough. The Awini Trail offers hikers the chance to get even more scenery at the next great valley over, Honokane Nui. Moderately challenging due to elevation change (and frequent muddiness), the trek is well worth it for some incredible coastal views on the cliffy Kohala Peninsula. 

- The Local Expert Team

Follow Highway 270 to its terminus on the Kohala Peninsula, and you’ll be treated to one of the Big Island’s great vistas. The Pololu Valley Overlook is a worthy destination in and of itself, but hikers can proceed farther along the windward Kohala’s incredible coastline via the Awini Trail. While the once-longer route was impacted by a 2006 earthquake, a relatively short (but steep) hike from the Overlook brings you to a similarly amazing lookout surveying the next valley over.

That would be the Honokane Nui Valley, an absolute stunner. The Pololu and Honokane Nui are the northwesternmost of the seven great valleys breaking the Kohala Peninsula’s windward sea cliffs. The dramatic terrain here stems from a prehistoric landslide. Roughly 250,000 years ago, geologists believe, the northeastern flank of Kohala—the oldest of the five shield volcanoes composing the Big Island—slid off catastrophically into the ocean. The landslide, the so-called Pololu Slump, exposed a steep mountainside to the windward coast’s prodigious rainfall and stream-cutting power. This erosion created the dramatic lineup of steep-walled coastal valleys and intervening headlands.

The parking area for the Pololu Valley Overlook is modest and often fills up. Get here as early as possible—not just to avoid the crowds, but also to escape some of the afternoon heat and mugginess. (If the lot’s full, some roadside parking may be available back the way you came, but respect “No Parking” signs.)

Trail ambassadors are often stationed here, a reflection of how popular—and somewhat over-loved—this area has become. Follow Leave No Trace practices on your hike, and definitely abide by the “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” signage you run into. Private acreage in the Pololu Valley includes, among other things, ancient Native Hawaiian burial sites. 

The view from the overlook into the Pololu Valley, down the headland-studded coast, and out to the mighty Pacific is dazzling. The Amini (or Polulu) Trail—liable to be replete with warning signs—leads from it down more than 400 feet to the valley floor. The switchbacks that accomplish this serve up additional stop-you-in-your-tracks vantages. 

A black-sand beach marks the mouth of the Pololu Valley, though depending on ocean conditions it may be rockier than anything else. It’s striking, regardless, not least with the fringing ironwood forest. The Polulu Stream runs into the Pacific here. Usually, it’s easy to cross it; indeed, sometimes the channel is completely dry. But be wary of recent weather, as the stream can rise dramatically during heavy rains and becomes unsafe to ford in a flash flood. Definitely turn around if it looks sketchy.

The trail heading up the next headland ridge on the opposite side of the valley is pretty easy to pick out. The footpath climbs through lush tropical vegetation to attain the ridgetop. That huffing-and-puffing rewards you when you get up on that next divide, where a bench marks the Honokane Nui lookout. Here you can gaze into that lesser-seen windward chasm and down the green headlands and low sea stacks southeastward.

The trail once continued on along the windward Kohala sea cliffs and valleys. The aforementioned earthquake degraded this onward route, and it’s generally not advised to proceed beyond the Honokane Nui lookout. That said, some folks certainly do, using ropes in places to descend and passing through a bamboo forest in the Honokane Nui valley.

Your safest bet—and the most respectful of private property and Native Hawaiian heritage—is to turn back here, after soaking up that knockout vista.

Insider Tips:
You may see clear signs of campsites in the Polulu Valley but bear in mind that camping is not allowed down there. Again, respect local landowners and the cultural/historical significance of this land to Native Hawaiians.