Located on the eastern side of Lanai, the Polihua Trail is a fairly straight 9.5-mile (out-and-back) trail that cuts through valleys and takes visitors to down to the beauty of Polihua Beach. While this trail does generally cut through the valleys, you are going from a high elevation to sea level. That means you can expect some serious elevation gains! There is an elevation difference of 1,853 feet between the official start of the Polihua Trail and where it ends at the beach’s shoreline. This big elevation change is the primary reason why most level it is a “moderate” hiking trail
Note, we say the “official” start of the Polihua Trail because while this is where the signpost is for it, we recommend most actually begin this adventure a few miles before. One mile before the start of the official Polihua Trail (the point at which the road called Polihua Trail forks), there is a unique spot called Keahiakawelo.
This is a windswept area in which massive boulders lie about and combine with the red dirt to give the feeling that you’re on the moon or Mars or some otherworldly location. Hawaiian legend has it that this barren but beautiful landscape is the result of a unique battle or contest between two priests representing Lanai and Molokai. Each priest set out to keep a fire burning on their island and the goal was to see who could keep it alight the longest. Lanai’s priest, Kawelo, used every piece of vegetation in the area to keep his fire burning. Hence the name of the rock mount, Keahiakawelo or The Fire of Kawelo. Kawelo might have won the contest, but he left the surrounding area barren for all the subsequent generations.
There’s also a geological explanation, but we like this one more!
After you’ve taken your pictures and appreciate the barren beauty of Keahiakawelo, drive or walk the mile down to the start of the Polihua Trail. While you might be able to take a standard vehicle up to this point, you will not want to take it any further. This trail was built as an off-road 4×4 trail, and you will see some hardy 4x4s on your way down, but most use it as a hiking or mountain biking trail.
This trail is uneven and gets very narrow in some spots and really soft in others — which is why a high-clearance 4×4 is a must if you aren’t hiking or biking. But even for hiking, this type of uneven terrain does make for some rough going. Especially when it gets windy. When the winds blow across this area, it kicks up all the dust. That dust can get into your eyes, mouth, nose, etc. Avoid this frustration by bringing along a handkerchief and some hardy sunglasses or similar eye protection.
But while the going is often rough, you do get to enjoy some big rewards when you reach the end of the Polihua Trail. That’s because this trail ends in one of the Hawaiian islands’ most secluded beaches.
After your hike, if you feel a little tired, hang out at the cool beach swing at Polihua Beach next to the Polihua Trail! There are plenty of shady areas for you and your traveling partners to relax under before you prepare to head back out on the Polihua Trail. Just make sure to pack back out everything you pack back in!
-The Polihua Beach is a two-mile stretch of beach that is renowned for being a premier humpback whale watching spot during the winter. Unfortunately, the current here is a bit too swift for humans and so swimming isn’t recommended. What you can do, however, is enjoy beachcombing, sunbathing, picnicking, and general beach frolicking
-As you would probably guess, one of the most secluded beaches in Hawaii is without a lot of amenities. There are not any lifeguards, restroom facilities, showers, or trash cans located at this location.